Dodgers Wallop Cubs 10-2; Koufax Whiffs 18

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 24, 1962) Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax today tied a major league record by striking out 18 batters in a nine-inning game.

The Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 10-2 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

When Sandy Koufax struck out 18 Chicago Cubs in 1962, it marked the second time in his career that he had achieved that feat, and only the third time in the major leagues since 1901. Eighteen or more strikeouts in a nine-inning game have been reached or exceeded 19 times since (most recently by Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, who fanned 20 in 2016).

In his complete game victory, Koufax allowed two runs on six hits and walked four batters. The victory raised his season record to 3-1.

The losing pitcher for the Cubs was starter Don Cardwell (0-4).

The hitting stars for the Dodgers were outfielders Duke Snider and Tommy Davis. Snider drove in three runs on a triple and a home run. Davis drove in four runs with a single off Cardwell in the second inning and a three-run homer in the fifth. Andy Carey also homered for the Dodgers, hitting a solo shot off Cardwell in the fourth inning.

Chicago’s runs were scored on a fourth-inning single by Lou Brock and a bases-empty home run in the bottom of the ninth by left fielder Billy Williams.

Bob Feller was the first pitcher in the Twentieth Century to strike out 18 batters in a nine-inning game. He set that record on October 2, 1938, but lost the game 4-1 to the Detroit Tigers.

In posting 18 strikeouts in a single game, Koufax — for the second time — tied the record set in 1938 when Cleveland Indians right-hander Bob Feller fanned 18 Detroit Tigers. Koufax first struck out 18 batters in a game on August 31, 1959 when he beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2.

Koufax would finish the 1962 season at 14-7. That season he would be limited to only 28 appearances due to arm problems. But Koufax pitched enough innings to claim the National League ERA title … the first of five consecutive ERA crowns he would win.

 

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Sometimes Size Counts

 

Homer Happy: Frank Howard

Frank Howard made opposing pitchers cringe. At six-foot-seven and 255 pounds, he was an imposing presence at the plate. Not even the higher mound (15 inches high until 1969) gave pitchers as much of an advantage. At his height, he could still nearly look them in the eye.

With his strength, every pitch was a potential souvenir. His last manager with the Washington Senators, the legendary Ted Williams, called Howard the strongest man in baseball. No one questioned Williams’ hitting acumen, and no one could argue his point about Howard.

In 1968, the “Year of the Pitcher” when most of major league hitting was in a coma, Howard hit home runs as if the regular season were simply extended batting practice. He launched 44 homers that season – ten of them within a single week – eight more than Willie Horton and the rest of the American League’s sluggers. He hit 136 home runs from 1968-1970, none of them cheap.

While known primarily for his size and strength, Frank Howard was also a fine all-around athlete. At Ohio State, he was an All-American in basketball as well as baseball.

What Howard brought to the batter’s box wasn’t fair. He was more than just another lumbering slugger. Matching his strength was an athletic ability practically unheard of in a hitter his size. He had been an All-American in basketball (as well as baseball) at Ohio State before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958.

His minor league career lasted only two seasons, when he butchered minor league pitchers for 37 home runs in 1958 and 43 in 1959. He was ready for the big time.

In 1960, Howard walked away with National League Rookie of the Year honors by batting .268 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs. A thumb injury limited him to only 15 home runs in 1961, but a healthy season in 1962 produced 31 home runs with 119 runs batted in.

After hitting 23 home runs as a rookie in 1960, Frank Howard led the Los Angeles Dodgers with 31 home runs and 119 RBIs in 1962.

Despite that kind of productivity at the plate, the Dodgers – and in particular, manager Walt Alston – saw Howard primarily as a platoon player. And pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium seemed more conducive to slashing hitters like Tommy Davis and to the base path speed of Maury Wills and Willie Davis. Howard just didn’t seem to fit in with the Dodgers’ offensive strategy. Plus Howard’s power output appeared to be declining: to 28 home runs in 1963 and 24 in 1964, and he drove in less than 70 runs both seasons.

So in December of 1964, the Dodgers sent Howard to the Washington Senators as part of a seven-player swap that brought Washington’s ace pitcher, Claude Osteen, to the West Coast.  Playing for the worst team in the American League and battling injuries season-long, Howard batted .289 for the Senators in 1965 and led the team with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs. After hitting only 18 home runs in 1966, he doubled that total in 1967.

The 1968 season was when Howard lifted his slugging to elite status. While the rest of the American League was hitting for a combined .230 average, Howard batted .274 and led the league with 44 home runs, 330 total bases and a .552 slugging percentage. His 106 RBIs were second best in the league (to Ken Harrelson‘s 109).

For six days in May of 1968, Frank Howard was a home run machine – hitting 10 homers in six games and only 20 at-bats. He finished the 1968 season with 44 home runs and 106 runs batted in.

This was also the season when Howard went on a home run tear in May, blasting ten home runs in six games and doing it in only 20 at-bats. Howard did even better in 1969, batting .296 with 48 home runs and 111 RBIs. Harmon Killebrew led the league in both home runs and RBIs that season, but Howard was the league leader with 340 total bases and was fourth with a .574 slugging percentage. In 1970, he would lead the league in home runs (44) and RBIs (126).

Howard retired in 1973 with 382 home runs and 1,119 RBIs. He posted a career batting average of .273 and a .499 career slugging average. At his peak as a slugger, from 1967 through 1970, Howard averaged 43 home runs and 108 RBIs per season.

 

 

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Man Mauls Mets … and Cardinals Soar

 

Lights Out: Stan Musial Demolishes New York Mets’ Pitching

When: July 8, 1962

Where:  Polo Grounds, New York, New York

Game Time: 2:47

Attendance: 12,460

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.

But it’s what Stan Musial had been doing to NL pitching staffs for more than two decades. In 1962, he was doing it in a way that reminded you of The Man in his prime.

At age 41, Stan Musial seemed to be rejuvenated in 1962. He finished third in the National League in hitting with a .330 batting average. He hit 19 home runs with 82 RBIs, and his .416 on-base percentage was second highest in the league.

He proved to be more Man than the Mets could handle.

The 1962 season would be the next-to-last in Musial’s 22-year major league career. He was a seven-time batting champion and three-time Most Valuable Player. He had more hits and runs batted in than any other National League hitter. And more home runs than any player who had never won a home run title.

Now 41, Musial was having his best season in the past five years. Coming into the July 8 game with the Mets, Musial was batting .325 with nine home runs and 37 runs batted in. Against the Mets’ woeful pitching, he was practically invincible. (Musial batted .443 against the Mets in 1962.) Today would be no exception.

Mets starter Jay Hook retired the first two Cardinals batters, then first baseman Bill White launched a solo home run to the right field seats. Musial followed with his tenth home run of the season to right.

After their first turn at bat, the Cardinals were up 2-0. It would turn out to be all the runs they would need, but not all they were going to get.

Cardinals starter Bob Gibson retired the Mets in the first two innings without allowing any runs. Then Gibson helped himself by hitting the team’s third solo home run to lead off the third inning. In his second plate appearance, Musial walked, and the Cardinals scored their fourth run when Ken Boyer singled, driving in Curt Flood.

Ah, pitching for the New York Mets in 1962 … Mets starter Jay Hook (6-9) was rocked for nine runs in four innings. But only four of those runs were earned.

Like so many Mets contests in their inaugural season, the game was lost early. But no one told Musial or the Cardinals. They scored five runs off Hook in the fourth inning – all unearned, and the last two coming from Musial’s eleventh home run. Musial hit his third home run of the game to lead off the seventh inning, this time off reliever Willard Hunter. Fred Whitfield, who replaced White at first in the fourth inning, hit a two-run homer off Bob Miller in the eighth inning. Musial came up with the bases empty and struck out … but the Mets still couldn’t retire him. On the third strike, the ball got by Chris Cannizzaro and Musial beat the throw to first. Bobby Smith ended Musial’s day, replacing The Man as the runner at first.

The Cardinals scored three more runs in the ninth, including Whitfield’s third RBI of the day. The Mets scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth off Gibson, who pitched a three-hit complete game to earn his tenth win of the season.

On the day, Musial went three for four with four RBIs and scoring three runs. He raised his season’s batting average to .333, the highest among Cardinal regulars. He would end the 1962 season batting .330 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs, finishing third in the 1962 hitting race behind Tommy Davis (.346) and Frank Robinson (.342).

 

 

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Clutch Master

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Hickman

As a hitter, Jim Hickman specialized in both power and good timing. During his 13-year major league career, Hickman became more dangerous in the batter’s box in the game’s waning innings, when big hits counted most and Hickman consistently came up big.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Hickman was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956 and toiled in the Cardinals’ farm system until he was selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He hit .245 in his (and the Mets’) first season, with 13 home runs and 46 runs batted in. In 1963, Hickman was the Mets’ top home run hitter, with 17 homers and 51 RBIs. In five seasons with the Mets, Hickman batted a combined .241 and averaged 12 home runs per season.

In 1966 the Mets traded Hickman with Ron Hunt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Darrell Griffith. In his only season with the Dodgers, Hickman batted .163 with no home runs and only 10 RBIs.

At the beginning of the 1968 season, the Dodgers sent Hickman and pitcher Phil Regan to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage. He spent most of the 1968 season with the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Spokane, and in 1969 batted .237 in Chicago with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Hickman had a career season in 1970 with the Cubs. He batted .315 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 115 RBIs. He made his only All-Star appearance and drove in the game-winning run. He was also named National League Comeback Player of the Year for 1970.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Hickman never again had a season that would approach his productivity in 1970. He hit .272 in 1972 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. He played one more season in Chicago and was traded to the Cardinals in 1973. He batted .267 in 1974, used primarily as a pinch hitter, and retired after the 1974 season.

Hickman retired with a career batting average of .252. He collected 159 home runs and 560 RBIs during his 13-year career. But in his prime he was one of the most effective clutch hitters in the National League.  He hit several walk-off hits in his career for both the Mets and the Cubs. He was also responsible for many hitting “firsts” for the fledgling Mets, including the first Met to hit for the cycle, and the first Met to hit three home runs in a single game (off Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals). His was the last home run hit in the Polo Grounds (off Chris Short of the Philadelphia Phillies), and he was the first Met batter to earn a walk and to be hit by a pitch in Shea Stadium.

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Dodgers Go Power Hunting … and Bag a Moose

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(November 26, 1962) The Los Angeles Dodgers, looking to boost their run-scoring, today announced the acquisition of New York Yankee first baseman Bill Skowron in a trade for starting pitcher Stan Williams.

To improve their run scoring in 1963, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired slugging first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron from the New York Yankees. Skowron struggled during the regular season, but batted .385 against the Yankees during the 1963 World Series.

To improve their run scoring in 1963, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired slugging first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron from the New York Yankees. Skowron struggled during the regular season, but batted .385 against the Yankees during the 1963 World Series.

“Moose” Skowron, 31, hit .270 for the World Series champion Yankees in 1962, with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs. In nine seasons with the Yankees, Skowron batted .294 while averaging 18 home runs with 75 RBIs per season. His best season with the Yankees was 1960, when he hit .309 with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs.

Williams, 25, went 14-12 for the Dodgers in 1962. From 1960 through 1962, the hard-throwing right-hander won 43 games for the Dodgers, but his ERA increased each year, from 3.00 in 1960 to 3.90 in 1961 to 4.46 in 1962. His strikeouts per nine innings decreased from 7.6 in 1960 to 5.6 in 1962.

In acquiring Skowron, the Dodgers were looking for more offense to keep pace with their West Coast rivals, the National League champion San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers finished second to the Giants in 1962, losing two out of three league playoff games that were needed when both teams finished the regular season tied for first place.

The Dodgers already had the National League RBI leader in Tommy Davis (with a franchise record 153 RBIs in 1962). Davis was also the National League batting champion in 1962 (.346), an accomplishment he would repeat in 1963 (hitting .326). Skowron’s bat was expected to produce more runs while protecting Davis in the batting order.

To acquire Skowron, the Dodgers gave up pitcher <a rel=

The trade turned out better for the Dodgers than it did for the Yankees, but only slightly. Williams went 9-8 for the Yankees in 1963 and 1-5 the following year. Skowron struggled against National League pitching. He appeared in only 89 games for the Dodgers, hitting .203 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. Skowron’s only saving performance for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series, where he hit .385 against his former team, including a three-run homer in Game Two.

The Year He Was Everything But MVP.

 

Career Year: Tommy Davis (1962)

In his 1962 break-out season, outfielder Tommy Davis did everything he needed to do to claim the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.

Everything, that is, except to actually win it.

Here’s how it happened.That season’s MVP went to teammate Maury Wills. Looking back a half-century, and looking at the numbers for both players, it’s hard to justify how Davis got passed over.

Tommy Davis - Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder won the National League batting title in 1962 and 1963

Tommy Davis – Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder won the National League batting title in 1962 and 1963

Tommy Davis was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. He never batted below .300 in 4 minor league seasons. In 1959, with Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, Davis batted .345 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs. He made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 1959 season, striking out in his only plate appearance.

Davis opened the 1960 season on the Dodgers’ roster, and gradually took over full-time duties in center field from Duke Snider and Don Demeter. He finished the 1960 season batting .276 with 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in. In 1961, Davis batted .278 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. He played 86 games in the outfield, at all three positions, and played 59 games at third base. He was, essentially, a utility player for the Dodgers.

That would change in 1962. He opened the season as the team’s everyday left fielder, and was hitting .316 at the end of April. In May he batted .336 with five home runs and 25 RBIs, and in June Davis batted .354 with three home runs and 32 RBIs. By the All-Star break, Davis was batting .353 with 15 doubles, 15 home runs and 90 RBIs. He made his first All-Star appearance that season.

While Davis was leading the National League in hits, runs batted in and batting average, he wasn’t getting national media attention for his monster season. During the first half of the season, the media reserved their Dodger focus on a pair of pitchers – Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax – who were having outstanding seasons in leading the Dodgers to the top of the National League standings. At the All-Star break in 1962, Drysdale was 15-4 with a 2.88 ERA. Koufax, an 18-game winner in 1961, was 13-4 with a 2.15 ERA and led the major leagues with 202 strikeouts. Drysdale would go on to win the Cy Young award with a 25-9 record, while an arm injury would limit Koufax to only one more victory over the rest of the 1962 campaign.

The other media “distraction” from Davis’ season was a record-breaking performance by Dodger shortstop Maury Wills. By late July, it became obvious that Wills was on his way to breaking the single season record for stolen bases held by Ty Cobb. It would be the second consecutive year when a hallowed baseball record was under assault, as only a year before there was a media frenzy following Roger Maris’ (and Mickey Mantle’s) chase of Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a single season.

Tommy Davis led the NL with 230 hits in 1962, the most in 25 years.

Wills eventually caught Cobb’s record of 96 stolen bases and finished the season with 104, a season which the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants finished in a dead heat, requiring a three-game playoff which the Giants won. It was an exciting season on many fronts.

And Tommy Davis? Lost in the shuffle of a heated pennant race and outstanding individual performances, Davis led the National League with 230 hits (32 ahead of Wills and Frank Robinson), 153 RBIs (12 ahead of Willie Mays) and a .346 batting average. He also finished fourth in the league in doubles and total bases, fifth in triples and slugging (.535 percentage), and seventh in stolen bases.

In the MVP voting, Davis finished third behind Wills and Mays. Stolen bases and triples were the only offensive categories in which Wills was the league leader.

It would be the best season of Tommy Davis’ career. He would lead the National League in hitting again in 1963 with a .326 average, but his power numbers would drop to 16 home runs (compared to 27 in 1962) and 88 RBIs, down 65 from the previous season. He would suffer a broken ankle during the 1965 season that would compromise his speed for the rest of his career, though Davis would remain a steady hitter throughout his 18-year career, retiring after the 1976 season with a .294 career batting average.

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Tommy Guns Down Gibby

 

Lights Out – Tommy Davis’ game-ending home run beats Bob Gibson 1-0.

When: June 18, 1962

Where:  Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Game Time: 2:18

Attendance: 33,477

 

Tommy Davis had a “dream” season in 1962.

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Sandy Koufax (10-2) pitched a five-hit shutout, striking out nine Cardinals.

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.

Bob Gibson (8-5) allowed the Dodgers only three hits, but the last one was a Tommy Davis walk-off.

Bob Gibson (8-5) allowed the Dodgers only three hits, but the last one was a Tommy Davis walk-off.

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.

 

 

 

 

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An Extra Dose of Sweet

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lou Johnson

“Sweet Lou” Johnson was the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ offense in the mid-1960s. In those seasons, the Dodgers were winning pennants, but they were doing it primarily with the best pitching in the major leagues … with arms like those of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Claude Osteen and Ron Perranoski.

The Dodgers of 1965 and 1966 generally didn’t score a lot of runs, but they scored enough to win. Those teams manufactured runs with their legs as well as their bats. And Lou Johnson was an integral part of that “just enough” offense.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Johnson was an all-around star athlete, who excelled particularly on the basketball court. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1953.

He spent the next 13 years working his way into a full-time major league gig. His first opportunity came in 1962 with the Milwaukee Braves after brief appearances the two previous seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 61 games with the Braves, batting .282.

In May of 1963, Johnson was traded by the Braves to the Detroit Tigers for shortstop Chico Fernandez. It meant another two seasons in the minors, but the turning point in Johnson’s career came just before the start of the 1964 season when Johnson was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Larry Sherry.

Johnson spent 1964 in the minors and started the 1965 season as a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. In early May the team’s hitting star and two-time batting champion, Tommy Davis, suffered a season-ending broken ankle. Johnson took over in left field and hit .259 in 131 games, with 24 doubles, 12 home runs, 58 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. In the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Johnson hit .296 with two home runs and four RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

He was the Dodgers’ starting left fielder for the duration of the team’s 1966 pennant-winning season. He hit .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs. He followed up in 1967 by hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Johnson would play for only two more major league seasons. Following the 1967 campaign, the Dodgers sent Johnson to the Cubs, who traded him in June of 1968 to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Willie Smith. Johnson hit .257 in 65 games with the Tribe, and just before Opening Day of 1969 he was traded to the California Angels for outfielder Chuck Hinton. Johnson hit .203 for the Angels, playing in only 61 games that season, and retired at the end of the season at age 34.

Johnson finished his eight-season major league career with a .258 batting average.

 

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He Brought His Heart to San Francisco

 

Swap Shop: How Billy Pierce Became a Giant … Who Saved a Pennant

In more than one way, Billy Pierce was the difference that got the San Francisco Giants into the 1962 World Series, and he accomplished this when he was generally considered washed up and a shell of what he had been a decade before.

In his prime during the 1950s, <a rel=

Billy Pierce was regarded by many as the best pitcher in the American League. In his prime during the 1950s, Billy Pierce was regarded by many as the best pitcher in the American League.

The glory years for Pierce came in the 1950s when, as the ace of the Chicago White Sox staff, he rivaled New York Yankees southpaw Whitey Ford for recognition as the best left-hander in the American League, if not the American League’s best pitcher, period.

Pierce was signed by the Detroit Tigers and traded to the White Sox in 1949. He was a combined 27-30 in his first two seasons with the White Sox, and then won 15 games in both 1951 and 1952, followed by an 18-12 campaign in 1953. After slipping to 9-10 in 1954, he won 15 games again in 1956 (while leading the major leagues with a 1.97 ERA) and was a 20-game winner for the White Sox in 1956 and in 1957. He led the league in complete games from 1956 through 1958, and overall posted a 186-152 record in 13 seasons with the White Sox.

In November of 1961, San Francisco sent Bob Farley, Eddie Fisher and Dom Zanni to the White Sox for Pierce and Don Larsen. It was one of the most important moves made by the Giants’ front office over that winter, as Pierce, who was 10-9 in his last season with Chicago, won his first eight decisions for the Giants. He moved to the bullpen through the heat of the summer, and returned to the starting rotation in August, winning five out of six decisions.

After going 10-9 in 1961, his final season with the White Sox, Billy Pierce was 16-6 for the Giants in 1962 – including a victory in the first game of the playoff with the Dodgers.

After going 10-9 in 1961, his final season with the White Sox, Billy Pierce was 16-6 for the Giants in 1962 – including a victory in the first game of the playoff with the Dodgers.

The 1962 National League regular season ended in a dead heat between the Giants and their West Coast rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Finishing the regular season at 15-6, Pierce was selected by Giants manager Al Dark to pitch the opener of the three-game playoff and responded with a three-hit, 8-0 shutout. Game Two in Los Angeles saw the Dodgers tie the playoffs with an 8-7 victory.

On October 3, 1962, the playoff and the pennant race came down to a single game. In the top of the third, an RBI single by Harvey Kuenn and a sacrifice fly by second baseman Chuck Hiller gave the Giants a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers scored one run against Juan Marichal in the fourth inning and took the lead in the sixth inning on Tommy Davis’ two-run homer.

In the seventh inning, the Dodgers went up 4-2. In the top of the ninth, the Giants scored four runs on only two hits, and led 6-4 with the Dodgers coming up for their last at-bats.

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On two days’ rest after pitching a three-hit shutout, Billy Pierce closed out the Dodgers in the ninth inning of the third playoff game, preserving a come-from-behind victory and the National League pennant.

In the bottom of the ninth, Dark turned again to Pierce to wrap up the game and the pennant. After shutting out the Dodgers just two days before, Pierce added one more scoreless inning to his playoff ledger, retiring the Dodgers in order to give the Giants their first National League pennant since 1954.

 

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The Dodgers’ Hit Machine

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tommy Davis

In many ways, Tommy Davis is remembered – if at all – as one of the most over-rated hitters of the 1960s. It’s not only unfortunate, but grossly unfair. Few players in baseball history can match the offensive numbers that Davis put up, on either an individual season or career basis.

Tommy  Davis was the National League batting champion in both 1962 and 1963. In 1962, he led the major leagues in batting average (.346), hits (230) and runs batted in (153). He finished third in the MVP sweepstakes behind teammate <a rel=

In fact, most of the players who can at least match Tommy’s hitting statistics have a place of honor in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While Davis may not have the numbers to qualify for Cooperstown, his outstanding career was, in fact, tempered only by the extraordinary expectations he created with his own outstanding performance at the beginning of his career.

Davis was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and made his debut with the club as a pinch hitter in 1960. By 1961 Davis was a reserve player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .276 his rookie year. He became the Dodgers’ everyday left fielder in 1961, batting .278 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Nothing prior to 1962 suggested the kind of hitting monster Davis was to become that season. He won the National League batting title with a .346 average and led the major leagues in hits (236) and RBIs (153). He also achieved what would be career highs in runs (120), doubles (27), home runs (27) and slugging percentage (.535).

A single-season fluke? Davis proved otherwise in 1963 when he claimed his second consecutive batting championship, hitting .326 with 16 home runs and 88 RBIs. Yet it seemed like a “down” season compared to his output in 1962. And in 1964 his offensive numbers slipped further, to 16 home runs, 86 RBIs and a .275 batting average.

His productivity came to a crushing halt in 1965 when an aggressive slide into second base resulted in a fractured ankle. While never known for basepath speed, the injury nevertheless hurt his career. Davis was never the same player after it.

He rebounded in 1966 to hit .313, but it would be his last season in Dodger blue. The Dodgers traded Davis and Darrell Griffith to the New York Mets for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. Davis extended his comeback by hitting .302 for a full season in New York, with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. But he was traded again after the 1967 season, this time to the Chicago White Sox in a six-player deal that brought Tommie Agee and Al Weis to the Mets. Davis led the White Sox in hitting (.268), and was promptly drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots, his fourth team in four years.

Tommy Davis lasted 18 years in the major leagues, playing for 10 different teams and compiling a .294 career batting average. He hit .300 or better six times.

Tommy Davis lasted 18 years in the major leagues, playing for 10 different teams and compiling a .294 career batting average. He hit .300 or better six times.

Davis hit .271 for the Pilots in 123 games before being traded to the Houston Astros. Less than a year later, Davis was purchased by the Oakland Athletics, and then sold to the Chicago Cubs two months after that.  In all, he played for 10 different teams from 1966 to 1976, his last year in the majors. His longest stop was with the Baltimore Orioles from 1972 through 1975.

Despite his travels, Davis never really stopped hitting until the end of his playing career. He batted .324 for the A’s in 1971 and .306 for the Orioles in 1973, when he drove in 89 runs for the O’s. Altogether, Davis played 18 seasons in the big leagues and tallied 2,121 hits for a .294 career average.

Heady numbers for an “under” achiever.

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