Babe Ruth Minus 100 Pounds?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 25, 1965) The Cleveland Indians today defeated the New York Yankees 5-1 in front of 4,925 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The winning pitcher was Sonny Siebert (5-2), who allowed three hits and one run in five innings of work. Siebert struck out seven Yankee batters.

Sam McDowell picked up his first save of the season by allowing three hits and no runs over the final four innings. McDowell struck out five.

The losing pitcher was Jim Bouton (3-5). Bouton allowed five hits, including home runs from Vic Davalillo and Fred Whitfield.

Vic Davalillo’s three-hit performance (including a pair of home runs and five RBIs) raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Vic Davalillo’s three-hit performance (including a pair of home runs and five RBIs) raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Davalillo was the game’s hitting star. Cleveland’s center fielder had three hits in four at-bats with a pair of home runs and four RBIs. He hit a solo home run off Bouton with two outs in the second inning.

In the sixth inning, with the game tied 1-1, Whitfield led off the inning with his seventh home run of the season. Bouton gave up a single to Leon Wagner and walked Max Alvis before Davalillo hit his second home run of the game to put the Tribe ahead 5-1.

Davalillo’s three-hit performance raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Davalillo would finish the season with a .301 batting average (third highest in the American League). He was fourth in the league with 26 stolen bases and third with 127 singles.

Davalillo also finished his third major league season with five home runs … three more than Babe Ruth hit in his third season.

 

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The Cardinals’ Strong Right Arm

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Gibson

Hard-throwing, dominating, intimidating: throughout the 1960s, no pitcher was as consistently effective as the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson.

In a decade loaded with great pitchers, no one won more games than Gibson in the post-season. A power pitcher with great control and a seemingly indestructible arm, Gibson only got better as the decade progressed, and continued his dominance of hitters into the 1970s.

Bob Gibson won 251 games and pitched 56 career shutouts – more than any other St. Louis Cardinals pitcher.

Bob Gibson won 251 games and pitched 56 career shutouts – more than any other St. Louis Cardinals pitcher.

Gibson was called up to the Cardinals in 1959. By 1961, he was a member of the starting rotation, a job he would keep for the next 15 years. The next year he won 15 games with an ERA of 2.81. He had 15 complete games, and he led the majors with five shutouts. He also struck out 208 batters that season, and would strike out 200 or more batters in a season nine times in his career.

Gibson posted 18 victories in 1963. In the Cardinals’ championship season of 1964, Gibson won 19 games during the regular season. In the 1964 World Series, he posted two complete game victories, including the deciding seventh game. His performance earned him the Series Most Valuable Player Award. At the end of 1964, Gibson was clearly the Cardinals’ ace, and his best years were still ahead of him.

In 1965 and 1966, Gibson won 20 and 21 games, respectively. He was on his way to another 20-victory campaign in 1967 when a Roberto Clemente line drive fractured his leg and sidelined him for the second half of the season.

The Cardinals cruised to the National League pennant even without Gibson, who was able to come back and pitch in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. In Game One, Gibson struck out 10 batters and allowed only six hits en route to a 2-1 victory. He returned in Game Four, this time giving up only five hits in pitching a 6-0 shutout. In the seventh game, he dominated again, taking his third World Series victory by a score of 7-2, with 10 strikeouts and surrendering only three hits. For the second time in the decade, Gibson was selected as the World Series MVP.

Bob Gibson won seven World Series games, the most by any pitcher in the 1960s. He was named World Series MVP in both 1964 and 1967.

Bob Gibson won seven World Series games, the most by any pitcher in the 1960s. He was named World Series MVP in both 1964 and 1967.

A healthy Bob Gibson no doubt looked forward to pitching a full season in 1968, but he could not have imagined the kind of season he would experience. In leading the Cardinals to another National League pennant, Gibson went 22-9 with a microscopic 1.12 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts (268) and led the majors in shutouts (13), pitching 28 complete games. He won both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards.

In the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Gibson struck out a record 35 batters in 27 innings pitched. He won his initial two starts in that Series, though he lost a Game Seven, only the second World Series loss of his career. It would be Gibson’s last World Series appearance.

Gibson closed out the 1960s by going 20-13 in 1969, with an ERA that “ballooned” to 2.18. His last 20-victory season was 1970, when 23-7 earned him his second Cy Young Award. In his 17-year career, Gibson won 251 games and registered over 3,000 strikeouts. He also pitched 56 shutouts and won nine Gold Gloves.

Bob Gibson was twice named the National League Cy Young Award winner, in 1968 (22-9 with a 1.12 ERA) and in 1970 (23-7 with a 3.21 ERA).

Bob Gibson was twice named the National League Cy Young Award winner, in 1968 (22-9 with a 1.12 ERA) and in 1970 (23-7 with a 3.21 ERA).

Gibson finished as the Cardinals’ career leader in nearly every pitching category, including victories, complete games (255), games started (482), shutouts (56), and strikeouts (3,117). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility.

 

 

 

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Making 20 Wins a Habit

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ferguson Jenkins

During the late 1960s, Ferguson Jenkins did something no Chicago Cubs pitcher had done in more than half a century: string together one 20-win season after another.

From 1967-1972, Ferguson Jenkins averaged 21 victories, 23 complete games and 306 innings per season for the Chicago Cubs.

From 1967-1972, Ferguson Jenkins averaged 21 victories, 23 complete games and 306 innings per season for the Chicago Cubs.

From 1967 through 1972, Fergie Jenkins had no less than 20 victories per season, pitched no less than 289.1 innings per season, pitched no less than 20 complete games each season, with a combined ERA of 3.00 for those six seasons, all the while pitching about half his games in that hitter’s paradise known as Wrigley Field.

It was one of the most amazing – and largely overlooked – pitching performances of his era. He was the Three-Finger Brown of the 1960s, only with a livelier ball and much less run support.

Jenkins was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962. After four seasons in the Phillies’ farm system, Jenkins was traded with John Hernnstein and Adolfo Phillips for two proven starting pitchers – Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. What the Cubs got was a future Hall of Famer.

After an undistinguished season spent mostly in the bullpen, Jenkins was converted to a full-time starter for the 1967 season and never looked back. He went 20-13 for the Cubs with a 2.80 ERA and led the majors with 20 complete games. In 1968 he went 20-15 with a 2.63 ERA. He lost five 1-0 games that season. With a little more run support, he could have easily been 25-10.

Ferguson Jenkins was 20-15 in 1968 with a 2.63 ERA. Five of those losses came on 1-0 defeats.

Ferguson Jenkins was 20-15 in 1968 with a 2.63 ERA. Five of those losses came on 1-0 defeats.

Jenkins’ best season with the Cubs came in 1971, when his 24-13 record (with a 2.77 ERA) led the National League in victories. He also led the league in games started (39), complete games (30), innings pitched (325) and strikeouts-to-walks ratio (7.11). He was selected as the National League Cy Young Award winner for that season.

After six consecutive 20-victory seasons, Jenkins slipped to 14-16 in 1973. The Cubs shipped the 30-year-old pitcher to the Texas Rangers for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock. Jenkins responded with a 25-12 season for the Rangers, pitching six shutouts and 29 complete games with a 2.82 ERA.

In a sense, the Cubs had been right, as Jenkins “declined” from phenomenal in the late 1960s-early 1970s to simply very good in the late ‘70s and early 1980s. The Cubs simply missed out on the 135 wins that Jenkins accumulated after being traded.

Jenkins finished his 19-season Hall of Fame career with 284 victories and a 3.34 ERA. He pitched over 4500 innings with 3,192 strikeouts, and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1991.

 

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No Compromise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Andy Messersmith

Andy Messersmith will always be remembered primarily for his role in helping bring down baseball’s “reserve clause” that effectively bound a player to a particular team for life … or until the team decided to trade or release him. When Messersmith took the Los Angeles Dodgers to arbitration and won free agent status, it created the free agent opportunity that every major league player can enjoy today. It culminated in the final dismantling of teams’ stranglehold on players, a dismantling that began with Curt Flood in 1969.

Andy Messersmith won 130 games in the major leagues. He was also the first player to test the reserve clause successfully and win the right to negotiate as a free agent.

Andy Messersmith won 130 games in the major leagues. He was also the first player to test the reserve clause successfully and win the right to negotiate as a free agent.

Part of the reason that Messersmith’s case was so high profile was that, as a starting pitcher, Messersmith himself was high profile. He was one of the best right-handers of his generation, and at his best was one of the game’s most dominant pitchers.

Messersmith was selected by the California Angels with the twelfth overall pick in the 1966 amateur draft. The hard-throwing Messersmith was pitching out of the Angels’ bullpen four years later, and was a member of the team’s starting rotation by 1969, when he went 16-11 and posted a 2.52 ERA. He went 11-10 in 1970, and won 20 games for the Angels in 1972, with four shutouts and 14 complete games in 38 starts.

Messersmith slipped to 8-11 in 1973, and was traded with Ken McMullen to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Billy Grabarkewitz, Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, Mike Strahler and Bobby Valentine. He went 14-10 in his first season with the Dodgers, and followed that with a 20-6 season in 1974, posting a 2.59 ERA.

Messersmith had requested a no-trade clause be included in his 1975 contract, which the Dodgers refused. Messersmith in turn refused to sign a new contract, and played the 1975 season without a contract under the reserve clause. He went 19-14 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the National League in games started (40), innings pitched (321.2), complete games (19) and shutouts (7). He also won his second consecutive Gold Glove that season.

Messersmith was granted his free agency and signed with the Atlanta Braves. But he was never the same pitcher again. He was 11-11 with the Braves in 1976, and went 7-11 over the next three seasons with the Braves, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers. He retired after being released by the Dodgers in 1979.

Messersmith was an All-Star four times during his 12-year career. His career record was 130-99 with a 2.86 ERA. He had 27 shutouts in 295 starts.

 

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Heady Hustle

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cookie Rojas

While certainly not the most athletically talented infielder of his era, Cookie Rojas carved a 16-year career out of baseball smarts and hustle, and hitting that improved with accumulated at-bats.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. He spent six years moving steadily through the Reds’ farm system, and made the team as a utility player (capable of playing any position) in 1962.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Jim Owens and started a seven-year tour with the Phillies in 1963, hitting .221 in 64 games. He got more playing time with the Phillies in 1964 (and hit .291), and in 1965 he became the Phillies’ starting second baseman and the team’s leading hitter at .303. In 1967, he led the National League with 16 sacrifice hits.

Following the 1969 season, Rojas was traded by the Phillies with Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Byron Browne, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver. He played in only 23 games for the Cardinals, and then was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico.

Rojas spent the next eight seasons with the Royals, as the team’s starting second baseman for six of those seasons. He hit .300 for the Royals in 1971, the first of four consecutive years when he would be named to the American League All-Star team. His best season for all-around offensive performance came in 1973, when he hit .276 with six home runs and 69 RBIs. He also had 29 doubles and 18 stolen bases, both career highs.

Rojas was released by the Royals after the 1977 season. He signed briefly with the Chicago Cubs, but never played for them, opting instead to retire to coaching and later managing and a broadcasting career.

Scratching Out Wins

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Kralick

Jack Kralick was a slender, left-handed starting pitcher with first-division stuff … and second-division teams playing behind him. He could be dominating – even un-hittable – on occasion. He had an appetite for innings, and kept his team in the game.

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

Kralick was signed out of Michigan State University by the Chicago White Sox in 1955. He never pitched in Chicago. He was released by the White Sox in 1958 and signed immediately as a free agent by the Washington Senators, making his debut with the Senators at the end of the 1959 season. He was 8-6 as a rookie with the Senators in 1960, posting a 3.04 ERA as a starter-reliever, with seven complete games (and two shutouts) in 17 starts.

Kralick moved with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and went 13-11 as part of the Twins’ starting rotation. He pitched 242 innings for the Twins, posting a 3.61 earned run average with 11 complete games and two shutouts. He was 12-11 for the Twins in 1962.

In May of 1963, Kralick was traded to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jim Perry. At 13-9, Kralick led the Tribe staff in victories (tied with Mudcat Grant) and posted a 2.92 ERA, best among the Indians’ starters that season.

He started strong in 1964, going 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA in the first half of the season, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished the 1964 season at 12-7 with a 3.21 ERA, leading the team in victories for the second consecutive season.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

The 1964 season was one of transition for the Cleveland pitching staff, with the influx of young arms like those of Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Tommy John. Kralick, now 30, was a senior member of the staff, and faded to 5-11 in 1965, spending more time coming out of the bullpen than working in the starting rotation. He was 3-4 mopping up in relief in 1966, and appeared in only two games in 1967 before being purchased by the New York Mets. He retired rather than report to the Mets.

In his nine-season career, Kralick posted a 67-65 record with a 3.56 ERA. He pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics on August 26, 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced before walking George Alusik in the ninth inning.

 

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Yaz Rides Cycle for Five-RBI Game

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 14, 1965) At Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski drove in five runs in a losing effort to the Detroit Tigers, 12-8.

Yastrzemski’s five-RBI game was built on a five for five batting performance – hitting for the cycle plus an extra home run (and a walk).

On May 14, 1965, <a rel=

On May 14, 1965, Carl Yastrzemski hit for the cycle plus an extra home run (and a walk). He drove in five runs.

Yastrzemski’s first hit was a two-run home run off Detroit starter Denny McLain in the bottom of the first.

In the second inning, Yastrzemski ripped a three-run homer off McLain, putting the Red Sox up 5-0. The Tigers came back with five runs in the top of the third inning to tie the game.

Yastrzemski drew a walk off Tiger reliever Ed Rakow in the fourth inning, and tripled off Rakow in the sixth. In the bottom of the eighth, Yaz singled off Larry Sherry. Then in the bottom of the tenth he doubled off Terry Fox, the game’s winner, to complete the cycle-plus.

The Tigers won the game in the top of the tenth by scoring four runs off Bosox reliever Dick Radatz. An RBI double by Don Demeter, an RBI single by Willie Horton, and Norm Cash’s two-run double gave the Tigers the 12-8 victory.

Yastrzemski would finish the 1965 season batting .312, second in the American League to Tony Oliva’s .321. He would lead the major leagues in doubles that year with 45.

 

O’s Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer’s Hall of Fame career – 19 seasons, all in a Baltimore Orioles uniform – got its start in the 1960s, and nearly ended there. While showing flashes of brilliance in his early major league career – including being the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout – assorted back and arm problems nearly ended his career before he could establish himself as one of the game’s most durable and consistent starters during the 1970s.

At age 20, Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout, blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 in 1966.

At age 20, Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout, blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 in 1966.

Palmer was signed by the Orioles in 1963 at age 17 and made his debut with the Orioles two years later, going 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 27 appearances – all but six in relief. He moved into the Orioles’ starting rotation in 1966, going 15-10 with a 3.46 ERA. He pitched the game that clinched the American League pennant for the Orioles, and pitched the second game of the 1966 World Series, shutting out the Dodgers 6-0 and beating Sandy Koufax (in what would turn out to be his final major league appearance).

Arm miseries plagued Palmer over the next two seasons. He pitched only nine innings in 1967 and spent the entire 1968 season in minor league rehab, during which time Palmer reworked his pitching mechanics. He re-emerged in 1969 showing signs of the pitcher he would become: going 16-4 with a 2.34 ERA and six shutouts. He also pitched a no-hitter against the Oakland A’s.

During the 1970s Palmer hit his stride, a stride that would carry him to Cooperstown. He won 20 or more games in eight of the next nine seasons. He led the American League in ERA in 1973 (2.40) and in 1975 (2.09), when he led the majors in wins (23) and shutouts (10).

After struggling with injuries and control, Jim Palmer emerged as a dominant pitcher in 1969, going 16-4 with a 2.34 ERA. He would be a 20-game winner eight times during the 1970s.

After struggling with injuries and control, Jim Palmer emerged as a dominant pitcher in 1969, going 16-4 with a 2.34 ERA. He would be a 20-game winner eight times during the 1970s.

Palmer retired after being released by the Orioles in 1984 with a record of 268-152 and a career ERA of 2.86. He was an All-Star six times, and was the first American League pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards. During his entire major league career, he never gave up a grand slam home run, or even back-to-back home runs.

Palmer remains the Orioles’ all-time career leader in games pitched, innings pitched, games started, wins, shutouts and strikeouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, his first year of eligibility.

 

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Battle of the Titans

 

Lights Out! – 4-3 Thriller Is a Showcase for Aaron and Clemente

When: August 28, 1967

Where:  Atlanta Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Game Time: 2:38

Attendance: 8,725

Not even Hollywood could have devised a more dramatic, twisting scenario than the one that actually played out in this game.

Any discussion about the great National League outfielders of the 1960s has to begin with the mention of Willie Mays and the opposing superstars in this late-August contest: Hank Aaron of the Braves and Roberto Clemente of the Pirates. All three were multi-tool threats, complete ballplayers who excelled at every aspect of the game. 1967 proved to be another banner season for both Aaron and Clemente.

Hank Aaron His run-saving catch sent the game into extra innings.

Hank Aaron
His run-saving catch sent the game into extra innings.

At age 33, Aaron was still in the prime of his career. He led the National League in home runs (44) and runs batted in (127) in 1966. He came into this game batting .319 with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. (He would lead the league with 39 home runs at season’s end.)

Clemente was the reigning National League MVP, having hit .317 with 29 home runs and 119 RBIs in 1966. Coming into this game, he was leading the league with a .345 batting average. (He would win his fourth batting title with a .357 average.) Clemente also had 18 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Braves catcher Joe Torre scored the game’s first run when Woody Woodward singled off Pirates starter Al McBean in the bottom of the second inning. Braves starter Pat Jarvis held the Pirates scoreless through the fourth inning. In the Pirates’ half of the fifth inning, catcher Jerry May singled and scored on Matty Alou’s triple. Jarvis balked, scoring Alou.

In the top of the sixth inning, Clemente led off with a solo home run that put the Pirates ahead 3-1. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. Rico Carty doubled with one out, and Gary Geiger went in to run for Carty. Felipe Alou singled to right field, scoring Geiger. Then back-to-back singles by Tito Francona and Aaron brought Alou home and tied the game at 3-3.

In the top of the ninth, with Jay Ritchie pitching for the Braves, Jose Pagan stroked a two-out single to right field and May walked, putting runners at first and second. With Manny Jimenez pinch hitting for Roy Face, Aaron made a circus catch of Jimenez’s liner to right to end the inning with the score still tied.

Roberto Clemente His two home runs put the Pirates ahead twice. His tenth-inning homer proved to be the game winner.

Roberto Clemente
His two home runs put the Pirates ahead twice. His tenth-inning homer proved to be the game winner.

Aaron’s saving catch went for naught. In the top of the tenth, Matty Alou led off by bunting for a base hit. Shortstop Gene Alley struck out, and with Clemente at the plate, Alou was thrown out trying to steal second. Clemente created his own go-ahead run by lining a home run over the wall in left-center field.

With two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Felipe Alou singled to left. But with the tying run at first and Aaron on deck, Francona struck out to end the game.

Heavenly Slugger

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lee Thomas

When Lee Thomas was signed by the New York Yankees in 1954, he looked like someone destined for pinstripe greatness.

Lee Thomas’s best season as a slugger was 1962, when he batted .290 with 26 home runs and 104 RBIs.

Lee Thomas’s best season as a slugger was 1962, when he batted .290 with 26 home runs and 104 RBIs.

A left-handed batter who could hit for average and power, Thomas put up impressive minor league numbers as he progressed through the Yankees’ farm system, hitting 25 home runs with 122 RBIs in 1959 and 28 home runs with 112 RBIs in 1960.

The only thing standing in Thomas’ way was the powerful Yankees lineup of the late 1950s. A month into the 1961 season, Thomas was traded by the Yankees with Ryne Duren and Johnny James to the Los Angeles Angels for Bob Cerv and Tex Clevenger.

It was in Los Angeles that he became a hitting star, almost overnight.

Despite appearing in only 130 games, Thomas was third on the team in home runs (24 to Leon Wagner’s 28) and RBIs (70 to Ken Hunt’s 84) and second on the team in batting average (.284 to Albie Pearson’s .288).

In 1962, when the fledgling Angels shocked the American League by finishing third, Thomas led the team in hitting at .290. He hit 26 home runs with 104 RBIs. His offensive production slipped significantly in 1963, and during the 1964 campaign Thomas was traded to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Lou Clinton.

For the Angels and BoSox combined for 1964, Thomas finished with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs. He had a strong season for Boston in 1965, batting .271 with 27 doubles, 22 home runs and 75 RBIs. It was his last season as a full-time major league player. From 1966 through 1968, Thomas was a part-time performer for the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, before finishing his playing career in Japan.

Thomas was an All-Star in 1962. He retired with 106 home runs and a .255 career batting average.