The 1959 season was one of excitement (an unexpected postseason play-off in the National League), surprise ( the New York Yankees didn't win the American League pennant), and individual achievement (the most perfectly-pitched game in major league history).
Dodger base runner Wally Moon dives back to first base just in time to beat the pitcher's throw to first baseman Ted Kluszewski in the second game of the 1959 World Series.
The American League race was pale in comparison with the September drive staged by three rivals in the National League. . In first place on September 1 by one game were the San Francisco Giants; the Los Angeles Dodgers were second; and Milwaukee was in third place, two-and-one-half games behind. As the month unfolded it became evident that the Dodgers. strengthened by additions to their pitching staff and at short-stop, would be stubborn. The Braves began a modest winning streak but the Giants were finding it difficult to get a complete game from their starting pitchers.
The Giants and Dodgers met one week before the close of the season and Los Angeles took over the league lead by sweeping the three-game series. Now it became a battle between the Dodgers and the Braves, and as the last series of the season started both teams were tied for top position. The Dodgers moved into Chicago on the final Friday of the season, where they beat the Cubs. Milwaukee, playing at home with the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, failed to match the Dodger success and Los Angeles was in first place with but two games to play. The following day the results were reversed and on Sunday both contenders won their games. Thus a best-ofthree play-off series was required to determine a pennant-winner.
In the Monday play-off game at Milwaukee, the Dodgers overcame an early deficit and won 4—3. In Los Angeles the following day the Dodgers, losing 5-2, knocked Lew Burdette out of the box in the ninth inning, scored three runs, and went on to win 6—5 in the 13th inning. So in their second year on the Pacific Coast, the Dodgers had brought baseball's first pennant west of the Mississippi.
New York Yankee manager Casey Stengel interviews reporters on May 22, 1959, the day his team fell to last place in the American League standings.
The individual achievement of the year was produced by a smallish left-handed pitcher, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the night of May 26 Haddix retired the first 36 Braves he faced. He had pitched 12 innings of "perfect" base-ball in which no Milwaukee batter reached base. It was the most magnificent pitching performance of all time, but Haddix' achievement was marred by the failure of his teammates to score in the same number of innings. In the 13th the first opening was presented to the Braves. A throwing error by third baseman Don Hoak put the first Milwaukee runner on base. Haddix retired the next batter but walked Hank Aaron. Joe Adcock then sent a long drive into the left-field bleachers for an apparent home run, and Haddix' hour of triumph was over. The final score, however, was ruled 1—o because Adcock, in circling the bases, passed Aaron. He thus was credited with a single but it was enough to defeat Haddix.
The National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers, in winning their first pennant on the Coast, became the first National League team to take the title after finishing in seventh place the previous season. Walter Alston, who well deserved the Manager-of-the-Year award he won, mixed his veterans and youngsters skillfully Don Drysdale carried the pitching burden during the first part of the season and there were occasional flashes of form by left-handers Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres. Two pitchers from the minor leagues, Roger Craig and Larry Sherry, neither of whom had winning records, were recalled. Craig pitched four shutouts as he won 11 games; Sherry was on the relief corps and went on to win seven of nine decisions, the best relief mark in the league.
Drysdale, who won 17 games, was also the league's strikeout leader with a total of 241. But the best single-game performance was produced by Koufax. On August 31, pitching against the Giants, the 23-year-old Brooklyn-born southpaw struck out IS batters. This was a new league standard, eclipsing the mark of 17 established in 1934 by St. Louis Cardinal's Dizzy Dean, and tying the one-game major-league record made by Cleve-land's Bob Feller in 1948 against Detroit.
The Dodgers presented the surest infield in the league: Gil Hodges at first base, Charlie Neal at second, rookie Maury Wills at shortstop, and veteran Junior Gilliam at third. The team led both leagues in fielding and also made the fewest :errors, a factor generally overlooked in explaining the Dodgers' success.
Offensively only outfielders Duke Snider and Wally Moon were able to hit over .300. Snider, although troubled by a :chronic knee injury, had a sparkling season, hitting 23 home runs, compiling a .308 average, and leading the team in runs Darted in. Moon, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade, hit .302 and was timely with his base hits. Hodges, who failed to produce the long ball in 1958, came back with a total of 25 home runs.
The Milwaukee Braves failed in their quest of a third straight pennant primarily because they were without the services of Al (Red) Schoendienst, one of the game's premier second basemen. Schoendienst was stricken with tuberculosis after the 1958 season. Upon his return September 1, he was of little help to the team, filling in infrequently in pinch-hitting and pinch-fielding roles. Johnny Logan, the Braves' shortstop, also was in and out of the lineup with injuries, and outfielders Wes Covington and Billy Bruton were subpar physically.
The Braves remained among the top echelon because of the fine hitting of Aaron and Eddie Mathews, and the clutch pitching of Burdette and Warren Spahn. Outfielder Aaron led the league in batting from start to finish, closing with a .355 aver-age. He also was the club's top run-producer with 123. Mathews was the league's best in home runs with 46; Burdette and Spahn each won 21 games, tying for the league lead with the Giants' Sam Jones.
Manager Fred Haney, who resigned after the season, was replaced by Charlie Dressen, a Dodger coach in 1959 and former manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The San Francisco Giants were the league's steadiest team until the next to the last week of the season, when they suffered a five-game losing streak, their longest of the year.
The Giant problems were of a fielding, not pitching, variety. Jim Davenport, a quality third baseman, was forced from the lineup by injury; Andre Rodgers, the regular shortstop for half the season, proved inadequate and had to be replaced by Eddie Bressout; and veteran second baseman Daryl Spencer committed errors on critical plays, forcing additional burdens on a thin mound staff.
Jones, obtained from the Cardinals in a trade, was the work-horse of the pitching staff. Starting and relieving, the husky Negro won 21 games. Johnny Antonelli, off to a brilliant start, slumped in the last five weeks of the season, finally winning 19 games.
Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, and Willie Mays were the leaders in the club's attack. McCovey, a Negro first base-man recalled from the minors in mid-August, was an immediate sensation. The free-swinging left-hander batted a league high of .356, but did not qualify as such due to an insufficent number of times at bat. He was voted Rookie of the Year in the National League. Cepeda, who was shifted from first base to third base and then to left field when McCovey took over, hit .317 and led the team in runs batted in with 104. Mays batted .313 and also captured the league's base-stealing title with 27.
The Pittsburgh Pirates surged in August to give the three league leaders a decided battle, but fell down badly on their last road trip and then dropped completely out of contention. Right-hander Vernon Law was the Pirates' most reliable starting pitcher, picking up 18 victories. However, the most phenomenal record was compiled by relief artist Elroy Face, who won 18 games in 19 decisions. Face, who never started a game, won 17 straight before taking his first loss. Dependable Bob Friend, a 22-game winner in 1958, slumped badly and lost 19 games, the highest total in the league, while winning only eight. Haddix, of "perfect-game" fame, ended with a 12—12 record.
No Pittsburgh batter reached a .300 average. Catcher Smoky Burgess' .298 led all the hitters, and first baseman Dick Stuart's 27 home runs and 79 runs batted in led the sluggers. Manager Dan Murtaugh had sufficient quality but little quantity. How-ever, the Pirates possessed excellent spirit and fine team play and were difficult to beat on the Forbes Field grounds.
The Chicago Cubs made early threatening gestures at establishing a foothold in the first division but there just wasn't enough pitching strength to move them higher than a fifth-place tie with the Cincinnati Reds. anager Bob Scheffing's team were contenders with Ernie
Banks, baseball's most prolific producer of runs, at the plate. The slender shortstop, who batted .304, drove home 143 runs and hit 45 home runs, losing the title in the latter department only because the Braves' Mathews hit his 46th in the second play-off game. Banks' RBI total was the highest in the league in 22 years. For the second straight season Banks was named the league's most valuable player.
The Cubs were difficult competition for the first division teams. They won their season series from the Giants and the Pirates, divided their 22 games with the Dodgers, and won 10 of 22 games from Milwaukee. A general team batting slump and inadequate catching bogged them down. Scheffing, who did an excellent job with his limited personnel, was released at the end of the season. He was replaced by Charley Grimm, who had managed the Cubs on three different occasions.
The Cincinnati Reds, on the strength of the most powerful batting lineup in the majors, tied the Cubs for fifth place. The Reds hit for an average of .274 and were aided by the lusty clouting of outfielder Vada Pinson, who batted .316 and hit 47 doubles, the most in the league; outfielder-third baseman Frank Robinson, whose batting average was .311, with 36 home runs and 125 runs batted in; and second baseman Johnny Temple, who also compiled a .311 average.
The Reds started slowly and bounced around in sixth or seventh place for about half the season. Manager Mayo Smith was released in mid-July and was replaced by Fred Hutchinson, who previously managed the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.
Don Newcombe, a star for many years with the Brooklyn ( now Los Angeles) Dodgers, was the team's most effective pitcher, winning 13 games. Late-season mound help was sup-plied by two rookies, Jim O'Toole and Jay Hook. Bob Purkey, expected to be the mound mainstay, won 13 games but lost 18.
The St. Louis Cardinals, with an unsteady pitching staff and a lineup which was rarely the same from day to day, had enough batting power barely to survive a fall to the league cellar.
Freshman manager Solly Hemus was unable to get consistent pitching from a staff which showed fine promise in the spring exhibition schedule, and the club floundered in the lower league standings throughout the year.
Larry Jackson was the club's most reliable starting pitcher over the last half of the season, acquiring 14 victories. There was also strong relief help from Lindy McDaniel who matched Jackson's victories.
Outfielder-first baseman Joe Cunningham, third baseman Ken Boyer, and Bill White, acquired from the Giants in a trade for pitcher Sam Jones, were the team's best hitters. Cunning-ham was the league's second-best hitter with a .345 average; Boyer hit .309 and led the team in home runs (28) and runs driven in (98) ; and White ended with a .302 average.
The year was a disappointing one for Stan Musial, one of the finest hitters in the history of the game. The 38-year-old veteran, playing his 18th season, hit only .255 and drove in 44 runs.
The Philadelphia Phillies were in last place almost from the start of the season. They were poorest in the league in hitting and fielding, and also hit the fewest home runs.
Manager Eddie Sawyer had a pitching staff which was hampered by inferior fielding and hitting. Huge Gene Conley, the tallest player in the majors at 6'-8", was the club leader until a broken bone in his wrist sidelined him early in August. He won 12 games and had an average of three earned runs per game. Jim Owens and Don Cardwell also turned in good performances, and veteran Robin Roberts came through with 15 victories.
Outfielder Richie Ashburn, who led the league in hitting in 1958 with .350, dropped to .266. Part-time performers Carl Sawatski and Dave Philley were the club's top hitters with .293 and .291 respectively. The leading hitter among the regulars was first baseman Ed Bouchee with .285.
The American League. The Chicago White Sox reverted to an ancient form of the sport to win their first pennant since 1919. Airtight pitching, fine speed, timely hitting, and clutch fielding by a brilliant second base-shortstop duo helped the White Sox outlast the Cleveland Indians in a race which was never really close after mid-August. Manager Al Lopez knew the respective strengths of his personnel and exploited them to their fullest. He permitted select players to steal bases on their own and was perfectly content to allow certain batters to put on the hit-and-run sign.
Consistency in the infield centered around second baseman Nelson Fox, voted the league's most valuable player, and short-stop Luis Aparicio, termed the "greatest fielding shortstop ever" by impartial observers. Fox led the team in hitting with .306, and Aparicio paced the majors in stolen bases with 56. But it was the sparkling fielding of these two that cut down many an enemy rally.
Centerfielder Jim Landis was acknowledged the surest 0ut-fielder in the circuit. His running catches and his speed on the bases contributed to the White Sox record of winning 35 games by a one-run margin.
Catcher Sherman Lollar was the only long-ball hitter, leading the team in home runs (22) and runs batted in (84). Billy Goodman and Bubba Phillips shared duties at third base, Earl Torgeson and late-arrival Ted Kluszewski played first base, and Al Smith, Jim McAnany, and Jim Rivera saw duty in the outfield.
There was much strength and depth in the pitching staff. Veteran Early Wynn paced the league in victories with 22, and Bob Shaw ended with 18. Gerry Staley and Turk Lown were outstanding as relief pitchers, appearing in a total of t2-games between them.
The Cleveland Indians kept the pressure on the White Sox for most of the season, failing only because the champions refused to fold under pressure.
Cleveland was the most offensive-minded club in the league and had, in outfielder Rocky Colavito, one of the top sluggers. Colavito tied for leadership in homers (42) and drove in 111 runs, only one short of the pacemaker. Colavito also became the eighth player in history to hit four home runs in one game. He smashed four straight at Baltimore on June 1o, and be-came the third player ever to accomplish this feat in successive times at bat.
Additional hitting power was supplied by outfielder-first baseman Tito Francona with a batting average of .363 (denied the batting championship because of a limited number of times at bat), outfielder Minnie Monoso (.302), and first baseman Vic Power (.290). Minoso chipped in with 21 home runs, and shortshop Woodie Held surprised with 29.
The pitching staff received little help from its ace left-hander, Herb Score. Regarded as a potential 20-game winner, Score could win only nine games. Cal McLish was the big winner with 19 victories, second in the league, and young Gary Bell helped with 16. Rookie Jim Perry won 12 times and was the team's star in earned runs allowed.
There was little affection between manager Joe Gordon and general manager Frank Lane. Lane was outspoken about some of Gordon's playing strategies and was quoted as saying that he was "considering three or four men" as the 196o manager. Gordon beat Lane to the punch by announcing his retirement with a week of the schedule still remaining. However, Gordon was finally rehired by Lane for 1960.
The New York Yankees, the preseason favorites to win the pennant, finished 15 games off the pace and had to struggle to stay above the .500 level. manager Casey Stengel used the same quick-change lineup formula which had brought him pennants in nine of his 10 previous seasons, but things didn't work out, as his ace pitchers topped winning ball games, his hitters failed at critical times, his fielders couldn't come up with the key play, and his pinch-hitters and pinch-pitchers were unable to deliver with any de-gee of consistency.
Pitchers Bob Turley and Whitey Ford, especially the former, were undependable. A 21-game winner in 1958, Turley slumped badly, closing with eight victories. Ford won a respectable 16 games but was troubled with an ailing elbow and shoulder and completed only nine games. Art Ditmar, who won 13 games and gave less than three runs per game, was the club's most effective moundsman.
The infield was rarely the same each day and a midseason injury to first baseman Bill Skowron damaged the attack and weakened the defense. Injuries to Tony Kubek and Gil Mc-Dougald and the failure of former Kansas City player Hector Lopez to play creditably at third base hampered progress.
Bobby Richardson was the team's only .300 hitter, finishing with a September spurt that gave him a .301 average. Mickey Mantle hit .285 and drove in only 75 runs, way below his normal figures. Catcher Yogi Berra, after a disastrous start, managed to get his average up to .284.
The Detroit Tigers, spearheaded by the league's two most proficient hitters, outfielder Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline, ended in fourth place due to problems at first base and short-stop, injuries to key performers during the season, and poor relief pitching.
Manager Bill Norman got the club off to a slow start and the Tigers lost 15 of their first 17 games. Pittsburgh coach Jimmy Dykes replaced Norman, and the Tigers began to spurt only to fall back during July when second baseman Frank Bolling, Kaline, Kuenn, and catcher Red Wilson were out of the lineup with injuries.
Kuenn hit .353 CO win the league title and Kaline was next with a .327 figure. Outfielder Charley Maxwell led the club in home runs (31) and runs driven in (95) .
The starting pitchers, Frank Lary, Jim Bunning, and left-hander Don Mossi, each won 17 games; Paul Foytack took 14. These four accounted for all but 11 of the Tiger victories. A stronger relief staff might have made Detroit a more serious pennant contender.
The Boston Red Sox fell out of the first division for the first time since 1952, finishing fifth after occupying the cellar for the first half of the season.
The once-powerful Red Sox were able to produce but one .300 hitter, first baseman-second baseman Pete Runnels, who hit .314, the league's third best mark. Additional hitting help was supplied by outfielder Jackie Jensen, who drove in the league high of 112 runs. Runnels, Jensen, third baseman Frank Malzone, and catcher Sammy White were the most steady per-formers on the Sox, who had to play most of the year with-out the full-time services of Ted Williams, who holds the highest lifetime average of all current players. Neck and shoulder injuries made Williams a part-time performer and he could hit only .254, his lowest total in a distinguished 18-year career.
The pitching was erratic and the biggest winner was rookie Jerry Casale with 13. Ike Delock, who won 10 games, was the most effective in earned runs allowed.
Manager Mike (Pinky) Higgins was released in midseason and was replaced by Billy Jurges, who had been a coach for the Washington Senators.
The Baltimore Orioles were an early surprise, staying in the first division through August, but a late-season batting slump proved costly and Manager Paul Richard's team finished sixth. Superb pitching by Hoyt Wilhelm, Jerry Walker, and Milt Pappas, all right-handers, made Baltimore difficult to beat, especially on its home field. Wilhelm led the league in earned runs with 2.19, becoming the first pitcher in history to lead both leagues in this department. Wilhelm and Pappas each won 15 games, and Walker and Hector (Skinny) Brown each won 11.
Gene Woodling, veteran outfielder, paced the club in batting with a .300 average and 77 runs batted in. Catcher Gus Triandos was the home-run leader with 25.
The Kansas City Athletics, on the wings of an 10 10 -game winning streak, were in third place on August 1 when both hitters and pitchers failed to continue their sizzling pace.
The Athletics had surprisingly strong hitting, finishing only a shade behind Cleveland in club batting. Outfielder Bill Tuttle was the only regular in the .300 class but Hal Smith, Bob Cerv, Harry Chiti, and Roger Maris hit consistently enough to give the Athletics a formidable attack.
Lack of fielding support and suitable relief pitching contributed to the Kansas City decline. Left-hander Bud Daley was the top pitcher with i6 victories and Ray Herbert contributed 11. Manager Harry Craft was released at the close of the sea-son, and was replaced by Bob Elliott, former minor league manager.
The Washington Senators also slumped badly in the last half of the campaign after setting a surprising pace the first part of the year. The team finished last in club batting and seventh in club fielding. They had four fine power hitters in Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jim Lemon, and Roy Sievers, but none was able to hit for a high average. Lemon was the club's best hitter with a .279 mark, and Killebrew led in home runs (42) , tying Cleveland's Colavito for the league high, and runs batted in (105). Lemon drove in _too runs, the fourth best mark in the league.
Manager Harry (Cookie) Lavagetto was blessed with one of he best pitchers in the league in Camilo Pascual, who won 17 games and led the circuit in complete games (17) and shut-outs (6). The next highest winner was Pedro Ramos with 13 victories, but he also lost 19 games, the most defeats in the league.
The World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, pennant winners in the National League, came up from a seventh-place finish in 1958 to qualify for the World Series. They faced the Chicago White Sox in the American League, who had been waiting for forty years to finish in first place ( they had finished second in 1958). The postseason play-offs in the National League postponed the series until October 10 and brought a tired Dodger team to Chicago for the opening game. The third game saw a bewildered White Sox team trying to adapt itself to the peculiar playing field in the unconventional Los Angeles Coliseum, which has a very short left field with a confusing screen to stop potential homers.
The first and last games were explosive and one-sided in score, but the four middle games were close contests, three being decided by one run and one with a two-run margin for the winner.
The outstanding players of the series were Larry Sherry, Dodger hurler, and big Ted Kluszewski, recently acquired first baseman for the White Sox. Sherry won two games for the Dodgers and saved the other two. Big Klu set a record for a six-game series of ten runs batted in. His bat broke the opening game wide open and he tied with Hodges of Los Angeles for the highest batting average in the series, .391. An odd statistic of the 1959 classic recorded that not a single starting pitcher was able to finish a game.
The Chicago team was favored to take the series before and after the opening game, but the odds fell rapidly after that. The Sox took the opener easily, lost the next three, took the fifth in a 1-0 squeaker, and lost the sixth. Final tally—4 games to 2 in favor of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If the box scores were undistinguished, the final statistics broke all attendance and receipts records. Because of the huge capacity of the Los Angeles Coliseum (over 92,000) the total attendance was 420,784 and the receipts amounted to $2,626,-973.44. This gave the winning players $11,231 apiece and the losing players $7,275, both record shares.
The first of two All-Star games played in 1959, the 26th since the start of this major-league classic in 1933, was held in Pittsburgh on July 7. It was rather loosely termed the Eastern All-Star game to distinguish it from its Western counterpart played on August 3 in Los Angeles. There was a superficial reason for having two All-Star games—to give the west coast fans an All-Star game, now that major-league baseball has moved to the West Coast. But the practical result was the enrichment of the pension fund of the players, who had voted for the idea earlier in the year. It looked like an established policy for the future.
The first game upset an early lead by Casey Stengel's American League stars and saw Fred Haney's National Leaguers score two runs in the eighth inning to win the game 5 to 4. Antonelli was the winning pitcher and Whitey Ford was credited with the defeat. The sports writers named Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the outstanding player of the game. Haney picked Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals to appear as a pinch-hitter, marking his sixteenth appearance in an All-Star game. Another all-time great, Ted Williams, was playing his fifteenth game for the American League All-Stars. Attendance was 35,277.
The second All-Star game, played in the huge Los Angeles Coliseum, gave the American League a chance to avenge the 1 defeat they suffered in the first encounter with the senior league. Yogi Berra, the Yankees' veteran catcher, slammed a two-run homer in the third inning from which the National League never seemed to recover. Jerry Walker, a rookie pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, was the winning pitcher for the American League, and Don Drysdale had to take credit for the defeat. The final score was 5 to 3 in favor of the American All-Stars. Attendance was over 90,000.
Hall of Fame.
The Old-Timers' Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., elected only one player to he Hall of Fame during the year. He was 7o-year-old former outfielder Zachary Davis Wheat who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was elected unanimously and was inducted at Cooperstown on July 20.