The 1975 baseball season was the year of the catfish. In the early 1960s, Charles O. Finley of the A's signed a teenage country boy named Jim "Catfish" Hunter. Although Hunter's first five big league seasons were far from spectacular (he went 55-64), the ace turned in blockbuster years from 1970-1974, going 106-49.
But after his Cy Young season in 1974, Hunter and Finley engaged in a bitter contract dispute. As a result, Hunter became a free agent, and on New Year's Eve 1974, Catfish celebrated the signing of a five-year, $3.75-million deal with the Yankees. Thus began the era of big-money free agency.
The 1975 A's managed to win the American League West without Hunter. Vida Blue stepped in as the staff's ace, going 22-11. Ken Holtzman went 18-14, and reliever extraordinaire Rollie Fingers notched ten wins and 24 saves. Oakland's Reggie Jackson led the league with 36 homers, and a 20-year-old Athletic named Claudell Washington hit .308 with 40 stolen bases.
Baltimore -- the unanimous preseason pick in the American League East -- won 90 games, but Boston surprised everyone by finishing 4½ games in front of the Orioles. Rookies Fred Lynn (.331 average, 21 homers, 105 RBI) and Jim Rice (.309 average, 22 homers, 102 RBI) sparked the Sox, as Lynn became the first player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards in the same season. The Sox also featured established hitters like Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk, as well as pitchers Rick Wise (19 wins), Luis Tiant (18), and Bill Lee (17).
Elsewhere in the American League, Minnesota's Rod Carew won his fourth consecutive batting title with a .359 average. Hank Aaron, Milwaukee's designated hitter, blasted 12 home runs, upping his total to 745, and Angel Nolan Ryan pitched no-hitter No. 4.
Twenty eight years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, Frank Robinson became the first black manager in major league history. The 39-year-old skipper led Cleveland to a fourth-place finish, and also played in 49 games, belting nine home runs.
Two power-hitting lefties carried Pittsburgh to the National League East title. Thirty-five-year-old Willie "Pops" Stargell hit .295 with 90 RBI, and 24-year-old Dave Parker batted .308 with 101 RBI.
Cincinnati's Big Red Machine (108-54) ran away with the West, boasting an All-Star lineup that included league MVP Joe Morgan (.327 average, 94 RBI), Johnny Bench (110 RBI), Pete Rose (210 hits, 47 doubles), Tony Perez (109 RBI), Ken Griffey (.305), Dave Concepcion (.274), and George Foster (.300, 23 homers). The Reds led the National League by huge margins in runs (840), stolen bases (168), saves (50), and fielding average (.984).
The Reds and the Sox swept their respective League Championship Series, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic World Series in baseball history. Cincinnati crawled out to a three-games-to-two lead, which included three one-run games. But the real fun didn't start until the sixth game in Boston.
The two teams battled into the 12th inning of game six, when Fisk, the Sox leadoff hitter, blasted a long fly ball to left. The ball had home run distance and stayed fair, giving Fisk a home run and Boston a 7-6 come-from-behind victory.
Game seven was almost as intense. Boston jumped to a 3-0 lead, the Reds tied it in the seventh, and Morgan won it in the ninth with a run-scoring single. Many feel the 1975 Series helped spark baseball's popularity, which soared in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.
Check out headlines and summaries from the major stories of the 1975 baseball season on the next page.
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1975 Baseball Season Headlines
The biggest headline of the 1975 baseball season was, of course, Catfish Hunter opening the door to free agency. Below, you will find some of the other headlines of the 1975 baseball season:
Carlton Fisk Makes World Series History
At 12:33 a.m. on October 22, 1975, Carlton Fisk hit one of the most celebrated home runs in World Series history. Fisk smacked Pat Darcy's first offering off the left-field foul pole of Fenway Park in the 12th inning, breaking the stalemate to give the Red Sox victory over the Reds. The contest is cited by some as being the greatest game in World Series history.
Catfish Hunter on the Prowl
No free agent made more money or more of an impact than Catfish Hunter in 1975. Signed for $3.75 million, Hunter proceeded to turn New York on its ear: He won 23 games (tied for tops in the majors), notched a league-leading 30 complete games, earned the 1975 American Leagues Cy Young Award, and brought a winning attitude to the Bronx Bombers clubhouse.
Jim Rice Powers Red Sox
Joining Fred Lynn as the other half of Boston's rookie duo was Jim Rice. A tremendous power hitter, Rice socked 22 four-baggers and knocked in 102 runs while batting .309 in 144 games in 1975. A broken wrist, injured by a pitch from Vern Ruhle of the Tigers, cut what would have been his first full season in the majors short. Rice got back on the fast track quickly, hitting 25 home runs in 1976 and 39 in 1977. Of the two young stars, Rice would have the greatest career, clubbing nearly 400 homers. Lynn, though, would play more years than Rice.
Fans Appeal to Twins Execs
Ever the managerial nomad, Billy Martin won supporters in every city in which he stepped behind the helm, including at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, where fans let their sentiments for Martin be known. Martin skippered the Twins in 1969, taking them all the way to first place in the American League West. After two-year stints in Detroit and Texas, Martin made tracks to New York, as the Yankees finished in third place in the American League East in 1975. Martin took four Manager of the Year Awards during his career.
Harmon Killebrew Hangs It Up
Signed as a free agent by Kansas City in January 1975, Harmon Killebrew finished his career in less-than-spectacular fashion as a designated hitter/first baseman for the Royals; he batted .199 with 14 homers and 44 RBI in 1975. What was spectacular, however, was that he retired with no sacrifice bunts and no bunt hits in 8,147 at-bats.
"Little" George Brett Grows Up
Although George Brett was known as the kid brother of pitcher Ken Brett for several seasons, it didn't take the younger Brett long to establish himself in his own right. He batted for a respectable .308 average in 1975, posting 195 hits (tops in the American League) and 13 triples (tied for first in the loop) in his second full season.
Thurman Munson: .318, 102 Runs
Gruff, taciturn, and competitive, Thurman Munson was the heart and soul of the World Champion New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978. During the decade of the 1970s, Munson and Carlton Fisk were considered the top two catchers in the American League. Munson knew how to handle the bat as well, hitting .318 while driving in 102 runs in 1975.
Tom Seaver Takes National League Cy Young
Tom Seaver claimed the last of his three Cy Young Awards in 1975, as he reigned victorious in a National League-leading 22 games. The ace righty fashioned a 2.38 ERA (third in the loop) while striking out 243 batters (tops in the circuit) that year. Never again would Tom Terrific win as many games in a season.
Davey Lopes Lifts 77 Bases
One of the masters of thievery, Davey Lopes stole a total of 77 bases in 1975, best in the National League. Additionally, he racked up 38 consecutive steals without being caught to set a then-major league record. The scrappy Lopes retired after 1987 with 557 swipes, 19th on the all-time list. He was generally viewed as one of the most underrated players in the senior circuit.
Find more headlines from the 1975 baseball season on the next page.
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More 1975 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1975 baseball season, including the first black manager and standout individual performances:
Frank Robinson Named Manager of Cleveland Indians
Frank Robinson Named Manager of Cleveland Indians
Not since Jackie Robinson crossed the color line in 1947 had such a progressive move been made in baseball as when Frank Robinson became player/manager of the Indians -- the sport's first black manager. On Opening Day, Robinson thrilled a crowd of 56,715 by hitting a home run off Yankee Doc Medich to lead the Tribe to a 5-3 victory. On the last day of the season, Robinson and the Indians left the fans somewhat discontented as they finished in fourth place in the East Division (15-1/2 games out).
Ted Simmons Has His Best Year
Ted Simmons was one of the game's greatest offensive catchers. He had extraordinary switch-hitting power, whacking home runs from both sides of the plate in a game on three separate occasions. His greatest season was in 1975, when he batted .332 (second in the National League).
Bobby Bonds Is a 30/30 Man
Bobby Bonds was one of the most talented and traveled outfielders in the game. Traded to the Yankees prior to the 1975 season, Bonds played one year with New York. He reached the 30/30 plateau with 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He played under the California sunshine in 1976, his home run total dropping to ten and his swipes holding at 30.
Ron Cey Lets Bat Do Talking
Christened the "Penguin" due to his stocky stature and jerky running style, Ron Cey put in ten years at third base for the Dodgers. During that decade, he clubbed 228 homers and played in six All-Star Games. In 1975, Cey hit .283 with 25 home runs and 101 RBI. Oddly, in his 16-year National League career, Cey never played a position other than third base.
Johnny Bench Saves Face in 1975 World Series
The 1975 World Series was not, to say the least, Johnny Bench's finest hour. The legendary catcher batted a meager .207 in seven games. Bench did, however, flirt with a moment of greatness, as he drilled a home run to help his team to a 6-5 victory in game three. During the 1975 season, Bench drove in 110 runs and stole 11 bases. The following season would be a reversal for Bench. He would have his worst season of the decade, but would hit .533 in the Series.
Joe Morgan Brings 1975 Series to an End
The 5' 7", 150-pound Joe Morgan brought the seven-game 1975 World Series to an end with the single stroke of a bat. Little Joe lined the game-winning hit off reliever Jim Burton to score Ken Griffey with the clinching run of the fall classic. Morgan enjoyed the first of two consecutive MVP seasons as well as two straight World Titles for the Big Red Machine in 1975. During the 1975 season, Morgan walked 132 times, stole 67 bases, hit 17 homers, and drove in 94 runs.
Pete Rose Hits His Peak
The 1975 season was the zenith of a 24-year career for Pete Rose. Prolific and sassy, Rose put up typical Charlie Hustle numbers to top the National League in runs scored (112), doubles (47), and dirty uniforms that year. Rose racked up 210 hits, just three shy of the circuit-high. The 1975 season marked Rose's move to third base, which turned out to be the third of four defensive positions he would play in his career.
Luis Tiant Wins One for Tiant in World Series
One of the most moving moments of the 1975 season came to pass just prior to the opening game of the 1975 World Series, as Luis Tiant was reunited with his father, Luis Sr., who made the trip from Cuba to Fenway Park in Boston. The younger Tiant responded to the presence of his father by hurling a five-hit shutout that day.
Carlton Fisk Dynamic in Series
Carlton Fisk was a prime example of the adage that most baseball heroes hail from small-town America. Fisk put his hometown of Charlestown, New Hampshire, on the map even before the final out of the 1975 World Series. Known for his supreme catching skill, Fisk proved his offensive worth by batting a pair of crucial home runs in the fall classic that season.
Check out additional highlights from the 1975 baseball season on the next page.
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1975 Baseball Season Highlights
The 1975 baseball season had plenty of spectacular plays, but it may be remembered as the season that Catfish Hunter ushered in the era of free agency -- and big money -- for players, with his signing of a then-astronomical $3.75-million deal with the Yankees. Below, you can read more highlights of the 1975 season:
- Red Sox end Oakland's reign as American League champs.
- Reds win National League flag.
- Boston sweeps Oakland in American League Championship Series, outscoring the A's 18-7.
- Reds sweep Pirates in National League Championship Series, saddling Pittsburgh with four League Championship Series losses in six years.
- Reds pull out 1975 World Series in seven games after trailing 3-0 in sixth inning of finale.
- Pete Rose leads all Series players with ten hits and scores Series' winning run on bloop single by Joe Morgan.
- Carlton Fisk's dramatic 12th-inning homer wins game six of 1975 World Series for Boston.
- Luis Tiant wins two CGs for Boston; Rawly Eastwick wins two for Reds.
- Boston's Fred Lynn becomes only player in Major League history to be named Rookie of the Year and MVP in same season.
- Lynn drives in 105 runs, while rookie teammate Jim Rice knocks in 102.
- Morgan wins National League MVP.
- Jim Palmer wins his second American League Cy Young, as he leads loop in ERA (2.09) and ties for lead in wins (23).
- Chicago's Bill Madlock takes National League bat crown (.354).
- In historic decision, arbitrator Peter Seitz grants pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith free agency.
- Frank Robinson named manager of Cleveland -- first black manager in Major League history.
- Nolan Ryan throws his fourth no-hitter on June 1 vs. Baltimore.
- Catfish Hunter becomes last major league pitcher to toss 30 CGs.
- National League wins 1975 All-Star Game 6-3 at Milwaukee.
- San Francisco's John Montefusco wins 1975 National League Rookie of the Year in close vote over Montreal's Gary Carter.
- Davey Lopes of LA sets new major league record when he steals 38 consecutive bases without being caught.
- Pirates beat Cubs 22-0 on September 16.
- In September 16 game, Rennie Stennett of Pirates becomes first player of the 20th century to go 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game.
- Ed Halicki of SF no-hits Mets on August 24.
- Four A's pitchers combine to no-hit California on Sept. 28.
- Bob Watson of Astros scores the millionth run in major league history.
- Harmon Killebrew retires with 8,147 at-bats, no sacrifice bunts, and no bunt hits.
- Dave Cash of Phils sets new major league record when he has 699 at-bats.
- Rose leads National League in runs (112) and doubles (47).
- Mike Schmidt leads majors with 38 homers.
- Brewer George Scott leads the American League in RBI (109) and total bases (318), and ties Reggie Jackson for lead in home runs (36).
- Lynn tops American League in runs (103), runs produced (187), and SA (.566).
- Lynn's 47 doubles lead American League and set loop rookie record.
- Billy Martin is fired as Texas manager, hired by Yankees to replace Bill Virdon.
- Reds set an National League record for 162-game season with 108 wins.
- Brooks Robinson tops American League third basemen in FA a record 11th time.
Continue to the next page for more highlights of the 1975 baseball season.
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More 1975 Baseball Season Highlights
Below are more highlights of the 1975 baseball season, including the year's big trades and Hall of Fame inductees:
- Casey Stengel dies.
- Lefty Grove dies.
- Ducky Medwick dies.
- Astros pitcher Don Wilson commits suicide prior to season.
- Tigers lose 19 games in a row.
- Dodgers trade Geoff Zahn and Eddie Solomon to Cubs for Burt Hooton.
- Cleveland swaps Gaylord Perry to Texas for three pitchers and $100,000.
- Phils send Willie Montanez to SF for Garry Maddox.
- Tigers trade Mickey Lolich and Bobby Baldwin to Mets for Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton.
- Yanks send Bobby Bonds to Angels for Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa.
- Yanks trade Doc Medich to Pittsburgh for Willie Randolph, Ken Brett, and Dock Ellis.
- On July 21, Joe Torre of the Mets grounds into four double plays, each time following a single by Felix Millan, who's promptly erased.
- On August 21, Cubs Rick and Paul Reuschel become only brothers in Major League history to pitch a combined shutout.
- Lopes sets a National League record for second basemen with 77 steals.
- Schmidt's 180 Ks set new major league record for third basemen.
- Cardinal Ted Simmons sets new major league record for catchers with 193 hits.
- Cardinal Mike Garman sets new major league record when he issues 23 intentional walks.
- Madlock goes 6-for-6 in ten innings on July 26.
- Brewer Mike Hegan's record streak of 178 consecutive errorless games at first base ends.
- World Series winner's share is below $20,000 for the last time.
- An estimated record 75 million fans watch the seventh 1975 World Series game on television.
- Willie McCovey ties major league record by hitting his third pinch grandslam.
- Mike Vail of the Mets ties the National League rookie record by hitting safely in 23 straight games.
- Danny Goodwin becomes the first man to be chosen No. 1 twice in the free agent draft of amateur players.
- Hunter ties for American League lead in wins (23) and leads in innings (328).
- Mike Torrez wins 20 for Baltimore, tops American League in win pct. (.690).
- Frank Tanana of California tops American League in Ks (269), breaking teammate Ryan's skein.
- White Sox Goose Gossage leads major league with 26 saves; Al Hrabosky and Rawly Eastwick lead National League with 22.
- San Diego's Randy Jones leads National League in ERA (2.24).
- Messersmith tops National League in CGs with 19 and shutouts with seven.
- Tom Seaver leads National League in Ks (243).
- Morgan tops National League in walks (132), OBP (.471), and runs produced (184).
- Atlanta's Ralph Garr again leads National League in triples (11).
- Rivers and KC's George Brett tie for major league lead in triples with 13.
- Brett leads American League with 195 hits, three more than runner-up Rod Carew.
- Cash leads major league with 213 hits.
- Philly's Greg Luzinski tops major league with 120 RBI and 322 total bases.
- KC's John Mayberry again leads American League in walks (119), is second in RBI (106), and third in homers (34).
- Tigers lose 100 games for the first time since 1952.
- Boston's 796 runs are 108 more than anyone else's in the American League East.
- Cincinnati's 840 runs lead the National League East by 176.
- Reds lead the National League in saves (50) and FA (.984).
- LA's 2.92 ERA tops the majors.