David Voigt’s History of Baseball, Part 10

1969 WS Program

1969 WS Program

This is the tenth installment of David Voigt’s history, as fine a brief telling of the tale as I know. This series commenced at: http://goo.gl/E4adJX.

Campaigns of the ’70s: AL, 1969-1980

Upstaged by the NL in the first two expansion moves, the AL was forced to take drastic measures to gain parity with the NL in attendance and offensive performances. To this end such measures as new park construction and franchise shifts contributed, but most decisive were two bold unilateral moves whereby the AL adopted the designated hitter rule in 1973 and undertook its mini-expansion in 1977. By these strokes the AL ensured its perennial domination, both at bat and at the turnstiles.

But if AL leaders expected the new divisional format of the 1969 expansion move to produce competitive balance, they were disillusioned.

Indeed, throughout this era pennant monopoly was the rule in both AL divisions. Over the twelve campaigns of 1969-1980, the Orioles and Yankees dominated the Eastern Division, while the Athletics and Royals ruled the West. By winning six Eastern Division races and finishing second four times, the Orioles now reigned as the winningest team in the majors. For their part, the reviving Yankees won four Eastern races, which left but two for outsiders to divide. In the AL West, it was much the same story. There the Oakland Athletics won five races, the Kansas City Royals won four, and the Minnesota Twins won two, leaving only one for an outsider to claim.

In the first expansion season of 1969, the Baltimore Orioles asserted their balanced power, which made them the most victorious major league team of this era. Under sophomore manager Earl Weaver, the Orioles stormed the Eastern Division, their 109 victories lapping the runner-up Tigers by 19 games. It was the first of three consecutive Eastern titles for the Birds, with top-ranked pitching the key to each success.

In 1969 the Oriole staff was the league’s best, with Mike Cuellar (23-11) and Dave McNally (20-7) setting the pace. At bat the Orioles were powered by first baseman Boog Powell (.304-37-121) and outfielder Frank Robinson (.308-32-100). In the West, meanwhile, the Twins were winning the first of two consecutive titles. Victors by 9 games over the Athletics that year, the Twins led the league in batting and relief pitching. Offensive standouts included Rod Carew, whose .332 hitting topped the league, and Harmon Killebrew, whose league-leading 49 homers and 140 RBI won the veteran slugger the MVP Award. But when the divisional titlists squared off in the first American League Championship Series, the Orioles brushed the Twins aside in three games. The sweep gave the Orioles a fourteen-game winning streak to take to the World Series. But after winning the opening game against the New York Mets, the Orioles surprisingly lost the next four.

Rod Carew

Rod Carew

In 1970 the crestfallen Orioles came back nearly as strong and downed the Yankees by 15 games to repeat as Eastern champs. Once again manager Earl Weaver’s pitching corps was the league’s best. Starters Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally each won 24 and Jim Palmer won 20. At the plate the Orioles batted .257, with outfielder Merv Rettenmund’s .322 leading the team batting, and Powell (35-114) and Frank Robinson (25-78) supplying the power. In the West, the Twins also repeated, again topping the Athletics by 9 games and again leading the league in hitting and relief pitching. This time the team batted .262, but Killebrew (41-113) again powered the club. An injury to Carew limited his play, but even so the infielder batted .366.

Taking up the slack this year were outfielders Tony Oliva (.325-23-107) and Cesar Tovar, who hit .300. However, when the Twins met the Orioles in LCS play, they were again swept. And this time the Orioles went on to score an avenging victory in World Series play. In crushing the Reds in five games, the Orioles blasted fifty hits; the star Oriole performer was future Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who batted .429 and dazzled the Reds with his brilliant fielding at third base.

It was a glorious victory for the Orioles, but astonishingly this well-armed team would not win another world title in this era. In 1971 the Orioles captured a third straight Eastern title by thrashing the Tigers by 12 games. It was a vintage season for Baltimore, which could boast league-leading hitting and pitching, including a quartet of 20-game winning pitchers in Cuellar, McNally, Palmer, and Pat Dobson.

Offensively, outfielder Rettenmund (.318) fronted the team’s .261 batting attack, and Powell, Frank Robinson, and Brooks Robinson powered the assault with a combined 70 homers and 283 RBI. In the West, the fading Twins now yielded to the surging Oakland Athletics, who notched the first of five consecutive Western titles in 1971. In matching the Orioles’ victory total of 101 games, the Athletics crushed the expansion Kansas City Royals by 16 games. For the A’s, rookie pitcher Vida Blue won 24 games with a league-leading 1.82 ERA, and Jim “Catfish” Hunter won 21. Hunter’s nickname was hung on the hurler by the team’s flamboyant owner, Charley Finley, who also tried unsuccessfully to get Blue to change his first name to “True.” Offensively, the A’s lacked a .300 hitter, but third baseman Sal Bando (24-94) and outfielder Reggie Jackson (32-80) provided power aplenty. But when the Athletics met the Orioles in LCS play, they were swept by the Orioles. It was the third consecutive LCS sweep by the Orioles. However, the Orioles lost a seven-game World Series struggle to the Pittsburgh Pirates, led by MVP Roberto Clemente.

Bert Campaneris, 1965

Bert Campaneris, 1965

In the wake of that loss, the Orioles fell from the top, and the balance of power now shifted to the West, where the volatile Athletics won the first of three consecutive AL championships. In the strike-shortened season of 1972, the A’s won the Western title by 5.5 games over the Chicago White Sox. Left fielder Joe Rudi batted .305, and first baseman Mike Epstein and outfielder Reggie Jackson combined for 51 homers as the A’s rolled up 93 wins to head the AL. Moreover, the pitching staff was the league’s best; Hunter and Ken Holtzman combined for 40 victories, and reliever Rollie Fingers won 11 and saved 21 games. In the East the strike-shortened schedule enabled the Tigers to eke a half-game victory over the runner-up Red Sox by dint of playing and winning one more game than the Bostonians. Manager Billy Martin’s Tigers batted a mere .237, with no .300 hitter among the regulars, but lefty Mickey Lolich’s 22 wins fronted the league’s second-best pitching corps. In LCS play the weak-hitting Tigers held out for five games before succumbing to the A’s, who went on to defeat the Reds in a seven-game World Series struggle. With slugger Jackson sidelined by an injury, unheralded catcher Gene Tenace took up the offensive slack. Tenace batted .348 and won three World Series games with timely hits.

Over the next two seasons, the Athletics continued their winning ways, twice downing the Orioles in LCS play and twice defeating NL contenders in World Series action. In 1973 the garishly clad A’s defeated the Royals by 6 games in the West. Jackson’s league-leading 32 homers and 117 RBI powered the team, which also got superb pitching from Hunter (21-5), Holtzman (21-13), Blue (20-9), and reliever Fingers, who saved 22 games with a 1.92 ERA. That year the Orioles returned to the top in the East by downing the Red Sox by 8 games. In this first season under the designated hitter rule, the Orioles were paced by DH Tommy Davis, who batted .306 and drove in 89 runs. Palmer headed the pitching staff, which was the league’s best, with a 22-9 mark;

Cuellar won 18; and McNally and young Doyle Alexander combined for 29 wins. In the aftermath the Orioles battled the A’s in a tense LCS matchup which went the full five games before Hunter’s shutout pitching decided the issue. Then, in World Series action against the New York Mets, the Athletics rallied from a 3-2 deficit to land a second world title. Home runs by Reggie Jackson and Bert Campaneris settled the issue in Game Seven.

In 1974 the Athletics won a third consecutive World Series banner, a feat thus far unmatched under the major leagues’ divisional format. In winning the Western race by 5 games over the Texas Rangers, the light-hitting (.247) A’s were backed by the best pitching corps in the majors. Hunter’s league-leading 25 wins and 2.49 ERA led the staff, who also got 19 wins from Holtzman, 17 wins from Blue, and 18 saves from the redoubtable Fingers. Although lacking a .300 hitter, the team was powered by Bando (22-103), Jackson (29-93), and outfielder Joe Rudi (.293-22-99). In the East, the Orioles won a fifth divisional flag by 2 games over the Yankees. League-leading fielding and sturdy pitching from Cuellar (22-10), McNally (16-10), and Ross Grimsley (18-13) carried the Orioles. In LCS competition the A’s lost the opening game, but swept the next three to claim the league pennant. Pitted against the Dodgers in the World Series, the bickering Athletics, who squabbled among themselves and with their owner, nevertheless downed the Dodgers in five games. It was the A’s third straight World Series victory, and astonishingly the team’s bullpen saved or won all twelve of the games won by the Athletics in their remarkable three-season skein.

But the 1974 league championship was the last by an Athletic team until 1988. Years of bickering between the players and owner Charley Finley wore on the team, and the loss of pitcher Hunter to the Yankees was a crushing blow. Hunter’s loss was Finley’s fault; after Finley reneged on the terms of Hunter’s contract, Hunter sought arbitration, and the ruling allowed the pitcher to become a free agent. Nevertheless, in 1975 the A’s won the Western title for a fifth straight year as they outlasted the Royals by 7 games. Despite the loss of Hunter, the team’s pitching was the league’s second best.

Charles O. Finley

Charles O. Finley

Blue won 22 games, Holtzman 18, and Fingers won 10 and saved 24. Offensively, outfielder Claudell Washington led the team with .308 batting, and Jackson drove in 104 runs and hit a league- leading 36 homers. However, the league’s power balance now shifted eastward, where the next five AL champions would be crowned. First of the Eastern powers to emerge were the 1975 Red Sox, who defeated the Orioles by 4.5 games. The team’s pitching was mediocre, but hefty .275 batting bolstered the assault. Rookie outfielder Fred Lynn’s .331-21-105 hitting won him both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, but outfielder Jim Rice (.309-22-102) came close to matching Lynn’s production, while DH Cecil Cooper and catcher Carlton Fisk each topped the .300 mark. In the LCS faceoff, the Red Sox ended Oakland’s domination with a three-game sweep. But in World Series action, the Red Sox lost an epochal seven-game struggle to the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston slipped to third in 1976, as another power rose in the AL East.

After a twelve-year hiatus, the Yankees regained the heights and held the high ground for the next three seasons. For the Yankee renaissance much of the credit belonged to the team’s wealthy and erratic owner, George Steinbrenner. After purchasing the team from the CBS Network in 1973, Steinbrenner boldly promised Yankee fans a pennant within three years. And in 1976, his words rang true.

Moreover, the timing was propitious. In 1976 the team returned to its newly refurbished Yankee Stadium after spending two seasons at Shea Stadium in Queens. Under equally brash manager Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner would fire and rehire five times, the Yankees romped over the runner-up Orioles by 10.5 games. League-leading pitching, including 53 wins from starters Hunter, Dock Ellis, and Ed Figueroa, and a league-leading 23 saves from reliever Sparky Lyle eased the way. The team’s .269 batting effort was led by outfielder Mickey Rivers, who batted .312, catcher Thurman Munson’s .302 and 105 RBI, and third baseman Graig Nettles’ league- leading 32 homers. Meanwhile, the surging Kansas City Royals were breaking Oakland’s stranglehold in the West. In downing owner Finley’s decimated A’s by 2.5 games, the Royals matched the .269 batting mark of the Yankees. Third baseman George Brett’s .333 topped the league’s hitters, but DH Hal McRae was only a point behind at .332, and his 73 RBI bettered Brett’s total. The 1976 victory was the first of three straight Western titles by the Royals, who became the first of the AL’s 1969 expansion teams to win a divisional pennant. In LCS play the Royals and Yanks battled for five games before first baseman Chris Chambliss won the pennant for the Yankees with a ninth-inning homer in the final game at Yankee Stadium. However, the Yankees were no match for Cincinnati’s powerful “Big Red Machine,” which swept to a four-game victory in the World Series.

Clockwise: Martin, Steinbrenner, Jackson, Munson

Clockwise: Martin, Steinbrenner, Jackson, Munson

Over the winter Steinbrenner strengthened his team by acquiring slugger Reggie Jackson in the re-entry draft. Jackson responded by batting .286 with 32 homers and 110 RBI as the Yankees edged the Orioles by 2.5 games in the 1977 Eastern race. Overall the team batted .281, with Rivers’ .326 batting leading the team, Munson weighing in with .308-18-100 stickwork, and Nettles driving in 107 runs on 37 homers. Young Ron Guidry (16-7) led the starting pitchers, with Figueroa winning 16, newly acquired Don Gullett winning 14, and reliever Lyle saving 26. In the West, meanwhile, the Royals repeated as they downed the Texas Rangers by 8 games. The Royals batted .277, with outfielder Al Cowens (.312-23- 112) leading the team, Brett batting .312, and McRae adding 21 homers and 92 RBI. The Royal pitching staff was the league’s best; Dennis Leonard won 20 games to lead the league, Paul Splittorff won 16, and the bullpen posted a league-leading 42 saves. In another LCS donnybrook, the Yankees edged the Royals in five games to land a second consecutive AL pennant. And in World Series action the Yankees trounced the Dodgers in six games. For the Yankees, the highlight came in the final game at the Stadium, when Jackson slugged three homers. In the afterglow of the victory, a candy bar was named for Jackson, who also wore the sobriquet of “Mr. October” for the remainder of his colorful career.

In an unforgettable encore performance, the Yankees repeated in 1978 after staging one of the most storied comebacks in baseball history. During much of the turbulent campaign, the Yankees trailed the slugging Red Sox. Midway in the campaign Steinbrenner sacked the volatile Martin for insubordination and replaced him with Bob Lemon. Under Lemon, the Yankees recuperated from a spate of injuries and crushed the Red Sox in two series to gain a tie by the season’s end. In the sudden-death playoff game for the Eastern title, pitchers Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage held off the Red Sox, while homers by Jackson and shortstop Bucky Dent capped a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park. That year the Yankee pitchers posted a league-leading 3.10 ERA;

Guidry’s 25 wins (he lost only 3) and 1.74 ERA were the league’s best, and Gossage won 10 and saved 27 games. Outfielder Lou Piniella’s .314 batting led the team, which was powered by Jackson (27- 97), Nettles (27-93), and Chambliss (who drove in 90 runs). Meanwhile, the upstaged Royals were winning a third consecutive Western title, this time by 5 games over the California Angels. With no .300 hitter in the regular lineup, the Royals batted .268; outfielder Amos Otis led the hitters with .298-22-96 batting. Starting pitchers Leonard and Splittorff combined for 40 victories, and reliever Al Hrabosky saved 20 as the Royals compiled the league’s second-best pitching record. But the Yankees toppled the Royals in four games in LCS play. When World Series play began, the Yankees lost the first two games to the Dodgers, but then swept the next four games to cap a legendary campaign with a second straight world title.

Although Steinbrenner continued to spend heavily on free agents, the 1979 Yankees fell to fourth place in the Eastern Division. By winning 102 games, manager Earl Weaver led the Orioles to an 8-game win over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. League- leading pitching, paced by Mike Flanagan’s 23-9 effort, led the Orioles, whose offense was powered by first baseman Eddie Murray (.295-25-99) and outfielder Ken Singleton (.295-35-111). While the Orioles winged to the top in the AL East, the California Angels ended the Royals’ Western reign by scoring a 3-game victory. The Angels’ victory ended years of frustration for owner Gene Autry, who had spent $15 million on playing talent since 1961. In 1978 two of Autry’s recent acquisitions paid off as Rod Carew batted .318 and Don Baylor won the MVP Award for his .296-36-139 production. But the Angels’ pitching corps compiled a vulnerable 4.34 ERA, and in LCS play the Orioles dispatched the Angels in four games. But the Orioles now faced their old Pirate tormentors in the World Series. In an eerie repeat of their 1971 matchup, after leading by three games to one in this 1979 encounter, the Orioles lost to the Pirates in seven games.

Goose Gossage

Goose Gossage

As the era ended, the Yankees rebounded to edge the Orioles by 3 games in the East. In the close race, Steinbrenner’s latest re-entry draft acquisitions, infielder Bob Watson and pitcher Rudy May, made the difference. May won 15 games, and his 2.47 ERA led the league; Tommy John won 22, Guidry won 17, and the fireballing Gossage saved 33 games in relief. Watson’s .307 batting led the hitters, but Jackson batted .300 and his 111 RBI came with a league-leading 41 homers. This year, however, the Yankees were outmatched by the Royals. Rebounding to win the Western Division by 14 games over the Athletics, the Royals batted a league-leading .286. Brett’s .390 batting, which included 24 homers and 118 RBI, was the best batting mark in the majors since 1941. Outfielder Willie Wilson batted .326 and catcher-outfielder John Wathan batted .305. Pitcher Leonard won 20, and a Yankee castoff, lefty Larry Gura, won 18, with relief ace Dan Quisenberry saving 33 games to tie Gossage for the league lead. In LCS play the Royals, who had feasted on the Yankees during the season, swept the New Yorkers. In the wake of that loss, owner Steinbrenner sacked manager Dick Howser, despite the 103 victories the Yankees had compiled under Howser’s leadership. By then, the Royals had lost to the Phillies in six games in the 1980 World Series.

Thus the era ended with the NL boasting two straight World Series triumphs which the senior circuit would extend to four in the early 1980s.

Campaigns of the ’70s: NL, 1969-1980

In this era the NL also failed to achieve the competitive balance envisioned by its 1969 expansion. Over the twelve NL campaigns of these years, both divisions were ruled by powerful dynasties. In the East, the Pirates won six races, the Phillies four, and the Mets two. In the West, the Reds won six races, the Dodgers three, with the Braves, Giants, and Astros as single-season winners.

Yet it was one of the league’s lesser powers, the New York Mets, who made a rousing success of the first NL campaign under the new divisional format. Like the moonwalking American astronauts of that summer, the Mets also realized an “impossible dream,” and their unlikely triumph became the sports story of that memorable year in the nation’s history. In a baseball version of Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches yarns, the forlorn Mets shook off the effects of their horrendous 394-737 won-loss record, which the team had painfully compiled over seven zany seasons of NL play, and won the 1969 Eastern Division race by 8 games over a cocky Chicago Cub team.

Tom Seaver, Alaska 1964

Tom Seaver, Alaska 1964

What’s more, the Mets turned the trick by winning 38 of their last 49 games, mostly due to good pitching. Young Tom Seaver’s league-leading 25 victories and Jerry Koosman’s 17 headed a pitching staff whose 2.99 ERA ranked second in the league. However, a puny .242 team batting average, fronted by outfielder Cleon Jones’ .340-12-75, afforded little hope against the Western champion Atlanta Braves, winners by 3 games over the Giants. For the Braves, who led the NL in fielding, Hank Aaron’s .300-44-97 batting, and Rico Carty’s .342-16-58 effort in limited action, excelled. Pitcher Phil Niekro won 23 and Ron Reed won 18 as the staff turned in a 3.53 ERA. But in the NL’s first League Championship Series, the impotent Mets turned tartars; scoring 27 runs in three games, they swept the favored Braves. However, the Mets appeared to be ludicrously mismatched against the versatile Orioles in the following World Series. But after losing the opening game, the Mets swept the Orioles in the next four games to realize their “impossible dream.” In the afterglow, an outpouring of “Metomania” swept the country, and a dozen hastily written books celebrating the team’s victory were churned out.

The following year the powerful Pittsburgh Pirates ruthlessly banished any hopes of a continuing competitive balance in the NL East. Over the next six seasons, the Pirates captured five Eastern pennants, including three in a row over the years 1970-1972. In 1970 the Pirates baptized their newly occupied Three Rivers Stadium by downing the Cubs by 5 games and raising their first divisional flag.

Roberto Clemente with fans_a

Clemente with fans

The Pirates batted .270, with Roberto Clemente hitting .352 and catcher Manny Sanguillen batting .325. With a 3.70 ERA, their pitching was shaky, but reliever Dave Giusti saved 26 games. Coincident with the Pirates’ rise, another power moved to the top in the West as the Cincinnati Reds, now ensconced in their new Riverfront Stadium, scored a crushing 14-game win over the runner-up Dodgers. At the plate the Reds matched the Pirates’ batting, while leading the league in homers with 191. Catcher Johnny Bench’s 45 homers and 148 RBI led all sluggers and won him MVP honors. Infielders Pete Rose (.316) and Tony Perez (.317-40-129), and outfielder Bob Tolan (.316) added to the hit parade which was needed to bolster the pitching staff. The team’s starting pitchers completed only 32 games, which inspired the bullpen to compile a league-leading 60 saves. And yet the staff’s 3.71 ERA was only a point above that of the Pirates. In the LCS that year, the Reds swept the Pirates, but then the Reds fell to the avenging Orioles in the 1970 World Series.

The following year manager Danny Murtaugh led his Pirates to a 7-game win over the Cardinals in the NL East. At the plate the Pirates upped their batting to .274 as Clemente (.341) and Sanguillen (.319) maintained their pace, while outfielder Willie Stargell’s league-leading 48 homers powered the team’s league-leading 154-homer assault. In the West, poor pitching consigned the Reds to fourth place, leaving the field to the Giants and Dodgers. After leading most of the way, the Giants faltered in the stretch, but hung on to win by a game over the Dodgers. League-leading fielding buoyed the Giants, who batted only .247. Outfielder Bobby Bonds’ .288-33-102 was the best effort by a regular. Future Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry combined for 34 victories as the staff’s 3.33 ERA came close to matching the Pirates’ mark of 3.31. In LCS play the Pirates lost the opening game, but swept to victory. And when matched against the Orioles in the World Series, the Pirates lost the first two games, but then rebounded to win in seven.

The Pirate victory triggered a spate of destructive riots in Pittsburgh, but any fears by city fathers of future riots to come were banished by the shortcomings of the Pirate teams.

Although the 1972 Pirates romped to an 11-game victory over the Cubs in the East, another six seasons would pass before the Bucs won another NL pennant. Future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente batted .312 and notched his 3,000th career hit as the Pirates matched their .274 batting mark of 1971. Outfielder Al Oliver batted .312 and infielder Richie Hebner batted .300, while Stargell powered the attack with 33 homers and 112 RBI. Led by starting pitcher Steve Blass (198) and reliever Giusti (22 saves), the pitching staff posted a 2.81 ERA. In the West, meanwhile, the Reds rebounded to win by 10 games over the Houston Astros.

The acquisition of infielder Joe Morgan strengthened the Reds, who also got another MVP performance from Bench. The catcher’s 40 homers and 125 RBI led the league, and infielder Rose batted .307. But the pitching staff completed only 25 games. The best effort by a starter was Gary Nolan’s 155 mark, but the bullpen, led by Clay Carroll’s league-leading 37 saves, saved 60 games. In LCS action the Reds rallied from a 21 deficit to win the league pennant in five games. In the decisive game, played in Cincinnati, the Reds won 43. In the ninth inning of that game, Pirate reliever Bob Moose wild-pitched the winning run home. But when the Reds faced a 31 deficit in the World Series, their rally fell short as the Athletics hung on to win the world title in seven games.

Over the winter, Clemente’s tragic death while on a mercy mission to Nicaragua was a crushing blow to the Pirate cause. Even so, the 1973 Pirates hung close, finishing third in a weak Eastern Division.

Willie Mays in 1973 World Series

Willie Mays in 1973 World Series

On the strength of a lackluster 82-79 record, the Mets edged the Cardinals by 1 game. Offensively the Mets batted a meager .246 with only 85 homers, but Seaver’s 19-10 pitching and league-leading 2.08 ERA and reliever Tug McGraw’s 25 saves compensated. In the West the Reds outlasted the Dodgers by 3 games to win the divisional pennant. Led by Rose’s league-leading .338 hitting, the Reds batted .254 and hit 137 homers. Perez batted .314-27-101, Morgan batted .290-26-82, and Bench drove in 104 runs. The Reds also led the league in stolen bases and fielding, and the pitching staff ranked fourth, just behind the Mets. Not surprisingly, the Reds were touted as LCS favorites, but the Mets edged them in five games to emerge as the NL’s standard bearer in the World Series. Astonishingly the Mets took a 3-2 lead in the first five Series games against the Athletics. Had they hung on to win with their puny seasonal record, it would have gone into the record books as a quirky record. But the A’s quashed this prospect by snagging the final two games to win the 1973 World Series.

As the impotent Mets faded in 1974, the Pirates rose again to win the next two Eastern races before yielding to the rising Phillies. Unsurpassed .274 team batting boosted the Pirates to a thin 1-game win over the Cardinals in the East. Outfielders Richie Zisk (.313-17-100), Al Oliver (.321 and 85 RBI), and Stargell (.301-25-96) powered the team, whose pitching staff posted a 3.49 ERA. But the league’s balance of power was shifting westward, where the Dodgers and Reds would monopolize the next five NL pennants. In the 1974 Western Division race, the Dodgers defeated the Reds by 4 games.

Backed by the most durable infield in baseball history, in Steve Garvey, Dave Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey, the 1974 Dodgers batted .272. First baseman Garvey, who would set an NL record in consecutive games played, led the assault that year with a .312-21-111 performance which won him MVP honors. Outfielder Jim Wynn added 32 homers and 108 RBI. Pitchers Andy Messersmith and Don Sutton combined for 39 wins to head the league’s top-ranked pitching staff, but reliever Mike Marshall won the pitching honors with his 15 victories and 21 saves. What’s more, fireman Marshall appeared in a record 106 games. In the LCS playoff the Dodgers dispatched the Pirates in four games, but the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Athletics in five games.

Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

It was the third consecutive Series victory for the Athletics, but the powerful Cincinnati Reds reversed the trend in 1975-1976. Dubbed “the Big Red Machine,” the perennially pitching-poor Reds got only 22 complete games from their starters in 1975, but the team’s crushing offense buried the runner-up Dodgers by 20 games. Heading the team’s .271 batting offensive was second baseman Joe Morgan, who won MVP honors for his .327 batting and 94 RBI. Third baseman Rose and outfielders Ken Griffey and George Foster topped .300 at bat, and first baseman Tony Perez and catcher Bench drove in a combined 219 runs. In the East the Pirates beat the Phils by 6 games to win a second straight divisional title. The Pirates batted .263 and led the league in homers. Outfielder Dave Parker (.308-25-101) and first baseman Stargell (.295-22-90) powered the team, and catcher Manny Sanguillen batted .328. And the pitching staff’s 3.02 ERA bettered the Reds. But the Reds swept the Pirates in LCS play and went on to beat the Red Sox in a tense seven-game World Series classic. In the final game at Boston the Reds overcame a 30 Boston lead. Morgan’s single in the ninth inning provided the margin of victory as the Reds won 43. The victory was the Reds’ first World Series triumph since 1940.

Nor did they stop there. The following year, as the NL celebrated its hundredth anniversary, the all-conquering Reds downed the Dodgers by 10 games in the West on the strength of league leadership in batting, homers, RBI, stolen bases, and fielding. Morgan’s .320-27-111 batting won the infielder a second straight MVP Award, Rose batted .323, and the outfield of Griffey (.336), Cesar Geronimo (.307), and George Foster (.306) all topped the .300 mark. Foster’s 121 RBI led the league, and the bullpen fronted by Rawly Eastwick led the league in saves. In the East it was the Phillies’ misfortune to have to face this wrecking crew in LCS play. That year the Phillies finally won an Eastern title, the first of three consecutive victories, all coming at the expense of the Pirates. In 1976 the Phillies trounced the Pirates by 9 games. Slugging third baseman Mike Schmidt led the league in homers with 38 and drove in 107 runs, and the outfield of Jay Johnstone, Garry Maddox, and Greg Luzinski all topped the .300 mark, with Luzinski batting in 95 runs. Steve Carlton (207) headed a pitching staff that bettered the mediocre Reds’ staff, but otherwise needed the 36 saves posted by the relief corps of Ron Reed, Tug McGraw, and Gene Garber. The LCS matchup between the Reds and the Phillies was a foregone conclusion which the Reds decided with a sweep. The Reds then went on to sweep the Yankees in the World Series to become the first NL team since 1922 to win back-to-back world titles.

But the Big Red Machine blew a gasket in 1977. The loss of ace pitcher Don Gullett to the re-entry draft (and the Yankees) and a dubious trade which sent first baseman Perez to the Expos created weaknesses that not even the midseason acquisition of pitcher Tom Seaver from the Mets could assuage. Nor could Foster’s herculean batting, which produced a league-leading 52 homers and 149 RBI together with a .320 batting average. As the pitching-poor Reds faltered, the Dodgers brushed them aside to win the Western title by 10 games. League leadership in homers (191) and pitching buoyed the Dodgers. A successful arm operation gave a new life to lefty Tommy John, whose 20 victories led the pitching staff. Offensively, outfielder Reggie Smith’s .302-32-87 led the attack, with outfielder Dusty Baker and infielders Garvey and Ron Cey each topping the 30 mark in homers. Meanwhile, the Phillies repeated in the East, their 101 victories leading the league and topping the runner-up Pirates by 5 games. The Phillies led the league in batting at .279. Outfielder Luzinski’s .309-30-130 was his best effort, and Schmidt again powered 38 homers while driving in 101 runs. Carlton led the pitchers with 23 victories, and Larry Christenson’s 196 mark was his best in the majors; moreover, the bullpen’s 43 saves topped the league. Still, the Dodgers defeated the Phillies in four games in the LCS. However, the Dodgers got their comeuppance from the Yankees, who won the 1977 World Series in six games.

Tommy John

Tommy John

Although the victory margin for both teams was skimpier, the 1978 divisional races repeated the scenario of the previous year. In the West the Dodgers repeated by edging the Reds by 2 «games. Once again the pitching staff was the league’s best (3.12 ERA). Starters Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Don Sutton, and Doug Rau won 66 games, and reliever Terry Forster saved 22. Garvey headed the team’s .264 batting attack with .316-21-113 stickwork; and Cey, Reggie Smith, and Rick Monday combined for 71 homers to head the team’s league-leading homer barrage. In the East the Phillies won for a third straight year, but by a skimpy 1-game margin over the Pirates. Luzinski’s 35 homers and 101 RBI paced a weak .258 batting assault; and Carlton (with 16 wins) and Dick Ruthven (with 13 wins), and relievers Ron Reed and McGraw led the Phils’ pitching staff, which was the best in the Eastern Division, but a far cry from the Dodgers’ mark of 1978. In LCS play the Dodgers again trounced the Phillies in four games, but again the Dodgers fell to their old Yankee nemesis in six games.

As the decade waned, the Pirates returned to power in the East by edging the runner-up Expos by 2 games. It was the sixth Eastern title of this era for the Pirates, who batted a lusty .272 but whose mediocre pitching staff depended heavily on its superb bullpen headed by Kent Tekulve, who appeared in 94 games and saved 31. Third baseman Bill Madlock’s .328 batting led the team along with Parker (.310-25-94) and Stargell, whose 32 homers helped drive in 82 runs. At the same time in the West, the Reds also won their sixth divisional title of the era, beating the Astros by 1 «games. With Rose gone by way of the re-entry draft, his replacement Ray Knight batted .318 and, along with outfielders Griffey (.316) and Foster (.302-30-98), paced the team’s .264 batting. Seaver’s 16 victories led the team’s mediocre pitching staff. The two rival dynasties met for a last time to date in LCS play with the Pirates sweeping the Reds. In World Series action the Pirates fell behind the Orioles three games to one, but swept the last three games for a stunning victory.

In 1980 the Phillies ended a thirty-year drought by winning an NL pennant. Goaded by manager Dallas Green, the Phillies won 21 of their last 28 games to eke a 1-game victory over the Expos in the East. An MVP performance by slugger Schmidt, who hit 48 homers and drove in 121 runs, powered the Phils, who also got .309 batting from outfielder Bake McBride, and .282 batting and inspired leadership from the transplanted Pete Rose. Lefty Carlton’s 24 wins led the league and won him the Cy Young Award, and Dick Ruthven won 17, while bullpen stalwart Tug McGraw saved 20 games. In the West the Dodgers and Astros finished in a dead heat as the front-running Astros lost their last three games to the visiting Dodgers. But in a sudden-death playoff for the Western Division title, Joe Niekro pitched the Astros to a 71 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Astros got .309 hitting from outfielder Cesar Cedeno, and the team batted .261, but the punchless offense produced only 75 homers. But the Astros’ pitching staff was the league’s best. Joe Niekro won 20 games, Nolan Ryan won 11, and Vern Ruhle won 12. Ruhle’s pitching compensated for the loss of power pitcher J.R. Richard, who had compiled a 104, 1.89 record when he sustained a career- ending stroke. In LCS play the Phils and Astros battled through five games, with the rebounding Phillies scoring two extra-inning victories in Houston to land the pennant. Thus emboldened, the Phillies went on to beat the Royals in a six-game World Series tussle. It was the Phillies’ first world championship in the club’s ninety-seven-year history as an NL team.

But in the season after Philadelphia’s momentous victory, which saw the local police deploying mounted troopers and guard dogs to restrain the delirious Philadelphia fans, the major leagues were staggered by a crippling player strike.

Part 11 tomorrow.

2 Comments

Pingback: Discover: Monday Around the Horn « MLB.com Blogs

Reblogged this on Mets Plus and commented:
For the readers that want to go back to the 1969 World Championship, MetsPlus recommends the latest post from MLB Historian John Thorn’s blog, Our Game.

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