The 1959 baseball season featured several accomplishments -- and nonaccomplishments -- of note. Ted Williams hit just .254 and Stan Musial dropped to .255 in the twilight of their extraordinary careers. The Pirates' Harvey Haddix threw a 12-inning perfect game only to lose in the 13th, and teammate Roy Face went 18-1 in relief. The Dodgers got back into the thick of it after finishing seventh in 1958 and won the National League. But the biggest surprise of all in 1959 was delivered by the Yankees.
The Bronx Bombers, winners of nine American League flags in ten years, were in last place on May 20. New York's pitching woes weighed the team down and it was never able to join the race, which the White Sox eventually won by 5 games over the Indians.
Detroit placed fourth despite the efforts of Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline, the top two batting men with averages of .353 and .327. Boston and Jackie Jensen, the RBI leader at 112, came in fifth. The ERA champ couldn't do it on his own, as Hoyt Wilhelm (a 2.19 mark) and Baltimore finished sixth. Harmon Killebrew's league-leading 42 home runs were for naught as Washington finished last.
The National League pennant race was far more dramatic. San Francisco appeared to have the flag locked up with a 2-game lead over the Dodgers and Braves and one week to play. The Dodgers then came into town and swept San Francisco in three games.
The Giants never recovered, dropping four of their last five to the Cubs and Cards. San Fran came in third, despite great years from Willie Mays (.313 average, 34 homers, and 104 RBI) and Orlando Cepeda (.317 average, 27 homers, and 105 RBI) and a solid performance from Sam Jones (who posted the best ERA in the league at 2.82 and tied with Milwaukee's Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette for the lead with 21 wins).
The Dodgers and the Braves ended up tied for first place, as both teams won on the last Sunday. In a best-of-three playoff, the Dodgers, swept Eddie Mathews (who led the league with 46 homers), Hank Aaron (who launched 39 and led the circuit with a .355 average), and the rest of the Braves.
Los Angeles boasted a balanced attack which combined experience and youth. Duke Snider and Gil Hodges combined for 48 homers, while ex-Cardinal Wally Moon hit .302. Speedy Maury Wills took over at shortstop, and 23-year-old Don Drysdale won 17 games to anchor the pitching staff.
Ernie Banks won his second-straight MVP with 45 homers (second in the circuit) and 143 RBI (tops in the league) for the fifth-place Cubs. His American League MVP counterpart, Nellie Fox, led the White Sox to a first-place finish with his .306 batting average.
The Go-Go Sox also featured catcher Sherm Lollar (22 homers, 84 RBI) and shortstop Luis Aparicio (the stolen base leader with 56). Cy Young Award-winner Early Wynn, age 39, was 22-10 while Bob Shaw went 18-6 to stabilize the starting pitching. Gerry Staley and Turk Lown were solid out of the pen.
In the first game of the 1959 World Series, Ted Kluszewski belted a pair of two-run homers to lead Chicago to an 11-0 victory over Los Angeles. The Dodgers came back behind Johnny Podres, taking game two 4-3 and sending a tied 1959 World Series to Los Angeles.
Although the Sox stroked 12 hits in game three, they lost to Los Angeles 3-1. The Dodgers then took game four 5-4 on Hodges's eighth-inning home run.
A record crowd of 92,706 showed up in the Coliseum the next day with hopes of seeing California's first World Series winner, but Chicago spoiled the party with a 1-0 win. The Dodgers then took game six 9-3 in Chicago for their first of many World Series crowns.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1959 baseball season.
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1959 Baseball Season Headlines
In 1959, Ernie Banks won his second MVP award, and Johnny Podres made a come-back. Here are some of the headlines from the 1959 baseball season:
Jim Bunning: Ace of Star Staff
The Tigers had the best four-man starting rotation in the American League in 1959. Staff leader Jim Bunning, Frank Lary, Paul Foytack, and Don Mossi had a composite 65-46 record (Bunning contributed a 17-13 mark). Detroit nevertheless finished below .500, as the club's second-line pitchers contributed only 11 wins.
Pumpsie Green: First Black BoSox
Pumpsie Green was the first black player to wear a Red Sox uniform. In 1959, Green was only a utility infielder for the Red Sox, the last major league team to break the color line. Boston's first black regular was Willie Tasby, who joined the club in 1960.
Ernie Banks Wins Second MVP
An erratic fielder early in his career, Ernie Banks had become an excellent shortstop by the close of the 1950s. In 1959, he took his second MVP Award, setting shortstop records with a .985 fielding average and 143 RBI. Banks later made himself into a more than adequate first baseman.
Eddie Mathews Blasts 46 HRs
In Eddie Mathews the Braves had the best third baseman in the majors in 1959. Mathews's 46 home runs snared the crown that year. The Braves also had the top right fielder in Hank Aaron and, indeed, were solid at every position but second base. The Braves experimented with Felix Mantilla, then Johnny O'Brien, and finally Bobby Avila at second. All flopped.
Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox Keys for 1959 Sox
Luis Aparicio played 152 games at short for the White Sox in 1959. His keystone partner, Nellie Fox, was at second for 156 games. They made the difference. Chicago finished the year 94-60. Down the stretch, the second-place Indians had to go with career minor leaguer Jim Baxes at second and Woodie Held, a converted outfielder, at short.
Johnny Podres Finally Back in Shape
Johnny Podres's career was interrupted by a military call-up in 1956, and it took him awhile to get back on track. "I'd been 4-F until I won the seventh game of the World Series in 1955," Podres said later. "They reclassified me 1-A that winter." In 1958, he went 13-15 and posted a 3.73 ERA. In 1959, he had a 14-9 season.
Check out more headlines from the 1959 baseball season on the next page.
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More 1959 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1959 baseball season, including Early Wynn pitching for the White Sox and Harvey Kuenn winning a batting award.
Nellie Fox Hits .306; Joe Tipton, .236
The White Sox acquired Nellie Fox prior to the 1950 season from the A's in a swap for backup catcher Joe Tipton. It was one of the worst deals the A's ever made. Over the next 14 years, Fox averaged .291 and four times led the American League in hits. In 1959, he batted .306 and tallied 191 hits. Tipton played just 417 games in the majors and hit .236.
Elroy Face Wins 22 in a Row
The 18-1 mark Elroy Face posted in 1959 is the best single-season pitching record in history. He also won 22 consecutive games over two seasons-a record for relief pitchers. When Face retired after the 1969 season, he ranked behind just Hoyt Wilhelm in career saves.
Harvey Kuenn Wins 1959 BA Crown
Harvey Kuenn was one of the last right-handed batters to win an American League hitting title. His chief competition in 1959 came from Cleveland's Tito Francona, who hit .363 (ten points higher than Kuenn) only to fall a few plate appearances short of the requisite number. The two were teammates the following year.
Aging Early Wynn Wins 22
Despite frequent debilitating bouts with gout, Early Wynn pitched until he was age 43. His 22 triumphs in 1959 topped the American League (he pitched a circuit-high 256 innings). At the conclusion of the 1962 season, he was just one victory short of 300, Wynn was released by the White Sox. Signed by Cleveland on June 21, 1963, he lost 1-0 in his first start for the Tribe and took a month to join the 300-win circle. He finished with a career record of 300-244 with a hefty 3.54 ERA.
Larry Sherry Earns Series 1959 MVP
Dodgers pitcher Larry Sherry received the Babe Ruth Award for being the Most Valuable Player of the 1959 World Series. Los Angeles won all four of the games in which Sherry appeared in relief. The hurler won two of the four contests, saved the other two, and allowed just one earned run in 12-2/3 innings.
The next page highlights key events and details from the 1959 baseball season.
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1959 Baseball Season Highlights
The 1959 baseball season featured many highs and lows. Ted Williams and Stan Musial had terribly low averages at the height of their careers while the Dodgers win the 1959 World Series. Below, you will find the highlights from the 1959 baseball season:
- The White Sox win their first flag in 40 years.
- The Dodgers take their first West Coast flag.
- The Dodgers beat Braves in playoff to capture pennant.
- LA wins the 1959 World Series in six games.
- The Hall of Fame inducts Zach Wheat.
- Chicago's Ted Kluszewski is a 1959 World Series hitting star with three homers, ten RBI, and .391 BA.
- Charlie Neal leads the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series with .370 BA and six RBI.
- Larry Sherry of the Dodgers is 1959 World Series MVP, winning two games and saving two others.
- Chuck Essegian of LA hits two pinch homers in Series.
- In game five, the Dodgers set a World Series attendance record of 92,706.
- White Sox Nellie Fox is American League MVP.
- Ernie Banks again voted National League MVP -- only player from second -- division team to win twice.
- Banks tops majors in RBI (143), loses National League homer crown by one to Eddie Mathews (46-45).
- Hank Aaron tops the majors in BA at .355.
- Detroit's Harvey Kuenn hits .353 to lead the American League.
- White Sox Early Wynn leads majors with 22 wins, takes Cy Young Award.
- Pumpsie Green is the first black player to join the Red Sox, the last major league team to break the color line.
- Banks sets National League shortstop records with 143 RBI and .985 FA.
- On August 31, Dodger Sandy Koufax becomes first National League hurler in this century to fan 18 in a game.
- Pirate Harvey Haddix pitches record 12 perfect innings vs. Milwaukee on May 26, but loses 1-0 in 13 innings.
- Washington's Bob Allison is the American League ROTY.
- Willie McCovey hits .354 with 38 RBI in just 192 at-bats.
- McCovey goes 4-for-4 in his major league debut on July 30.
- Reds rookie Vada Pinson hits .316 with 20 homers and a league-leading 131 runs scored, but is not ROTY.
- San Francisco's McCovey is named National League ROTY.
- Boston's Jackie Jensen repeats as American League RBI champ (112), but hits no triples for second year in row.
- Jensen quits baseball at age 32 because he refuses to fly to games.
- For the first time, there are two All-Star Games; National League wins the first game 5-4 at Pittsburgh, and the American League takes second 5-3 at LA.
For more 1959 baseball season highlights, see the next page.
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More 1959 Baseball Season Highlights
In 1959, Harvey Kuenn and Hank Aaron led their leagues in hits. See more highlights of the 1959 baseball season below:
- Joe Cronin named American League president-first ex-player to reach that pinnacle.
- Cleveland's Rocky Colavito hits four homers on June 10.
- Bill Veeck buys the White Sox.
- Elroy Face wins a season record 17 straight games in relief (22 games over two-year period).
- Face finishes 18-1 with a win pct. of .947.
- Baltimore's Dave Philley collects a record nine consecutive pinch hits.
- Detroit's Eddie Yost tops American League in runs (115), walks (135), and OBP (.437).
- Yogi Berra's record streak of 148 consecutive errorless games at catcher ends.
- Baltimore beats Chicago 2-1 on May 19 on a 120-foot homer by pitcher Billy O'Dell.
- Washington's Harmon Killebrew ties Colavito for American League lead in homers (42).
- Kuenn leads American League in hits (198) and doubles (42).
- Aaron leads National League in hits (223), total bases (400), SA (.636), and runs produced (200).
- Finally getting a chance to play, Cleveland's Tito Francona hits .363. but lacks enough at-bats to qualify for BA title.
- Ted Williams and Stan Musial both hit below .300 for the first time in their careers.
- A record crowd of 93,103 attends the LA Coliseum for a Yankees-Dodgers exhibition, which is also Roy Campanella Night.
- The Phils' Sparky Anderson has just 119 total bases, fewest in history by a player with 500 or more at-bats.
- Warren Spahn leads the National League in CGs (21) and ties in wins (21).
- Sam Jones of the Giants leads the National League in ERA (2.82) and ties in wins (21).
- LA's Don Drysdale leads the majors in Ks with 242.
- On April 22 vs. KC, the White Sox score 11 runs on just one hit in the seventh inning.
- Pittsburgh deals Frank Thomas, Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, and Johnny Powers to the Reds for Haddix, Don Hoak, and Smoky Burgess.
- With interleague trading now allowed, the Giants send Jackie Brandt and two others to Baltimore for Billy Loes and Billy O'Dell.
- Cleveland sends Minnie Minoso and three other players to the White Sox for John Romano, Bubba Phillips, and Norm Cash.
- The Yankees ship Jerry Lumpe, Johnny Kucks, and Tom Sturdivant to KC for Hector Lopez and Ralph Terry.
- Cleveland trades Billy Martin, Cal McLish, and Gordy Coleman to the Reds for Johnny Temple.
- On Sept. 22, the Dodgers collect nine pinch hits.
- Red Schoendienst is shelved for the season by TB, possibly costing the Braves a pennant.