Power Brokers and Record Breakers
The 1960s were blessed with a legion of good-hitting left fielders … in both major leagues.
Here’s my rundown of the top 10 left fielders of the 1960s, based on a combination of their offensive prowess and their stellar defense.
1. Lou Brock – If Maury Wills resurrected the stolen base as an offensive weapon in the 1960s, Lou Brock took the art of stealing bases to another level and paved the way for super stealers to come like Tim Raines and Ricky Henderson. For “Sweet Lou,” the stolen base was just one facet of his offensive arsenal. He was the spark plug for a St. Louis Cardinals team that won it all in 1964. Playing in 103 games after being acquired from the Cubs, Brock hit .348 and scored 84 runs, with 9 triples, 12 home runs, 44 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. Brock finished his career with the Cardinals, collecting 3,023 hits and, at the time, the career record for stolen bases with 938.
2. Carl Yastrzemski – For 23 seasons, all with the Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski owned left field in Fenway Park, and was probably the American League’s best all-around left fielder throughout the 1960s. During that decade (he joined the Red Sox in 1961), Yaz won 3 batting titles, a Triple Crown and MVP in 1967, and 5 Gold Gloves.
3. Rocky Colavito - Rocky Colavito played outfield for 6 different teams during the 1960s. He hit 45 home runs with 140 RBIs for Detroit in 1961, and led the American League with 108 RBIs as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 1965. From 1960 through 1966, Colavito averaged 32 home runs and 101 RBIs per season. He hit 374 home runs over his 14-season career.
4. Billy Williams – Billy Williams started the 1960s as the National League Rookie of the Year and ended the decade on the verge of setting the NL record for consecutive games played (which he did in September of 1970 with 1,117). In between he did nothing but hit, hit, hit. He batted a combined .292 for the decade, averaging 27 home runs and 94 RBIs per year. (He would win a batting title in 1972.)
5. Willie Horton – The Detroit Tigers left fielder was the team’s most dangerous power hitter through the second half of the 1960s, averaging 27 home runs and 89 RBIs per year. Willie Horton’s best overall year was 1968, when he hit .285 with 36 home runs. He hit 325 home runs over an 18-year career, the first 15 with the Tigers. Horton drove in over 100 RBIs in a season 3 times, the last at age 36 for the Seattle Mariners … 106 RBIs in his next-to-last season.
6. Rico Carty – "Beeg Mon" could hit. In his rookie year of 1964, Rico Carty finished second in the National League in hitting with a .330 average. He also swatted 22 home runs with 88 RBIs, although he never put up huge power number during his career (topping 100 RBIs only once in a 15-year career). He hit .300 or better in 9 out of the next 11 years, winning the National League batting title in 1970 with a .366 average. Carty finished with a career batting average of .299.
7. Frank Howard – Frank Howard swung the bat with authority, and hit the ball frequently for someone who swung so hard. At his best in the late 1960s, he was the most feared power hitter in the American League. In 1968, Howard batted .274 with 106 RBIs, leading the majors in home runs (44), slugging percentage (.552), and total bases (330). He was even better in 1969, when he hit .296 with 111 RBIs and a career-best 48 home runs. Howard finished with 382 career home runs.
8. Leon Wagner - Leon Wagner played outfield for 5 teams in the 1960s. “Daddy Wags” twice had 100-RBI seasons: 107 (with 37 home runs) for the Los Angeles Angels in 1962, and 100 (with 31 home runs) for the Cleveland Indians in 1964. Over a 12-season career, mostly with the Angels and Indians, Wagner hit .272 with 211 home runs.
9. Willie Stargell – Willie Stargell’s Hall of Fame career was just getting started in the 1960s, with his best years to come. From his 1963 rookie season through 1969, Stargell averaged 80 RBIs per year and topped 100 RBIs twice. He finished his 21-season career – all with the Pittsburgh Pirates – with 475 home runs.
10. Tommy Davis – Tommy Davis came out of nowhere in the early 1960s to lead the National League in hitting not once but twice (.346 in 1962, .326 in 1963). He also led the league in hits (230) and RBIs (153) in 1962. Davis never again achieved that kind of RBI performance, though he drove in more than 80 runs 5 more times in his 18 years in the majors, finishing with a career batting average of .294.