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.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1958 Baseball Season
- 1960 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth