The United States expanded its borders as both Alaska and Hawaii were officially admitted to the Union. Despite an overwhelming vote by Alaskans in 1956, it took more than two years for the Senate to finally agree to make Alaska the forty-ninth state. On March 18, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower added Hawaii, the Aloha State, and commissioned a new fifty star U.S. Flag.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), and Ritchie Valens died when their Beechcraft plane crashed just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, during a stormy winter night. Holly was famous for many hits including "Peggy Sue." The Big Bopper had one big hit, "Chantilly Lace." And Valens was best known for his hit, "La Bamba." The tragic accident was penned in the papers as "The Day the Music Died".
Scandal rocked America's most popular Game Show "Twenty-One" after former champion Herbert Stempel confessed to being given the answers to questions, told which questions to miss, and coached in presentation. After he blew the whistle, public outrage was so great that in 1959 Congress opened hearings on the great American quiz show fix and later formally outlawed all future quiz show deceptions.
The Boston Red Sox remained as the only Major League team not to include minority players in its line-up. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a grievance against the franchise charging them with racial discrimination and calling for an official investigation into the team's signing policies.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox managed five hits in seven at bats on Opening Day (including a two-run home run off pitcher Don Mossi to win the game) during a fourteen-inning, 9-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers. His five hits in a season opener tied a Major League record that would not be matched for forty years.
Cleveland's Rocky Colavito hit four consecutive home runs at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium en route to an 11-8 victory over the home team Orioles. The Indian slugger joined Lou Gehrig and Bobby Lowe as the only Major League players ever to hit four consecutive round-trippers.
On May 26, Pirates ace Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game against Milwaukee for twelve innings, only to lose in the 13 th . After Felix Mantilla managed to reach base on a fielding error, Hank Aaron was intentionally walked. Pittsburgh's strategy proved meaningless though as Joe Adcock maintained the Braves newfound momentum with a three-run blast for the comeback win. The following day National League President Warren Giles ruled that the final score should be amended to 1-0, since both runners Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock were both ruled out. (Aaron had been called for leaving the field during play, and Adcock had passed him in the base path.)
Seven pitchers combined to tie a National League record with twenty-three strikeouts during a May 31 outing between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax led the effort with nine "K's" for the 5-3 win.
The San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs set a new record for the longest nine-inning game in history after playing for three hours and fifty minutes. The home team finally won the "marathon at Wrigley" with a score of 20-9 after tallying nineteen hits and five home runs.
The Rules Committee finally permitted inter-league trading for a limited, three-and-a-half-week period during Major League Baseball's winter meetings.
The Players Association fired lawyer J. Norman Lewis and replaced him with Judge Robert C. Cannon, the son of Wisconsin Congressman Raymond J. Cannon, who had attempted to unionize the players during the 1920 season.
Controversy erupted over the American League batting title as the Cleveland Indians' Tito Francona finished the season with a league leading .363 average, but fell one at-bat short (three-hundred ninety-nine) of the required total (four-hundred). As a result, Harvey Kuenn of the Detroit Tigers was crowned the American League batting champion.
Washington D.C. Senator Estes Kefauver warned Major League Baseball that they were closely monitoring the "attitudes of organized baseball" toward the Continental League in an effort to prevent any antitrust issues.
"It takes all winter to train them (the insects which caused a 28 minute delay on June 2, 1959) and now, poof, on lousy bomb (fireworks) and they're all blown-up." - White Sox owner Bill Veeck
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
The Yankees had to come down to Earth at some time. The pesky White Sox, who since 1951 had shown flashes of greatness, finally sustained it for an entire season. Known as the "Go-Go Sox" their speed and defensive capabilities allowed them to take over first place on July 28 and hold on the rest of the season. The Yankees started the season slowly they were in last place on May 20. They found some traction as the season progressed, but never were in serious contention.
The Indians hung around for most of the season, but the race was over when they suffered a four game sweep at the hands of the White Sox August 28 – 30. It was the old man, 39 year old ex-Indian, pitcher Early Wynn that made the difference for the Sox. For years they had the speed and defense, but came up one pitcher short from being a serious challenger. Wynn changed that by winning 22 games.
#1 Chicago White Sox (94-60) . Shortstop Luis Aparicio stole 55 bases and sizzled with his glove. Nellie Fox, the 2B of the defensive tandem, batted over .300 and OF jim Landis contributed with timely hitting and speed on the basepaths. Still with little power outside of catcher Sherm Lollar’s 22 home runs. Wynn was the ace of an efficient starting rotation that included Bob Shaw and Billy Pierce. The Sox also benefited from a solid bullpen featuring Gerry Staley and Turk Lown who combined for 34 saves. They led the league in stolen bases and posted the lowest team ERA.
#2 Cleveland Indians (89-65) . The opposite of the Sox, the Indians carried big bats. Rocky Colavito’s 42 home runs, 111 RBIs was backed up by 3B Woody Held, 29 homers, and Minnie Minoso, 21 homers. Two newcomers picked up during the season were OF Tito Francona, 20 HR and 2B Jim Baxes 15 HR in limited play. They easily led the league in home runs. Pitcher Cal McLish had a career year with 19 wins. Herb Score won 9 games, but he was no longer effective posting a 4.71 ERA.
#3 New York Yankees (79-75) . Quite a tumble for the world champs. Although they still got good production from the bats of 1B Bill Skowron, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, it was not the same ferociousness. Mantle dropped to 31 home runs and no one else reached 20. Bobby Richardson took over 2B while 22 year old Tony Kubek shared SS with Gil McDougal. Whitey Ford climbed back into being the ace with 16 wins, while 1958 star pitcher Bob Turley had a dismal 9 win, 11 loss season.
#4 Detroit Tigers (76-78) . Harvey Kuenn was still hitting the ball with a .353 AL leading batting average and Al Kaline came back strong .327 with 27 home runs. Journeymen OF Charlie Maxwell surprised the league with 31 home runs, but the improved offense did not show up in the win-lost column. Three starting pitchers, Frank Lary, Jim Bunning and Don Mossi each won 17 games, but the bullpen was lacking.
The Rest of the Pack
#5 Boston Red Sox (75-79) . The unthinkable happened when Ted Wlliams batted .254 with 10 home runs. They still had Jackie Jensen, but he was not the MVP of 1958, dropping to .277 and 28 home runs. The pitching was terrible with no one winning more than 13 games. There was some hope in rookie Bill Monbouquette’s seven victories.
#6 Baltimore Orioles (74-80) . Brooks Robinson’s bat was still silent and he only played 89 games. The leading hitter was Yankee castoff OF Gene Woodling’s .300 batting average. The power still came from catcher Gus Triandos. The Orioles thought they pulled off a coup when they picked up 1958 Rookie of the Year Albie Pearson from the Senators, but found out he was a not as advertised, and only played sparingly for the Birds. On the bright side was the development of 20-year-old pitcher Milt Pappas who won 15 games in his sophomore season.
#7 Kansas City Athletics (66-88) . The Yankees sent some of their former hotshots to KC. Hector Lopez, Jerry Lumpe, Johnny Kucks, and Bob Grim joined other Yankee castoffs. There was nothing gained as they lost more than the previous season. Future Yankee all star pitcher 23-year-old Ralph Terry was part of the package sent to the Yanks. The lineup was a merry go round of starters. Bob Cerv still led the team in home runs with 20 as opposed to 38 the previous year. Surprisingly the A’s had the highest team batting average in the AL.
#8 Washington Senators (63-81) . There was actually some excitement surrounding this last place team. Twenty three year old future HOF Harmon Killebrew broke out by belting 42 home runs and driving in 105. That was not all. Rookie of the Year OF Bob Allision hit 30 homers and OF Bob Lemon added 33. With the exception of Camilio Pascual (17-10), the pitching was as bad as the offense was good.
On July 21, 1958, the Boston Red Sox became the last Major League team to break the color line - twelve years after the debut of Jackie Robinson . Follow the link if you do not remember the player's name OR if you want to see the first black Major League player for every Major League team.