The pitchers put up astounding numbers: Cleveland's Luis Tiant led the American League with nine shutouts and a 1.60 ERA. Detroit's Denny McLain, the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean in 1934 to win 30 games, totaled a 31-6 record and a 1.96 ERA -- winning the league's Cy Young and MVP Awards. Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA set a post-1920 major league record in the National League; Gibson threw 13 shutouts and managed to lose nine games. His 22 victories were enough for the Cy Young Award, the MVP, and a trip to the 1968 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Juan Marichal won
20 or more games
four years in a row.
The Cards went 97-65 with only two players hitting more than seven homers (Orlando Cepeda had 16, Mike Shannon had 15). Willie McCovey of the second-place Giants led the National League with 36 homers and 105 RBI and teammate Juan Marichal led in wins with 26. Pete Rose of the Reds took the batting title with a .335 average and teammate Johnny Bench was named 1968 National League Rookie of the Year for his .275 average, 15 homers, and 82 RBI. The 1968 American League Rookie of the Year was Yankee Stan Bahnsen, who went 17-12 with a 2.06 ERA.
Five pitchers hurled no-hitters for the year (Catfish Hunter's being a perfect game). Two came in Candlestick Park on successive days, as Giant Gaylord Perry no-hit the Cardinals on September 17 to beat Gibson 1-0 and Cardinal Ray Washburn returned the favor by blanking San Francisco 2-0 the following day. Don Drysdale of Los Angeles threw a record 58-2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
The All-Star Game was dominated by pitchers. The National League won the contest 1-0, with the run the result of a first-inning double play.
Both pennant races were decided early. Defending World Champion St. Louis finished 9 games ahead of the Giants in the National League, and Detroit claimed the American League title by finishing 12 games over the Orioles.
Each team was led by its most dominating pitchers, Gibson and McLain, but the two teams offered different playing styles. St. Louis, which led the league in only one offensive category (triples), was built on speed and defense (Lou Brock had a league-leading 62 stolen bases). Detroit, on the other hand, depended on the long ball. The Tigers led the league in runs (671), homers (185), and slugging average (.385); Willie Horton (.285 average, 36 homers, 85 RBI), Bill Freehan (.263 average, 25 homers, 84 RBI), and Jim Northrup (.264 average, 21 homers, 90 RBI) supplied the sock.
That power -- and the pitching of Mickey Lolich, McLain's understudy -- carried the Tigers to a 4-3 upset of the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series.
After St. Louis went ahead 3-1 by beating McLain 4-0 and 10-1, Detroit stormed back with Lolich winning games five and seven (the Tigers won game six 13-1). Though Gibson set a Series record with 35 strikeouts, his 2-1 record and 1.67 ERA were bested by Lolich's 3-0, 1.67 Series-mark. Lolich's stats included his 4-1 win in the finale, the only head-to-head meeting with Gibson. Lolich defused the Cardinals on the bases, too, picking both Curt Flood and Brock off first in the sixth inning of a zero-all game-seven tie.Check out headlines and summaries from the 1968 baseball season on the next page.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1967 Baseball Season
- 1969 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth