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.
On February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Flying aboard his spacecraft, Friendship Seven, the Marine Lieutenant travelled roughly 81,000 miles as he circled our planet three times at speeds greater than 17,000 mph.
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.
"When I go back in my mind to our play in 1962 I just wonder how we ever got to win 40 games." - New York Mets manager Casey Stengel
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Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
1951 de ja vu. After setting the pace for most of the season, the Dodgers could only win 3 of their final 13 games while the Giants won seven in a row to tie the Dodgers on the final game of the season. Even the playoff was reminiscent of 1951 as the Dodgers led after eight innings 4-2 in the third and deciding game of the three game series. The Giants rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth that included the lead run scoring on a bases loaded walk. The Reds slipped to third while the Pirates showed some flashback to 1960. The top tier teams feasted on the addition of two expansion teams, The Houston Colt 45s and the New York Mets.
This was the year of the beloved last place team, the New York Mets, who lost a record 120 games under the direction of manager Casey Stengel. New Yorkers turned out in droves to welcome the team and watch the endless futility of its members.
#1 San Francisco Giants (103-62) . A very well balanced team. On offense Willie Mays led the league in home runs 49, and drove in 143. Orlando Cepeda slugged 35 HRs and joined Mays, Harvey Kuenn and Felipe Alou, in batting over .300. There were games during the season that manager Al Dark started all thee of the Alou brothers, Felipe, Matty, and Manny in the lineup. The pitching staff was equally as good. Jack Sanford led the staff with 24 wins, including winning 16 in a row, Billy O’Dell had 19, Juan Marichal and 38 year-old pick up Billy Pierce each won 10.
#2 Los Angeles Dodgers (102-63) . An entertaining team to watch with speed, power and pitching. Maury Wills won the NL MVP with his record breaking 104 stolen bases. Outfielder Tommy Davis led the league in both batting .346 and RBIs (153). The off-season pick up of slugging outfielder Frank Howard worked out well with his 31 home runs. Don Drysdale took the Cy Young Award winning 25 games. There is little doubt that the loss of Sandy Koufax on July 17 due to a circulatory ailment in his fingers cost the Dodgers the pennant.
#3 Cincinnati Reds (98-64) . The Reds played pretty consistent with ’61 but the other teams got better. Nothing could stop Frank Robinson (.342, 39 HRs, 138 RBIs) or Vada Pinson (23 home runs, 100 RBIs and 26 steals). The loss of 3B Gene Freese to injuries hurt. He was replaced with a combination of Eddie Kasko and Don Zimmer. Often overlooked pitcher Bob Purkey had a career year with 23 wins and Joey Jay was just as good, winning 21.
#4 Pittsburgh Pirates (93-68) . A bounce back season for the Bucs. Outside of outfielder Bob Skinner’s 20 home runs, there was little power. However, Roberto Clemente batted .312 and catcher Smoky Burgess .328. Pitcher Bob Friend had a good year recording 18 wins while newcomer Al McBean added 15. Vern Law returned after injury, but posted a mediocre 10-7 season. Aging pitchers Roy Face and Harvey Haddix were fading.
#5 Milwaukee Braves (86-76) . The offense was centered around Hank Aaron, .323, 45 HRs, 123 RBIs. Mathews dropped in power and average as did Joe Adcock. Spahn, 41, and Burdette, 35, were not the dominating duo of the past five years. In limited action, rookie catcher Joe Torre hit .282.
#6 St. Louis Cardinals (84-78) . First baseman Bill White was building a very good career— batting .324 with 20 homeruns and 102 RBIs. Fans were wondering how long could Stan Musial keep it up with his .330 BA? Second baseman Julian Javier lived up to expectation with 28 steals and good defense. Pitching was a weak spot with only Larry Jackson and Bob Gibson able to reach 15 wins.
#7 Philadelphia Phillies (81-80) . Finally escaping the cellar, the Phillies were aided by the speed and hustle of 2B Tony Taylor and some solid hitting by outfielders Bob Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and veteran 1B Roy Sievers. They won 24 more games than 1961. The mediocre pitching staff was led by Art Mahaffey's 19 wins.
#8 Houston Colt .45s (64-96) . No one expected much and they were not wrong. The roster of expansion castaways did not constitute a .300 batter nor a pitcher who could win more than 10 games.
#9 Chicago Cubs (59-103) . Not even playing against expansion teams could prevent the Cubs from losing more games than 1961. Ernie Banks and George Altman hit the baseball, but no one else did. Picking up former Braves hurler Bob Buhl did not help, although his measly 12 wins did lead the staff.
#10 New York Mets (40-120) . Manager Casey Stengel asked, "Can anyone on this team play baseball?" The answer was a record 120 losses. Somehow veteran outfielder Richie Ashburn batted .302. The ace of the pitching staff, Roger Craig, won 10 games but lost 24. Met's fans fell in love with 1B Marv Throneberry who seemed to not be able to do anything right.
On July 25, 1962, Stan Musial drove in two runs with a blast to left field giving him a new National League record 1,862 career runs batted in.
On September 29, 1962, Warren Spahn defeated the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 and won his 327th career game to become the winningest left-handed pitcher in Major League history.