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.
"Harvey Kuenn gave it an honest pursuit, but the only center fielder in baseball who could have caught it hit it." - Bob Stevens in the San Francisco Chronicle (July 8, 1959)
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Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
On May 7, 1959, Roy Campanella delivered a stirring speech before 93,103 fans at Los Angeles Coliseum. While crying he told those gathered on Campanella Night , "This is something I will never forget. I thank God I'm here living to be able to see it. It's a wonderful thing."
It did not take long for the Dodgers to right the ship after their dismal seventh place finish in their new home the year before. But what a dramatic way to do it. The Giants were up by two games over the Dodgers and the defending NL champs the Braves with eight games left on the schedule. The Dodgers went to SF Seals Stadium on September 18 and knocked off the Giants three straight, sending them into third place.
The Braves kept pace setting up the new three game playoff to determine the pennant winner. The Dodgers won in two. Braves fans were bemoaning a September 15 loss to the Dodgers on a disputed call. The Braves Joe Adcock hit a ball over the left field screen in the LA Memorial Colliseum that got stuck in a steel girder. The umpires initially called a ground rule double, but after some fans shook the screen the ball landed over the fence and was then declared a home run. After a consultation the call was reversed back to the double which kept Adcock from scoring and forced the game into extra innings in which the Dodgers prevailed, contributing to the season ending tie.
The Dodgers success came from combining some old veterans with some newly acquired veterans and a young future HOF pitcher Don Drysdale. Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda carried the Giants and were joined in mid August by NL Rookie of the Year, 1B Willie McCovey. It was a great season for west coast Major League Baseball.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (88-68) . From seventh to first did not come easily. They received offensive production from Gil Hodges, 25 home runs, Junior Gilliam, 23 steals, 282 batting average, and a bounce back year from Duke Snider .308 with 23 homers. They also picked up a very valuable bat from St. Louis, OF Wally Moon. Moon came back from a poor season by hitting .302, 19 home runs and 15 steals. The Dodgers led the league in stolen bases. With Don Newcombe gone and Carl Erskine relegated to the bullpen, it opened the door for 22-year-old (HOF) Don Drysdale to step forward and win 17 games. Sandy Koufax was still battling control issues. As a fifth starter he won only six, but the potential showed as he struck out 176 batter in 153 innings.
#2 Milwaukee Braves (86-70) . First baseman Joe Adcock played an increasingly larger role with 25 home runs. Combined with Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathew's 85 homers, it created a monstrous batting order. The pitching staff was the best in the NL with Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette each winning 21 games.
#3 San Francisco Giants (83-71) . A tough way to lose a pennant, but losing seven out of the eight final games of the season will do that. Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda again were awesome combining for 61 home runs, 50 stolen bases and both batting over .300. Although the starting rotation was strong, led by Sam Jones 21 wins, and Johnny Antonelli 19, it fell apart that last week of the season.
#4 Pittsburgh Pirates (78-76) . Maybe the Pirates were not a 1958 fluke. Although their win total fell a few games, they had some legitimate ballplayers. Adding to the nucleus of Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente was power hitting, but poor fielding, 1B Dick "Iron Glove" Stuart, with 27 round tripper. More impressive was relief pitcher Elroy Face with an unheard won lost record of 18-1. Pitcher Harvey Haddix gained celebrity by throwing 12 perfect innings in a game versus the Braves before getting beat in the 13th.
#5 Chicago Cubs (74-80) . The Cubs shared their 5th place standing with the Reds, but showed little improvement. Mr Baseball, Ernie Banks, the NL MVP, batted .304 with 45 home runs and 143 RBIs. One shutters at the thought of how bad the Cubs would have been in this era without Banks because they had little to back him up. Although he went unnoticed, there was an interesting late season call up of 21-year-old outfielder Billy Williams. Glen Hobbs remained the pitching ace winning 15 games, while losing 13.
#6 Cincinnati Reds (74-80) . The Reds took back their original name with the McCarthy communist scare over. The arrival of 20-year-old Vada Pinson stirred some excitement with his .315 average and 20 home runs. Added to an outfield with Frank Robinson and Gus Bell, it was not an easy team to pitch to. As was the norm for the Reds, the pitching cupboard was bare as they had to depend on 33-year-old Don Newcombe’s 13 wins, to lead the staff.
#7 St. Louis Cardinals (71-83) . The slump continued for the Cardinals. Stan Musial, now 38. He played in only 115 games and batted .255. This put the burden on 3B Ken Boyer (28 home runs, .305 BA) to carry the offense. OF Curt Flood made his debut and 17-year-old catcher Tim McCarver was a September call-up. Pitcher Lindy McDaniel made a bit of a bounce back and led the staff with 14 wins.
#8 Philadelphia Phillies (64-90) . They were even worse than 1958! No regular player batted over .280. Only OF Wally Post and 3B Gene Freese would hit 20 home runs. Tired arm Robin Roberts headed the pitching rotation with 15 wins, but he lost 17.
On May 26, 1959 , Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates tossed 12 perfect innings in a game which many historians believe is the finest ever pitched! Review the box score and decide for yourself then share your opinion on our baseball message boards .