Don the Dominant

 

Career Year: Don Drysdale – 1962

Next to Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale was arguably the most intimidating pitcher in baseball during the 1960s.

Tall and hard-throwing, Drysdale wasn’t afraid to use his fastball to push batters away from the plate, and wasn’t concerned about plunking those who refused to budge or bail. Five times he led the National League in batters he hit. Continue reading

Howard to the Rescue

 

Career Year: Elston Howard – 1963

For four straight seasons, from 1960 to 1963, the New York Yankees won the American League pennant. Nothing unusual for those Yankee teams.

In those four seasons, the Yankees also fielded the American League’s Most Valuable Player, starting with Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961, then Mickey Mantle in 1962. Injuries would strike down the mighty M&M duo for much of the 1963 season, but the Yankees finished at the top in both the regular season standings and in the MVP sweepstakes.

The single everyday player most responsible for the Yankees’ success in 1963 – and for extending the Yankees’ MVP streak – was one of the most unlikely of Yankee superstars. Continue reading

From Goat to Great

 

Career Year: Ralph Terry – 1962

Ralph Terry was probably the most under-appreciated New York Yankees pitcher of the 1960s.

Despite his numbers, he was never considered the ace of the Yankee staff. That acknowledgement always belonged to Whitey Ford while Terry was a Yankee. And even in 1962, when Terry was clearly the best starting pitcher in the American League, he was completely ignored by the baseball writers in the voting for the Cy Young Award.

In that season, he was baseball’s Rodney Dangerfield: he won everything but respect. Continue reading

On a Winning Warpath

 

Career Year: Dick Donovan – 1962

Dick Donovan made a career of pitching better than the teams behind him. And he seemed to have the knack of pitching especially well for teams that were especially bad.

His two best seasons came with the 1961 Washington Senators (who finished ninth) and the 1962 Cleveland Indians (who finished sixth). He was particularly outstanding throughout 1962, turning in the finest season-long performance of his distinguished career. Continue reading

Trust the Law

 

Career Year: Vern Law – 1960

Vern Law was a lanky right-hander whose fortunes as a pitcher improved steadily throughout the 1950s … just as his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (his only major league team over a 16-year career), clawed its way out of the bottom of the National League standings by the close of the 1950s. Continue reading

Sammy Puts the Whammy on the National League

 

Career Year: Sammy Ellis – 1965

In the early 1960s, right-hander Sammy Ellis had one of the most promising pitching arms in the Cincinnati Reds organization. Signed by the Reds prior to the 1961 season, Ellis won 10 games (with a 1.89 ERA) in the Sally League in his first professional season, and then won 12 games at the AAA level in each of the next two seasons. Continue reading

All the Way

 

Career Year: Larry Jackson (1964)

For the first and only time from 1962 to 1966, the winningest pitcher in baseball in 1964 was not a Dodger.

And for the only time from 1962-1966, the pitcher with the most victories in 1964 was not the Cy Young Award winner.

And yet, for Larry Jackson, the 1964 season proved to be the high point of a stellar pitching career for one of the game’s most durable starters.

Pitching for the eighth-place Chicago Cubs in 1964, Larry Jackson led the major leagues with 24 victories.

Pitching for the eighth-place Chicago Cubs in 1964, Larry Jackson led the major leagues with 24 victories.

It was the season when Jackson won more games than any other pitcher in baseball, by doing what he had done best his entire career – piling up starts and innings and complete games – for a team that won only 52 games without him.

From 1957 through 1963, Jackson was the poster child for dependability in the starting rotation. In those seven seasons – the first six with the St. Louis Cardinals – he pitched an average of 241 innings per season, and slipped below 200 innings pitched only in 1958 (when he pitched 198 innings). Even a line drive that fractured Jackson’s jaw in spring training of 1961 shelved him for only a month. He still started 33 games after his return and pitched 211 innings – his lowest total during the 1960s.

Following a 16-11 campaign in 1962, the Cardinals traded Jackson (along with Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer) to the Chicago Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker. In his first season with the Cubs, Jackson managed only a 14-18 record despite a 2.55 ERA. In 16 of Jackson’ starts during the 1963 season, the Cubs scored two runs or less, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-13. In games when the Cubs scored at least three runs behind Jackson, his record was 12-5.

During his 24-11 season in 1964, Larry Jackson finished third in the National League in games started (38) and complete games (19). He was second in the league in innings pitched, and second in the Cy Young voting (to Dean Chance).

During his 24-11 season in 1964, Larry Jackson finished third in the National League in games started (38) and complete games (19). He was second in the league in innings pitched, and second in the Cy Young voting (to Dean Chance).

Things would change for the better in 1964, especially as the weather warmed up. Jackson was 2-1 in April and 6-4 at the end of May with a 3.58 ERA. He was 7-5 during the months of June and July, but he was 4-1 in August with a 2.70 ERA for the month. He was even better in September, going 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA in the season’s final month.

For the 1964 season, Jackson was 24-11 with a 3.14 earned run average. He led all major league pitchers in victories, and his 297.1 innings pitched was second only to Don Drysdale’s 321.1. Jackson was third in the National League in games started (38) and in complete games (19).

All of this was accomplished with a 1964 Cubs team that finished in eighth place with a 76-86 record. Yet the Cubs gave Jackson better run support than he had received in 1963. In 30 of his 38 starts, Jackson’s Cubs scored at least three runs, and his record in those games was 21-5.

Despite his career year, Jackson finished second in the balloting for the 1964 Cy Young Award to Dean Chance of the Los Angeles Angels.

The 1965 season would not be as kind to Jackson, as he would go from a 20-game winner to 20-game loser. He finished the 1965 season at 14-21 with a 3.85 ERA. In 18 of his 39 starts, the Cubs scored less than three runs, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-15. When the Cubs managed to get him three runs or more, Jackson was 12-6.

Frustration was a way of life for Chicago Cubs’ starting pitchers during the 1960s.

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Leaving Nothing to Chance

 

Career Year: Dean Chance – 1964

In 1964, the closest thing to a sure thing in baseball was that any game with Dean Chance on the pitching mound had a better-than-good chance of ending up in a shutout.

Chance threw 11 shutouts in 1964 in 35 starts. In eight other starts, he allowed only one run.

Dean Chance won the Cy Young Award in 1964 with a 20-9 record and a 1.65 ERA.

Dean Chance won the Cy Young Award in 1964 with a 20-9 record and a 1.65 ERA.

At age 23, Chance not only had a career year. He had the kind of year that baseball had rarely seen since the Dead Ball Era.

Chance was signed out of high school in 1959 by the Baltimore Orioles. He spent two seasons in the Orioles’ farm system, winning 22 games … with no shutouts. Drafted by the expansion Washington Senators in 1960 and traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the same day, Chance spent one more season in the minors before posting a 14-10 record as a rookie in 1962. He was 13-18 in 1963 for a ninth-place Angels team.

Chance opened the 1964 season as a starter, but was called on just as often out of the bullpen. He was 1-0 with two saves at the end of April, and 3-2 with four saves by the end of May. He also recorded his first shutout in May, a 3-0 three-hitter versus the New York Yankees.

He made seven starts in June, winning two of them, both with shutouts. He pitched a two-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox on June 2, striking out 15 batters. Three days later, Chance struck out 12 Yankees in a 2-0 loss. He shut out the Yankees over 13 innings, losing in the fourteenth.

Dean Chance led the major leagues with a 1.65 ERA in 1964. His 20-9 record that season included 11 shutouts.

Dean Chance led the major leagues with a 1.65 ERA in 1964. His 20-9 record that season included 11 shutouts.

Chance was 5-1 in July, pitching three more shutouts and winning one game in relief. He was 6-1 in August with four complete games, two of them shutouts. In the season’s last month, Chance was 4-3 in eight starts with three more shutouts, giving him 11 whitewashes on a 20-9 season. He tied for the American League lead in victories (with Chicago’s Gary Peters), and his 1.65 ERA was the best in baseball.

Chance also led the league with 15 complete games and 278.1 innings pitched. He allowed only seven home runs over the entire season, and gave up only 6.3 hits per every nine innings pitched. American League batters hit only .195 against him.

Dean Chance’s sterling performance in 1964 earned him the Cy Young Award. He finished fifth in the voting for Most Valuable Player.

 

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Welcome to Wally’s World of Wins

 

Career Year: Wally Bunker – 1964

The Baltimore Orioles of the early 1960s were a fountain of young pitching talent, from the likes of Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas and Steve Barber at the beginning of the decade to later arrivals such as Jim Palmer, for whom the 1960s were a struggle until he matured into the Hall of Fame bound ace of the O’s staff in the 1970s.

"19" was Wally Bunker's lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

“19” was Wally Bunker’s lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

One of the latest of the Baltimore “Kiddie Corps” was also one of the most immediately successful. Wally Bunker was a right-handed power pitcher who was the ace of the Orioles staff at age 19 and then retired from baseball by age 27.

Bunker was signed by the Orioles in 1963 and was a member of the starting rotation a year later. The 1964 season marked his career year, as Bunker was the ace of the Orioles staff, going 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA. He threw 12 complete games, second on the Orioles staff to Pappas. Bunker led the American League with a .792 winning percentage and pitched a pair of one-hitters. He finished second in the balloting for American League Rookie of the Year to the Minnesota Twins outfielder (and league batting champion) Tony Oliva.

In late September of 1964, Bunker felt something give in his right arm and was never the same pitcher, plagued by consistent arm miseries for the rest of his career. He was 10-8 for the Orioles in 1965 and 10-6 for the American League champion O’s in 1966. He was the winning pitcher in the third game of the 1966 World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 with a six-hitter and outdueling Dodger lefty Claude Osteen.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals' history.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals’ history.

Bunker struggled with arm problems over the next two seasons, going 3-7 in 1967 and 2-0 in only 18 appearances in 1968. He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1968 expansion draft, and was the Opening Day starter, throwing the first pitch in Royals history. At 12-11, he was the team’s winningest pitcher in the Royals’ inaugural season, but was only 2-11 for Kansas City in 1970. He was released by the Royals after seven appearances in 1971, going 2-3 in his final season.

Bunker pitched for nine big league seasons, posting a 60-52 record with a career earned run average of 3.51.

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