The Game that Proved Nothing’s Sacred

 

Lights Out: Roger Maris Hits 61st Home Run

When: October 1, 1961

Where:  Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 1:57

Attendance: 23,154

 

The last home run of the 1961 regular season changed baseball forever.

It was the fourth inning of a scoreless game, the season’s last game. Boston’s starter, Tracy Stallard, was pitching brilliantly, allowing only a Tony Kubek single over the first three innings.

Babe and Beyond With one swing, Roger Maris went where no other baseball player had gone before – beyond the 60-home run barrier.

Babe and Beyond
With one swing, Roger Maris went where no other baseball player had gone before – beyond the 60-home run barrier.

Kubek struck out to open the fourth inning. The next batter was Roger Maris, who would win his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award after the 1961 season. Maris turned on a Stallard fastball and rocketed it into the seats in right field. That made it 1-0 Yankees.

The game would end that way, with Stallard giving up only one run on five hits over seven innings in taking his seventh loss in nine decisions. Three Yankees pitchers – Bill Stafford, Hal Reniff and Luis Arroyo – shared in the shutout, with Stafford the winner (14-9) and Arroyo setting a single-season record for saves (29).

But the game belonged to Maris, and to the ghost of Babe Ruth that the Yankees right-fielder had chased feverishly for the past two months. For the first time in more than 40 years, the record for the most home runs in a season did not belong to the game’s most popular icon.

Now Serving Number 60 … and 61 The pitchers who served up the last 2 Roger Maris home runs of the 1961 season: Jack Fisher (left) of the Baltimore Orioles, and Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox.

Now Serving Number 60 … and 61
The pitchers who served up the last 2 Roger Maris home runs of the 1961 season: Jack Fisher (left) of the Baltimore Orioles, and Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox.

The impossible had been accomplished, even with the help of an asterisk. (Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick had ruled earlier that, unless Maris eclipsed Ruth’s home run mark in 154 games – the length of Ruth’s season – any home run record achieved in 1961’s 162-game season would be a record with the stain of an asterisk.) Asterisk or not, Maris had done what few believed would ever be done.

The most sacred record of baseball’s most hallowed “golden era” had been blasted by a modern-day usurper in pinstripes.

Now no baseball record would be safe. What the giants of baseball’s past had done could be bested after all.

Maris proved it. And soon even more of baseball’s most-honored records were destined to fall.

Lights Out!

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

Man of Many Firsts

 

Glancing Back and Remembering Elston Howard

The career of Elston Howard belonged to a gentleman who was both a great ballplayer and a true pioneer in so many aspects of the modern game.

Elston Howard 9-time All-Star and 1963 AL MVP

Elston Howard
9-time All-Star and 1963 AL MVP

A standout athlete in high school, Howard turned down college football scholarships to play for the Kansas City Monarchs starting in 1948. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1950, and made his first appearance with the Yankees in 1955, the first African American to play in a Yankee uniform. (He also got a hit in his first at-bat for the Yankees.)

For the next five years Howard played fill-in roles at catcher, first base and in the outfield for Yankee teams loaded with talent. By 1961, he had become the Yankees’ regular catcher, hitting .348 that year with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. In 1962, he drove in a career-high 91 runs, and in 1963, Howard hit 28 home runs with 85 RBIs to win the American League Most Valuable Player award, the first African American to do so.

Howard’s defense was as solid as his hitting, and he won the Gold Glove for catching in 1963 and 1964. Howard was also an excellent handler of pitchers. In his 13 seasons with the Yankees, Howard was chosen for the American League All-Star team nine times.

Howard appeared in 54 World Series games, the third highest total in major league history behind only Yankee teammates Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. (Another first: Howard homered in his debut World Series at-bat.) The last seven World Series appearances were with the Boston Red Sox, where Howard played a critical in the Bosox’ pennant-winning re-emergence after being dealt to Boston midway through the 1967 season. He retired after the 1968 season.

Astros Fall to Marichal’s No-Hit Pitching

Juan Marichal's 1963 no-hitter against the Houston Colts was the first by a Giants pitcher in 34 years.

Juan Marichal’s 1963 no-hitter against the Houston Colts was the first by a Giants pitcher in 34 years.

 

From This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(June 15, 1963) At Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Giants today defeated the Houston Colts 1-0 behind the no-hit pitching of ace Juan Marichal (10-3).

It was the first no-hitter by a Giants pitcher in 34 years, and the first since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.

The 25-year old Dominican native outdueled Colt .45’s right-hander Dick Drott. Drott (2-4) pitched a three-hit complete game. The Giants scored the game’s only run in the eighth inning on Jim Davenport’s lead-off double and second baseman Chuck Hiller two-out RBI double. The game’s only other hit was a Willie Mays single in the first inning.

Marichal faced only 29 batters, walking two and striking out five. It was his second consecutive shutout and seventh complete game of the season. Marichal would finish the 1963 season at 25-8 with a 2.41 ERA, 18 complete games and five shutouts. He would lead the National League with 321.1 innings pitched and tie for the most victories with Sandy Koufax.

More than 3 full decades - and a move from New York to San Francisco - separated the no-hitters by Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal.

More than 3 full decades – and a move from New York to San Francisco – separated the no-hitters by Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal.

And the previous Giants pitcher to toss a no-hitter? That was Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell. King Carl no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 8, 1929.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So Many Innings with Ne’er an Error

 

The Glove Club: Larry Jackson

Throughout his career, Larry Jackson was one of the best defensive pitchers in the National League. On four different occasions, he finished a season with no errors. In 1964 he set a major league record for pitchers with 109 total chances without an error, a mark that stood until 1976.

Larry Jackson had 4 separate seasons when he played the entire year without committing an error.

Larry Jackson had four separate seasons when he played the entire year without committing an error.

In addition to his mound quickness that made him so effective defensively, Jackson was the poster boy for innings workhorse. Jackson averaged 250 innings per season from 1957 through 1968, his last year in the majors. Even in his final big league season, at age 37, Jackson still piled up 243.2 innings, a total which would have led the National League in half the seasons from 2001 to 2010.

Jackson was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1951 and had a spectacular minor league season in 1952, going 28-4 for Fresno with a 2.85 ERA in 300 innings pitched. He made his debut with the Cardinals in 1955, going 9-14 with a 4.31 ERA … and pitching a career-low (as a starter) 177.1 innings. The next year he became the Cardinals’ closer, finishing 26 of his 51 appearances and saving nine games while starting only one game.

In 1957-58 he averaged only 22 starts per season, coming out of the bullpen in half his appearances for a combined record of 28-22 with three shutouts and nine saves. From then on Jackson’s role would be in the starting rotation, going 14-13 with a 3.30 ERA for the 1959 season. In 1960 he led the National League in starts (38) and innings pitched (282) with an 18-13 record, his best season in St. Louis. He would win 14 games for the Cards in 1961 and 16 games in 1962 before being traded with Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer to the Chicago Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker.

Jackson’s three-plus seasons in Chicago were a roller coaster challenge to the consistency he had demonstrated  in St. Louis. Despite a 2.55 ERA and four shutouts, Jackson finished 14-18 for the Cubs in 1963. He pitched 275 innings and had a career-best 153 strikeouts.

He had a career season in 1964. Jackson’s 24-11 record led the major leagues in victories. That season he finished second in the National League in innings pitched (297.2), and third in both games started (38) and complete games (19). He finished second to Dean Chance in the Cy Young voting, and finished twelfth in the voting for NL Most Valuable Player.

Then the Cubs roller coaster carried Jackson the other way. He finished the 1965 season at 14-21 with a 3.85 ERA. In 39 starts, he pitched 257.1 innings and tossed four shutouts.

Jackson opened the 1966 season by losing his first two starts for the Cubs. He was then traded with Bob Buhl to the Philadelphia Phillies for John Herrnstein, Ferguson Jenkins and Adolfo Phillips. Jackson went 15-13 for the Phillies with a 2.99 ERA and pitched a league-best five shutouts. Over the next two seasons, Jackson went a combined 26-32 with the Phillies, and retired after the 1968 season.

Larry Jackson was an All-Star four times, and retired with a record of 194-183, making him the winningest National League 20th century right-hander to never play for a pennant winner.

 

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Jacks to Open

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Jackson

Al Jackson

New York Mets pitcher Al Jackson was a 20-game loser twice, and deserved better.

While Roger Craig may have been the poster child for the futility of being a pitcher for the New York Mets in the early 1960s, he was not the only hurler to suffer undeserved defeats by toiling for baseball’s least competent team.

Left-hander Al Jackson was selected by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, Jackson had appeared in only 11 games for the Pirates with a 1-0 record.

With the Mets in 1962, Jackson posted a team-best 4.40 ERA while going 8-20 in 33 starts. He also pitched 12 complete games and four shutouts, the Mets’ only shutouts in the team’s inaugural season.

From 1962 through 1965, Jackson was 40-73 with a 4.24 earned run average and 10 shutouts. He remained the Mets’ career leader in wins and shutouts until his totals were eclipsed by Tom Seaver.

After the 1965 season (Jackson’s second 8-20 record in four years), he was traded with Charley Smith to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ken Boyer. He was 13-15 for the Cardinals in 1966 with a 2.51 ERA, sixth best in the National League. He followed up in 1967 with a 9-4 season, working primarily out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Jackson returned to the Mets in 1968, going 3-7 with a 3.69 ERA. In 1969 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He was 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA for the Reds, and retired after the 1969 season.

In 10 major league seasons, Jackson compiled a 67-99 record with a 3.98 ERA. In 184 career starts, he pitched 54 complete games and 14 shutouts.

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Backup Back-stop

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Russ Nixon

Russ Nixon was a major league catcher for 12 seasons (and a scout, coach and manager for 45 more). In those 12 seasons, he set only one record, but it remains a record as unlikely to be broken as any in baseball.

Catcher Russ Nixon

Catcher Russ Nixon

Nixon was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1953 and made his major league debut in 1957, hitting .281 in 62 games. In 1958, he batted .301 for Cleveland with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. After batting .240 in 1959, Cleveland traded Nixon with Carroll Hardy to the Boston Red Sox for Ted Bowsfield and Marty Keough.

Nixon spent the next six seasons in a Red Sox uniform, batting .298 in 1960 and .289 in 1961. But in each season in Boston, Nixon played only a part-time role, splitting the team’s catching duties with the likes of Haywood Sullivan, Jim Pagliaroni and Bob Tillman. At the opening of the 1966 season, Nixon was traded with Chuck Schilling to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Dick Stigman and a player to be named later. He batted .260 for the Twins in 1966, mostly as a pinch hitter, and hit .235 in 1967, strictly in a reserve role. He returned to the Red Sox in 1968 after being released by the Twins, batting .153 in only 29 games. At the end of the season, he was acquired by the Chicago White Sox, but retired before ever playing for Chicago.

In 12 seasons in the majors, Nixon collected 670 hits for a .268 career batting average. He hit a total of 27 home runs with 266 runs batted in. And his only offensive career record was for something he never did. Russ Nixon played in more games (906) than any other major league player … who never stole a base.

Koufax Blanks Cardinals for 101st Victory

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(June 12, 1964) Pitching his third shutout and sixth complete game of the 1964 season, Sandy Koufax pitched a four-hitter as the Los Angeles Dodgers blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0.

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

The victory raised Koufax’s season record to 8-4. It was the left-hander’s 101st career victory.

The Dodgers scored the only run Koufax would need in the fourth inning. Willie Davis scored from third base on a Tommy Davis single to right field.

The Dodgers added two more runs – both unearned – in the seventh inning. Junior Gilliam scored on a bases-loaded error by Cardinals second baseman Julian Javier. Maury Wills scored on a Willie Davis RBI single.

All three Dodger runs were scored off Cardinals’ starter Ernie Broglio (3-5).

Koufax struck out six Cardinals batters and walked three. The shutout lowered his earned run average to 2.01.

His 101st career victory came in his tenth major league season. In his first six seasons, Koufax won only 36 games. He would win 129 games over the last six of his 12-year career.

Ernie Broglio lost to Koufax in what would be his last appearance in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

Ernie Broglio lost to Koufax in what would be his last appearance in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

This is the last game Broglio would pitch for the Cardinals. Three days later, he was traded with Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz to the Chicago Cubs for Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth.

 

 

 

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Twins Bury the A’s with Consecutive Home Runs

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(June 9, 1966) Trailing 4-3, the Minnesota Twins swept past the Kansas City Athletics with an avalanche of seventh-inning home runs to beat the A’s 9-4.

twins_nsp_66_2The A’s started their 20-year-old right-hander Jim “Catfish” Hunter against the lethal line-up of the defending American League pennant winners. Hunter came into the game with a record of 4-4 and a 3.26 ERA, and got plenty of run support at the outset, as the Athletics chased Twins starter Camilo Pascual with four runs on four hits and a walk. Hunter responded by shutting out the Twins over the first four innings.

In the bottom of the fifth, Twins second baseman Bernie Allen singled with 2 outs and scored on Bob Allison’s double. Then the Twins sliced the A’s lead again in the sixth inning on Harmon Killebrew’s two-run home run.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, still leading 4-3, Hunter walked the lead-off batter, Earl Battey, and then got Allen on a soft liner to second baseman Dick Green.

Then came the avalanche. Pinch-hitting for reliever Pete Cimino, Rich Rollins launched a Catfish fastball into the seats for a 5-4 Twins lead. The next batter, shortstop Zoilo Versalles, also took Hunter deep and increased the Twins’ lead to 6-4.

That was it for Hunter, but not for the Twins. Paul Linblad came in and got Sandy Valdespino to ground out to short. Then Tony Oliva hit the third Twins home run of the inning, and Don Mincher followed with the Twins’ fourth homer of the inning. A’s manager Al Dark had seen enough and pulled Linblad in favor of his ace reliever, John Wyatt. But Killebrew added one more home run – his second of the game and the Twins’ fifth of the inning. The next batter, outfielder Jimmie Hall, hit a “mere” double and advanced to third on an error, but that was all the scoring the Twins would do, or need to do. Al Worthington shut out the Athletics over the final two innings, and the Twins walked away with a 9-4 victory on six home runs, five of them bunched in the seventh inning.

Wyatt came back out for the eighth inning and struck out the side.

Cimino (1-1) was the winning pitcher. Worthington picked up his second save.

The Twins would finish the season with 144 home runs, only sixth best in the American League. Killebrew would rack up 39 home runs by season’s end, second in the league to Frank Robinson’s 49.

 

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How About Bouton?

 

Career Year: Jim Bouton – 1963

In the spring of 1962, 23-year-old right-hander Jim Bouton surprised nearly everyone by winning a place on the pitching roster of the World Series champion New York Yankees. He had compiled a 33-31 record in three minor league season, but an excellent spring training earned him the final spot on the Yankees’ staff.

Jim Bouton was 21-7 for the New York Yankees in 1963.

Jim Bouton was 21-7 for the New York Yankees in 1963.

He wore “56,” which might indicate that expectations for his lasting the season with the Yankees were not high. But Bouton stayed with the big league club for his entire rookie season, going 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA in 36 appearances (16 starts). He had worked his way into the starting rotation by the end of the season.

Then came 1963. Bouton got a late start on spring training as he was completing six months of military service. He worked out of the bullpen through April and the first two weeks of May, going 2-1 with one save and a 2.72 earned run average. Bouton made his first start of the 1962 season on May 12, pitching a two-hit, 2-0 shutout of the Baltimore Orioles.

Bouton won three more games in May, and then went 4-2 in June. He made the American League All-Star team with a record of 11-4 and a 2.76 ERA, and pitched one scoreless inning in the mid-summer classic.

Bouton was particularly effective in August, going 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA for the month. From July 17 through September 13, Bouton was 12-2 with a 2.16 ERA. He finished the season at 21-7, and led the Yankees staff with six shutouts and a 2.53 ERA. He finished second on the team in victories to league leader Whitey Ford (24-7). Bouton’s ERA was the fourth lowest in the American League. (Gary Peters’ 2.33 ERA was the league’s best.)

Bouton would have another strong season in 1964, going 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA. But after the 1964 campaign, he would never win more than four games in any one season. Bouton would finish his 10-year major league career at 62-63 with a 3.57 ERA.

 

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Dazzlin’ Maz

 

The Glove Club: Bill Mazeroski

He was so good at his position that other players stopped what they were doing to watch him practice. He was an artist whose materials were horse-hide and leather. The keystone was his canvas.

Winner of 8 Gold Gloves, Bill Mazeroski holds more defensive record than any other player in major league history.

Winner of 8 Gold Gloves, Bill Mazeroski holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history.

You can’t talk about the great second baseman unless you include the man who did it better and longer than just about anyone else. That was Bill Mazeroski.

With shortstop Dick Groat, Mazeroski turned the double play into his own private possession. Groat was a first-rate shortstop, but even after he moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals, Mazeroski would keep turning double plays with whomever would get him the ball. He is the only second baseman in major league history to have participated in more than 1700 double plays. (Nellie Fox’s 1,619 is second all-time to Maz’s 1,706.)

Winner of eight Gold Gloves, Mazeroski holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history.

He also wasn’t a bad hitter, finishing his 17-year career (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates) with more than 2,000 hits and a .260 lifetime batting average. Of course, it wasn’t his glove but his last at-bat in the 1960 World Series that made Maz a household name. Leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 9-9 Game Seven, Mazeroski sent a Ralph Terry fastball over the left-field fence to make the Pirates world champions and send Casey Stengel, ultimately, to the National League (as the fired New York Yankees’ manager reborn as the inaugural field manager of the expansion New York Mets). It was the first World Series to end with a walk-away home run, and perhaps it was somewhat ironic that it wasn’t one of the Pirates sluggers but their defensive whiz who torpedoed the Yankee juggernaut with one swing. However, it wasn’t Mazeroski’s only display of power. He hit as many as 19 home runs in a season (1958), and finished his career with 138 homers, seventeenth all-time among second basemen … none of whom could match him in the field.

The high point in Mazeroski’s Hall of Fame career: He is about to score after hitting the home run that won the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mazeroski retired 34 games into the 1972 season. He’s fifth in Pirate history in games played (2,163), sixth in career at-bats with the team (7,755), and eighth in career hits (2,016). A seven-time All-Star, Mazeroski was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

 

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