What 1960s Baseball Did Best
In a decade that will always be known for showcasing the best pitching since the introduction of the “lively” ball in 1920 – and, all things considered, maybe the best pitching ever – how do you call out 10 individual performances that stand above all others?
Pitching performances as outstanding as the 10 listed below actually make that process easier than it might seem. All 10 of the accomplishments cited here would make any decade’s 10 best list. Appearing as they do here, each of these certainly ranks as the best of the best.
1. Sandy Koufax: Perfect When He Had To Be - Baseball’s best pitcher in the 1960s, Sandy Koufax tossed 4 no-hitters during that decade – the last a perfect game. On September 9, 1965, Koufax retired all 27 of the Chicago Cubs he faced, 14 by strikeouts (the most strikeouts ever in a perfect game) as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0. The losing pitcher, Bob Hendley, allowed only one hit and two base runners, losing on an unearned run. Perfect, that night, beat nearly perfect.
2. Catfish Hunter’s One-Man Show - It would be hard to imagine any player – at any position – having a more “perfect” day than the one Jim “Catfish” Hunter had on May 8, 1968. Always a pretty fair hitter for a pitcher, Hunter went 3 for 4 that day, with a pair of singles and a double. He drove in 3 of the Oakland A’s 4 runs, including the game-winning run. He also happened to allow no base runners in shutting out the Minnesota Twins 4-0. Hunter struck out 11 Twins in route to pitching the first regular season perfect game in the American League in 46 years.
3. Bob Gibson’s Record World Series Whiffs - Yea, Bob Gibson had a pretty good year in 1968: 22-9, 1.12 ERA (league leading), 13 shutouts (league leading), 268 strikeouts (league leading). But he pitched even better in the World Series that year against the Detroit Tigers. In 3 starts, Gibby struck out 35 batters in 27 innings, including a record 17 Tigers he fanned in Game 1.
4. Denny McLain’s 30-Win Season - Denny McLain’s incredible season of 1968 produced the game’s last 30-game winner – and the first 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934. McLain’s 31-6 record was achieved with a 1.96 ERA. He led the league in winning percentage (.838), games started (41), complete games (28), and innings pitched (336). He also struck out a career-high 280 batters. In the year of outstanding pitchers in both leagues, McLain collected both the Cy Young award and the Most Valuable Player award for the American League.
5. Dean Chance’s Shutout Show - Dean Chance was the American League’s most dominant pitcher in 1964, his Cy Young season. His 20-9 record tied him with Chicago’s Gary Peters for most victories. He led the league in inning pitched (278) and complete games (15), and recorded the majors’ best ERA at 1.65. But the most impressive aspect of that season pointed to the 11 shutouts he hurled. Six of those shutouts were 1-0 victories. Chance also pitched 14 shutout innings in a game against the New York Yankees in which he didn’t figure into the decision.
6. Whitey Ford’s October Goose Eggs - In 11 different World Series, Yankee ace Whitey Ford won 10 games with a 2.71 ERA over 146 innings. In 1960, he shut out the Pirates twice he started a scoreless innings streak that would continue during the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, when Ford opened the Series with a 2-hit, 2-0 whitewash. He now had 27 consecutive scoreless innings, 2.2 behind Babe Ruth’s record. In Game 4 of the 1961 World Series. Ford pitched 5 more scoreless innings before he was forced to leave the game due to an ankle injury. That added up to 32 consecutive scoreless World Series innings – a record he still holds today.
7. Jim Bunning’s Papa-Perfect Day - Jim Bunning was one of the most resilient starting pitchers of the 1960s. He was a 224-game winner during his career, but was a 20-game winner only once. Yet he won 19 in 4 separate seasons and was a 17-game winner 3 other times. He was the first pitcher to win 100 games in each league, strike out more than 1,000 batters in each league, and pitch a no-hitter in each league. Bunning’s second no-hitter was the high point of his career: a 6-0 perfect game on June 21, 1964. Pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, Bunning struck out 10 of the 27 New York Mets he faced – and retired – on that Father’s Day matinee.
8. Don Drysdale’s Scoreless Innings Orgy - From 1957 through 1965, Don Drysdale was the right-handed workhorse of the Dodgers’ pitching staff. He won the Cy Young award in 1962 with a 25-9 record, and teamed with Sandy Koufax to form the game’s most dominant starting duo in the early 1960s. After a 23-victory campaign in 1965, Drysdale slipped to back-to-back 13-16 seasons. His last full season was 1968, when Drysdale posted a 14-12 record. But it was also during the 1968 season that Drysdale broke Walter Johnson’s major league record of 56 consecutive scoreless innings. Drysdale’s streak reached 58.2 scoreless innings, including 6 consecutive complete-game shutouts.
9. Sandy Koufax: Why K Stands For Strikeout - It might be true that as the scorer’s symbol for a strikeout, the letter “K” was adopted long before Sandy Koufax made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, but his dominance as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers made Koufax and strikeout synonymous in the 1960s. From 1960 until his retirement following the 1966 season, Koufax averaged 273 strikeouts per season and 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. He led the National League in strikeouts in 4 of those seasons (the other 2 were shortened by injury). Koufax registered 300 strikeouts in 3 seasons, with a major league record 382 in 1965.
10. Moe Drabowsky’s Dodger Shutdown - Coming into the 1966 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers were heavy favorites over the American League champion Baltimore Orioles based on strong, deep pitching staff led by Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. But the pitching star of Game 1 was a veteran reliever for the Orioles, Moe Drabowsky. Drabowsky replaced starter Dave McNally in the bottom of the third inning with one out, the bases loaded with Dodgers, and the Orioles clutching to a 4-1 lead. Drabowsky proceeded to strike out Wes Parker and walked Junior Gilliam, forcing in a run before catcher John Roseboro fouled out. Over the next 2 innings, Drabowsky struck out the side twice, tying a World Series record with six consecutive strikeouts. He set a single-game World Series record with eleven strikeouts in relief. The Orioles won, 5–2, and the Dodgers failed to score another run during the rest of the Series.