The 1969 Major League Baseball season was celebrated as the 100th anniversary of professional baseball, honoring the first professional touring baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
It was the first season of what is now called the "Divisional Era", where each league of 12 teams was divided into two divisions of six teams each. The winners of each division would compete against each other in a League Championship Series, then best-of-five, to determine the pennant winners that would face each other in the World Series.
In a year marked by Major League Baseball's third expansion of the decade, the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles faced each other in the 1969 World Series. Having won the N.L. East Division with a league-best 100–62 record, and sweeping the N.L. West Division Champion Atlanta Braves in three games in the first National League Championship Series, the "Miracle Mets" became the first expansion team to win a pennant. They faced the A.L. East Division Champion Orioles, holders of the best record in baseball (109–53), who swept the A.L. West Division Champion Minnesota Twins in three games in the first American League Championship Series. The upstart Mets upset the heavily favored Orioles and won the World Series title in five games.
|1969 MLB season|
|League||Major League Baseball|
|Duration||April 7 – October 16, 1969|
|Top draft pick||Jeff Burroughs|
|Picked by||Washington Senators|
|Season MVP||AL: Harmon Killebrew (MIN)|
NL: Willie McCovey (SF)
|AL champions||Baltimore Orioles|
|AL runners-up||Minnesota Twins|
|NL champions||New York Mets|
|NL runners-up||Atlanta Braves|
|Champions||New York Mets|
|Finals MVP||Donn Clendenon (NYM)|
In an effort to counteract a trend of low-scoring games and pitching ruling overall, Major League Baseball adopted two measures during the Baseball Winter Meetings held in December 1968. The strike zone was reduced to the area over home plate between the armpits and the top of the knees of a batter. Also, the height of the pitching mound was reduced from 15 inches to 10 inches, and it was recommended that the slope be gradual and uniform in every park.
MLB called for a four-team expansion to take place in 1971 at the 1967 Winter Meetings, the first expansion since 1962. However, there was a complication: influential U.S. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri was irate over the American League's approval of Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley's arrangement to move his team to Oakland, California, for the 1968 season. This happened even though Finley had just signed a deal to play at Municipal Stadium at AL president Joe Cronin's behest, and Jackson County, Missouri, had just issued public bonds to build a stadium, the future Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium.)
Symington drew up legislation to remove baseball's anti-trust exemption, and threatened to pursue its passage if Kansas City did not get a new team. The Leagues agreed and moved expansion up to 1969, with the AL putting one of its new franchises in Kansas City. Ewing Kauffman won the bidding for that franchise, naming it the Kansas City Royals, after the local American Royal livestock show. The other AL team was awarded to Seattle. A consortium led by Dewey Soriano and William Daley won the bidding for the Seattle franchise, and named it the Seattle Pilots, a salute to the harbor pilots of the Puget Sound maritime industry.
In the NL, one franchise was awarded to San Diego, California; the other to Montreal, Quebec, resulting in the first MLB franchise outside the United States. C. Arnholdt Smith, former owner of the AAA Pacific Coast League's San Diego Padres, won the bidding for the San Diego franchise, also naming it the Padres. Charles Bronfman, owner of Seagram, won the bidding for the Montreal franchise, naming them the Expos, in honor of the World's Fair that year. This was the last NL expansion until the 1993 season.
As part of the 1969 expansion, each league was to be split into two divisions of six teams each, with each league holding a best-of-five League Championship Series to decide the pennant. The AL was divided purely along geographic lines, but when it came to assign divisions in the NL, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals insisted on being placed in the same division with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, on the basis that a schedule with more games with eastern teams would create a more lucrative schedule. Thus, Atlanta and Cincinnati were placed in the NL West. This alignment also addressed concerns that putting the league's three strongest clubs—St. Louis, San Francisco, and the Cubs—in the west would result in divisional inequity.
The Padres and Expos each finished with 110 losses and at the bottom of their respective divisions. The Royals did better, finishing 69–93 and in fourth in the AL West. Even though the Pilots managed to avoid losing 100 games (they finished 64–98, last in the AL West), financial trouble would lead to a battle for team control, ending with bankruptcy and the sale of the team to Bud Selig and its move to Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1970 season. The legal fallout of the battle would lead eventually to another round of expansion for the AL in the 1977 season, with Seattle getting a new team called the Mariners.
A special silhouetted batter logo, still in use by the league today, was created by Jerry Dior to commemorate the anniversary. It has served as inspiration for logos for other sports leagues in the United States—most notably the National Basketball Association, which used the silhouette of Jerry West to create their current logo, unveiled after the 1970–71 season as part of the 25th anniversary of its own founding.
After the 1968 season, the Major League Baseball Players' Association and the owners had concluded the first collective bargaining agreement in major league history. However, one point remained unresolved: the owners refused to increase their contribution to the players' pension plan commensurately with revenues from television broadcasts, which were increasing as more and more fans watched games that way. With the two sides at an impasse, at the beginning of the year the union called on players to refuse to sign contracts until the issue was resolved. Many did, including stars like Brooks Robinson.
The owners did not change their position, so the players' union called for members to boycott spring training the following month if the issue had not been resolved by then. After the union rejected the owners' offer of a higher yet still fixed contribution on February 17, the day before spring training was to begin, 400 players refused to report. The owners expected the situation to resolve itself soon in their favor, since they usually lost money on training camps while the players were foregoing their pay in the meantime.
However, the players remained united, and few changed their minds about the boycott as it progressed. After the first week only 11 of those who initially boycotted had reported; at the time many had off-season jobs which they continued to work at, and those who did report were in many cases not certain of their futures with their teams. Meanwhile the owners were being pressured by the television broadcasters, who would also lose money without games to broadcast, or if teams played games with largely unknown rookies—one NBC executive said his company "would not pay major league prices for minor league games".
After that first week, new commissioner Bowie Kuhn leaned on the owners to reach an agreement as well, and they soon sat down with the players again. By February 25 they had acceded to most of the players' demands: a higher contribution of approximately $5.45 million annually, an earlier age at which players could begun drawing pensions, a wider range of benefits and less playing time required for eligibility. By the end of the month, all players had reported to spring training.
|Statistic||American League||National League|
|AVG||Rod Carew MIN||.332||Pete Rose CIN||.348|
|HR||Harmon Killebrew MIN||49||Willie McCovey SF||45|
|RBI||Harmon Killebrew MIN||140||Willie McCovey SF||126|
|Wins||Denny McLain DET||24||Tom Seaver NYM||25|
|ERA||Dick Bosman WSH||2.19||Juan Marichal SF||2.10|
|SO||Sam McDowell CLE||279||Ferguson Jenkins CHC||273|
|SV||Ron Perranoski MIN||31||Fred Gladding HOU||29|
|SB||Tommy Harper SEA||73||Lou Brock STL||53|
The pennant races in the American League lacked drama. In the east, the Baltimore Orioles won 109 games and won the division by a whopping 19 games over the defending world champion Detroit Tigers. The surprise team was the "new" Washington Senators. Under new manager Ted Williams, they went 86–76; it was their first winning season since joining the league in 1961. The Western Division race was a little closer, but the Minnesota Twins led most of the season and were never really threatened in winning the division by 9 games over the Oakland Athletics (who were the only other west team to finish over .500). The National League, on the other hand, was very dramatic. The Chicago Cubs won 35 of their first 50 games, and on August 16, they led the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals by 9 games. But the Mets proceeded to win 37 of their last 48 games while the Cubs went 20–28 in the same time period and the Mets won the division by 8 games. In the West, with 3 weeks to play in the season, 5 teams were all within 2 games of each other. The Houston Astros were the first to drop out of the race, losing 8 of 10. With two weeks to play, the San Francisco Giants led the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves by ½ game while the Cincinnati Reds were 2 games back. The Dodgers then lost 8 in a row and 10 of 11 to fall to 4th place. The Braves then went on a 10-game winning streak, ultimately clinching the division over the Giants on the next to last day of the season with a 3–2 win over the Reds. For the Giants, it was the 5th year in a row they would finish in 2nd place.
Baseball Hall of Fame
|League Championship Series
The 1969 American League Championship Series was the first ALCS held after Major League Baseball adopted the two-division format that season. It featured the Baltimore Orioles vs. the Minnesota Twins, with the Orioles winning the series 3–0 and advancing to the 1969 World Series, where they would lose to the New York Mets in five games. The Orioles and Twins would meet again the following year, with similar results.
This was the first of three straight appearances in the ALCS for the Orioles.1969 Atlanta Braves season
The 1969 Atlanta Braves season was the fourth in Atlanta and the 99th overall season of the franchise. The National League had been split into two divisions before the season, with the Braves somewhat incongruously being assigned to the National League West. The Braves finished with a record of 93–69, winning the first ever NL West division title by three games over the San Francisco Giants.
After the season, the Braves played in the first-ever inter-divisional National League Championship Series. They went on to lose the NLCS to the eventual World Champion New York Mets, three games to none.1969 Boston Red Sox season
The 1969 Boston Red Sox season was the 69th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. With the American League (AL) now split into two divisions, the Red Sox finished third in the newly established American League East with a record of 87 wins and 75 losses, 22 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who went on to win the AL championship.1969 California Angels season
The 1969 California Angels season was a season in American baseball. In the first season following the split of the American League into two divisions, the Angels finished third in the newly established American League West with a record of 71 wins and 91 losses.1969 Cincinnati Reds season
The 1969 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. It consisted of the Reds finishing in third place in the newly established National League West, four games behind the NL West champion Atlanta Braves. The Reds were managed by Dave Bristol, and played their home games at Crosley Field, which was in its final full season of operation, before moving into their new facility in the middle of the following season.1969 Cleveland Indians season
The 1969 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The club finished in last place in the newly established American League East with a record of 62 wins and 99 losses.1969 Detroit Tigers season
The 1969 Detroit Tigers season was a season in American baseball. The team finished a distant second in the newly established American League East with a record of 90–72, 19 games behind the Baltimore Orioles.1969 Houston Astros season
The 1969 Houston Astros season was a season in American baseball. The team finished in fifth place in the newly established National League West with a record of 81–81, twelve games behind the Atlanta Braves. It was also the first time in their history that the Astros did not finish below .500.1969 Los Angeles Dodgers season
The 1969 Los Angeles Dodgers finished in fourth place in the new National League Western Division, eight games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers' record for 1969 was 85–77, which was nine wins better than 1968.1969 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1969 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 40th midseason exhibition between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was played in the afternoon on Wednesday, July 23, at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C. and resulted in a 9–3 victory for the National League. Steve Carlton was the winning pitcher while Mel Stottlemyre was the losing pitcher.The game was originally scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, July 22, but heavy rains forced its postponement to the following afternoon. The 1969 contest remains the last All-Star Game to date to be played earlier than prime time in the Eastern United States.
President Richard Nixon originally planned to attend the Tuesday night game and throw out the first ball, and then depart for the splashdown of Apollo 11 in the Pacific Ocean. But with the game's postponement until Wednesday afternoon, Nixon missed the game altogether and Vice President Spiro Agnew attended in his stead.1969 Major League Baseball draft
The 1969 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft took place prior to the 1969 MLB season. The draft featured future Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven (pick 55) and Dave Winfield (pick 882).1969 Major League Baseball expansion
The 1969 Major League Baseball expansion resulted in the establishment of expansion franchises in Kansas City and Seattle in the American League and in Montreal and San Diego in the National League of Major League Baseball. The Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Pilots began play in the 1969 Major League Baseball season. One of the reasons for expansion was increasing pressure to maintain the sport as the US national pastime, particularly because of the increasing popularity of professional football.As a result of expansion, the American and National Leagues reorganized. Each league was split into two divisions, forming the American League East, American League West, National League East, and National League West.Other candidate cities that were considered in 1967 included Buffalo, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Milwaukee. The latter two were rejected because they were close to cities that already had a Major League Baseball team (Houston and Chicago, respectively). In May 1966, Commissioner of Baseball William Eckert stated that cities that should be considered for expansion included Milwaukee (the Milwaukee Braves had moved to Atlanta before the 1966 season), New Orleans, Oakland, San Diego, Seattle, and Toronto, and that expansion would occur in "eight to 10 years;" he subsequently stated that the leagues could expand "any time after two years". By August, Major League Baseball had plans to expand to two 12-team leagues by 1970, and had squelched the possibility of a third league, such as the Continental League proposed in 1959 or the proposal made in August 1968 by Ron Plaza consisting of an Eastern, Central, and Western League.1969 National League Championship Series
The 1969 National League Championship Series was a best-of-five match-up between the East Division champion New York Mets and the West Division champion Atlanta Braves. The Mets defeated the Braves three games to none. They did not sweep a playoff series again until 2006 as they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series in three games.
At that time, the New York Mets became the fastest expansion team to win a National League Pennant with only eight years of existence. 28 years later in 1997, the Florida Marlins would break that record by reaching and winning the World Series with only five years of existence. Four years after the Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks would break that by reaching and winning the World Series in just their fourth year.
Nolan Ryan played for the Mets at the time, but he did not play until Game 3, which was the first playoff victory of his career.
The Braves finally avenged their 1969 loss 30 years later, by beating the Mets in that year's NLCS four games to two.1969 New York Yankees season
The 1969 New York Yankees season was the 67th season for the team in New York, and its 69th season overall. The team finished in fifth-place in the newly established American League East with a record of 80–81, 28½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.1969 Oakland Athletics season
The 1969 Oakland Athletics season involved the A's compiling a record of 88 wins and 74 losses. With its expansion to 12 teams in 1969, the American League had been divided into two 6-team divisions. In their first year in the newly established American League West, the Athletics finished second, nine games behind the Minnesota Twins. It was the first time they had finished in the first division since 1952. Paid attendance for the season was 778,232.1969 San Francisco Giants season
The 1969 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 87th year in Major League Baseball, their twelfth year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their tenth at Candlestick Park. The team finished second in the newly established National League West with a record of 90–72, 3 games behind the Atlanta Braves, their fifth consecutive season of finishing second. The Giants set a Major League record which still stands for the most double plays grounded into by a team in a single game, with 7 against the Houston Astros on May 4.1969 St. Louis Cardinals season
The 1969 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 88th season in St. Louis, Missouri and its 78th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 87–75 during the season and finished fourth in the newly established National League East, 13 games behind the eventual NL pennant and World Series champion New York Mets.
The resurgent Chicago Cubs, featuring players such as Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams and helmed by fiery manager Leo Durocher, led the newly formed NL East for much of the summer before faltering. The Cardinals put on a mid-season surge, as their famous announcer Harry Caray (in what would prove to be his final season of 25 doing Cardinals broadcasts) began singing, "The Cardinals are coming, tra-la, tra-la". However, to the surprise of both Chicago and St. Louis, the Miracle Mets would ultimately win the division, as well as the league championship and the World Series.1969 Washington Senators season
The 1969 Washington Senators season involved the Senators finishing 4th in the newly established American League East with a record of 86 wins and 76 losses.Ball Four
Ball Four is a book written by former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Bouton in 1970. The book is a diary of Bouton's 1969 season, spent with the Seattle Pilots (during the club's only year in existence) and then the Houston Astros following a late-season trade. In it Bouton also recounts much of his baseball career, spent mainly with the New York Yankees.
Despite its controversy at the time, with baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn's attempts to discredit it and label it as detrimental to the sport, it is considered to be one of the most important sports books ever written and the only sports-themed book to make the New York Public Library's 1996 list of Books of the Century. It also is listed in Time magazine's 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time.
1969 MLB season by team