With last-minute help from the once pennant-bound Phillies and despite two stunning losses to the Mets, the Cardinals survived a four-team rush at the flag in the final two days to win their first championship in 18 years. The following is an analysis of individual performances in the league for 1964.
For the second time in his career, Roberto Clemente of the Pirates pulled away from the pack in the batting race during August and then held on to win by a comfortable margin. In 1961 Clemente won with .351, and this year he was almost as good, hitting in the .340s most of the way before dropping to .339 in the last days of the season. His toughest competition came from the heart of the Milwaukee batting order—rookie Rico Carty (.330), Henry Aaron (.328) and Joe Torre (.321). Ron Santo, the Cubs' tenacious third baseman, turned in the best all-round performance (.313 BA, 30 HRs, 114 RBIs), but the Cards' Ken Boyer, who led in RBIs (119); the Giants' Willie Mays, the top slugger with 47 homers; and the Phillies' Richie Allen were not far behind. The year's two major disappointments: Los Angeles' two-time batting champ Tommy Davis, who dropped from .326 to .275, and San Francisco's Willie McCovey, who hit 18 homers, compared with 44 in 1963.
Although he did not pitch after August 16 because of an injury, the Dodgers" Sandy Koufax was again the best pitcher in the league. He won his third ERA championship in three years with a 1.74 average and had a 19-5 record. Sandy's teammate, Don Drysdale, who barely had a .500 record at 18-16, was second in ERA with 2.19 and pitched 23 more innings than anyone else in the big leagues. After trying for nine years, the Cubs' Larry Jackson finally became a 20-game winner and finished with the most victories (24-11) for the year. The Cards' Ray Sadecki and Juan Marichal of the Giants were the only other 20-game winners. Two young pitchers, Houston's Bob Bruce, who was 15-9 for the ninth-place Colts, and Pittsburgh's Bob Veale (18-12 and 250 strikeouts) came into their own, but time ran out on Warren Spahn (6-13), who finished with the second-worst ERA (5.28) in the league.
October 11, 1964
Most of the top first-year players were hitters, and good ones. The Phils' Allen, despite some ragged play at third base, was the best of all, with a .318 average, 29 homers and 91 RBIs. He also led the league in runs scored with 125. Two others pressed Allen closely for rookie honors. Carty of the Braves had 21 homers and 85 RBIs to go with his .330 average, and he did it all without playing the first two months. The Giants' Jim Ray Hart did not hit as often (.286), but he hit harder, belting out 31 homers. Cincinnati's late surge was carried by two strong young relief pitchers, Sammy Ellis and Billy McCool, who together totaled 92 appearances and 16 wins for the Reds.
Despite a belated push by the White Sox, who ended the season with a nine-game winning streak, the inevitable happened: the Yankees, after a stirring six-week come-from-behind drive, won a record-tying fifth straight pennant. The following is an analysis of individual performances in the league for 1964.
For the second consecutive year even the league's best batters did not hit particularly well. Minnesota's rookie batting champ, Tony Oliva, finished with a .323 average (.321 was tops in 1963), followed by Baltimore's Brooks Robinson (.317) and New York's Elston Howard (.313) and Mickey Mantle (.303). Robinson, who belted 28 homers and led the league with 117 RBIs, and Mantle (35 HRs, 108 RBIs) were the outstanding all-round hitters. Robinson's year was a magnificent comeback from 1963, when he hit .251. The top sluggers were Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew, who had his fourth straight 40-plus home-run year with 49, and the Orioles' young Boog Powell, who hit 39 homers. Surprisingly muscular were Boston's Felix Mantilla (30 HRs) and Detroit's Dick McAuliffe (24)—neither had hit as many as 14 before.
One reason the hitters did not do particularly well was that they occasionally had to face the Angels' Dean Chance. Chance (20-9) finished with a 1.65 ERA, the lowest since 1943. The only other 20-game winner was Chicago's Gary Peters, but several other members of the White Sox staff (2.75 combined ERA) could have done it with a little better hitting support. Chief victim: Joel Horlen, who won only 13 of 22 decisions but finished with an ERA under 2.00. The Yanks' Whitey Ford, bothered by injuries much of the season, still maintained baseball's best career winning percentage (.720) with a 17-6 (.739) year. Relief Pitchers John Wyatt of Kansas City and Dick Radatz of Boston both broke the major league record for appearances in one season, finishing with 81 and 78 respectively.
Oliva, the first rookie to win a batting title since 1878, had 217 hits, 32 homers and 95 RBIs to lead an exceptional group of first-year players. Baltimore's 19-year-old Wally Bunker posted the league's best won-lost record (19-5) and was the Orioles' toughest pitcher down the stretch. New York's Mel Stottlemyre (9-3). the key man in the Yanks' pennant drive, and Cleveland's Luis Tiant (10-4) both came up in midseason to strengthen slumping pitching staffs. The Angels' rookie relief workhorse, Bob Lee, finished second in ERA for relief pitchers (1.51), and Boston's Tony Conigliaro and Baltimore's Sam Bowens were important hitters for their teams. Conigliaro boosted the Sox with a .290 BA, 24 HRs and 52 RBIs; Bowens hit .266 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs. The most surprising rookie of them all, Los Angeles' Willie Smith, moved from the mound to the outfield and should never go back, after averaging .299 with 51 RBIs and 11 HRs.