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.
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1972 Baseball Season Headlines
Bob Moose throws a wild pitch in the NLCS, while wild-haired Rollie Fingers saves game seven of the 1972 World Series. Here are some of the headlines of the 1972 baseball season:
Mickey Lolich On Top in 22
Despite losing several starts to the players' strike of 1972, ace lefty Mickey Lolich won 22 games for the Tigers, finishing second in the American League with a 2.50 ERA. Due to an unequal number of games played, the Tigers defeated the Red Sox by 1/2 game.
Tom Seaver: 21 Wins, 249 Ks
A 21-12 record with 249 strikeouts would constitute a career year for most pitchers. For Tom Seaver -- a pitcher who would eventually total 311 games -- it was a standard season. In addition to his 20-plus victories, the Mets star posted 262 innings, 77 walks, and a 2.92 ERA in 1972. Despite his excellent performance, he didn't lead the league in a single category.
Rollie Fingers was almost as well known for his
mustache as he was for his pitching.
See more baseball seasons pictures.
Rollie Fingers Preserves the Win
In 1972, his first full season as a reliever, Rollie Fingers won 11 games, saved another 21 contests, and cultivated his bushy handlebar mustache. In the seventh game of the 1972 World Series, he worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to save a 3-2 victory and the championship trophy for the A's.
Steve Carlton Leads Phils
The 1972 Phillies were victorious in just 59 games, 27 of those triumphs being credited to Steve Carlton. No pitcher before or since has ever won as high a percentage of his team's victories in a single season.
Jon Matlack Is 1972 National League Rookie of the Year
In 1972, lefty Jon Matlack became the second Met to capture Rookie of the Year honors, following Tom Seaver in 1967. The only Met who could better Matlack's record of 15 victories in 1972 was Seaver, who collected 21 triumphs that season. Matlack also tallied a 2.32 ERA and four shutouts.
Willie Stargell Keeps On Swinging
In 1972, Willie Stargell had another stellar season. He totaled 33 homers and 112 RBI. He had a less-than-spectacular National League Championship Series, however, batting a mere .063 as the Pirates dropped a heartbreaking five-game duel with the Reds.
Bob Moose Blows the NLCS
Pirate Bob Moose threw the most infamous pitch in the history of the National League Championship Series. With two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of game five, Moose bounced a pitch past catcher Manny Sanguillen. The wild toss allowed George Foster to score the run that clinched the pennant for the Reds. In two games in the playoffs, Moose retired just two men and recorded a 54.00 ERA.
George Foster Clinches NLCS
While playing a most uncharacteristic role as a pinch runner for Tony Perez, George Foster scored the fourth and deciding run of the 1972 National League Championship Series. Reds manager Sparky Anderson relished his second pennant in his third year as manager of the Cincinnati ballclub.
Rod Carew Wins American League Bat Title
With a swing that looked like the mechanical motion of a spring-wound toy, Panamanian Rod Carew became the first batting champion to win his crown without hitting a single home run in 1972. Along with his .318 average that season, he accumulated 21 doubles, six triples, 51 RBI, and 61 runs scored. His 1972 award was the first of four consecutive American League batting titles for Carew, who totaled seven circuit-topping hitting averages over his 19-year career.Check out the next page for more headlines from the 1972 baseball season.
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More 1972 Baseball Season Headlines
Roberto Clemente Is Killed
Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve in 1972, while on a mission to bring relief aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. It seems both eerie and appropriate that Clemente's final hit of the 1972 season was the 3,000th of his fabled career. Just 38 years old when he died, Clemente batted .312 in 1972 and had hit .290-plus in 14 consecutive seasons.
Bobby Murcer Nets 33 Dingers, 102 Runs
Yankee fans couldn't help but compare Bobby Murcer to Mickey Mantle, especially after Murcer's Gold Glove season of 1972. That year, the 26-year-old center fielder hit .292 with 33 home runs (second in the American League), 102 runs scored (first in the circuit), and 96 RBI (third in the loop); he also topped the league in total bases and putouts. His 1972 showing earned him his second All-Star Game appearance.
Billy Williams: 37 HRs, 122 RBI
Billy Williams never swung sweeter than in 1972, when he was named the Sporting News Major League Player of the Year. Williams batted .333 in 1972, nailing 37 home runs and knocking in 122 runs for the second-place Cubs. He finished second in 1972 National League MVP balloting.
Wilbur Wood Wins 24 Games
In his first six major league seasons, Wilbur Wood won just five games. After learning the intricacies of the knuckleball from teammate and future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, though, Wood forged a series of great seasons. The highlight year of his career was 1972. The lefty went 24-17 that season, tying for the American League lead in wins.
Rookie Dusty Baker Hits .321
Dusty Baker batted .321 in 1972, his first full season in the majors, placing third in the batting race. He also mustered 17 home runs and 76 RBI that season. Just a 27th-round draft choice by the Braves, Baker was described by Hank Aaron as having more potential than any outfielder he had seen.
A's Celebrate the Win
Charley Finley's Swingin' A's were caught in a trio of World Series mob scenes in the early 1970s. The ballclub's victory in 1972 marked the first franchise triumph for Oakland. The A's remain the only major league team to win three straight World Titles since the Yankee ballclub of 1949 to 1953.
Catfish Hunter Is 1972 Series Ace
Crafty veteran Catfish Hunter provided both leadership and pitching savvy for the 1972 World Champion A's, as he won a pair of games and compiled a sterling 2.81 ERA over the run of the 1972 World Series. Hunter sweated through a tense second game in the fall classic: He allowed just a single earned run in 8-2/3 innings as he was saved by a home run and a memorable catch, both courtesy of left fielder Joe Rudi.Reds Fizzle in Series
Neither Reds shortstop Darrel Chaney nor any of his teammates could stop the relentless march of the A's toward their first of three consecutive World Championships in 1972. Chaney posted a disastrous career record in postseason play, netting just three singles in 35 at-bats. He went 0-for-7 in the 1972 World Series. As for the rest of the staff, the Reds matched the A's in team batting average (.209) and hits (46) and beat them in runs scored, doubles, triples, RBI, and stolen bases -- and yet it was the A's who reigned victorious.You can find highlights from the 1972 baseball season on the next page.
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1972 Baseball Season Highlights
Fans may have wondered if the 1972 baseball season was over before it began -- the players' strike delayed the first game by two weeks. Although the strike was resolved, the season was shortened when it was decided not to make up the missed games. Find this and other highlights of the 1972 season below:
- A's end Orioles' reign in American League and capture first pennant since 1931.
- Reds win 1972 National League flag.
- Tigers take A's to five games in ALCS.
- Reds beat Pirates in five games, scoring game five's winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch by Bob Moose.
- A's take 1972 World Series in seven games.
- Oakland wins game seven of Series 3-2, as reliever Rollie Fingers stifles an eighth-inning uprising.
- Oakland's Gene Tenace hits .348 with four homers and nine RBI in 1972 Series.
- Reds' Tony Perez leads all Series players with ten hits and a .435 BA.
- Catfish Hunter wins two games for A's in the 1972 World Series, as does Ross Grimsley for Reds.
- For the first time in World Series history, no pitcher on either team has a complete game.
- Johnny Bench wins his second National League MVP.
- Chicago's Dick Allen is 1972 American League MVP.
- Carlton wins 15 straight games (and 27 overall) for the Phils.
- Carlton is responsible for 45.8 percent of his team's wins -- a post-1893 major league record.
- Carlton leads majors in wins (27) and CGs (30), and tops National League in Ks (310), innings pitched (346), and ERA (1.98).
- Cleveland's Gaylord Perry wins the 1972 American League Cy Young award after tying for loop lead in wins (24) and leading in complete games (29).
- First players' strike in major league history ends April 10; several games are not made up, and Boston loses to Tigers by 1/2 game.
- Roberto Clemente produces his 3,000th hit on September 30, then dies in a plane crash December 31.
- Billy Williams tops majors in BA (.333), SA (.606), and total bases (348).
- Johnny Bench leads majors in homers (40) and RBI (125).
- Fired by Twins after guiding team to two straight division titles, Billy Martin wins American League East for Tigers.
- National League wins All-Star Game 4-3 in Atlanta in ten innings -- the National League's seventh win in seven overtime games.
- On September 2, Cub Milt Pappas no-hits Padres; Pappas loses perfect game by walking the 27th man on a 3-2 pitch.
- Cub Burt Hooton no-hits Phils on April 16.
- Expo Bill Stoneman no-hits Mets on October 2.
- Boston's Carlton Fisk is a unanimous choice for 1972 American League Rookie of the Year.
- New York's Jon Matlack is 1972 National League Rookie of the Year.
- Detroit's Ed Brinkman sets new MLFA record of .990 for shortstops, including 72 straight errorless games.
- Washington franchise moved to Texas, renamed the "Rangers."
- Al Kaline's American League record streak of 242 consecutive errorless games in the outfield ends.
- Rod Carew wins American League bat title (.318), and is first bat crown winner to go homerless since Zach Wheat in 1918.
- SF's Jim Barr retires a major league record 41 batters in a row over two games.
- Allen leads American League in homers (37), RBI (113), runs produced (166), OBP (.422), and SA (.603).
Check out the next page for more highlights of the 1972 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
More 1972 Baseball Season Headlines
Check out more highlights of the 1972 baseball season, including the retirement of great Bill Mazeroski and the year's biggest trades.
- August 1, Padre Nate Colbert hits major league record-tying five homers in doubleheader and collects Major League record 13 RBI.
- California's Nolan Ryan tops American League in strikeouts (329) and sets all-time major league record by allowing only 5.26 hits per game.
Former president of the
American League Will
Harridge was elected
posthumously to the
Hall of Fame.
- The Hall of Fame inducts Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Early Wynn, Lefty Gomez, Will Harridge, Ross Youngs, Josh Gibson, and Buck Leonard.
- Milt Pappas becomes first pitcher to collect 200 career wins without ever having won 20 games in a season.
- Carlton Fisk becomes the only catcher to top the American League in triples, tying Oakland's Joe Rudi for the lead with nine.
- Fisk is second American League rookie catcher in three years to win a Gold Glove.
- Atlanta's Felix Millan wins second Gold Glove as National League second baseman.
- Jackie Robinson dies.
- Pie Traynor dies.
- Zach Wheat dies.
- Gabby Hartnett dies.
- Mets manager Gil Hodges dies of a heart attack.
- Freddy Parent, last survivor of the first World Series, dies at 96.
- Oakland uses major league-record 30 men in a 15-inning game against Chicago on September 19.
- Rangers score just 461 runs and collect only 424 RBI.
- Prior to the season, St. Louis ships Steve Carlton to Philadelphia for Rick Wise.
- Cleveland trades Graig Nettles and Gerry Moses to Yankees for four players.
- Yanks trade Danny Cater to Boston for Sparky Lyle.
- Reds swap young Hal McRae and Wayne Simpson to Kansas City for Roger Nelson and Richie Scheinblum.
- Angels send Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen to Dodgers for Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, and three other players.
- Giants send Willie Mays to Mets for Charlie Williams and $50,000.
- Montreal deals Rusty Staub to Mets for Ken Singleton, Tim Foli, and Mike Jorgensen.
- Yankee Bobby Murcer tops American League in runs (102) and total bases (314).
- Phils send Don Money and two other players to Milwaukee for Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, and two others.
- Tigers manager Martin was shown giving the world the finger on his 1972 baseball card.
- Bill Mazeroski retires holding the National League record for most games at second base (2,094).
- On July 14, Bill Haller umps behind the plate in a game which is caught by his brother -- Tom Haller of the Tigers.
- Cincinnati's Clay Carroll sets a new major league save record with 37.
- On October 3, Oriole Roric Harrison becomes the last American League pitcher to homer prior to interleague play.
- White Sox Wilbur Wood's 49 starts are the most in the majors since 1908.
- Tom Seaver receives $172,000 to become the highest-paid hurler in major league history to this juncture.
- Joe Morgan leads National League in runs (122), walks (115), and OBP(.419).
- Philly's Willie Montanez and Houston's Cesar Cedeno top majors in doubles with 39.
- Philly's Larry Bowa leads majors with 13 triples.
- Lou Brock leads National League in steals (63); Bert Campaneris tops American League (52).
- Joe Rudi leads American League in hits (181).
- Boston's Luis Tiant has best ERA in majors (1.91).
- Catfish Hunter wins 21 for the A's and ties Cincinnati's Gary Nolan for best win pct. in majors (.750).
- Sparky Lyle of New York leads American League with 35 saves.