This Week in 1960s Baseball
Lights Out: Stan Musial Demolishes New York Mets’ Pitching
When: July 8, 1962
Where: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
Game Time: 2:47
When the National League’s oldest player came up against its youngest team, the result was devastating to the arms on the New York Mets’ pitching staff. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Bolin
Bobby Bolin’s 13-season career started in the bullpen, moved to the starting rotation, and veered back to relieving to close out his playing days. He was consistently effective in both roles.
Bolin was signed by the New York Giants in 1956. His rookie season with the San Francisco Giants was 1961, when he appeared in 37 games, all but one in relief. Bolin went 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA and five saves in his first big league season.
In 1962 Bolin was an important part of the bullpen for the National League champion Giants, a bullpen that included Stu Miller and Don Larsen. Bolin was 7-3 in 41 appearances with a 3.62 ERA, the best among San Francisco relievers. He saved five games.
Bolin won 73 games in nine seasons in San Francisco with a combined ERA of 3.26. His best season with the Giants was 1965, when he went 14-6 with a 2.76 ERA.
An 11-10 record in 1966 included four shutouts, the second highest total in the National League. His 1.99 ERA in 1968 was second lowest in the National League (to Bob Gibson‘s 1.12 earned run average).
In December of 1969 the Giants traded Bolin to the Milwaukee Brewers for Dick Simpson and Steve Whitaker. He was 5-11 in his only season in Milwaukee, and then was acquired by the Boston Red Sox, where he was 10-8 with a 3.28 ERA over four seasons. Following the 1973 season, Bolin retired with a career record of 88-75 with a 3.40 ERA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
The Astros beat the Reds 4-0 on a solo home run by Doug Rader, a two-run double by Denis Menke, and a sacrifice fly by Wilson, who struck out 13 Reds’ batters and walked six. The victory raised Wilson’s record to 2-3 on the season. He would finish the 1969 campaign at 16-12 with a 4.00 ERA. Wilson would strike out 235 batters in 225 innings in 1969.
Maloney (3-0) faced only 31 Astros batters in no-hitting Houston 10-0 the previous day. He struck out 13 batters and walked five. The Reds’ hitting star of that game was outfielder Bobby Tolan, who had three hits and four RBIs for the game.
Maloney would finish the 1969 season at 12-5 with a 2.77 ERA.
This marked the second time in major league history when opposing teams traded back-to-back no-hitters … and in less than a year. On September 17, 1968, Gaylord Perry pitched a no-hitter for the San Francisco Giants in beating the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson 1-0. The next day, Cardinals’ right-hander Ray Washburn returned the favor by no-hitting the Giants 2-0.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Steve Blass
The ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff in the late 1960s, Steve Blass had a career that exemplified the shooting star, both in the height of his achievements and in their brevity. He came, he won, he faded into history, leaving behind a legacy of clutch wins and at times breathtaking performances that demonstrated why, at his best, he was among the best pitchers of his era.
Blass was signed by the Pirates in 1960 and never played for any other organization. He advanced through the Pirates’ farm system, slowly but steadily, and was successful at each level. He made his debut with the Pirates in 1964, going 5-8 with a 4.04 ERA as a spot starter and long reliever. He returned to Columbus in the International League in 1965, going 13-11 with a 3.07 ERA, and returned to the Pirates to stay in 1966 with a 11-7 record and a 3.87 ERA.
By 1968, Blass was the ace of the Pirates pitching staff, going 18-6 and leading the National League with a .750 winning percentage. His 2.12 earned run average was fifth best in the league, (teammate Bob Veale‘s 2.05 was third in the league) and his seven shutouts were third in the league behind Bob Gibson (13) and Don Drysdale (8) and tied with Jerry Koosman.
Blass won 16 games in 1969 and 10 games in 1970. The he strung together his two best seasons in leading the Pirates to back-to-back Eastern Division titles. Blass went 15-8 with a 2.49 ERA in 1971, leading the league with five shutouts. He won both of his World Series starts against the Baltimore Orioles. Blass outdueled O’s ace Mike Cuellar 5-1 in Game Three, pitching a three-hitter and striking out eight Orioles batters. Blass returned in Game Seven to pitch a 2-1 gem, allowing only four hits in winning the Series clincher for the Pirates.
In 1972, Blass was even better. He went 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA, pitching a career-high 249.2 innings. He was named to the National League All-Star team. In the National League Championship Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Blass won the opener 5-1, then pitched seven strong innings in Game Five, allowing only two runs on four hits in a game the Reds would win in the bottom of the ninth.
At age 31, Blass already had 100 career victories, 78 in the previous five seasons. He should have been at the peak of his career, but instead it was nearly at its end. He won only three games for the Pirates in 1973, and never won a major league game after that. For no explicable reason, he suddenly became plagued with chronic wildness, and never fully recovered, even during a return to the minors in 1974. He retired after being released by the Pirates that same year.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Ray Sadecki
The Cardinals signed Sadecki in 1958 and he made his debut with the team in 1960 as a 19-year-old, going 9-9 with a 3.78 ERA and 7 complete games. In 1961 he went 14-10 with 13 complete games and a 3.72 ERA.
His major challenge was his control, as he averaged over four walks per nine innings both seasons. He spent part of the 1962 season back in the minors, going 6-8 with a 5.54 ERA for St. Louis. He finished the 1963 season at 10-10 with a 4.10 ERA.
The Giants traded Sadecki to the New York Mets following the 1969 season. He pitched for the Mets for six seasons as a spot starter and long reliever, with a combined record of 30-25 and a 3.36 ERA. Following the 1974 season, the Mets traded him to the Cardinals for Joe Torre. From 1975 through 1977, Sadecki pitched for six different teams (including the Kansas City Royals twice and the Mets again) before retiring during the 1977 season.
When: June 18, 1962
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Game Time: 2:18
Coming into that campaign, he was a .277 career hitter who never drove in more than 58 runs in a season. All he did in 1962 was lead the major leagues in hits (230), RBIs (153 – still the Dodger franchise record) and batting average (.346). He also had a career-best 27 home runs and struck out only 65 times in 711 plate appearances.
One season transformed Tommy Davis from unknown part-time player to one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. And though he would repeat as National League batting champion in 1963 and collect over 2,000 hits in an 18-year major league career, he would never again approach his hitting productivity of 1962.
Especially, hitting in the clutch.
The game between St. Louis and Los Angeles on June 18, 1962 was a showcase for emerging stars … starting with the starting pitchers. On the mound for the Dodgers was Sandy Koufax, who was beginning to demonstrate the overpowering dominance that was to carry him through the 1962 season. Koufax entered the game at 9-2 with a 2.86 ERA and a league-leading 137 strikeouts in only 116.1 innings. The Cardinals’ starter was Bob Gibson, 8-4 coming into the game with a 3.17 ERA, though opponents’ batting average against Gibson was only .198 up to this game. After the game, that average would not climb much higher.
During his career, Davis struggled against Gibson (an affliction shared by many National League batters), hitting only .167. And in this game Davis would only go one for four, striking out twice. But as so often happened during his magical 1962 season, Davis made that one hit count.
Through the first eight innings, Koufax and Gibson were locked in a scoreless duel. Koufax had allowed only four hits, Gibson only two. In the top of the ninth, Koufax got two outs before Ken Boyer singled to left. Now a pair of future Hall of Famers faced each other as Stan Musial stepped into the batter’s box. But Musial had no opportunity to advance Boyer, who was caught trying to steal second, ending the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Gibson got Ron Fairly out on a soft fly to second baseman Julian Javier. Davis was the next batter, and the game’s last, as he sent a line drive into the left field seats for a 1-0 Dodgers victory.
It was the first shutout for Koufax in 1962. He would pitch only one more in that injury-shortened season that would result in the first of his five consecutive ERA crowns (with 2.54).
For Gibson – who eventually led the league in shutouts with five in 1962 – it was another tough loss in what would be a 15-13 season with a 2.85 ERA.
And for Tommy Davis, his walk-off blast marked the third time that one of his home runs gave Koufax a 1-0 victory.