Gentle Man, Brutal Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron had so many ways to beat National League pitchers that his prowess as a home run hitter was nearly overlooked until he passed Babe Ruth in career home runs in 1973.

But he was the second most productive home run hitter in the 1960s, and of course, he was the most productive home run hitter in the Twentieth Century. Continue reading

NL All-Stars Turn Up the Heat; Perry Prevails

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 12, 1966) In St. Louis, the National League All-Stars edged the American League 2-1, in a game played at Busch Stadium in 105-degree weather. Continue reading

Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bullpen

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 27, 1961) The San Francisco Giants today defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 behind the shutout pitching of Juan Marichal (7-7).

It was Marichal’s first shutout of the 1961 season, and his fifth complete game.

It had to be. The Giants had no one in the bullpen.

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With no one in the bullpen to back him up. Juan Marichal pitched a five-hit shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning 2-0 and raising his season record to 7-7.

Prior to the first pitch, Giants manager Alvin Dark announced that “Marichal will go all the way,” and backed his prediction by keeping all of his relief corps in the dugout for the entire game. Dark later explained, “I’m sick and tired of watching pitchers bow their necks for four-five innings and then look around for Stu Miller to bail them out.”

The 23-year-old Marichal lived up to his manager’s expectations, scattering five hits while striking out eight batters and walking three. The Pirates’ best scoring opportunity was snuffed out in the seventh inning, thanks to Willie Mays’ miraculous catch of a Smoky Burgess deep fly ball.

The Giants scored their runs in the fifth and sixth innings on RBIs from Jose Pagan and Matty Alou.

The losing pitcher was Vinegar Bend Mizell (4-8).

Marichal would finish the 1961 season – his second in the major leagues – at 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA and nine complete games. He would pitch 244 complete games in his career with the Giants and 52 shutouts – number two all-time to Christy Mathewson among Giants pitchers.

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Johnny, Take Us Home!

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 7, 1964) The National League today won the All-Star game 7-4 on a walk-off home run by Phillies right fielder Johnny Callison.

Johnny Callison’s three-run homer off Dick Radatz was the game winner for the National League All-Stars.

Johnny Callison’s three-run homer off Dick Radatz was the game winner for the National League All-Stars.

Callison, who entered the game in the fifth inning as a pinch hitter for pitcher Jim Bunning, flied out in his two previous at-bats. His ninth-inning home run off Boston Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz was his only hit of the day.

The American League opened the scoring in the first inning on Harmon Killebrew’s RBI single off NL starter Don Drysdale. The NL took the lead in the fourth inning on solo home runs from Billy Williams and Ken Boyer. The Nationals added another run in the fifth inning when Dick Groat doubled off Camilo Pascual, bringing home Roberto Clemente.

The American League tied the game when Brooks Robinson tripled home two runs in the sixth inning, then took the lead on Jim Fregosi’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. The AL led 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, with Radatz on the pitching mound.

Juan Marichal pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the victory. Marichal was also the winning pitcher in the first 1962 All-Star Game, and had a career ERA of 0.50 in eight All-Star apearances.

Juan Marichal pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the victory. Marichal was also the winning pitcher in the first 1962 All-Star Game, and had a career ERA of 0.50 in eight All-Star appearances.

Willie Mays walked to open the ninth inning, stole second base, and then scored on Orlando Cepeda’s single, tying the game. With runners at first and second base, Radatz struck out Hank Aaron for the inning’s second out. But Callison ended the All-Star thriller with one stroke.

It would be Callison’s last All-Star appearance.

Bonding Power and Speed

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bobby Bonds

Willie Mays was the prototype for the ballplayer who could hurt you with the long-ball bat or his speed on the base paths. No one in major league baseball could approach Mays in that combination of athletic skills until he was joined on the San Francisco Giants by a strong and talented outfielder named Bobby Bonds.

In his first five full seasons (1969-1973), Bobby Bonds averaged 31 home runs and 89 RBIs plus 41 stolen bases.

Bonds was signed by the Giants in 1964 and made his debut with the club four years later. In his first game, Bonds homered … with the bases loaded, becoming the second major league player to hit a grand slam in his first game. Playing half the 1968 season, Bonds finished with a .254 batting average, nine home runs, 35 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

In his first full season as the Giants’ right fielder, Bonds hit .259 with 32 home runs, 90 RBIs and 45 stolen bases. He also led the league by scoring 120 runs. Bond’s remarkable ability to combine power and speed continued throughout the next decade. In the 1970s, he hit .274 and averaged 28 home runs, 86 RBIs and 38 stolen bases per season.

Bonds had more than 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season five times in his career, still the major league record. In 1973 he led the National League in runs (131) and total bases (341). He was an All-Star three times (and was named MVP of the 1973 All-Star game) and won three Gold Gloves.

He was the complete ballplayer, just as his son, Barry, would be.

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Bobby Bonds’ best season as a slugger came in 1977. Playing for the California Angels, Bonds hit 37 home runs with a career-best 115 RBIs. He also stole 41 bases.

After seven seasons in San Francisco, Bonds was traded by the Giants to the New York Yankees for Bobby Murcer. Bonds became one of the most-swapped played in the majors during the rest of the 1970s, playing for the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs from 1976 through 1981.

He retired after the 1981 season with a career batting average of .268. He hit 332 home runs and stole 461 bases.

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Mantle Moves On

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 1, 1969) – New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle today announced his retirement from baseball.

Mantle played 18 years in the major leagues, all with the New York Yankees. He finished with a career batting average of .298. He won the American League batting title in 1956 with a .353 average. He also won the Triple Crown that season, hitting 52 home runs and driving in 130 runs.

Mantle was selected as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1956, 1957 and 1962. He was named to the American League All-Star team 16 times, and won the Gold Glove in 1962.

At the time of his retirement, the fabled Yankee outfielder ranked third all-time in home runs with 536, trailing only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. He led the American League in home runs four times, and in runs scored five times.

Feigner Fans ‘Em

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(February 18, 1967) He was one of the top strikeout pitchers of the 1960s … though he never pitched in the major leagues.

And on this day he put on a pitching exhibition that supported any claim that he was the best strikeout artist ever.

“The King” Eddie Feigner

“The King” Eddie Feigner

Eddie Feigner could pitch a softball (underhanded, of course) clocked at speeds up to 104 mph (though some claimed it was more like 114 mph). Feigner barnstormed America for more than 50 years with a four-player team known as “The King and His Court.”

Just prior to spring training in 1967, Feigner pitched an exhibition at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, striking out six consecutive major league hitters.

But not just any major league hitters. Feigner fanned (in order) Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks RobinsonWillie McCoveyMaury Wills, and Harmon Killebrew. All six won the Most Valuable Player Award during the 1960s. All but Wills have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If hitters of their stature couldn’t touch a fat Feigner-launched softball, how would they have fared against a baseball?

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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