After hearing the case of Engel vs. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled that state-sponsored prayer in schools was unconstitutional. Although prayer was not outlawed in school entirely (only school-sponsored prayer) the decision ignited a controversy that has continued unabated until today.
In February, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in orbit and John Glenn followed later that year as the first to travel into space after a fifteen minute flight on July 21 st . Both missions were in preparation of meeting President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
In late August, American spy planes detected the building of military missile sites in Cuba. U.S. Intelligence sources later determined the Soviets, under Nikita Khrushchev, had decided to shorten the strategic gap between the two world powers by placing missiles there limiting America's warning capabilities if attacked. In October, President John F. Kennedy was presented with conclusive proof that the Soviets were in fact installing medium-range ballistic missiles. After several tense days of defensive posturing, the issue was peacefully resolved after the United States agreed not to invade Cuba, and the Soviets agreed to withdraw all military forces and weapons.
The Baltimore Orioles' Brooks Robinson became only the fifth player in Major League history to hit grand slams in back-to-back games after knocking out a bases loaded round-tripper on May 6 th and May 9 th .
After missing thirty games due to recurring knee injuries, New York's Mickey Mantle limped to the plate as a pinch hitter and launched a four-hundred twenty foot blast off of Gary Bell of the Cleveland Indians. The home team crowd showed their respects by giving the visiting Yankee a standing ovation.
Earl Wilson became the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the American League as the Boston Red Sox topped the California Angels 2-0 on June 26 th at Fenway Park. Wilson also dominated at the plate with a four-hundred foot homer off Bo Belinsky who had tossed a "no-no" of his own in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles.
On September 7 th , Los Angeles Dodger Maury Wills stole four bases off the Pittsburgh Pirates setting a National League record for eighty-two "robberies" in a single season.
The Houston Colt 45s, one of the National Leagues two new teams (New York Mets), opened with an impressive 11-2 triumph over the Chicago Cubs before a crowd of over 25,000. Roman Mejias set the pace with two, three-run home runs and Hal Smith followed close behind debuting with a round-tripper of his own.
Stan Musial set a National League record (previously held by Mel Ott) after scoring for the 1,806 th time in his career during a St. Louis Cardinals win over the Chicago Cubs on April 13 th . Later in the season Musial became the leagues all-time leader in total bases with 5,864 during a June 22 nd outing against the Philadelphia Phillies.
John "Buck" O'Neil became the first African-American coach in Major League baseball after joining the staff of the Chicago Cubs. O'Neil had been a scout for the Cubs organization previously and was credited with discovering both Ernie Banks and Lou Brock.
Baseball's newest franchise, the New York Mets, debuted in what some referred to as "copycat uniforms" that featured Dodger blue sleeves, Giants orange lettering and Yankee pinstripes. Unfortunately the Mets played as bad as they looked and finished their inaugural season with a laughable 40-120 record.
After several years of "double-headers", both players and owners agreed to return the All-Star Game to its original, one-game format in 1963.
Kansas City owner Charles Finley hired the first woman in baseball broadcasting. Betty Caywood was brought in initially to do "color-commentary" for the A's games, but later became the first female to regularly announce baseball games while airing her reports from both the dugout and the stands.
"As his teammates rushed out of the dugout, and the home crowd went wild (no-hitter being tossed), (Bo) Belinsky pointed to the stands and said to his catcher Buck Rodgers, 'Hey look at that blonde.' " - Steve Wulf in Baseball Anecdotes (1981)
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Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
On April 9, 1962, President John F. Kennedy threw out the Opening Day pitch in the newly opened $20 million District of Columbia Stadium. The Washington Senators won versus the Detroit Tigers 4-1, but finished the season with more than 100 losses.
The Yanks were a far cry from the power and pitching laden club of 1961, but neither was the competition. Two surprising upstarts, the Minnesota Twins and the expansion California Angeles, posed only a mild threat. Cleveland was actually in first place at the All Star break until they took a 5 win and 19 loss plunge.
The Yanks lost Mickey Mantle for 39 games from injuries, but he still managed to win the AL MVP Award. Roger Maris became morta,l hitting 33 home runs as opposed to the 61 the previous season. Rookie Tom Tresh filled in admirably for Tony Kubek at shortstop until he returned from military service in August. Ralph Terry took over as the pitching ace with 23 wins. The new Washington Senators were as bad as or not worse than the old Senators. A’s owner Charlie Finley brought some creativity to KC in regards to promotion, but they did not help the ball club. The Tigers slipped by 18 in the win column indicating the ’61 season was an illusion.
#1 New York Yankees (96-66) . Maris drops from 61 home runs to 33, Mantle was out for 39 games, SS Kubek in the Army, Yogi Berra batted .224,in a part time role, and only two consistent starting pitchers (Ralph Terry and Whitey Ford) but yet, they took another pennant. A look at their roster includes a number of of young players waiting in the wings — shortstop Tom Tresh (24), 1B Joe Pepitone (21), pitchers Bill Stafford (22), Jim Bouton (22), and Al Downing (21).
#2 Minnesota Twins (91-71) . Quite a jump for this young team. Oh how Washington fans must have suffered after all the bad years in D.C. Outfielders Harmon Killebrew, 48 home runs and 126 RBIs and Bob Allison, 29 home runs and 102 RBIs, provided the offense. Veteran pitcher Camilio Pascual put together an unexpected twenty win season and young Jim Kaat added 18.
#3 Los Angeles Angels (86-76 ). The expansion Angels gained some respect. A team of primarily journeyman veterans was led by outfielder Leon Wagner’s 37 HRs and 107 RBIs and 1B Lee Thomas, 29 HRs and 103 RBIs. They had some speed in lead-off batter Albie Pearson stealing 15 bases. The pitching staff was led by 21-year-old Dean Chance (14-10). The fans had fun with the controversial pitcher Bo Belinsky, who consumed all that tinsel town offered.
#4 Detroit Tigers (85-76) . A big step back from ’61. A powerful, but inconsistent, offense built around outfielders Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito and 1B Norm Cash was not enough. Pitchers Jim Bunning registered 19 wins and veteran Hank Aguire added 16, but they missed Frank Lary who was out for much of the season with a sore arm.
#5 Chicago White Sox ( 85-77) . The White Sox, with the exception of trading mainstay outfielder Minnie Minoso to St Louis, brought out pretty much the same lineup as 1961 with comparable results. The only surprise was the contribution of veteran pitcher Ray Herbert who won 20 games.
The Rest of the Bunch
#6 Cleveland Indians (80-82) . The Indians also tried to get away with the same lineup, but failed. Fans disappeared as the team had little offense. Ex White Sox hurler Dick Donovan won twenty, but there was nothing behind him.
#7 Baltimore Orioles (77-85) . A disappointing season for Baltimore that had been looking to the young pitchers to propel them into contention. Milt Pappas only won 12, and promising left hander Steve Barber was hampered by an arm injury. The Orioles tried to fill in with veteran Robin Roberts who, although giving up less than 3 runs per game, could only pick up 10 victories.
#8 Boston Red Sox (75-86) . Carl Yastrzemski showed some promise and shortstop Pete Runnels had a career year, batting .326, but the team was far from being a contender. Reigning Rookie of the Year pitcher Don Schwall proved to be a disappointment recording only 9 wins while losing 15.
#9 Kansas City Athletics (72-90) . Yankee castoffs 1B Norm Siebern and 2B Jerry Lumpe along with rookie Manny Jimenez all batted over .300, but the weak starting pitching did not allow them to move out of ninth place. The one exception was relief pitcher fireballer "Bullet" John Wyatt who saved 11 games and won 10.
#10 Washington Senators (60-101) . With the exception of outfielder Chuck Hinton, who batted .310, 17 home runs and 25 stolen bases, the offense was as bad as the pitching which did not have a starting pitcher win more than they lost.
On May 5, 1962, Bo Belinksy pitched the Angels first ever no-hit game and the first in the American League since 1958! After the game reporters asked him what it was like and Belinsky replied, "If I'd known I was gonna pitch a no-hitter today, I would have gotten a haircut."
On September 12, 1962, Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators struck out a Major League record 21 batters during an extra inning game. The Baltimore Orioles lost 2-1 in 16 innings and every batter, except for Boog Powell , was struck out at least once. Did you know that Cheney did not allow a single hit from the 8th inning forward and that the Senators won thanks to a walk-off home run hit by Bud Zipfel ?