1968 Baseball Season

Known as "The Year of the Pitcher," the 1968 baseball season had Carl Yastrzemski taking a batting title at .301 -- the lowest winning average ever -- Boston teammate Ken Harrelson leading the American League with 109 RBI, and Washington's Frank Howard topping the circuit with 44 homers.

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.

1968 Baseball Season Recap
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.

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The 1968 baseball season was dominated by pitching, but other players tested their mettle as well. Below, you can read some of the headlines of the 1968 baseball season.

Lou Brock Steals the Show Again

No player has ever been more awesome in back-to-back World Series affairs than Lou Brock. In the fall classics of 1967 and 1968, he made 25 hits in 14 games, stole 14 bases, scored 14 runs, and collected three home runs and eight RBI. For the two regular seasons, he hit a combined .289.

Wilbur Wood Hurls in Record 88 Games

Wilbur Wood made 241 mound appearances between 1968 and 1970, all but two of them in relief roles. In 1968, he set a record in the majors by pitching in 88 games. In 1971, the White Sox converted him to a starting pitcher and he made 224 starts between 1971 and 1975, the highest number over a five-year span by any hurler in this century.

Carl Yastrzemski All Alone at .300

A late-season surge made Carl Yastrzemski the American League's lone .300 hitter in 1968. There weren't even any subs who topped the mark. Offensive production that year was so minuscule that Mickey Mantle, who hit just .237, had the third-highest on-base percentage in the junior circuit with a .387 mark.

Tigers Boast Big Bats

Willie Horton, of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers, led the team in home runs with 36 and batting with a .285 average. Although Al Kaline had a slightly higher average (.287), he didn't have enough at-bats to be considered a regular. Eddie Mathews joined the team just in time to play in the 1968 World Series.

Johnny Bench Catches 154 Games

Rookie of the Year Johnny Bench set a new rookie record in 1968 when he caught 154 games for the Reds. He never again worked so many contests, which contributed heavily to his longevity. Randy Hundley, who caught 160 games for the Cubs in 1968 then 151 games in 1969, was burned out by age 30.

Pete Rose Flashes Unusual Power

Pete Rose posted a .470 slugging average in 1968, the second-highest mark of his career. He collected just 49 RBI, however -- the fewest of any National League outfielder with more than 500 at-bats. Also on the Reds that year was Alex Johnson, another high average hitter (.312) who produced notoriously few RBI (58).

Don Drysdale: 14 Wins, Eight Shutouts

Despite throwing six consecutive shutouts and eight all told in 1968, Don Drysdale won just 14 games for the Dodgers that year. The following season, when he was hit hard in his first 12 starts, he felt he had lost it and quit. He was barely 33 years old.

Juan Marichal Wins 26, But No Cy Young

The Dave Stewart of the 1960s, Juan Marichal won 20 or more games four years in a row and six times altogether, yet he never received a Cy Young Award. He even won 25 or more games on three occasions, with a high of 26 triumphs in 1968, when he also paced the National League in complete games (30) and innings (326).

Check out additional headlines from the 1968 baseball season on the next page.

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In the "Year of the Pitcher," Bob Gibson was a standout performer. Follow this and more headlines from the 1968 baseball season below.

Ernie Banks Regains Old Stroke

Ernie Banks clouted 32 home runs in 1968, the third-highest round-tripper total in the National League. It was the first time since 1962 that he finished among the loop's top five in slugging. Although Banks retired with a .500 career slugging average, he never topped the .469 mark in his last nine seasons.

Bob Gibson: 1.12 ERA, 268 Ks

Although Bob Gibson was only the second pitcher in history to strike out more than 3,000 batters in his career, he topped the National League in Ks just once (268 in 1968). Gibson registered personal high marks in every major pitching department in 1968 except for wins and strikeouts, as he set a post dead-ball ERA record of 1.12 for the season.

Willie McCovey Slugs .545

In 1968, Willie McCovey paced the National League in slugging average for the first of three successive seasons, posting a .545 mark. That same season, his strikeout total dropped to 71 (from 110 the previous year). He collected 100 or more Ks four times in the five seasons prior to 1968 and only once thereafter.

Frank Howard Clouts 44 Homers

The Senators, the worst team in the majors in 1968, were made semi-respectable by slugger Frank Howard. Howard not only topped the American League by a wide margin in home runs (he had 44) and total bases (he had 330), he also hit .274, the eighth-highest average in the loop. Between 1968 and 1970, he collected 136 home runs.

Dick McAuliffe Snuffs Out Cards

Before being dumped by a sliding Orlando Cepeda, Tigers second baseman Dick McAuliffe fired to first to nip Mike Shannon and complete a double play. The action occurred in the sixth inning of game two of the 1968 World Series and terminated the sole Cardinals scoring outburst in the contest.

Dave McNally Wins 22 Games

Dave McNally's big year -- his 22 wins placed second in the American League in 1968 -- was even more of a surprise than that of Denny McLain. Prior to that season, McNally had hurled only 22 complete games in 128 starts; in 1968, however, he went all the way 18 times in 35 outings.

Tigers Party on the Road

When the Tigers took the 1968 World Series, it was the their first World Title since 1945 and only their third in history. The Tigers were the fourth team in th 1960s to win the crucial seventh game of a World Series on the road. Only Pittsburgh and St. Louis prevailed on their home turf in a seven-day fray during the 1960s.

Ken Harrelson Tops American League with 109 RBI

Not only was Ken Harrelson the leader in the American League in 1968 with 109 RBI, he also was the circuit's seventh-best hitter at .275. Averages everywhere, not only in the majors, neared all-time lows in 1968. Tony Torchia, the Eastern League's top hitter, batted just .294 to finish 24 points ahead of runner-up Carmen Fanzone.

Mickey Lolich's Day Finally Comes

In 1968, Mickey Lolich placed second among Tigers pitchers in wins with 17 and third in starts with 32. Following his three victories in the 1968 World Series, he said, "All my life somebody else has been the big star and Lolich was No. 2. I figured my day would come."

To find more highlights from the 1968 baseball season, continue on to the next section.

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The 1968 baseball season was remarkable for its pitchers. Gaylord Perry and Catfish Hunter hurled no-hitters, and the Tigers' Denny McLain won 30 games. Find other highlights from the 1968 baseball season below:
  • Tigers cruise to American League flag by 12-game margin.
  • Cards repeat in National League, as Giants finish second for the fourth year in a row.
  • Tigers take 1968 World Series in seven games after trailing in the Series three games to one.
  • Mickey Lolich wins three 1968 World Series games for Tigers and beats Bob Gibson in the closing contest.
  • Gibson sets World Series record in game one when he fans 17 Tigers.
  • Lou Brock once again tops all Series batters with .464 BA and record-tying seven steals.
  • Al Kaline hits .379 and produces a Series-top eight RBI.
  • Detroit triumphs in game seven of 1968 World Series by breaking up scoreless duel with three runs in the seventh inning.
  • Detroit's Denny McLain, first 30-game winner in National League since 1934, cops 1968 American League MVP and Cy Young by racking up 31 wins.
  • Gibson posts a 1.12 ERA, lowest in the major league since 1914, and is named the 1968 National League MVP and Cy Young winner.
  • Gibson has 13 shutouts, most in Major League since 1916.
  • The A's move to Oakland and top American League with .240 BA, lowest in major league history by a loop leader.
  • Houston beats Mets 1-0 in 24 innings on April 15, the longest 1-0 game in major league history.
  • Don Drysdale sets new major league record when he pitches 58 consecutive scoreless innings.
  • Carl Yastrzemski wins American League bat crown with .301 BA, lowest in major league history to lead a league.
  • Yankees set post-dead-ball record for lowest team batting average when they hit just .214.
  • National League attendance is down to 11.7 million.
  • National League wins first indoor All-Star Game 1-0 at Houston, as winning run scores on a double-play grounder.
  • Willie Mays is first to win two All-Star MVP Awards.

    1968 Baseball Season Highlights
    In 1968, rookie Johnny
    Bench won the first of
    ten consecutive
    Gold Gloves.

  • Cincinnati rookie catcher Johnny Bench wins first of ten consecutive Gold Gloves.
  • Mickey Stanley of Tigers is awarded 1968 American League Gold Glove as outfielder, but plays shortstop in World Series.
  • Luis Tiant strikes out 19 batters for the Indians in a ten-inning game on July 3.
  • Player Relations Committee and Players Association hammer out their first "Basic Agreement."
  • Cesar Tovar plays all nine positions for Twins on Sept. 22.
  • Giant Jim Davenport's record streak of 97 consecutive errorless games at third base ends.
  • On July 29, Senator Ron Hansen performs the first unassisted triple play in major league since 1927.
  • George Culver of Cincinnati no-hits Phils on July 29.
  • Tom Phoebus of Baltimore no-hits Boston on April 27.
  • Gaylord Perry of Giants no-hits the Cards on Sept. 17.
  • On September 18, Ray Washburn of Cards no-hits the Giants.
  • On May 8, Catfish Hunter of the A's pitches a perfect game vs. Twins, and collects three hits and four RBI in his own cause.
  • Washington's Frank Howard tops majors with 44 homers, 330 total bases, and .552 SA.
  • Willie McCovey leads National League in homers (36), RBI (105), and SA (.545).
  • Juan Marichal tops National League in wins (26), CGs (30), and innings (326).
Continue to the next page to find more of the year's biggest highlights.

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Johnny Bench's rookie year is filled with triumphs for the catcher, while Jim Northrup hits three grandslams in five days. Find these and more highlights of the 1968 baseball season below:

  • Wilbur Wood of White Sox pitches in 88 games, a new major league record.
  • Pete Rose wins his first bat crown (.335) and becomes first switch-hitter in National League history to lead the loop in hitting.
  • Tigers win flag with a third baseman, Don Wert, who hits .200, and a shortstop, Ray Oyler, who hits .135 in 111 games.
  • Four teams in the major league score fewer than 500 runs.
  • Johnny Bench is the 1968 National League Rookie of the Year in a close vote over Met Jerry Koosman.
  • Yankee Stan Bahnsen is 1968 American League Rookie of the Year.
  • Chicago's Glenn Beckert ends Bill Mazeroski's reign as National League Gold Glove champ at second base.
  • Chicago's Ron Santo wins his fifth consecutive Gold Glove at third base.
  • For the sixth straight year, Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Cardinal Curt Flood sweep Gold Gloves for National League outfielders.
  • Angel second baseman Bobby Knoop wins third Gold Glove.
  • Koosman is the first rookie in 55 years to collect as many as seven shutouts in his frosh season.
  • Cub Fergie Jenkins is 20-15 with nine shutout losses, most in this century by a 20-game winner.
  • Mets batters strike out a major league record 1,203 times.
  • Detroit's Dick McAuliffe ties major league record when he grounds into no DPs in over 150 games.
  • Detroit's Gates Brown hits major league record .472 as a pinch hitter (since broken).
  • Howard hits record ten homers over a six-game span.
  • Cubs pitcher Bill Hands strikes out a record 14 times in a row.
  • Cubs backstop Randy Hundley catches major league record 160 games.
  • Curt Blefary, former American League Rookie of the Year, hits .200 for Houston -- lowest BA in history by an outfielder with 400 or more at-bats.
  • Jim McAndrew of Mets loses record four consecutive games in which his team is shut out.
  • McAuliffe, a .249 hitter, tops American League in runs with 95.
  • Jim Northrup of Detroit hits record-tying three grandslams in a five-day period.
  • Beckert tops majors in runs scored with 98.
  • Brock tops the National League with 46 doubles, 14 triples, and 62 steals.
  • Boston's Hawk Harrelson leads majors with 109 RBI.
  • Harrelson tops American League with just 153 runs produced, setting a record low for a loop leader.
  • Cincinnati's Tony Perez paces major league with 167 runs produced, setting a record low by an major league leader.
  • Yaz tops majors in walks (119) and OBP (.429).
  • Rose leads National League with a .394 OBP, lowest to top loop since 1917.
  • Rose and Atlanta's Felipe Alou tie for National League lead in hits with 210.
  • Bert Campaneris leads American League with 177 hits, fewest ever by American League leader in a full season.
  • Campaneris tops American League in stolen bases (62).
  • McLain leads American League in innings (336), win pct. (.838), and CGs (28).
  • Cub Phil Regan tops majors with 25 saves.
  • Minnesota's Al Worthington leads American League with just 18 saves.
  • Luis Tiant leads American League in ERA (1.60).
  • Cleveland's Sam McDowell leads American League in Ks (283).

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