YEAR IN REVIEW : 1956 National League

Off the field...

Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and approximately one-hundred other participants in the "Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott" were indicted for conspiracy to conduct an illegal boycott and sentenced to prison. All cases were eventually settled by $100 fines and the Supreme Court later ruled that segregation on any form of public transportation was unconstitutional.

After Colonel Tom Parker negotiated the sale of Elvis Presley's Sun Records contract to RCA, the future "King of Rock and Roll" had his first recording session at their studio in Nashville. Among the songs recorded was "Heartbreak Hotel" which was released as a single and sold over 300,000 copies in its first three weeks. It quickly climbed to number one on Billboard's pop singles chart for eight weeks, hit number one on the country chart, number five on the R&B chart and became the first Elvis single to sell over one million copies, earning him his first gold record.

Prince Rainier III of Monaco married film actress Grace Kelly. A civil ceremony was held in the throne room in the Palace of Monaco and was attended by the couple's close family and friends. The Prince, who still rules the country today, succeeded his grandfather Louis II in 1949 to become Monaco's thirty-first ruler. Unfortunately, Princess Grace was killed in a car crash on September 14, 1982 after her car went off a road over a cliff in Monaco.

In the American League...

The New York Yankees and Washington Senators combined to set a Major League record after each hit three home runs on Opening Day. Bronx Bomber Mickey Mantle hit two tape measure blasts himself (both over five-hundred feet) off pitcher Camilo Pascual en route to a 10-4 win.

Boston lefthander Mel Parnell tossed a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park on July 14 th . The 4-0 triumph was the first "no-no" for the Red Sox since 1923. Unfortunately Parnell went on to a mediocre 4-4 record before tearing a muscle in his pitching arm that ultimately ended his career as Boston's winningest lefty.

Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw ninety-seven pitches for the only perfect game in World Series history while defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0 in Game 5.

In the National League...

On May 2 nd , twenty-five Giants and twenty-three Cubs participated in a seventeen-inning marathon setting a Major League record for the most player appearances in a single game. New York eventually prevailed over Chicago 6-5 as both teams combined to intentionally walk eleven batters (another Major League record) with the home team "Cubbies" contributing seven.

Dale Long of the Pittsburgh Pirates connected against the Brooklyn Dodgers' Carl Erskine at Forbes Field on May 28 th for his eighth home run in as many games. His consecutive record for round trippers would stand for thirty-one years until New York Yankee Don Mattingly finally equaled it in 1987.

Despite losing 13-6 to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 21 st , the Brooklyn Dodgers' Junior Gilliam made twelve assists at second base to set a modern Major League record, while team captain Pee Wee Reese tallied his two-thousandth Major League hit - one of only five active players to reach the plateau.

Around the League...

The Major League owners voted to establish the Cy Young Memorial Award for outstanding pitcher of the year. Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers (who won the 1949 Rookie of the Year Award) became the first recipient and also went on to win the National League Most Valuable Player title.

Pitching legend Satchel Paige signed a new contract with the Birmingham Black Barons (Negro League) at age fifty to both play and manage. His frequent successful duels against such barnstorming Major Leaguers as Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, and Bob Feller helped boost the credibility of black baseball and established him as one of the greatest aces ever to take the mound.

Former National Football League tackle (New York Giants) turned American League umpire Frank Umont became the first Major League official to wear glasses while calling a game. Many fans hoped that it would start a "trend" across the league as many umpires had been accused of needing spectacles.

The National Braille Press presented Boston Red Sox manager Pinky Higgins with their 1956 schedule, printed in Braille for the first time. All other Major League teams would soon follow with Braille printed season calendars for the sight impaired.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"Close don't count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." - Reds outfielder Frank Robinson on finishing two games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers

1956 National League Player Review

1955 | 1956 Hitting Statistics League Leaders | 1957

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1956 National League Pitcher Review

1955 | 1956 Pitching Statistics League Leaders | 1957


1956 National League Team Standings

1956 All-Star Game | 1956Team Standings | 1956 World Series


1956 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
Batting Average
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On Base Percentage
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1956 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
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baseball almanac fast facts

On May 12, 1956, Jackie Robinson made headlines when he shoved a newspaper, which he had in his pocket during the entire game, in the face of scout Tom Sheehan after a game against the Giants. The article which upset Robinson said that Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine "was through"; however, on this particular date Erskine no-hit the Giants 3-0 at Ebbets Field.

1956 National League Pennant Race | by Jim Halloran ( Baseball and America )

If the Dodgers thought they would enjoy another cakewalk season they were discounting the improving Milwaukee Braves and surprising Cincinnati Redlegs. Going into the final weekend of the season the Braves were one game up on the Dodgers. But the Dodgers rose to the occasion by sweeping three games against the lowly Pirates behind the pitching of Sal Maglie, Don Newcombe and Clem Labine while the Braves lost two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was a season long back and forth battle of the three teams. The aging Dodgers versus the maturing Braves and the totally unexpected rise of the Redlegs. The Braves were led by Aaron. Mathews, Spahn, Burdette and Joe Adcock. The Redlegs tied the record for the most homeruns ever with 221. This included 38 by Rookie of the Year (HOF) Frank Robinson. The Dodgers however had Don Newcombe. His 27 wins earned him the MVP Award and the first ever Cy Young Award for the best NL pitcher. But, if it hadn’t been for a mid May trade that brought 39 year old Sal Maglie to the Dodgers from Cleveland, it would not have happened. Maglie won 13 games including a no hitter against the Phils on September 25 at the peak of their stretch run.

#1 Brooklyn Dodgers (93-61) . Duke Snider blasted a career high 43 home runs topping his 42 of 1955. Gil Hodges hit 32 while Jim “Junior” Gilliam batted .300 and stole 21 bases. Jackie Robinson, age 37, played less and, primarily, in a utility role at four positions. The young Sandy Koufax was still finding his way, 2 wins. He was joined by 19 year old rookie pitcher Don Drysdale who won five games.

#2 Milwaukee Braves (92-62) . This was a very solid and well balanced roster. Third baseman Eddie Mathews and 1B Joe Adcock combined for 75 home runs. Hank Aaron added 28 while batting .328. Spahn won 20 games, Lew Burdette 19. Bob Buhl was a great addition wining 18 while losing only 8. Boston Celtic forward 6'7" Gene Conley served as a fifth starter.

#3 Cincinnati Redlegs (91-63) . Where did these guys come from? Not having played above .500 baseball since the war they bombed the National League with unheard of power. Six out of their eight starting position players had double digit home run totals. Frank Robinson, at the age of 20, hit 38 home runs, Ted Kluzewski 35 with 108 RBIs. Outfielder Wally Post matched Robinson’s 38 and Gus Bell hit 29. The pitching could not match the offense, although journeyman pitcher Brooks Lawrence won 19 games.

#4 St. Louis Cardinals (76-78) . Improved over 1955 but not enough to raise much hope. They did add shortstop Alvin Dark but he was past his peak at this point. They still counted on Stan Musial .310, 27 home runs and 109 RBIs but lost OF Bill Virdon to injury and Red Schoendienst in a trade. Third baseman Ken Boyer showed his potential by hitting .305 with 25 home runs. With leading pitcher, Vinegar Bend Mizell, recording only 14 wins the pitching staff held the ball club back.

The Rest of the Pack

#5 Philadelphia Phillies (71-83) . Robin Roberts failed to win twenty games for the seventh consecutive season by only one win. The Phils failed to win half of their games. Richie Ashburn contributed batting .310 and OF Del Ennis teamed up with catcher Stan Lopata for 58 home runs, but there was little else to cheer about.

#6 New York Giants (67-87) . Willie Mays was great batting .296, 36 homeruns and 40 stolen bases but the rest of the team did not show up. Picking up Red Schoendienst could not help a team with such poor pitching. Pitcher Johnny Antonelli returned to his winning ways of 1954 with 20 victories but no one else on the stall had more than seven.

#7 Pittsburgh Pirates (66-88) . At least they escaped the cellar. They did have some youth to provide some hope. Two future Hall of Famers were on the roster. Nineteen year old Bill Mazeroski made his debut at second base while twenty year old Roberto Clemente batted .311 in taking over the right field spot. 1955 Rookie of the Year Bill Virdon was acquired from the Cardinals and batted .334. Bob Friend, (17-17) was the only starting pitcher not to lose more than he won.

#8 Chicago Cubs (60-94) . Having shown some improvement in '55 the Cubs took a nosedive into last place. Once again thank goodness for shortstop (HOF) Ernie Banks whose 28 home runs led the team. Monte Irvin at age 37 played his last year with the Cubs. Bob Rush led a poor pitching staff with 13 wins.

Is it possible to strike out four batters during the same inning? Yes, and on August 11, 1956 Cubs' pitcher Jim Davis became only the third National League pitcher to join this unique "club."

On July 7, 1956, The Sporting News, in concert with 260 Major League players and journalists, held a poll and named Stan Musial the recipient of the Player of the Decade Award ! Finishing second was Joe DiMaggio and third was Ted Williams .

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