The 1960s were all about expansion for Major League Baseball. The league went from the 16 teams of the past 35 past years and boomed out west. The Angels joined in 1961. The A’s moved west from Kansas City and the Royals came in their stead. The Colt .45s were born in Houston only to rename themselves the Astros within 5 years. The Mets replaced the Giants and Dodgers in NYC and had one of the worst teams of all time only to win it all in 1969. The Senators moved to Minnesota and a new Senators team came into Washington only to move to Texas in the early 70s. The Pilots flew into Seattle only to flee to Milwaukee one year later. Baseball would go north of the border to Montreal and the Padres were christened in San Diego.
Baseball expanded by adding an Amateur draft and Rick Monday was the first player picked. Coincidentally, the Yankees string of pennants ended and a number of teams won World Series including the Pirates, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, Mets, and Orioles. My brother was in heaven as the Redbirds were in the series 3 times in 5 years. My Cubs never made it….and still haven’t.
The Monday Night Baseball appeared in 1966 on NBC. In the Midwest, this was a big deal to me. We were too far away from Chicago to get the Cubs except on Sunday afternoons, but now baseball could be seen 3 times a week! Imagine that! But it was a big deal. You had the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week, the Cubs on Sunday, and now, Monday Night! It all seemed so magical to a young boy and maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Bob Gibson killed it for pitchers. He was too good. So good that the league lowered the pitcher’s mound to level the playing field for hitters. Look at his 1968 stats: 22-9 with a 1.12 E.R.A and 13 shutouts. The only three pitchers who have even come close to that are Greg Maddux, Ron Guidry and Pedro Martinez. It is almost unthinkable in today’s game for a starting pitcher to be that dominant.
Astro-Turf made its debut at the cavern known as the Astro Dome. Its impact would be felt more in the 70s as cookie cutter stadiums began to appear.
Even though the pitchers dominated the headlines, they were still some guys who could hit. Roberto Clemente had over 1800 hits in the decade. Harmon Killebrew hit almost 400 home runs. Hank Aaron drove in over 1100. Frank Robinson had an OPS of .962 for the decade.
All in all, the game became built around pitching, defense, speed, and the 3 run home run. No wonder Earl Weaver loved it so much.
For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s