Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When Baseball Officially Changed

TRIVIA QUESTION:  When baseball was credited with it's beginnings it was based on which team's activities as a traveling or barnstorming club?  

Boston's Bill Monbouquette was the last pitcher to face Satchel Paige in Paige's illustrious career. In the second inning with two out and a man on first Monbo would strike out Paige to end the inning. It would be Paige's last at bat in the big leagues although the A's pitcher did go on to pitch a perfect third inning to end his career.

In 1903 the first official World Series was played when the Boston Americans bounced the Pittsburgh Pirates 5 games to 3. Baseball had officially entered the new world after it's beginnings in 1885 as official baseball to most historians. Post season games before this were considered "exhibition games" and not official championship series. The game's origins are actually traced back to 1869 so the 1969 season was the official 100th anniversary of the game.

When Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees and then in 1920 set the world on fire with 54 home runs, baseball turned another corner. Baseball was rescued from the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. This might also be considered the end of the dead ball era.

Baseball thrived through the decades, with a quick time out for the war years, but it prospered until the end of the 1960's. In 1969 baseball, the game we all love, would change forever. Divisional Play would begin and the lines would be blurred as to which team was the best in each league forever - the best team to go onto the World Series.

Baseball expanded in 1969 by adding two teams to each league giving them 12 each. It was easy, after adding San Diego, Montreal, Kansas City (with the A's moving to Oakland) and Seattle (which only played there for one year) to divide the leagues into two, six team divisions. The winners would square off to see who would represent their league in the Series. 

It was also the first time a team was stationed outside the US as Montreal was ushered in. Along with this came another first; an expansion team won the World Series. The New York Mets took the Baltimore Orioles to task to really claim the title "The Amazin' Mets."

The AL was divided strictly on geographical lines while the NL got pressure from the big boys in Chicago and New York. They wanted old competitors and more lucrative schedules to stay so the Cubs and the Mets would be in the same division. The Reds (in Ohio) and the Braves (in Georgia) were placed in the West (with Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco).

Rule changes were huge too. In 1968 batters hit a new low as pitching dominated (Carl Yastrzmeski won the AL batting title at .301). Bob Gibson's ERA was 1.12, while Don Drysdale pitched nearly 59 consecutive scoreless innings. So in their infinite wisdom the owners changed the strike zone to make it smaller and lowered the pitching mound by five inches. Less downhill velocity should add more flat pitches and more offense (aka Home Runs) to excite the fans. That was the thinking.

It worked. In 1968 the 10 NL teams hit 891 home runs, while in 1969 the 12 NL teams belted 1470 homers. If you subtract the 224 home runs hit by the two expansion teams you still get 1246 home runs or an increase of 355 dingers.

In the AL there were 1104 homers hit in 1968. The following year they hit 1649. Subtract the 223 hit by the expansion clubs, you still get 1426 for an increase of 322. The numbers for each league were so close you have to be impressed with the owners decision. There were other factors such as the weakening of the pitching talent by adding two clubs to each league but the numbers did show an increase and this is what they were looking for.

It was also the year the "SAVE" became an official relief pitching statistic although it's definition has changed much over the years since then.  

A spring training boycott led to delays and the battle over the collective bargaining agreement. It ended in late February with the players winning major concessions. 

And while you may not remember any logo's before 1969, it was the year baseball got its official logo created by Jerry Dior to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the game (officially founded in 1869). 

For fans of the era, it was the end of baseball as we knew it. Baby Boomers and Old Timers would blast baseball's hierarchy for the changes,  but nonetheless, the game survived and even thrived. It would still be a few years before Free Agency (the next big change) would take place but for fans of the 60's, the end of the decade was the end of what we all loved. 

Many fans did leave the game, replaced by new fans, fans who finally got the chance to see their team never again fall into 10th place. Divisions did bring new hope to the lower level clubs and especially those fans who were among the 2000 faithful to show up each night to watch a club continue to lose and be mired in the "second division."
Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!!

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment