The 1972 baseball season found its heroes in unlikely venues. Only Johnny Bench, the catcher for the National League Champion Cincinnati Reds, played for a division-winning team; his league-leading 40 homers and 125 RBI snared the 1972 Most Valuable Player title. Phillies' Steve Carlton (27-10, league-leading 1.98 ERA, 310 Ks) took the 1972 Cy Young Award. Even with the league's Rookie of the Year, pitcher Jon Matlack (15-10, 2.32 ERA), the Mets could only take third. Billy Williams of the second-place Cubs was the batting champ at .333.
In the American League, Dick Allen celebrated his first year in Chicago with 37 homers and 113 RBI, both league-leading totals, earning MVP honors. Cleveland's Gaylord Perry finished 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA, good enough for the 1972 Cy Young Award. Boston's Luis Tiant won the ERA crown with a 1.91 mark. Rod Carew of the 77-77 Twins won his second batting title with a .318 average. Rookie of the Year Carlton Fisk (.293 average, 22 homers, 61 RBI) caught for the Red Sox, who could not catch the Tigers, losing the East Division by 1/2 game.
That difference was the result of a players' strike that canceled the season's first two weeks.
Those missing games came back to haunt the teams vying for the American League East title, as Detroit's 86-70 mark bested Boston's 85-70 record by virtue of having played -- and won -- one extra game.
In off-the-field news, the Rangers came to Arlington, Texas, from Washington, D.C., in the off-season. Pittsburgh's Roberto Clemente, who had his 3,000th hit near the final day of the regular season, was killed in a plane crash on December 31. And Curt Flood lost his suit against baseball after the Supreme Court upheld the game's reserve clause, which binds a player to the team that owns his contract.
The playoffs hosted several improbable comebacks in both leagues. In the National League, the Reds and Pirates split the first two games; Pittsburgh then came from behind to win game three. The Reds took game four on a two-hitter by Ross Grimsley. Trailing 3-2 going into the ninth inning of the final game, the Reds tied it on Bench's leadoff homer off Dave Giusti, with singles by Tony Perez and Denis Menke. The loser of game two, reliever Bob Moose threw a wild pitch to allow the series-winning run to score.
Oakland came back in the 11th inning of game one of the ALCS to beat Mickey Lolich 3-2. A Jim Northrup single won the fourth game 4-3 for the Tigers. Oakland's Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue combined for the tournament-clinching 2-1 win in game five.
In a year of unlikely heroes, Oakland's Gene Tenace was the most timely. A part-time catcher and utility man with 20 career homers over four years, Tenace opened the 1972 World Series by slugging two round-trippers, the first man ever to homer in both of his first two Series at-bats. The A's won it 3-2, then took game two 2-1.
The Reds came alive in Oakland, winning game three 1-0 behind Jack Billingham and Clay Carroll. After dropping game four on Oakland's two-run, ninth-inning rally, Cincinnati came back to withstand Tenace's fourth home run of the 1972 World Series -- a three-run shot -- and win game five 5-4. The Reds took apart the A's 8-1 in the sixth game.
1972 World Series MVP Tenace drove in two runs in the 3-2 Oakland victory, the first World Championship for the A's since 1930, when they hailed from Philadelphia.Continue to the next page to read highlights and summaries of the year's major stories.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1971 Baseball Season
- 1973 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth