1968 in baseball
The Year of the Pitcher
In Major League Baseball, the trend throughout the 1960s was of increased pitching dominance. After the record home run year by Roger Maris in 1961, the major leagues increased the size of the strike zone from the top of the batter's shoulders to the bottom of his knees. A significant "power shortage" culminated in 1968, with far fewer runs scored than in the early 1960s.
Pitchers including Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers dominated hitters, producing 339 shutouts in 1968, almost double the number of shutouts thrown in 1962. Individually, Gibson set a modern earned run average record of 1.12, the lowest in 54 years, and set a World Series record of 17 strikeouts in Game 1. McLain won 31 regular season games, the only player to reach the 30 win milestone since Dizzy Dean in 1934. Mickey Lolich won three complete games in the World Series, the last player as of 2015 to do so. Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians had the American League's lowest ERA at 1.60 and allowed a batting average of only .168, a major league record. Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw a record 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, and Catfish Hunter of the Oakland Athletics was the first American League pitcher to record a perfect game since Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series during the 1968 season.
Hitting was anemic as Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox would be the only American League hitter to finish the season with a batting average higher than .300. Yastrzemski's batting average of .301 was the lowest batting average of any league batting champion. The American League's collective slugging average of .340 remains the lowest since 1915 (when the game was still in the so-called dead-ball era), while the collective batting average of .231 is the all-time lowest. As a result of the dropping offensive statistics, Major League Baseball Rules Committee took steps to reduce the advantage held by pitchers by lowering the height of the pitchers mound from 15 inches to 10 inches, and by reducing the size of the strike zone for the 1969 season. 1969 batting averages climbed back to their historical averages and never again would pitching have as large a statistical average over batting in the major leagues.
1968 was the final year when baseball had no divisions within the two leagues, with the only post-season competition being the World Series itself. Four expansion teams would join baseball for the season following in 1969. This was also the first season that the Athletics franchise played in Oakland, California, after their departure from Kansas City, Missouri.
Major League Baseball
- World Series: Detroit Tigers over St. Louis Cardinals (4–3); Mickey Lolich, MVP
- All-Star Game, July 9 at the Astrodome: National League, 1–0; Willie Mays, MVP
- College World Series: USC
- Japan Series: Yomiuri Giants over Hankyu Braves (4–2)
- Little League World Series: Wakayama, Osaka, Japan
Awards and honors
- Most Valuable Player
- Cy Young Award
- Denny McLain, Detroit Tigers (AL)
- Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
- Rookie of the Year
MLB statistical leaders
|American League||National League|
|AVG||Carl Yastrzemski BOS||.301||Pete Rose CIN||.335|
|HR||Frank Howard WAS||44||Willie McCovey SF||36|
|RBI||Ken Harrelson BOS||109||Willie McCovey SF||105|
|Wins||Denny McLain DET||31||Juan Marichal SF||26|
|ERA||Luis Tiant CLE||1.60||Bob Gibson STL||1.12|
|Ks||Sam McDowell CLE||283||Bob Gibson STL||268|
|SB||Bert Campaneris OAK||62||Lou Brock STL||62|
Major league baseball final standings
American League final standings
National League final standings
- January 23 – Joe Medwick is voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
- January 28 – Goose Goslin and Kiki Cuyler are admitted into the Hall of Fame by unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee.
- February 6 – Voters in King County, Washington, approve by 62 percent a $40 million bond issue to build a domed, multipurpose stadium. The Kingdome, being built between 1972 and 1976, would operate from 1976 until its demolition in 2000.
- February 13 – The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers execute a four-player trade, with Tom Haller one of the two players going to Los Angeles and Ron Hunt one of the two going to San Francisco. The trade is the first between the two clubs since their move to the West Coast, and also the first since the one that would have sent Jackie Robinson from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants after the 1956 season, but he retired rather than report with his new team.
- April 9 – Opening Day is postponed because of the funeral for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated on April 4.
- April 14 – Jim Bunning's first win with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3–0 at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium, is his 40th career shutout and includes his 1,000th National League strikeout, making him the first pitcher since Cy Young with 1,000 in each league.
- April 15 – At the Astrodome, the Houston Astros defeat the New York Mets 1–0 in a 24-inning, 6-hour, 6-minute marathon. In the bottom of the 24th, Bob Aspromonte's bases-loaded ground ball goes through the legs of Met shortstop Al Weis for an error (the only one committed by the Mets all game) that plates Norm Miller for the winning run. To date, the game is the longest to end in a shutout in terms of both innings and duration.
- April 19 – Nolan Ryan of the New York Mets becomes the sixth pitcher in National League history to strike out the side on nine pitches. But Los Angeles wins 3–2 at New York's Shea Stadium.
- April 27 – Tom Phoebus, the Baltimore Orioles' top pitcher in 1967, throws a 6–0 no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Brooks Robinson drives in three runs and makes a great stab to rob Rico Petrocelli of a hit in the 8th inning. Converted outfielder Curt Blefary catches the game.
- May 6 – At Memorial Stadium, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dave Leonhard took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Detroit Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup broke it up with a single after two outs. He had to conform with a one-hit shutout, 4–0 victory over Detroit.
- May 8 – At Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, Catfish Hunter of the Oakland Athletics pitches a 4-0 perfect game over the Minnesota Twins. The perfect game is the first in an American League regular season game since Charlie Robertson's in 1922 and the first no-hitter in the franchise's Oakland history, which is in only its 25th game. (The franchise had never had a no-hitter in its Kansas City history, which was from 1955 to 1967. Its last no-hitter was by Bill McCahan on September 3, 1947; the franchise was then based in Philadelphia.) Hunter strikes out 11 batters, including Rich Reese for the final out. He also records three RBIs: with a seventh-inning bunt single that drives in Rick Monday to break a scoreless tie, and a single in the eighth to drive in Jim Pagliaroni, his catcher, and Monday.
- June 1 – St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Hoerner ties a National League record for relievers with 6 consecutive strikeouts vs. the New York Mets.
- June 3 – The New York Yankees turn a triple play in the eighth inning of a 4–3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
- June 8 – Against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium, Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers breaks Walter Johnson's 1913 streak of 56 consecutive scoreless innings. A fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Howie Bedell scores Tony Taylor for the run that ends the streak at 58 2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings. This new record will stand until Orel Hershiser breaks it in 1988 with 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
- July 1 – As a part of the season that will see him post a 1.12 ERA, Bob Gibson's streak of 47 and two-thirds inning of scoreless pitching is broken.
- July 3 – Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians strikes out 19 in a ten inning, 1–0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
- July 9 – At the Houston Astrodome, in the first All-Star Game ever to be played in an indoor arena and on artificial turf, the National League defeats the American League 1–0. Appropriately, pitching dominates the game. Willie Mays, playing in place of injured Pete Rose, tallies an unearned run in the first inning against American League starter Luis Tiant. Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Ron Reed and Jerry Koosman hold the AL to three hits, as Mays is named MVP.
- July 11 – The Baltimore Orioles promote first base coach Earl Weaver to manager, replacing Hank Bauer.
- July 14:
- July 24 – Hoyt Wilhelm appears in his 907th game as a pitcher, breaking Cy Young's long standing all-time record.
- July 30 – Washington Senators' shortstop Ron Hansen, playing in Cleveland, completes the eighth unassisted triple play in history, and the first since 1927. Cleveland wins, 10–1.
- September 14 – Denny McLain becomes the first 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934 as the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics, 5–4, at Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Reggie Jackson's home run in the 4th puts the A's ahead 2–0, but Norm Cash answers with a three-run shot. Jackson hits another in the 6th, but the Tigers push across two in the 9th to win. Al Kaline, pinch hitting for McLain, walks and scores the tying run. McLain, who posted a 31–6 record in the regular season, gives up six hits and strikes out 10.
- September 15 – The St. Louis Cardinals clinch the National League pennant with a 7–4 win at the Astrodome over the host Houston Astros. Roger Maris hits his 275th, and last, regular-season home run off Don Wilson in the 3rd inning, and Curt Flood racks up five hits.
- September 17 – Gaylord Perry of the San Francisco Giants hurls a no-hitter at Candlestick Park as the Giants edge the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson, 1–0. Ron Hunt's first-inning home run (the second of the only two he will hit on the season and one of only 11 Gibson will allow in 304 2⁄3 innings) backs Perry, who evens his record at 14–14.
- September 18 – Sixteen hours after Perry's feat, Ray Washburn of the St. Louis Cardinals makes major league history by hurling a second consecutive no-hitter in the same park. Run-scoring hits by Mike Shannon and Curt Flood at Candlestick down the Giants, 2–0. This is the first time in history back-to-back no hitters have been pitched between the same two teams on two consecutive days.
- September 22 – Minnesota Twins utility player César Tovar plays all nine positions, an inning each, against the Oakland Athletics. Duplicating the feat that Bert Campaneris performed three years earlier, Tovar tops Campy by starting as pitcher and allows no hits or runs, for a 0.00 earned run average. In the inning, the first man to face Tovar was Campaneris, who fouls out. Tovar then strikes out slugger Reggie Jackson. Tovar is charged with a walk and a balk in the scoreless inning; his other contributions to the 2-1 Minnesota win include a single, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. He makes five putouts and an assist, with no fielding errors.
- September 28 – Mickey Mantle plays in his 2,401st and final game, eight days after hitting his last home run ending his career with 536.
- September 29
- Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox goes 0-for-5 but maintains a .3005 batting average, to win his second straight American League batting crown with the lowest winning average ever. Yastrzemski is the league's only .300 hitter. Danny Cater of the Oakland Athletics ends second with a .290 average.
- At Shea Stadium, Dick Allen hits three home runs in the Philadelphia Phillies' 10-3 victory over the New York Mets. He becomes the second player, after Gus Zernial of the Chicago White Sox in 1950, to hit three home runs in his team's regular-season finale. Evan Longoria will join them by hitting three home runs in the Tampa Bay Rays' 2012 regular-season finale.
- October 2 – For the first time in history, two soon-to-be-named MVPs oppose each other in Game One of the 1968 World Series. St. Louis Cardinals' Bob Gibson is nearly untouchable with a Series-record 17 strikeouts and a 4–0 win over Denny McLain and the Detroit Tigers. Detroit manager Mayo Smith moves Gold Glove outfielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop, improving his offense by opening a spot for Al Kaline.
- October 10 – In Game Seven of the World Series, Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers, pitching on two days rest, wins his third game of the Series as he beats Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals, 4–1. Lolich brings Detroit its first World Championship since 1945. Lolich hurls a five-hitter, and is named Series MVP. Key moments came in the 6th inning when Lolich picks Lou Brock and Curt Flood off first base to keep the score 0–0. With the game scoreless in the 7th, the Tigers have two on and two out when Jim Northrup hits a line drive to center field. Gold-glover Flood misjudges the ball and starts in, allowing the ball to sail over his head for a triple. Northrup then scores on Bill Freehan's double for a 3–0 lead. Each team adds a 9th inning run to account for the 4–1 final score. It is the first time the Cardinals have ever lost a 7th game of a World Series. The Tigers become only the 3rd team to rally from a 3–1 deficit to win the Series 4 games to 3 (the 1925 Pirates and 1958 Yankees are the first two). The Tigers become the last team to win the championship between two first-place teams from leagues without division play where the pennant is automatically awarded to the team with the best won-lost record in its league.
- October 21 – After two seasons with the Boston Red Sox, All-Star catcher Elston Howard announces his retirement.
- November 19 – New York Yankees pitcher Stan Bahnsen, who posted a 17–12 record with 162 strikeouts and a 2.05 ERA, is named American League Rookie of the Year. Bahnsen easily outdistances outfielder Del Unser of the Washington Senators.
- November 22 – Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench edges out New York Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Bench becomes the third member of the Reds in six years to be named the top rookie.
- January 8 – Brian Johnson
- January 21 – Keith Shepherd
- January 27 – Eric Wedge
- January 29 – Kevin Roberson
- February 1 – Kent Mercker
- February 2 – Scott Erickson
- February 5 – Roberto Alomar
- February 10 – Ryan Bowen
- February 10 – Eddie Zosky
- February 11 – Dave Swartzbaugh
- February 13 – Matt Mieske
- February 22 – Kazuhiro Sasaki
- February 26 – J. T. Snow
- February 27 – Matt Stairs
- March 3 – Scott Radinsky
- March 4 – Giovanni Carrara
- March 7 – Jeff Kent
- March 8 – Jim Dougherty
- March 15 – Kim Batiste
- March 22 – Ramón Martínez
- March 26 – Shane Reynolds
- March 26 – José Vizcaíno
- March 29 – Juan Bell
- April 1 – Masumi Kuwata
- April 2 – Curt Leskanic
- April 3 – Mike Lansing
- April 4 – Jim Dedrick
- April 19 – Brent Mayne
- April 24 – Todd Jones
- May 2 – Paul Emmel
- May 4 – Eddie Pérez
- May 12 – Mark Clark
- May 18 – Clemente Álvarez
- May 19 – Alan Zinter
- May 21 – Steve Pegues
- May 14 – Mark Dalesandro
- May 24 – Jerry Dipoto
- May 27 – Jeff Bagwell
- May 27 – Frank Thomas
- June 8 – Dave Mlicki
- June 12 – Scott Aldred
- July 7 – Chuck Knoblauch
- July 14 – Derrick May
- July 18 – Rolando Arrojo
- July 24 – Rob Lukachyk
- July 27 – Tom Goodwin
- August 1 – Brian Bohanon
- August 1 – Shigetoshi Hasegawa
- August 2 – Dae-Sung Koo
- August 3 – Rod Beck
- August 5 – John Olerud
- August 7- Stan Spencer
- August 12 – Reggie Harris
- August 21 – Karl Rhodes
- August 24 – Tim Salmon
- August 31 – Hideo Nomo
- September 4 – Mike Piazza
- September 6 – Pat Meares
- September 13 – Denny Neagle
- September 13 – Bernie Williams
- September 14 – Doug Eddings
- September 25 – Reggie Jefferson
- October 2 – Greg Gibson
- October 3 – Jim Byrd
- October 5 – Ron Kulpa
- October 7 – Milt Cuyler
- October 7 – Butch Henry
- October 14 – Zak Shinall
- October 20 – Rudy Seánez
- October 31 – Eddie Taubensee
- November 3 – Paul Quantrill
- November 4 – Carlos Baerga
- November 4 – Osvaldo Fernández
- November 6 – Chad Curtis
- November 7 – Russ Springer
- November 12 – Randy Knorr
- November 12 – Sammy Sosa
- November 13 – Pat Hentgen
- November 14 – Kent Bottenfield
- November 16 – Chris Haney
- November 18 – Clay Bellinger
- November 18 – José Offerman
- November 18 – Gary Sheffield
- November 18 – Darrell Whitmore
- November 19 – Luis Raven
- November 24 – Dave Hansen
- November 25 – Shingo Takatsu
- November 28 – Scott Sheldon
- December 2 – Darryl Kile
- December 8 – Mike Mussina
- December 11 – Derek Bell
- December 17 – Curtis Pride
- December 19 – James Mouton
- December 22 – David Nied
- December 22 – Jim Reynolds
- December 23 – Rick White
- December 27 – Dean Palmer
- January 26 – Eddie Phillips, 66, catcher for the Boston Braves, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Indians between 1924 and 1935
- February 7 – Ollie Marquardt, 65, second baseman for the 1931 Boston Red Sox; later a successfully minor league manager
- February 26 – Rip Collins, 72, a four-sport star at Texas A&M University, who pitched in the American League for the New Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns from 1920 to 1931, and also was a member of the 1921 AL champion Yankees team
- February 29 – Lena Blackburne, 81, infielder, manager and coach in almost a 30-year baseball career, who also originated the idea of rubing mud on new baseballs to remove their slippery finish
- March 30 – Bernie Hungling, 72, catcher for the Brooklyn Robins and St. Louis Browns between 1922 and 1930
- April 19 – Tommy Bridges, 61, 6-time All-Star pitcher who won 194 games for the Detroit Tigers, including three 20-win seasons and a 4–1 World Series record
- April 26 – John Kroner, 57, second baseman for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the 1930s
- April 29 – Terris McDuffie, 57, Negro League pitcher in a long career that spanned from 1930 through 1954, playing for several teams in different leagues across the United States, Canada and Latin America
- May 26 – Doc Ayers, 78, spitball pitcher for the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers
- June 11 – Dan Boone, 73, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians from 1920 through 1923
- June 11 – Bill Regan, 69, second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, who became the first player in the team's history to hit two home runs in the same inning (1928), a mark only matched by Ellis Burks 62 years later
- June 15 – Sam Crawford, 88, Hall of Fame right fielder for the Tigers, a lifetime .309 hitter who hit a record 312 triples, led both leagues in home runs, and retired with the 5th-most RBI in history
- July 3 – Pat Simmons, 59, pitcher who played from 1928 to 1929 for the Boston Red Sox
- July 8 – Dusty Boggess, 64, NL umpire for 18 seasons from 1944 to 1962 who worked in four World Series
- July 27 – Babe Adams, 86, pitcher who won 194 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates; the only member of their championship teams in both 1909 and 1925, he won three games in the 1909 World Series
- August 22 – Heinie Groh, 78, third baseman for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds who led the NL in hits, runs and walks once each and in doubles twice, widely known for his "bottle bat"
- August 24 – Dolly Stark, 70, NL umpire for 12 seasons (1928–1935, 1937–1940) who worked in 2 World Series, later became broadcaster.
- August 29 – Paul Howard, 84, outfielder for the 1909 Boston Red Sox
- September 3 – Tony DeFate, 68, Infielder for both the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers in 1917.
- September 14 – Hans Lobert, 86, third baseman for five National League clubs from 1903 to 1917, and later a coach, manager and scout between 1920 and 1944
- September 25 – Ken Holloway, 71, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees between 1922 and 1930
- September 26 – Bud Clancy, 68, first baseman who played from 1924 through 1934 for the Chicago White Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies
- October 21 – Jack Killilay, 81, pitcher for the 1911 Boston Red Sox
- November 3 – Vern Stephens, 48, 8-time All-Star shortstop who led the AL in RBI three times and in home runs once
- November 5 – Wally Mattick, 81, center fielder for the Chicago White Sox from 1912 to 1913, briefly with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1918
- November 17 – Earl Hamilton, 77, pitcher with the St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates, later a minor league team owner
- December 4 – Emil Yde, 68, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers
- December 6 – Fats Jenkins, 70, All-Star left fielder of the Negro Leagues
- December 8 – Benn Karr, 75, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the 1920s
- December 17 – Hank Severeid, 77, catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators and New York Yankees between 1911 and 1926, hitting .289 in 1,390 games
- December 24 – Johnnie Heving, 72, a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics between 1920 and 1932
- "1968: Year of the Pitcher". thisgreatgame.com. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- Rushin, Steve (July 19, 1993). "The Season Of High Heat". Sports Illustrated: 1. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "Expanded strike zone unveiled". The Press-Courier. Associated Press. March 8, 1963. p. 9. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "Denny McLain becomes a 30-game winner". history.com. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "McLain Says Lower Mound Will Take Toll of Pitchers". The Telegraph-Herald. Associated Press. January 14, 1969. p. 13. Retrieved December 25, 2011.