Alex Rodriguez Posts Stunning Statistics
Alex Rodriguez narrowly missed out on MVP honors, finishing second in voting to Juan Gonzalez by a count of 290 to 287. The Mariners' sophomore star had the greatest offensive season ever by a shortstop: American League-high .358 average, 215 hits, 54 doubles, 36 homers, 141 runs, and 123 RBI. His 15 errors were five fewer than American League Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel committed.
Barry Bonds Joins 300 Club
Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, and Andre Dawson join Bonds's son Barry in celebrating his 300th career home run in 1996. These four greats are the only players in history to amass both 300 homers and 300 steals in their careers. Barry reached 40 of each in 1996, becoming just the second major-leaguer to turn the trick. Dawson retired after the season.
Brady Anderson Smacks 50 HRs
Many pundits cited Brady Anderson as absolute proof that the ball was juiced in 1996. The Orioles center fielder began his ninth major league campaign with just 72 career home runs. He ended it with 122 after being the first leadoff man ever to hammer 50 dingers in a season.
Albert Belle Rings Up 48 HRs and 148 RBI
Moody Albert Belle again rang up MVP numbers in 1996 -- and again was denied the award. In his final season in Cleveland livery, Belle hit 48 homers and set a new Tribe career home run record with 242. He also became only the second Indian to win back-to-back RBI crowns, as he knocked home 148.
Andres Galarraga Nets 150 RBI
In 1996, Andres Galarraga set a new season record for the most RBI by a National League first baseman. Galarraga's loop-leading 150 ribbies broke Don Hurst's old mark of 143. It also topped his own personal high by a margin of 44. Galarraga had just 72 RBI in 1991-1992 combined, his last two seasons before joining the Rockies in mile-high Denver.
Paul Molitor Cracks No. 3,000
Paul Molitor led the American League with 225 hits in 1996. Molitor celebrated his first year with the Twins by setting a flock of season batting records for 40-year-old performers. Among his amazing numbers were a .341 average, 99 runs, 41 doubles, 113 RBI, and even 18 stolen bases. He also collected his 3,000th career hit after being considered an extreme long shot to achieve that pinnacle ten years earlier. Molitor had just 1,203 hits through 1986 (age 30).
Ken Caminiti Claims 1996 National League MVP Award
Ken Caminiti spent his first eight years in the majors with Houston, where he never got so much as a single MVP vote. In 1996, just two years after being dealt to San Diego, he was a unanimous choice for the National League's top prize. Facing shoulder surgery, he nevertheless set a new senior loop home run mark for switch-hitters with 40. He batted .326 with 130 RBI and led San Diego to a division crown.
Roger Clemens Fans Another 20
Roger Clemens becomes only the second hurler in history to fan 20 batters in a nine-inning game on September 18, 1996, against Detroit. Clemens was also the first pitcher to do it, ten years earlier. Despite his 20-K game and loop-leading 257 strikeouts, Clemens was just 10-13 for Boston.
Andy Pettitte Wins 20, Loses 1996 Cy Young
Only a late surge prevented Andy Pettitte from becoming the first American League southpaw since Billy Hoeft in 1956 to win 20 games with an ERA above 4.00. Apparently, sports writers were aware of this dubious distinction when they cast their Cy Young ballots at the end of the regular season. Had the vote waited until postseason action was complete, the Yankees lefty probably would have prevailed after his clutch win in game five of the 1996 World Series.
John Smoltz Bags 1996 Cy Young
John Smoltz owned a so-so 90-82 career record after his first eight seasons, all spent with powerhouse Atlanta. His ninth season, 1996, resulted in 24 wins -- the most by any National League hurler since Dwight Gooden bagged 24 in 1985. Smoltz was also the Braves' top hurler in the 1996 World Series, surrendering just one earned run in two starts against the Yankees. He won game one 12-1 and lost game five 1-0.
Check out more headlines from the 1996 baseball season on the next page.
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