Ace of Aces

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Sandy Koufax

No superlative can do justice to the performance of Sandy Koufax in his prime. In a decade dominated by overpowering pitchers, none was more dominating or overpowering than the Dodgers’ hard-throwing southpaw.

In his first six major league seasons, Sandy Koufax was 36-40 with a 4.10 ERA. Over the last six seasons of his abbreviated career, Koufax was baseball’s best pitcher: 129-47 with a 2.19 ERA.

In his first six major league seasons, Sandy Koufax was 36-40 with a 4.10 ERA. Over the last six seasons of his abbreviated career, Koufax was baseball’s best pitcher: 129-47 with a 2.19 ERA.

With the 1960s version of Koufax, every start was probably going to be a victory, possibly going to be a shutout, and potentially going to be a no-hitter. (He pitched four.) Most pitchers never experience even a single 20-win season. In his last five years (1962-1966), Koufax won 25 games or more three times; in the other two years, he was on track to win at least 25 games when injuries cut short both seasons – just as they would later abbreviate his career.

Of his four no-hitters, the last one – on September 9, 1965 – was a perfect game. Koufax beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 that night, striking out 14. He needed only 1:43 to complete his pitching gem.

A career-long Dodger (who never played in the minors), Koufax was mediocre at best in his first six seasons. A great arm and inconsistent control led to a 36-40 record, with season ERAs consistently above 3.00 and often higher than 4.00.

The change over the last six years of his career couldn’t have been more dramatic. On the verge of retiring out of frustration, Koufax worked in the 1960 off-season to re-engineer his pitching mechanics. Something clicked, and his walks per nine innings declined steadily from near 6.0 to as low as 1.7 in 1965. His numbers for hits and strikeouts per nine innings remained pretty much the same. The key for Koufax was control. Once he mastered it, there was no stopping him.

His break-out year was 1961, when he won 18 games with his best ERA up to that point, a respectable 3.52. Koufax led the majors in strikeouts for the first time (269) and pitched 15 complete games. The 1962 season turned out to be a prophetic one for the remainder of Koufax’s career. He started fast, winning 14 games by the All-Star break. Yet injuries brought his season (and for all intents and purposes, the Dodgers’ pennant hopes) to a halt as Koufax didn’t win another game the rest of the year. Even with his shortened season, Koufax led the league with a 2.54 ERA. From this point until the season following his retirement, no one else would lead the National League in earned run average.

Sandy Koufax won three Cy Young awards and pitched four no-hitters. He averaged 24 victories and 307 strikeouts from 1963-1966.

Sandy Koufax won three Cy Young awards and pitched four no-hitters. He averaged 24 victories and 307 strikeouts from 1963-1966.

The Koufax era of dominance began in earnest in 1963. With the benefit of a complete and healthy season, Koufax racked up a 25-5 record with 306 strikeouts and a 1.88 ERA. He led the majors in all three of those pitching categories, as well as topping all major league pitchers with 11 shutouts. He won both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards for 1963. And in the 1963 World Series against the Yankees, Koufax spearheaded the Dodgers’ four-game sweep with two victories, with a 1.88 ERA and striking out 23 batters in 18 innings.

In 1964, Koufax was leading the league in nearly every pitching category when he injured his pitching elbow while sliding into base. The injury ended his season with six weeks still remaining. He finished 19-5 (good for fourth in victories). Despite missing a month and a half, Koufax ended up fourth in strikeouts with 223, only 27 behind league-leader Bob Veale. Koufax led the majors in ERA (1.74) and shutouts (seven).

The elbow Koufax damaged in 1964 continued to bother him for the next two years, but you wouldn’t know that from his statistics. In 1965, he went 26-8, with a 2.04 ERA, a major league record 382 strikeouts in 335 innings, and 27 complete games – leading the majors in all of those categories. He was even better in 1966, going 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA, 317 strikeouts in 323 innings, with 27 complete games and five shutouts – again leading the major leagues in all of those categories. He was the unanimous Cy Young award winner both seasons.

Having Koufax available to pitch full seasons meant a National League pennant for the Dodgers in both 1965 and 1966. Koufax won two games as the Dodgers defeated the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series. He lost in his only appearance in the 1966 World Series as the Baltimore Orioles swept the Dodgers.

That 6-0 loss to the Orioles (and to a 20-year-old future Hall of Famer named Jim Palmer) marked Koufax’s last major league appearance. He retired in November of 1966 as a consequence of continued arthritic deterioration of his left elbow. He was only 30. In 1972, Koufax at age 36 became the youngest man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Twins Go on Strikes

 

Lights Out: Tiant Tames Minnesota with 10-Inning, 1-0 Masterpiece

When: July 3, 1968

Where:  Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

Game Time: 2:15

Attendance: 21,135

He was having the best season of his young career. And while he would pitch more important games in his 19-year major league career, Luis Tiant would never be more dominating than he was on this day against the Minnesota Twins.

In pitching his seventh shutout of the season, Luis Tiant struck out 19 Minnesota Twins batters.

In pitching his seventh shutout of the season, Luis Tiant struck out 19 Minnesota Twins batters.

In his four seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Tiant had won 45 games with a combined 2.99 earned run average. But the 1968 season was already special for him, as it was becoming for so many major league pitchers.

In the first three months of the 1968 season, Tiant was 12-5, already equaling his best single-season win total. He also entered this game against the Twins with a 1.19 ERA and six shutouts.

He would improve both of those statistics by game’s end.

Tiant struck out Ted Uhlaender to end the first inning, and recorded two more whiffs in the second inning.

Tiant was also averaging 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings coming into this game. He would do much better than that. He struck out two Twins batters in both the third and fourth innings, and struck out the side in the fifth inning.

Tiant had recorded 12 strikeouts through seven innings, but he was still locked in a 0-0 pitching duel with Jim Merritt, who matched Tiant’s scoreless innings and allowed only two Indians’ hits over the first nine innings. Tiant fanned the Twins in order in the eighth inning, and recorded his sixteenth strikeout in the ninth inning.

Luis Tiant finished the 1968 season at 21-9 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA.

Luis Tiant finished the 1968 season at 21-9 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA.

In the top of the tenth, Rich Reese led off for the Twins with a double to right field. Frank Quilici bunted to advance Reese to third, and the play for Reese failed, leaving Twins at first and third with no outs. Tiant took back control of the game. He struck out John Roseboro, Rich Rollins and Merritt to shut down the Twins.

That was 19 strikeouts in 10 innings.

The Indians scored the winning run in the bottom of the tenth. Outfielder Lou Johnson led off with a single and advanced to second on Jackie Hernandez’s throwing error. Tribe catcher Joe Azcue singled and Johnson scored an unearned run to end the inning and the game.

Tiant would end the 1968 season at 21-9 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA. He also led the league that season with nine shutouts, none more spectacular than this one.

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Walk to Match the Talk

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tim McCarver

A generation of baseball fans familiar with Tim McCarver as a veteran baseball broadcaster might be surprised to learn how good he really was as a catcher for more than two decades.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

McCarver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school in 1959 and spent the next four seasons shuttling between St. Louis and various stops throughout the Cardinals’ farm system. In 1963, his first full season with the Cardinals, McCarver hit .289 and established himself as the preferred catcher for Bob Gibson.

He remained the Cardinals’ starting catcher through 1969. He led the National League in triples with 13 in 1966, the first catcher ever to do so. His most productive year as a hitter was 1967, when he hit .295 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBIs. He was an All-Star (for the second time) that season, and finished second in the Most Valuable Player balloting to teammate Orlando Cepeda.

McCarver started the 1970s with a new team, having been traded with Byron Browne, Curt Flood and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. (Flood refused to report to his new team. St. Louis later sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to the Phillies to complete the trade.) McCarver played for two years in Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Montreal Expos for John Bateman.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

Over the next two seasons, McCarver became the game’s vagabond catcher, playing for Montreal, St. Louis again, and the Boston Red Sox before being re-acquired by the Phillies in 1975. For the next four seasons, he served primarily as the personal catcher for Steve Carlton. He was released by the Phillies after the 1979 season, but was re-signed and appeared in six games during the 1980 season, making McCarver the twenty-ninth player in major league history to appear in four different decades.

In 21 major league seasons, McCarver had 1,501 hits and a .271 career batting average.

 

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Reds’ Robbie Is National’s MVP

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(November 22, 1961) Frank Robinson, right fielder for the National League champion Cincinnati Reds, today was named National League Most Valuable Player.

Despite leading the league in only a single offensive category (.611 slugging percentage), Frank Robinson won the 1961 National League Most Valuable Player award for 1961.

Despite leading the league in only a single offensive category (.611 slugging percentage), Frank Robinson won the National League Most Valuable Player award for 1961.

Robinson became the first Cincinnati Red in 21 years to win the National League MVP. The previous Reds MVP was first baseman Frank McCormick in 1940.

Robinson claimed 15 out of the 16 first-place votes, the other first-place tally going to teammate Joey Jay, whose 21-10 record tied him with Warren Spahn for the league lead in victories. Jay finished fifth in the MVP voting overall.

Robinson finished with 219 votes, easily outdistancing runner-up Orlando Cepeda of the San Francisco Giants, who garnered 117 votes.

Robinson led the league in only one hitting category, with a .611 slugging percentage. He batted .323 with 37 home runs and 124 runs batted in. Robinson finished second in the league with 117 runs scored.

Cepeda led the National League in both home runs (46) and RBIs (142). The National League batting champion in 1961 was Roberto Clemente at .351. Clemente finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Robinson’s outfield teammate, Vada Pinson, finished third in the MVP vote, Pinson was second in the league with a .343 batting average and led the league with 208 hits.

The Reds took the 1961 National League pennant by four games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds lost to the New York Yankees in the five-game World Series.
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The Cat with a Quick Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Felix Mantilla

Infielder Felix Mantilla came up through the Negro and minor leagues with an outfielder named Hank Aaron. Both were All-Stars who broke into the major leagues with the Milwaukee Braves.

Felix Mantilla was an All-Star in 1965, when he batted .275 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.

Felix Mantilla was an All-Star in 1965, when he batted .275 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.

Both built their reputations on home runs. Aaron hit more.

Mantilla was signed by the Braves in 1952 and was a member of the pennant-winning Braves of 1957 and 1958. After six seasons as a utility infielder with the Braves, Mantilla was selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He spent the 1962 season as the Mets’ everyday third baseman, batting .275 with 11 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Following that season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Pumpsie Green and Tracy Stallard.

In Boston, Mantilla’s potential and power were unleashed. He batted .315 in 1963 as the team’s utility infielder, and then became a starter at second base in 1965, batting .289 with 30 home runs and 64 RBIs. He followed in 1965, his All-Star season, with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs while batting .275.

In the off season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s for shortstop Eddie Kasko. For the Colts in 1966, he batted .219 as a part-time player, and then retired at age 31.

Mantilla played 11 seasons in the major leagues. He hit .261 in his career on 707 hits, with 89 home runs and 330 RBIs.

Matty Alou Bids ‘Frisco Adieu

 

Swap Shop: Matty Alou Turns Pirate

For five seasons, Matty Alou languished on the San Francisco Giants’ bench, hitting a combined .260. Signed by the Giants in 1957, Alou made his big league debut in 1960. He was an outfielder with a quick bat and quick feet, and too many power hitters between him and everyday playing time.

Matty Alou

Matty Alou

With an outfield that featured, at various times, the likes of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and even brother Felipe Alou hitting for average and power, there was little opportunity for Matty to find a place in the Giants’ lineup. From 1961-1964, he averaged only 180 at-bats per season. In 1965, with Cepeda out for nearly the entire season due to injury, and younger brother Jesus playing regularly as the team’s right fielder, Matty should have had his opportunity to shine. But he hit only a meager .231, and he became very expendable on a team in search of more pitching.

That was the Giants’ goal as the team entered the winter of 1965. On December 1, the Giants traded Alou to the Pittsburgh Pirates for utility player Ozzie Virgil and left-handed pitcher Joe Gibbon. A 10-game winner in 1964, Gibbon slipped to 4-9 with a 4.51 ERA in 1965. But the Giants liked the fact that Gibbon had been successful in the past as both a starter and reliever, and they saw Matty as the Alou less likely to succeed.

The Giants were wrong.

Alou’s career turned around with the playing time he received in Pittsburgh. In 1966, with 535 at-bats, Alou batted .342 to lead the National League. (Brother Felipe was second at .327.) Over the next five seasons, Alou would collect 986 hits (an average of 197 per season) and produce a combined batting average of .327. In 1969, he batted .331 and led the league in hits (231) and doubles (41).

Joe Gibbon

Joe Gibbon

Gibbon had three solid but unspectacular seasons in San Francisco, working mostly out of the bullpen with an occasional start. He was 4-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 1966 and 6-2 with a 3.07 ERA the following season.

Alou was a two-time All-Star who ended his career with 1,777 hits – more than half coming during his five seasons in Pittsburgh.

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Rattlin’ the Ivy Off Wrigley

 

Homer Happy: Ron Santo

Ron Santo was money in the bank for the Chicago Cubs. For eight consecutive seasons – from 1963 through 1970 – Santo hit no fewer than 25 home runs and drove in no fewer than 94 runs.

No third baseman hit more home runs during the 1960s than Ron Santo. And Santo’s durability and defensive performance were second to none in the National League.

No third baseman hit more home runs during the 1960s than Ron Santo. And Santo’s durability and defensive performance were second to none in the National League.

And by the way, during that same eight-year period, Santo averaged 160 games per season … and collected five Gold Gloves.

The best all-around third baseman of the 1960s? Ron Santo probably was. He maybe wasn’t the fielder that Brooks Robinson was over in the American League (though he came closer than anyone else). But Robinson couldn’t match Santo’s offensive productivity. And no other third baseman in baseball hit as many home runs during the 1960s.

Santo was signed by the Cubs in 1959 and found his way into the Cubs’ lineup a year later, batting .251 as a 20-year-old rookie. He hit nine home runs in his rookie season, 23 in 1961, and 17 in 1962. Then, in 1963, Santo hit 25 homers – and wouldn’t hit any fewer than that total until 1971.

By 1964, Santo had established himself as the National League’s premier third baseman. He batted .313 that season and led the league with 13 triples, 86 walks and a .398 on-base percentage. He also hit 33 doubles and 30 home runs with 114 runs batted in.

Through the rest of the 1960s, only Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies could challenge Santo as a slugging third baseman. But he couldn’t carry Santo’s glove.

That the Chicago Cubs fell short in the 1969 pennant race had nothing to do with Ron Santo’s hitting that season. Santo batted .289 that year with 29 home runs and a career-best 123 RBIs, second most in the National League.

That the Chicago Cubs fell short in the 1969 pennant race had nothing to do with Ron Santo’s hitting that season. Santo batted .289 that year with 29 home runs and a career-best 123 RBIs, second most in the National League.

Santo banged out 30 or more home runs each season from 1964-1967. He had 98 or more RBIs in seven seasons, and topped 170 hits four times. For a power hitter, Santo was unusually disciplined with his strike zone. He led the National League in bases on balls four times, and accumulated 70 or more walk in nine seasons.

Santo closed out the 1960s with one of his best seasons. He batted .289 that year with 29 home runs and a career-best 123 RBIs, second most in the National League. His productivity as a power hitter declined over the next three seasons as he averaged 19 home runs and 80 RBIs from 1971-1973. He spent the 1974 season – his fifteenth and last in the major leagues – on the South Side of Chicago with the White Sox. As a part-time infielder, Santo batted .221 with five home runs and 41 RBIs.

Santo retired with a career batting average of .277 with 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in. He was a member of the National League All-Star team nine times during his career.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

 

Maybe He Should’ve Struck Out a Couple More

 

Lights Out: Steve Carlton Strikes Out 19 New York Mets in a Losing Effort

When: September 15, 1969

Where:  Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

Game Time: 2:23

Attendance: 13.086

 

The hallmark of a championship team is that it knows how to find a way to win even when it isn’t at its best. Or when its opponent is.

Left-hander Steve Carlton should have sued the 1969 St. Louis Cardinals for lack of support. After dropping two September decisions when the Cardinals scored only two runs total, Carlton struck out 19 New York Mets, but still lost 4-3.

Left-hander Steve Carlton should have sued the 1969 St. Louis Cardinals for lack of support. After dropping two September decisions when the Cardinals scored only two runs total, Carlton struck out 19 New York Mets, but still lost 4-3.

That was the case on September 15, 1969, when the New York Mets faced the St. Louis Cardinals and a flame-throwing future Hall of Famer who was nearly unhittable, but not unbeatable.

The Cardinals’ starting pitcher, Steve Carlton, was having a breakout season in 1969. The 24-year-old Carlton had won 14 games in 1967 and 13 games in 1968, but was becoming more dominant as he matured. He was averaging eight strikeouts per nine innings and entered the game with a 1.92 earned run average. He was also on a two-game losing streak due to lack of support from a Cardinals’ lineup that had produced only two runs in his last pair of starts.

The Mets’ starter was Gary Gentry, who was 11-11 and coming off a six-hit shutout of the Montreal Expos in his previous start. Gentry and Carlton matched scoreless innings in the game’s first two frames, then the Cardinals scored in the third inning when Lou Brock walked and Curt Flood singled. Brock tried to score but was thrown out at the plate, allowing Flood to advance to second base and then score on Vada Pinson’s single.

Carlton allowed three singles in the first three innings, but also struck out seven Mets batters. In the fourth inning, Carlton walked Donn Clendenon to lead off the inning and then gave up a home run to Ron Swoboda. But he struck out three more Mets batters that inning, and had 10 strikeouts through the first four innings though the Cardinals now trailed 2-1.

Carlton finished the 1969 season at 17-11 with a 2.17 ERA, second lowest in the National League.

Carlton finished the 1969 season at 17-11 with a 2.17 ERA, second lowest in the National League.

The Cardinals regained the lead in the fifth inning. With two outs, Brock singled and stole second. Flood singled to center field, scoring Brock to tie the game. Pinson singled to right field, moving Flood to second base. Flood scored the third run on Joe Torre’s single to center. The inning ended with no further scoring when Tim McCarver flied out to left field.

Meanwhile, Carlton continued to be a strikeout machine. He fanned Amos Otis and Tommie Agee in the fifth inning. He struck out Swoboda in the sixth inning. He struck out Otis again in the seventh inning with two runners on base.

That gave Carlton 14 strikeouts for the game.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Tug McGraw took over for Gentry and pitched a scoreless inning despite an error and a walk. In the top of the eighth inning, Agee led off with a single and then Carlton struck out Clendenon looking, Carlton’s fifteenth of the game. But Ron Swoboda launched his second home run of the game and ninth of the season to put the Mets back on top 4-3. Carlton got his sixteenth strikeout to end the eighth inning.

McGraw retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom of the eighth, and Carlton fanned the side in the ninth inning, giving him 19 strikeouts for the game. But it wouldn’t be enough. Despite an error and a Brock single, the Cardinals couldn’t score against McGraw in the ninth.

Carlton would finish the 1969 season at 17-11 with a 2.17 ERA, second lowest in the National League behind Juan Marichal. He topped 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career, something he would do seven more times. But he would never again strike out as many as 19 batters in a single nine-inning game. In fact, only one left-hander (Randy Johnson) has matched that performance.

 

Lights Out!

 

 

Steve Carlton’s heartbreaking 19-strikeout loss is one of the performances featured in Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.

Roberto Romps in MVP Sweepstakes

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(November 16, 1966) Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente today was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Clemente took the award by ten votes over Los Angeles Dodgers pitching ace Sandy Koufax.

Roberto Clemente failed to win his third consecutive batting title in 1966, but a strong season in each hitting category earned him the National League Most Valuable Player award.

Roberto Clemente failed to win his third consecutive batting title in 1966, but a strong season in each hitting category earned him the National League Most Valuable Player award.

Clemente batted .317 with 29 home runs and 119 RBI during the regular season. His home run and RBI totals would be career highs for the Pirates’ perennial All-Star.

Clemente also claimed his sixth consecutive Gold Glove award in 1966. What he didn’t do was win the National League batting title after leading the league the previous two seasons. Clemente finished fifth in the league in hitting, with teammate Matty Alou taking the 1966 batting title.

Clemente would reclaim the batting championship in 1967. It would be the fourth of his career.

Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax posted a 27-9 record in 1966 and won his fifth straight ERA title. His performance was good enough to earn Koufax his third Cy Young award, but he finished 10 votes behind Clemente in the MVP sweepstakes.

Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax posted a 27-9 record in 1966 and won his fifth straight ERA title. His performance was good enough to earn Koufax his third Cy Young award, but he finished 10 votes behind Clemente in the MVP sweepstakes.

Koufax posted a 27-9 record with 317 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA in what would be his final major league season. Koufax would announce his retirement in two days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Playing in the Shadows

 

Homer Happy: Vada Pinson

Vada Pinson was as complete a ballplayer as you could hope for. He could hit for average and hit for power. He played fast and smooth in center field, with a strong throwing arm. He turned singles into extra bases. He played with five tools and the heart of a lion.

When the Cincinnati Reds were winning the National League pennant in 1961, Vada Pinson led the team with a .343 batting average, and led the league with 208 hits.

When the Cincinnati Reds were winning the National League pennant in 1961, Vada Pinson led the team with a .343 batting average, and led the league with 208 hits.

Pinson had the talent and dedication to be a genuine superstar. The only thing he lacked while playing for the Cincinnati Reds was a spotlight.

In Cincinnati in the early 1960s, that spotlight belonged to Frank Robinson.

A native of Oakland, California, Pinson was signed by the Reds in 1956. In 1958, he batted .343 for Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, which earned him a month’s stay in Cincinnati (batting .271 in 27 games) and a shot at the center field job in 1959.

Pinson captured that center field job and refused to let it go. He batted .317 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with a .509 slugging percentage. He led the National League with 648 at-bats, 131 runs scored and 47 doubles.

In 1960 he repeated as the league leader in at-bats and doubles. Batting .287 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs, Pinson also stole 32 bases and scored 107 runs. He batted .343 in 1961, leading the league with 208 hits. His was a potent bat hitting third in the Reds’ pennant-winning lineup, with 16 home runs and 87 RBIs in addition to scoring 101 runs. He finished third in the race for Most Valuable Player behind Robinson and Orlando Cepeda.

After batting .292 in 1962 (with 23 home runs and 100 RBIs), Pinson gave what probably was his best all-around hitting performance in 1963. He batted .313 (seventh in the National league) and again led the majors in hits with 204. He appeared in all 162 games, tying him for first with Bill White and Ron Santo. His .514 slugging average was fifth in the league. He finished third in total bases (335), second in doubles (37), first in triples with 14, eighth in singles (131), third in stolen bases (27) and fourth with 106 runs batted in.

Over the next five seasons, Pinson remained a solid hitter for the Reds, with and (after the trade with the Baltimore Orioles) without Frank Robinson hitting behind him. From 1964-1968, Pinson batted a combined .284 while averaging 17 home runs and 74 RBIs. He led the National League with 13 triples in 1967.

Following the 1968 season, and after 11 years with the Reds, Pinson was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Wayne Granger and outfielder Bobby Tolan. Pinson’s only season in St. Louis was the worst of his career, as he batted .255 with ten home runs and 70 RBIs.

In 18 major league seasons, Vada Pinson batted .286 with 2,757 hits. He led the National League twice in hits and twice in triples.

In 18 major league seasons, Vada Pinson batted .286 with 2,757 hits. He led the National League twice in hits and twice in triples.

An off-season trade to the Cleveland Indians revived Pinson’s bat in 1970. He batted .286 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. At age 31, it would also be Pinson’s last season as a major hitting threat. From 1971-1975, playing for the Indians, the California Angels and the Kansas City Royals, Pinson hit for a combined .261 average with seven home runs and 41 RBIs per season. He retired at age 36 after hitting .223 in 1975.

Pinson lasted 18 seasons in the major leagues, batting .286 with 2,757 hits (#53 all time in career hits), 485 doubles, 256 home runs and 1,169 RBIs. Pinson scored 1,365 runs during his career.

Pinson was an All-Star twice.

 

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