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1969 Baseball Season

New York unexpectedly dominated the news in the 1969 baseball season, beginning with the retirement of Mickey Mantle and ending with the 1968 World Series victory of the Mets. In between, Bowie Kuhn was named baseball commissioner and Steve Carlton set a major league record by striking out 19 Mets in a game (he lost the contest 4-3).

In the first year of divisional play, Billy Martin led the Twins to a title, then was fired. Martin's lineup boasted batting champion Rod Carew, who had a .332 average, and 1969 Most Valuable Player Harmon Killebrew, who had a .276 average, league-leading 49 round-trippers, and 140 RBI. Although the four expansion teams lost a total of 411 games, Lou Piniella of the Kansas City Royals won 1969 Rookie of the Year for his .282 average, 11 homers, and 68 RBI. The Cy Young Award was shared by Baltimore's Mike Cuellar (23-11, 2.38 ERA) and Detroit's Denny McLain (24-9, 2.80 ERA).

1969 Baseball Season Recap
Rod Carew tied the
Major League record in
1969 for stealing home.

San Francisco's Willie McCovey (.320 average, league-leading 45 homers, 126 RBI) earned 1969 National League Most Valuable Player honors. Atlanta seized the West Division crown with Hank Aaron (.300 average, 44 home runs, 97 RBI). Los Angeles second baseman Ted Sizemore was the senior circuit's top rookie.

Tom Seaver led the Mets to their first-ever title and took Cy Young honors with a 25-7 record and a 2.21 ERA. San Francisco's Juan Marichal won the ERA title at 2.10. With the assistance of Lee May (.278 average, 38 homers, 110 RBI), Tony Perez (.294 average, 37 homers, 122 RBI), Bobby Tolan (.305 average, 21 homers, 93 RBI), and Johnny Bench (.293 average, 26 homers, 90 RBI), the Reds finished in third, 4 games out -- despite the hitting of Pete Rose, who had a league-topping .348 average.

The Mets won their division, coming from both a ninth-place finish in 1968 and 9-1/2 games back. The Chicago Cubs, flagless since 1945, helped the Mets by dropping ten of 11 games in early September. The Mets won 38 of their last 49 games, taking the division by 8 contests -- thanks to stout pitching, extraordinary fan support (major league-leading attendance of 2,175,373), and a lineup in which only Cleon Jones (.340 average, 12 homers, 75 RBI) and Tommie Agee (.271 average, 26 homers, 76 RBI) garnered 400 official at-bats.

The Orioles included Boog Powell (.304 average, 37 homers, 121 RBI), Frank Robinson (.308 average, 32 homers, 100 RBI), and Paul Blair (.285 average, 26 homers, 76 RBI). Although Washington had the ERA champ in Dick Bosnian, Baltimore was anchored by Mike Cuellar (23-11, 2.38 ERA), Dave McNally (20-7,3.21 ERA), and Jim Palmer (16-4, 2.34 ERA), who tied a league record, winning 15 consecutive games. The O's, winners of 109 games, had the league's best defense and pitching (2.83 team ERA).

The Mets crushed the Atlanta Braves in three straight in the first divisional playoffs, scoring 27 runs and allowing 15; the Orioles, victors in the ALCS over Minnesota in three, scored 16 runs and allowed five.

The Mets stunned Baltimore by taking four straight after Seaver lost the World Series opener 4-1. Jerry Koosman won twice with an ERA of 2.04; meanwhile, Agee made two spectacular catches in game three to save five runs and Ron Swoboda made a diving catch to help Seaver to his first World Series victory in game four, 2-1 in ten.

New York won game five 5-3 and, in the process, completed one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1969 baseball season.

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