In the first year of divisional play, Billy Martin led the Twins to a title, then was fired. Martin's lineup boasted batting champion Rod Carew, who had a .332 average, and 1969 Most Valuable Player Harmon Killebrew, who had a .276 average, league-leading 49 round-trippers, and 140 RBI. Although the four expansion teams lost a total of 411 games, Lou Piniella of the Kansas City Royals won 1969 Rookie of the Year for his .282 average, 11 homers, and 68 RBI. The Cy Young Award was shared by Baltimore's Mike Cuellar (23-11, 2.38 ERA) and Detroit's Denny McLain (24-9, 2.80 ERA).
Rod Carew tied the
Major League record in
1969 for stealing home.
San Francisco's Willie McCovey (.320 average, league-leading 45 homers, 126 RBI) earned 1969 National League Most Valuable Player honors. Atlanta seized the West Division crown with Hank Aaron (.300 average, 44 home runs, 97 RBI). Los Angeles second baseman Ted Sizemore was the senior circuit's top rookie.
Tom Seaver led the Mets to their first-ever title and took Cy Young honors with a 25-7 record and a 2.21 ERA. San Francisco's Juan Marichal won the ERA title at 2.10. With the assistance of Lee May (.278 average, 38 homers, 110 RBI), Tony Perez (.294 average, 37 homers, 122 RBI), Bobby Tolan (.305 average, 21 homers, 93 RBI), and Johnny Bench (.293 average, 26 homers, 90 RBI), the Reds finished in third, 4 games out -- despite the hitting of Pete Rose, who had a league-topping .348 average.
The Mets won their division, coming from both a ninth-place finish in 1968 and 9-1/2 games back. The Chicago Cubs, flagless since 1945, helped the Mets by dropping ten of 11 games in early September. The Mets won 38 of their last 49 games, taking the division by 8 contests -- thanks to stout pitching, extraordinary fan support (major league-leading attendance of 2,175,373), and a lineup in which only Cleon Jones (.340 average, 12 homers, 75 RBI) and Tommie Agee (.271 average, 26 homers, 76 RBI) garnered 400 official at-bats.
The Orioles included Boog Powell (.304 average, 37 homers, 121 RBI), Frank Robinson (.308 average, 32 homers, 100 RBI), and Paul Blair (.285 average, 26 homers, 76 RBI). Although Washington had the ERA champ in Dick Bosnian, Baltimore was anchored by Mike Cuellar (23-11, 2.38 ERA), Dave McNally (20-7,3.21 ERA), and Jim Palmer (16-4, 2.34 ERA), who tied a league record, winning 15 consecutive games. The O's, winners of 109 games, had the league's best defense and pitching (2.83 team ERA).
The Mets crushed the Atlanta Braves in three straight in the first divisional playoffs, scoring 27 runs and allowing 15; the Orioles, victors in the ALCS over Minnesota in three, scored 16 runs and allowed five.
The Mets stunned Baltimore by taking four straight after Seaver lost the World Series opener 4-1. Jerry Koosman won twice with an ERA of 2.04; meanwhile, Agee made two spectacular catches in game three to save five runs and Ron Swoboda made a diving catch to help Seaver to his first World Series victory in game four, 2-1 in ten.
New York won game five 5-3 and, in the process, completed one of the greatest upsets in sports history.The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1969 baseball season.
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1969 Baseball Season Headlines
During the 1969 baseball season, Willie Stargell hit the first home run out of Dodger Stadium and the Seattle Pilots suffered through their first and only major league season. Here are some of the headlines for the 1969 baseball season:
Tom Seaver Nearly Perfect
On July 10, 1969, with one out in the ninth, Tom Seaver of the Mets lost a bid for a perfect game when Chicago pinch hitter Jim Qualls cracked a double. Despite the defeat, the Cubs ended the day still in first place by a comfortable margin. They would eventually blow a 9-1/2-game lead and lose the title to Seaver's Mets.
Tony Perez: 122 RBI, 131 Ks
In his ten seasons as a regular with the Reds, Tony Perez averaged over 100 RBI a year. If he had a fault, it was that he struck out too often. But although he fanned 1,867 times, the fourth-highest career total in history, he was never a league-leader in whiffs. In 1969, he had 122 RBI and 131 Ks.
Curt Flood Trade Ends in Court
Only age 31 in 1969 and still in his prime, Curt Flood chose to quit the game rather than be traded against his will. His act of protest and the legal repercussions that ensued resulted in the most serious threat to baseball's reserve clause since its origin in the late 1870s.
Willie Stargell Nails One in Los Angeles
Willie Stargell was the first player to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium, nailing the dinger on August 5, 1969. When Stargell played every day, he hit a ton. As a pinch hitter, though, he was abysmal -- at least until the tag end of his career. In his first 16 seasons, he hit just .146 in pinch roles; in his last four seasons, however, he hit .339, lifting his overall pinch average to .206.
Rod Carew's .332 Best Since 1961
With the exception of the 1961 expansion season, Rod Carew's .332 average in 1969 was the American League's highest mark that decade. As it turned out, 1969 was also an expansion year. The only American League players between 1960 and 1973 to hit .330 in a non-expansion season were Tony Oliva and Bobby Murcer, both in 1971.
Dave McNally One of Four Aces
With 20 victories for the Orioles in 1969, Dave McNally came in third in the American League in win percentage (.741). Baltimore's four top starters -- McNally, Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, and Tom Phoebus -- had a combined 73-29 mark as the club won 109 games that season, an expansion-era record in the American League.
Don Mincher Leads Pilots
Don Mincher led the Seattle Pilots in both home runs (25) and RBI (78) in 1969, the team's only year of existence. As awful as the expansion club was, it still won two more games than the Indians, who finished last for only the second time in their history.You can find additional headlines from the 1969 baseball season on the next page.
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More 1969 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1969 baseball season, including Ted Williams' rookie season as a manager, and the Mets stormy path to World Series victory.
Jerry Koos Wins 17
At the close of the 1969 season, rival clubs coveted Mets southpaw Jerry Koosman even more than they did Tom Seaver, his right-handed counterpart. That year, Koosman went 17-9. His stats for his first two full seasons included 13 shutouts and a combined 2.18 ERA. In the remaining 16 years of his career, he collected just 20 additional shutouts.
Ted Williams Takes Nats to 86 Wins
Rookie manager Ted Williams piloted the expansion Senators to 86 wins in 1969, easily the club's highest number of triumphs while in the nation's capital. Williams not only seemed able to teach hitting, he turned around a pitching staff that had been the worst in the majors the previous year.Mets Outfield Fuels Club
The Mets regular outfield in 1969 included Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Ron Swoboda. Jones spearheaded the club in hitting, posting a .340 average, 164 hits, and 92 runs scored. Agee led the team in homers with 26 and RBI with 76. Swoboda, for his part, topped the crew in unrealized talent. Swoboda, who hit .235 in 1969, platooned with Art Shamsky, who hit .300. In the 1969 World Series that fall, however, Swoboda rapped .400 and Shamsky hit .000. Jones and Agee also had abysmal World Series showings. Jones hit .158 and Agee batted .167.
Denny McLain Wins 24
Just age 25 in 1969, Denny McLain already had 114 career victories to his credit, winning 108 games over a five-year period. In 1969, he won 24 games, tops in the American League. If any active pitcher seemed a lock to win 200 games by the time he was 30 years old, it was McLain. Three years later he was gone, his total number of career victories frozen at 131.
Frank Robinson and Mates Can't Hit Mets
Frank Robinson hit .333 for Baltimore in the 1969 American League Championship Series and just .188 against the Mets in the 1969 World Series. As a team, the Orioles had a meager .146 batting average off New York pitching in the fall classic that year. Four Baltimore regulars -- Brooks Robinson, Dave Johnson, Don Buford, and Paul Blair -- hit a combined .080.
Willie Davis Hits .311, a Rarity in Los Angeles
Willie Davis topped the Dodgers with a .311 batting average in 1969 to become the club's first .300 hitter since 1963. Los Angeles was the National League team with the weakest punch during the late 1960s. In 1968, catcher Tom Haller spearheaded the Dodgers with 53 RBI and substitute outfielder Len Gabrielson was the lone Dodger to hit as many as ten home runs.
Phil Niekro Wins 23 at 30
Phil Niekro had accumulated 31 career victories going into the 1969 season. That year, at age 30, he collected a personal-best 23 wins. Niekro posted 20 or more triumphs on just two additional occasions -- the year he turned 35 and the year he turned 40. He finished his 24-year career with a total of 318 wins.Check out the next page for more highlights from the 1969 baseball season.
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1969 Baseball Season Highlights
Arguably the most memorable event of the 1969 baseball season was the Mets incredible World Series win. But the year also saw a number of other firsts -- it was Bowie Kuhn's first year as the new commissioner and the first year that both leagues had 12 teams. You can find highlights of the 1969 baseball season below:
- American League and National League both expand to 12 teams and divide into two divisions, with division winners to play best-of-five playoffs.
- Mets become second major league team in three years to win flag after finishing as low as ninth the preceding year.
- Orioles take American League flag.
- Braves win National League West title, bow to Mets in three straight games in first NLCS.
- Twins win first American League West title, are swept by Orioles in first ALCS.
- Mets beat heavily favored Orioles in 1969 World Series in five games to top off miracle season.
- Donn Clendenon raps three homers and hits .357 to lead Mets in the 1969 World Series.
- Jerry Koosman wins two World Series games for Mets.
- Bowie Kuhn named new commissioner, replacing Spike Eckert.
- To add more offense, rules are made to reduce the height of the pitcher's mound and the size of the strike zone.
- The National League's batting average jumps seven points and the American League's jumps 16 points.
- Harmon Killebrew leads majors with 49 homers and 140 RBI and is American League MVP.
- Willie McCovey named National League MVP after leading league in homers (45), RBI (126), SA (.656), and OBP (.458).
- The Mets' Tom Seaver tops majors with 25 wins.
- Seaver wins 1969 National League Cy Young Award.
- Detroit's Denny McLain leads American League with nine shutouts and 24 wins to repeat as American League Cy Young winner.
- Minnesota's Rod Carew steals home seven times to tie Pete Reiser's major league season record.
- Orioles' 109 wins tie 1961 Yanks for most wins in 162-game season.
- National League wins 1969 All-Star Game 9-3 at Washington.
- Dave McNally sets Orioles franchise record by winning 15 games in a row.
- Ted Williams is hired as Washington manager; the team finishes over .500 for the first time in its nine-year history.
- The Curt Flood case begins vs. OB after Flood is traded to Phils by Cards and refuses to report to new team.
- Twins manager Billy Martin beats up one of his own pitchers, Dave Boswell.
- On August 5, Pirate Willie Stargell becomes first to hit a homer out of Dodger Stadium.
Willie Stargell steps into
baseball history by hitting
the first home run
out of Dodger Stadium.
- LA's Willie Davis hits in 31 consecutive games.
- Houston hurlers fan major league record 1,221 hitters.
- Wayne Granger of Reds is first pitcher to appear in 90 games.
- Bobby Bonds of Giants fans major league record 187 times.
- McCovey receives major league record 45 intentional walks.
- McCovey's .656 SA sets record for National League first basemen.
- Boston's Rico Petrocelli sets American League shortstop record with 40 homers.
- Bob Moose of Pittsburgh no-hits Mets on Sept. 20.
- Ken Holtzman of Cubs no-hits Atlanta on August 19.
- Jim Palmer of Baltimore no-hits Oakland on August 13; this comes in the midst of his 15 consecutive wins.
- Bill Stoneman of Montreal no-hits Phils on April 17.
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More 1969 Baseball Season Highlights
In 1969, Hoyt Wilhelm cemented his place in baseball history as the first major league pitcher to achieve 200 career saves. Find more highlights of the 1969 baseball season below:
- Cincinnati's Jim Maloney no-hits Houston on April 30; the next day, Houston's Don Wilson no-hits Cincinnati.
- April 14, in the first major league game played outside the United States, Montreal beats the Cards 8-7.
- Pete Rose wins second consecutive National League bat crown (.348).
- Rod Carew takes his first American League bat crown (.332).
- For the first time since 1914, Cleveland finishes last in American League, trailing the Seattle Pilots and KC Royals, two expansion teams.
- Cleveland's Sam McDowell leads major league with 279 Ks.
- Hoyt Wilhelm becomes first pitcher in major league history to achieve 200 career saves.
- "Bleacher Bums" make their official debut in Wrigley Field; Cubs earn highest finish since 1945.
- Pete Rose breaks up the Curt Flood-Roberto Clemente-Willie Mays National League Gold Glove monopoly as he replaces Mays as an outfield Gold Glover.
- Baltimore's Davy Johnson takes first of three consecutive Gold Gloves as American League second baseman.
- Carl Yastrzemski wins fifth Gold Glove as an American League outfielder.
- The Royals' Lou Piniella is 1969 American League Rookie of the Year.
- LA's Ted Sizemore named 1969 National League Rookie of the Year.
- Astros trade Rusty Staub to Montreal Expos for four players and $100,000.
- Cleveland sends Luis Tiant and Stan Williams to Twins for Graig Nettles, Dean Chance, and two other players.
- Yanks trade Joe Pepitone to Astros for Curt Blefary.
- Cards trade Orlando Cepeda to Braves for Joe Torre.
- Mets trade Amos Otis and Bob Johnson to Royals for Joe Foy.
- Juan Marichal tops major league with 2.10 ERA.
- Mickey Mantle announces his retirement prior to the 1969 season.
- On September 10, Royals use an major league record 27 men in a nine-inning game.
- Houston's Jim Wynn ties National League record, receiving 148 walks.
- Washington's Dick Bosman has best ERA in American League (2.19).
- Boston's Rico Petrocelli sets American League record when he hits 40 homers as a shortstop.
- Washington's Del Unser tops American League with eight triples, fewest ever by a loop leader.
- Jim Northrup of Detroit goes 6-for-6 in a 13-inning game on August 28.
- Royals' Bob Oliver goes 6-for-6 on May 4.
- Steve Carlton of the Cards fans 19 Mets on September 15, but loses 4-3.
- On September 12, Mets Koosman and Don Cardwell both shut out the Pirates 1-0, and each gets a game-winning RBI.
- On July 9, Cubs Jim Quails singles with one out in the ninth to break up a perfect game bid by Tom Seaver.
- Seattle Pilots, defunct after only one year of existence, at least win their first game in franchise history -- 7-0 over Chicago.
- Pittsburgh's Matty Alou tops majors in hits (231) and doubles (41).
- Oakland's Reggie Jackson tops American League with 123 runs and a .608 SA.
- Tony Oliva leads American League in hits (197) and doubles (39).
- Seattle's Tommy Harper tops major league with 73 steals.
- Lou Brock leads National League with 53 thefts.
- Clemente tops major league in triples (12); second in National League in batting (.345).
- Rose and Bonds tie for National League lead in runs with 120.
- Bob Gibson leads the majors in CGs with 28.
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