Look back at the 1950 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- The American League MVP award goes to the Scooter. Phil Rizzuto, shortstop for the New York Yankees, collects 200 hits and bats .324 with a .418 on-base percentage. He scores 125 runs and drives in 66. The 5-foot-6-inch Rizzuto, from the borough of Queens, gets voted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
- Jim Konstanty, a journeyman pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, goes 16-7 and earns National League MVP honors. He leads the league with 22 saves and finishes 62 games. Konstanty, a right-hander from Strykerville, N.Y., pitches 152 innings and posts a 2.66 ERA.
- Cleveland Indians hurler Bob Lemon leads the A.L. with 23 wins and 170 strikeouts. The righty from Long Beach, Calif., wins at least 20 games for the third straight season. He retires as a seven-time 20-game winner, his ticket to the Hall of Fame.
- Lemon’s teammate in Cleveland, Early Wynn, finishes with the lowest ERA in the A.L. (a rather high 3.20). The Alabama product goes 18-8 and wins at least 20 games five times. Like Lemon, he also goes to the Hall of Fame.
- Warren Spahn, a lefty for the Boston Braves, wins 21 games to lead the N.L. He wins at least 20 games three times for Boston and does it nine times for the Milwaukee Braves. One of baseball’s all-time greats, the Buffalo, N.Y. native wins 363 games and goes into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
- The New York Giants sign a good-looking prospect on June 20. He can hit, run, catch, throw. Everything. He is, of course, Willie Howard Mays from Westfield, Ala. The Say Hey Kid debuts for the Giants the following season. The rest is some of baseball’s greatest history.
- The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Gil Hodges belts four home runs in a game on Aug. 31. He is the sixth MLB player to accomplish this feat. Hodges hits 370 homers in his career. The first baseman remains a Hall of Fame outsider. His fans deplore this “outrage.”
- Stan Musial hits a robust .346 and leads the N.L. for the fourth time. Stan the Man tops the senior circuit seven times before retiring and finishes with 3,630 career hits (1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road.) A less likely candidate takes the A.L. batting crown. Coming off a .298 year in 1949 for the Boston Red Sox, Billy Goodman hits .354 in 1950. The infielder never approaches such a lofty number again, but he does retire as a career .300 hitter.
- Al Rosen belts 37 home runs to top the A.L. He also leads the junior circuit in 1953, with 47. The third baseman for Cleveland slugs 185 homers in a 10-year career shortened by a back injury. The N.L. leader, Ralph Kiner, also plays only a decade due to injuries. He hits 47 homers in 1950 and tops the league seven times. He hits 369 homers and gets tabbed for Cooperstown in 1975.
- The Yankees win the A.L. with a 98-56 record. The Phillies take the N.L. pennant, finishing 91-63 record. The Bronx Bombers hit just .222 as a team in the World Series, but the Phils manage just a .203 mark. New York, behind strong pitching (0.73 team ERA), sweeps the Series for its 13 championship.
Look back at the 1909 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Ty Cobb wins the Triple Crown in the American League. The Detroit Tigers superstar bats .377, hits nine home runs and drives in 107. This is the only season in which Cobb will lead the league in homers. He retires with 12 batting titles and tops the A.L. in RBI four times.
- Honus Wagner nearly wins the Triple Crown in the National League. The shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates tops the senior circuit in RBI (100) and batting average (.339). His total of five homers puts him fifth but just two behind leader Red Murray of the New York Giants. (Three players hit six.)
- Murray wins his first and only home run crown. He also knocked seven in each of the previous two seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals and placed third in the N.L. both times. Murray belts 37 homers over an 11-year career.
- The uniquely named Orval Overall tops the N.L. with 205 strikeouts. The Chicago Cubs right-hander posts a career-low 1.42 ERA. Overall pitches seven seasons in the majors and records a 108-71 lifetime record. Frank Smith of the Chicago White Sox leads the A.L. in strikeouts with 177.
- Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown wins a career-high 27 games for the Cubs. Brown posts a 1.31 ERA and completes 32 of 34 starts. He also pitches 16 games in relief. This is how Brown picked up the nickname “Three Finger”: He slipped while feeding some material into a feed chopper on the family’s Indiana farm. The knives on the chopper tore up Brown’s hand. He severed his right index finger and mangled some other fingers. Later, he fell and broke several bones in the hand. The accident may have helped Brown’s pitching career. The grip he uses with his sawed-off fingers gives the ball some unusual spin.
- On July 19, the appropriately named Neal Ball pulls off the first known unassisted triple play in MLB history. The shortstop for the Cleveland Naps (later, the Indians) catches a line drive hit by the Boston Red Sox’ Amby McConnell for the first out, steps on second base to double off Heine Wagner for the second, and tags baserunner Jake Stahl as he is running to second for the third out.
- Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Shibe Park in Philadelphia open as baseball’s first steel-and-concrete stadiums. Forbes plays host to the Pirates through June, 28, 1970, before giving way to Three Rivers Stadium. Shibe Park (later known as Connie Mack Stadium) is the Phillies’ home until Veterans Stadium opens for the 1971 campaign.
- George Mullin enjoys a big season on the mound for the Tigers. The durable right-hander from Cleveland goes 29-8 and has a league-leading .784 winning percentage. This is his best year in the big leagues. He pitches 14 seasons, wins 228 games and completes 353 of 428 starts. He ranks 24th on the all-time list in complete games.
- Christy Mathewson wins 11 fewer games than he did in 1908, but still goes 25-6. He leads the N.L. with a 1.14 ERA, the best of his career. The New York Giants ace wins 373 games in a 17-year career. All but one of those wins comes as a Giant. He goes 1-0 as a Cincinnati Red in 1916.
- The Pirates win 110 games and finish 6.5 games ahead of the Cubs in the N.L. The Tigers win 98 games and end the season 3.5 games in front of the A’s in the A.L. Rookie Babe Adams wins three games for Pittsburgh in the World Series; the righty leads his team to a championship in seven games. Tommy Leach hits .320 for the Pirates (8-for-25) and scores eight runs. Wagner bats .333 (8-for-24) and drives in six. Cobb hits just .231 (6-for-26) for Detroit, but knocks in a team-high five runs. Mullin wins two and loses one with a 1.97 ERA.
Look back at the 1970 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Alex Johnson leads the American League with a .329 batting average. He hits 14 home runs and drives in 86 runs for the California Angels. Johnson, in his first season with the Angels and his seventh season in the majors, spends just two years in southern California. He hits .288 over a 13-year career with eight teams.
- Rico Carty tops the National League with a .366 batting average as a member of the Atlanta Braves. The “beeg boy” from the Dominican Republic batted .342 the previous year. He misses the 1971 season due to a knee injury. He also missed the 1968 campaign, battling tuberculosis. In 15 seasons, Carty hits .299 and slugs 204 homers.
- The Washington Senators’ Frank Howard mashes baseballs all season. He leads the A.L. with 44 homers and 126 RBI. The Capital Punisher also led the league with 44 home runs in 1968. He finished second in 1969 with a career-high 48. Washington acquired the one-time Los Angeles Dodger in 1965. The 6-foot-7-inch first baseman, outfielder hits 382 career homers. The 1960 Rookie of the Year finishes in the top 10 in the MVP voting four times.
- The N.L. Cy Young Award goes to Bob Gibson. The St. Louis Cardinals ace doesn’t top his glorious 1968 season and 1.12 ERA, but he does win 23 games and strikes out a career-high 274 batters. His ERA of 3.12 is exactly two runs higher than in his ’68 MVP year. The Hall of Fame right-hander wins 251 career games and strikes out 3,117 hitters. He is a five-time 20-game winner.
- Cleveland Indians fireballer Sam McDowell strikes out 304 batters to lead the majors. Sudden Sam k’d 325 hitters in 1965 and leads the league five times in a fast-moving career. Tom Seaver of the New York Mets tops the N.L. in strikeouts. He fans 283 hitters, including 19 on April 22 against the San Diego Padres (10 straight). Tom Terrific, like McDowell, tops the league five times. He strikes out at least 200 hitters every year from 1968 through 1976. The three-time Cy Young Award winner k’s 3,640 hitters in his career, en route to the Hall of Fame.
- The Philadelphia Phillies’ Jim Bunning beats the Houston Astros 6-5 on Aug. 11 and becomes the first pitcher since Cy Young to win at least 100 games in each league. Bunning, a future Hall of Famer and U.S. Senator from Kentucky, retires with 224 lifetime wins. He wins 118 games in the A.L. (Detroit Tigers) and 106 in the N.L. (the Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Dodgers).
- Johnny Bench crushes 45 home runs and drives in 148 runs. The Cincinnati Reds catcher leads the N.L. in both categories, bats .293 and wins a Gold Glove. Not surprisingly, he wins the MVP. The 1968 Rookie of the Year wins another MVP following the 1972 campaign.
- John Wesley “Boog” Powell is the A.L. MVP winner. The big first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles knocks out 35 homers, drives in 114 runs and hits .297. Powell smacks 339 homers over a 17-year career and brings home 1,001 runs. These days, the easy-going guy from Key West, Fla., operates a barbecue stand outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
- Jim Perry is not as famous as his Hall of Famer brother Gaylord. He did, however, fashion a solid career of his own. He earns the 1970 A.L. Cy Young Award as a Minnesota Twin. The right-hander (switch-hitter) goes 24-12 with a 3.04 ERA. He wins 215 games in the majors. Gaylord wins 99 more.
- The Orioles (108-54 in the regular season) and Reds (102-60) meet in the World Series. This one goes down as the Brooks Robinson Fall Classic. The Orioles third baseman contributes several big hits, bats .429, and makes several highlight-reel plays in the field. Baltimore bats .292 as a team. The Reds’ Lee May hits .389 (7-for-18) in a losing cause, with two homers and eight RBI. Hal McRae goes 5-for-11 (.455).
Look back at the 1939 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Joe DiMaggio hits a career-high .381 with 30 home runs and 126 RBI. The New York Yankees center-fielder wins the first of three American League MVP awards. DiMaggio, the son of Italian immigrants, retires after the 1951 season. He makes the All-Star team in every season of his career. (He missed the 1943-45 campaigns during World War II.)
- Bucky Walters, a sinker-baller for the Cincinnati Reds, compiles a 27-11 won-loss record and posts a 2.29 ERA. Besides leading the National League in wins and ERA, the 30-year-old right-hander also tops the circuit in starts (36), complete games (31) and innings pitched (319). In addition, Walters also is handy with the bat. He hits .325 (39-for-120) with one home run and 16 RBI.
- The St. Louis Cardinals’ Johnny Mize, a slugging first baseman, leads the N.L. in home runs (28), batting average (.349) and several other offensive categories. In addition, Mize belts finishes first in slugging percentage (.626) and OPS (1.070). The right-handed hitter from Georgia ends up second in the MVP vote.
- A Boston Red Sox rookie named Ted Williams plays his first game at Fenway Park on April 21. He scores a run and the Red Sox win 9-2 against the Philadelphia A’s. Williams, the greatest player ever from San Diego, slams 31 homers and leads the A.L. with 145 RBI. He hits .327 with an on-base percentage of .436.
- The Yankees’ Lou Gehrig goes 0-for-4 on April 30 against the Washington Senators. His season batting average drops to 143. Gehrig also plays in the 2,130th straight game of his career. It is the Iron Horse’s last game in baseball.
- Bob Feller’s mom, Lena, sits in the stands on May 4 to see her son pitch against the Chicago White Sox. It the first time she has ever seen Bob pitch in person. Unfortunately, the White Sox’ Marv Owen fouls a ball into the stands that knocks out Lena Feller. She needs some stiches but recovers from her wound.
- The Yankees honor Lou Gehrig on July 4. They retire his uniform No. 4 and give him an outpouring of gifts. Gehrig steps to the microphone. “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. …”
- The Red Sox send future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 18. The deal costs the Dodgers $35,000 and four players to be named later. Brooklyn calls up Reese the following season. The shortstop from Louisville, Ky., makes 10 N.L. All-Star teams and is inducted into Cooperstown in 1984.
- The Yankees’ Atley Donald beats the St. Louis Browns 5-1 on July 25 to win a rookie-record 12th straight game. The right-hander from Mississippi ends the year 13-3. He spends eight years in the majors, all with the Yanks, and ends his career at 65-33.
- Cincinnati wins the N.L. pennant, finishing 97-57, 4.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees enjoy a 106-45 campaign and take the A.L. pennant. New York sweeps the World Series despite hitting just .206 as a team. (Cincinnati hits only .203.) The Yankees still belt seven homers; Charlie Keller smacks three and drives in eight runs.
Look back at the 1953 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- The Braves depart Boston and head to Milwaukee. Future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn arrive from New England. A young man named Hank Aaron gets ready in the minor leagues. The Braves, founded as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, win a World Series in the upper Midwest in 1957 and leave for Atlanta following the 1965 campaign.
- Mathews enjoys his new home. The third baseman blasts 47 homers to lead the league in his second season. Mathews (born in Texas, raised in southern California) cracks 512 home runs during a Hall of Fame career. He is the only player to see action with the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
- The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Carl Furillo, known as The Reading Rifle (for his Pennsylvania roots and strong throwing arm in right field) and Skoonj (for his Italian-American heritage), hits a career-high .344 to lead the National League. He adds 21 home runs and 92 RBI. Furillo finishes ninth in the N.L. MVP race.
- Harvey Kuenn enjoys a fine first year for the Detroit Tigers. He tops the A.L. with 209 hits and wins Rookie of the Year honors. Kuenn plays 15 years in the big leagues and retires with a .303 batting average. He makes eight All-Star teams.
- Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Robin Roberts finishes what he starts. He leads the N.L. with 33 complete games. The 26-year-old from Springfield, Ill., also tops the league in win (23), innings pitched (346.2) and strikeouts (198). The future Hall of Famer wins 286 games in a 19-year career.
- The O’Brien twins, Johnny and Eddie, both play 89 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johnny, a second baseman, hits .247. He plays six seasons in the majors (’53, 1955-59). Eddie, an all-around utility man, bats .238. His big-league career lasts five years (’53, 1955-58). The O’Brien boys hail from South Amboy, N.J.
- Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ vocal leader, wins his second N.L. MVP award. He belts 41 homers and drives in a league-leading 142 runs. The slugger from Philadelphia also bats .312 with a .395 on-base percentage (eighth in the league) and .611 slugging percentage (third in the N.L.). Campy hits 242 homers over a 10-year career that ends after a car accident leaves him paralyzed.
- The A.L. MVP goes to the Cleveland Indians’ Al Rosen. The 29-year-old third baseman enjoys his best season in the majors. He notches 43 homers and 145 RBI, leading the A.L. in both categories. Rosen nearly wins the Triple Crown. His .336 batting average is second to Mickey Vernon’s .337. The South Carolinian also paces the A.L. in slugging (.613) and OPS (1.034).
- No-no, Bobo Holloman. The St. Louis Browns pitcher throws a no-hitter on May 6 against the Philadelphia A’s. It is the first start of Holloman’s career. The right-hander makes 10 starts and pitches in 22 games in his entire career. He ends up 3-7 lifetime.
- Brooklyn finishes with the majors’ best record, 105-49, thanks to the slugging of Furillo, Campanella, Duke Snider and others. The New York Yankees, 99-52, take the A.L. pennant. They are the seeking their fifth straight World Series championship. This is a repeat of the 1952 World Series and the fourth match-up between the teams in the last seven seasons. Will Brooklyn finally win its first World Series title? Alas, Mickey Mantle drives in eight runs for the Yankees and Billy Martin brings home seven. New York wins in six games. The Dodgers bat .300 as a team.
Look back at the 1916 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- The Cleveland Indians’ Tris Speaker leads the American League with a .386 batting average. Cleveland acquired the centerfielder in an offseason trade with the Boston Americans (the Red Sox). The future Hall of Famer from Hubbard, Texas, nicknamed The Grey Eagle, retires following the 1928 season with a .345 lifetime batting average and 3,515 hits.
- The New York Yankees’ Wally Pipp smacks a career-high 12 home runs to lead the A.L. The left-handed batter also leads the league in homers the following season, this time with nine. The first baseman plays 15 seasons in the majors and hits 90 round-trippers. He is most famous, though, for the headache that hits him June 2, 1925. Pipp asks Yankees manager Miller Huggins for the day off. Higgins obliges and sends in Lou Gehrig. Pipp never starts another game at first base for New York. The Cincinnati Reds him pick up on waivers in the offseason.
- The A.L. ERA leader is none other than a Boston lefty named George Herman Ruth Jr. Ruth has an ERA of 1.75 to go with his 23-12 won-loss record. He also leads the league in shutouts with nine and starts with 40. The future slugger (714 career home runs) compiles a 94-46 career pitching record.
- Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander wins the Triple Crown of pitching for the third straight season as ace of the Philadelphia Phillies. He wins a career-high 33 games, posts a 1.55 ERA and strikes out 167 batters. Pete also tosses a league-leading 16 shutouts and 38 complete games. He wins 373 games over a 20-year career and is inducted into baseball’s first class of Hall of Famers. Ronald Reagan portrays Alexander in the 1952 movie, The Winning Team.
- Walk this way. The Philadelphia A’s and Detroit Tigers combine for 30 walks in a game on May 9. The Tigers issue 12 free passes, and the A’s give out 18. Despite both teams being on the wild side, the Tigers win the game in lopsided fashion 16-2.
- The Boston Braves beat the New York Giants 3-1 in exciting fashion on June 22. They pull off a triple steal in the 11th inning to win the game.
- Chicago Cubs catcher Bill Fischer feels extra tired by the end of the day on June 28. He catches a Major League-record 27 innings of action that day. The second game goes 18 innings. To make things tougher, the Cubs lose both games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Cubs owner Charles Weeghman decides that fans can keep any ball that is hit into the stands, reportedly the first owner to be so generous. He makes this decision following a fight between fans over a ball earlier in the season. The restaurateur sells the Cubs to chewing-gun tycoon William Wrigley Jr. in 1918. In 1921, Weeghman hosts a Ku Klux Klan rally on his property outside Chicago.
- St. Louis Browns ironman Del Pratt enjoys a big year. He leads the A.L. with 103 RBI. He also plays in all of his team’s games for the fourth straight season. Pratt plays 13 seasons for the Browns, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers. Pratt, a star running back for the University of Alabama in his college days, smacks 43 career homers and drives in 979 runs. The infielder bats .292 lifetime and steals 247 bases. Pratt makes it into all 154 of the Yankees’ games in 1920.
- The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) finish 94-60 and win their first National League pennant in 16 years. Zack Wheat leads the Brooklyn attack with a .312 average and nine homers. Jeff Pfeffer wins a career-high 25 games. The Red Sox (91-63), behind Ruth on the mound, take the American League pennant and celebrate a World Series championship. Boston needs five games to dispatch the Robins. Ernie Shore wins two games for the Red Sox and posts a 1.53 ERA. Ruth (0.64 ERA) wins a game as does Dutch Leonard (1.00).
Look back at the 1963 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Sandy Koufax wins the Cy Young award and National League MVP. The left-hander goes 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He strikes out 306 batters in 311 innings and hurls 11 shutouts.
- New York Yankees catcher Elston Howard wins the American League MVP. He belts 28 home runs and drives in 85 runs. Howard also wins a Gold Glove.
- Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew smashes 45 homers to lead the A.L. for the third time. He also tops the league with a .555 slugging percentage.
- Early Wynn wins his 300th career game on July 13. The 43-year-old right-hander for the Cleveland Indians gives up four runs in five innings and beats the Kansas City A’s and Moe Drabowsky 7-4. It is the only win of the year for the future Hall of Famer, who retires with a 300-244 lifetime record.
- Hometown boy Pete Rose takes N.L. Rookie of the Year honors. The second baseman collects 170 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and hits .273 with 101 runs scored. Rose beats out fellow second baseman Ron Hunt, who bats .272 for the New York Mets. Pitchers plunk Hunt 13 times. He retires following the 1974 season after being hit 243 times.
- The Dodgers’ Tommy Davis earns his second straight batting crown. He finishes the year at .326, ahead of runner-up Roberto Clemente (.320).
- Carl Yastrzemski wins his first batting title in his third season with the Boston Red Sox. He hits .321 and also leads the A.L. in hits (183), doubles (40), walks (95) and on-base percentage (.418).
- Warren Spahn, 42, years old, keeps rolling. He becomes the oldest 20-game winner in baseball history. The southpaw finishes 23-7 for the Milwaukee Braves. Spahn also completes 22 games. He retires in 1965 with 363 career wins.
- The Mets keep struggling, and Roger Craig keeps losing. Craig ties an N.L. single-season mark with 18 losses and finishes at 5-22.
- The Dodgers and Yankees meet in the World Series. Behind strong pitching, the Dodgers sweep. Koufax wins two games, goes 18 innings, strikes out 23 and gives up three earned runs (1.50 ERA). Don Drysdale adds a three-hit shutout (nine strikeouts), while Johnny Podres wins his Game Two start. The Yanks bat .171 as a team.