Click here for an explanation of this feature, which recaps the past week in baseball 50 years ago.
To wrap up our season-long feature, I’m reviewing the individuals whose stories took center stage during 1968, the Year of the Pitcher. I’m doing it chronologically, with links to the original articles. This is the final entry. Thank you for reading.
Ken Harrelson (AL RBI leader in 1968, week ending August 19): You probably know much of the story. Harrelson was traded to Cleveland in 1969 and broke his leg during spring training in 1970. While convalescing, he lost his job at first base to rookie Chris Chambliss. He retired from baseball at age 29 during the 1971 season. He tried unsuccessfully to join the PGA Tour, then became a Red Sox announcer in 1975. The White Sox hired him in 1981, and he moved from the broadcast booth to the front office in 1986. His year as executive vice president of baseball operations went about as well as his golfing career. He was a Yankees announcer from 1987 to 1990 before returning to Chicago, where he called White Sox games from 1991 until this year.
Mickey Stanley (Tigers Gold Glove center fielder, appeared at shortstop on August 23, foreshadowing a move there for the World Series, week ending August 26): Stanley played his entire 15-year career in Detroit. He won Gold Gloves in 1969, 1970, and 1973, but was never much of a threat at the plate: .248/.298/.377 career line, .256 True Average. He started 58 games at shortstop in 1969, but none over the rest of his career.
Hank Aaron (Atlanta hosted “Hank Aaron Appreciation Night” on August 23, week ending August 26): They usually hold appreciation nights for old guys nearing retirement. Aaron, 34, had superficially mediocre numbers in 1968, as his .287 batting average, 28 homers, and 86 RBIs were all near career lows. He would, of course, go on to play 1,019 more games, past his 42nd birthday, batting .282/.376/.539 with 245 home runs over that span. That’s sort of like, say, Paul Goldschmidt’s career (1,092 games, .297/.398/.532, 209 homers), all after Aaron turned 35.
Larry Dierker and Jim Ray (observed the Chicago Democratic Convention riots from their hotel room, week ending September 2): Ray was primarily a reliever over the remaining six seasons of this career, all but one of them with Houston, compiling a 3.64 ERA in 247 games from 1969 to 1974. Dierker was a steady if unspectacular starter for Houston, starting 225 games, ninth-most in the National League from 1969 to 1976, before winding up his career in St. Louis in 1977, shortly after his 31st birthday. He later managed the Astros from 1997 to 2001, guiding them to the postseason (where they lost in the Division Series, every year) in four of his five seasons. He was a color commentator for the Astros from 1979 to 1996 and again from 2004 to 2005.
Mickey Lolich (4-1, 2.27 ERA in September after being dropped from the Tigers’ rotation in July, week ending September 9): Winner of three games and MVP of the 1968 World Series, Lolich, who turned 28 in 1968, went on to have several more strong seasons. From 1969 to 1975 with Detroit, he started 276 games (most in the league), pitched 2,114 innings (second-most), had a 3.41 ERA, and was credited with 124 wins. Never lean to begin with, he became more spherical in later years, becoming sort of a 1970s Bartolo Colon without the drug suspension and bigamy. He wound up his career in the National League, pitching 276 2/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA between 1976 and 1979 for the Mets and Padres.
Fergie Jenkins (lost five games in 1968 by 1-0 scores, tying an all-time record, week ending September 16): Like Lolich, and unlike so many pitchers who starred in 1968, Jenkins had a long and successful career, joining the Hall of Fame in 1991. The 1968 season was the second among six straight during which he won at least 20 games for the Cubs. He won the Cy Young award in 1971. Traded to the Rangers after the 1973 season, he was Cy Young runner-up in 1974. He finished his 19-year career in 1982 and 1983 back in Chicago, starting 29 games in 1983 at age 40.
Gaylord Perry and Ray Washburn (back-to-back no-hitters, week ending September 23): Perry, famous for allegedly doctoring the ball, was 30 when he pitched his no-hitter and pitched for 15 more seasons, winning Cy Young awards in 1972 (with Cleveland) and 1978 (with San Diego). His 5,350 innings pitched rank third among expansion-era pitchers.
Washburn was much less durable. Like Perry, he was 30 when he no-hit the Giants, but 1968 was his career-year, with highs in innings (215 1/3), wins (14), strikeouts (124), and ERA (2.26). He had a 3-8 record with a 3.06 ERA in 16 starts and 12 relief appearances in 1969. After the season, he was traded to the Reds for fellow 1968 no-hitter pitcher George Culver. He had a 6.92 ERA in 66 1/3 innings with the Reds in 1970, his last season.
Jim Maloney (shut out the Giants on the last day of the season, the 279th and final shutout of 1968, week ending September 30): Maloney didn’t have a great year in 1968, as his 16-10 record obscured a worse-than-average 3.61 ERA. He had another good season in 1969, going 12-5 with a 2.77 ERA, but he started only 27 games, bothered by shoulder and elbow injuries. He ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon the following spring training and pitched only 47 innings combined for Cincinnati in 1970 and California in 1971 before retiring at 31.
Mayo Smith (Tigers manager): He was Manager of the Year for the 103-59 World Champion Tigers, but the club’s 90-72 record in 1969 was 19 games behind the Orioles. After tumbling to 79-83 in 1970, he was fired after the season ended, replaced by Billy Martin. After his dismissal, he complained: “[The fans] wouldn’t know a baseball player from a Japanese aviator. The fans in Detroit are ignorant.” He wouldn’t manage in the majors again.
Red Schoendienst (Cardinals manager): A Cardinal for 15 of his 19 years as a player, Schoendienst was in his fourth year as manager in 1968. He would manage the team from 1969-1976, finishing second three times but never returning to the postseason. He coached in Oakland in 1977 and 1978 before returning to St. Louis, where he was a coach and special assistant to the general manager until his death on June 6 of this year at 95. In his memory, Cardinals players wore a patch with Schoendienst’s no. 2 for the remainder of the season.
Note: To read Rob Mains’ entire, season-long series on the 1968 season, click here.
Thank you for reading
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Like the other readers, was my favorite read as well. Great job! Hope you continue the series with another year. Would be fascinated with 1976 - first year of MLB free agency. Think there would be many interesting angles of stories that season.