Controversial civil rights activist Malcolm Little, also known as "Malcolm X", was assassinated while delivering a speech at the OAAU rally in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21st. The Islamic minister had become an inspirational leader along side Dr. Martin Luther King after breaking ties with the Nation of Islam in order to create his own religious community known as Muslim Mosque, Inc., and later the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
A routine traffic stop and arrest for drunk driving in South Central Los Angeles lit the fire for what would become known as the Watts Riots. In response to the police action, many residents accused the law of practicing racial bias and erupted violently for six days leaving thirty-four dead, over a thousand people injured, nearly four-thousand arrested, and hundreds of buildings destroyed.
Construction on the nation's tallest memorial, the Gateway Arch, was finally completed after a four-year span. The six-hundred thirty feet high, stainless steel structure was originally designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1947 for the Expansion Memorial Park which was established on the banks of the Mississippi River to commemorate the westward growth of the United States.
New York Yankees ace Mel Stottlemyre became the first pitcher in fifty-five years to hit an inside-the-park home run during a 6-3 win over their American League rivals, the Boston Red Sox, on July 20th.
Bert Campanaris, of the Kansas City Athletics, set an unprecedented Major League record by playing all nine positions during a September 8th outing against the California Angels. Campanaris allowed just one run (on a hit) and two walks while on the mound, but went 0-for-3 at the plate. Despite the "one man show" the Angels went on to win it, 5-3 after thirteen innings.
Shortstop Ron Hanson of the Chicago White Sox tied a Major League record with twenty-eight fielding chances during a double-header against the Boston Red Sox. Hanson handled eighteen shots in the first contest, setting an American League record, and ten more in the nightcap. Chicago, like their shortstop, came out on top in both games with matching 3-2 victories.
On April 9th, the $31 million dollar, ultramodern indoor ballpark known as the "Astrodome" debuted with an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally were among the 47,000+ plus fans who witnessed the first ever, indoor home run courtesy of Mickey Mantle.
Chicago "Cubbie" Ernie Banks slugged his four-hundredth career homer during a 5-3 triumph over Curt Simmons and the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
San Francisco slugger Willie Mays became the fifth member of the ultra-exclusive "500 Homerun Club" after paying the membership dues off Don Nottebart during a 5-1 Giants victory over the Houston Astros at the Astrodome.
Baseball's first free-agent draft was held at the Hotel Commodore in New York City resulting in three-hundred twenty players being selected by twenty Major League teams. It was later determined that the draft would continue to take place every June and January with teams selecting prospects in the reverse order of the league standings.
One of baseball's greatest left-handed aces, Warren Spahn announced his retirement after an amazing twenty-one seasons. Spahn walked away from the game with a 363-245 career record and a lifetime ERA of 3.09. He also ranked as number six on the all-time list with sixty-three shutouts and thirteen, twenty-win seasons.
On December 9th, Branch Rickey, the man who helped Jackie Robinson break through baseball's color barrier by signing him with the Brooklyn Dodgers, died at the age of eighty-three.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax became the first two-time recipient of the Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, he would manage only one more season (where he became the first three-time recipient) before retiring with an astounding 165-87 record over a twelve year period.
"There are four-hundred ninety-nine major league ballplayers. Then there's Willie Mays" - Unknown
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
On April 12, 1965, the Houston Astrodome hosted its first regular season game. Dick Allen of the Phillies hit the first home run which drove in 2 runs and ultimately defeated the home town Astros 2-0.
It did not take long for the Dodgers to wake up following their dreadful 1964 season. Four teams were in contention as of the beginning of September, but then the Dodgers and Giants took off. The Dodgers won 13 in a row and the Giants 14 in a row to challenge up to the final weekend.
The irony of the season is that the Giants might have forced a playoff if not for a late August contest between the two teams. Giant pitcher Juan Marichal struck Dodger catcher John Roseboro on the head with his bat after a heated argument at the plate. Roseboro was unharmed, however Marichal received a nine day suspension and was denied the right to travel to LA for their final series against their West Coast rivals. If 22 game winner Marichal had pitched, he very likely would have won one game and forced a playoff for the pennant.
The Pirates were the surprise of the league posting a 20 game win improvement. But the pitching tandem of Drysdale and Koufax coupled with the speed of Maury Wills was not to be denied.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (97-65) . Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale combined for 49 wins, SS Maury Wills led the league with 94 steals while batting .288 and the Rookie of the Year, 2B Jim Lefebvre, hit 12 home runs which tied as the homerun leader for a team with little power. Outfielder Lou Johnson also knocked 12 home runs after being called up from the minors when leading hitter Tommy Davis broke an ankle. Koufax won his second CY Young Award as he led the league in wins (26), strikeouts (382) and ERA (2.04).
#2 San Francisco Giants (95-67) . Willie Mays won the NL MVP Award by hitting 52 home runs, including #500 of his career, 112 RBIs and a .317 BA . Orlando Cepeda played only 33 games due to a knee injury, but 1B Willie McCovey stepped up his production with 39 home runs. Juan Marichal won 22-games despite his suspension and absence when the team needed him most.
#3 Pittsburgh Pirates (90-72) . A nice jump up for the Bucs. Roberto Clemente won the batting title for the second consecutive season batting .329. He had good support from Willie Stargell (29 HRs, 107 RBIs) and 1B Donn Clendenon’s .301 BA. Thirty-five year old Vern Law took a drink from the fountain of youth and recoded 17 wins as did left hander Bob Veale.
#4 Cincinnati Reds (89-73) . The Reds hung close to the lead through the first 120 games before faltering. The spectacular outfield tandem of Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson continued to haunt opposing pitchers. They combined for 55 home runs and 207 RBIs. Adding to those stats was 3B Deron Johnson who led the league with 130 RBIs and 2B Pete Rose with a league leading 209 hits. Pitchers Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney combined for 42-wins, but the staff lacked depth.
#5 Milwaukee Braves (86-76) . It was a tumultuous year in Wisconsin. Word got out the Braves would be leaving for Atlanta the next year causing a notable drop in attendance including several games with less than 1,000 fans. Despite the lack of interest the team did not fare too poorly. They had three hitters with 30 plus home runs — Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and newcomer outfielder Mack Jones. But Warren Spahn had retired during the off season (365 career wins) and although Tony Cloninger was an adequate replacement winning 24-games there was not much behind him.
The Bottom Feeders
#6 Philadelphia Phillies (85-76) . Philly fans were disappointed. Having seen the play of 3B Dick Allen, OF Johnny Callison and pitcher Jim Bunning in '64, it appeared they were building a contender. In addition, an off-season transaction to fill a void at 1B brought in slugger Dick Stuart. Although Neither Callison nor Allen could match their '64 output. Stuart’s 28 home runs was not enough to make up for his .220 BA and poor defense. Bunning again won 19-games and Chris Short 18, but it was not enough to prevent a drop to sixth place.
#7 St. Louis Cardinals (80-81) . Coming off a 92-win second place finish in '64, the team was a mess. Even though Curt Flood batted .310, Lou Brock stole 63 bases and 1B Bill White was a solid force, the team could not reach .500. Pitcher Bob Gibson won 20 and struck out 280, but the rest of the pitching staff faltered badly.
#8 Chicago Cubs (72-80) . A seemingly endless rut of bad baseball. Sympathies were being extended to Ernie Banks who hit his 400th home run for a team that was never a contender. Outfielder Billy Williams was outstanding batting .315, 34 home runs and 108 RBIs as was 3B Ron Santo, 31 HRs and 104 RBIs. The pitching staff was comprised of all pitchers with losing records.
#9 Houston Astros (65-97) . The big news in Houston was about the Astrodome not the team. The Eighth Wonder of the World opened to great fanfare. However, it did not impact the team's play as they won one less game than in 1964. They did have some excitement in the form of 2B (HOF) young Joe Morgan who stole 20 bases while batting .271 in his first full season. Outfielder Jimmy Wynn stole 43 bases and had a team leading 22 homers. The pitching staff was not improving.
#10 New York Mets (50-112) . A bad team getting worse. Seventy-five-year-old manager Casey Stengel broke his hip and was forced into retirement two thirds of the way into the season. Still no .300 hitters, or power, coupled with a pitching staff whose ace won only eight games. Warren Spahn stopped by after announcing his retirement, but should have stayed retired. Rookie pitcher Tug McGraw was 2 and 7.