The 1963 baseball season was the year of southpaw sensation Sandy Koufax. The 27-year-old hurler had one of the greatest seasons in history, winning a "quadruple crown" of pitching with 25 victories, 306 strikeouts, 11 shutouts, and a 1.88 ERA. Koufax took the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.
Koufax's marvelous hurling overshadowed the strong seasons of his Dodger teammates. Don Drysdale contributed 19 wins in 315 innings; relief ace Ron Perranoski, another 16 triumphs and 21 saves. On offense, outfielder Tommy Davis hit a league-high .326. Frank Howard smashed 28 homers in just 123 games. Maury Wills hit .302 and led the league with 40 stolen bases.
The most threatening rivals to the Los Angeles ballclub were the Cardinals. Featuring batsmen Bill White, Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, and 42-year-old Stan Musial (in his final year), the Cards led the league in scoring, hits, doubles, and triples. Inconsistent all season, St. Louis connected in September, winning 19 of 20 to come within a game of the first-place Dodgers.
The two teams went head-to-head in a critical late-season, three-game series in St. Louis. With Los Angeles winning the first two games of the series, the Cardinals blew a 5-1 lead in the seventh inning of the finale and fell 6-5 in 13 innings. The Dodgers took the league by 6 games.
San Francisco came in third, despite banner seasons from the Giants' Willie Mays (.314 average, 38 home runs, and 103 RBI), Willie McCovey (44 homers -- tied with the legendary Hank Aaron for the crown -- and 102 RBI), and Juan Marichal (25 triumphs -- tied with Koufax for the league-best -- and 2.41 ERA).
The Giants' old home, the Polo Grounds, saw its last season of play as the ballpark for the Mets. Despite losing 111 games, the Mets drew more than a million spectators.
The Yankees won their fourth consecutive American League pennant, beating the White Sox by 10½ games. Despite prolonged injuries to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the Bombers won the league, scoring the second-most runs and allowing the second-fewest runs. Solid pitching came from 34-year-old Whitey Ford (a league-best 24 wins, 2.74 ERA) and 24-year-old Jim Bouton (21-7, 2.53 ERA).
Carl Yastrzemski hit .321 in 1963.
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Other notable feats: Harmon Killebrew of Minnesota led the American League with 45 homers. Boston's Carl Yastrzemski hit .321 for the title, while teammate Dick Stuart racked up 118 RBI to top the loop. Milwaukee's Aaron paced the National League with 130 RBI. Cincinnati's Pete Rose, the Rookie of the Year, batted his first major league hit.
Due to baseball's recent expansions, many pitchers made the major leagues when they should have been throwing in the minors. To compensate, the strike zone was expanded in 1963. The extension allowed the best pitchers -- the Reds' Jim Maloney (23-7, 2.77 ERA, 265 Ks), the White Sox's Gary Peters (19-8, a league-best 2.33 ERA), the Twins' Camilo Pascual (21-9, 2.47), the Cubs' Dick Ellsworth (22-10, 2.10), the Braves' 42-year-old Warren Spahn (23-7, 2.60) -- to get even better. Another older pitcher, 43-year-old Early Wynn, finally won his 300th game.
Ford went up against Koufax in the first game of the 1963 World Series. Koufax's record-setting 15 strikeouts were the talk of the 5-2 Los Angeles victory. The Dodgers, aided by a homer courtesy of ex-Yankee Bill Skowron and 81/3 scoreless innings by pitcher Johnny Podres, took game two 4-1. Drysdale was the star of game three with a three-hit, nine-strikeout, complete game victory. The Dodgers finished the sweep the next day with a 2-1 Koufax triumph over Ford.
See the next section for headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1963 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1962 Baseball Season
- 1964 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth