After murdering both his wife and mother, serial sniper Charles Whitman ascended to the observation deck at Austin's University of Texas tower killing fourteen people and injuring thirty-one others during a ninety-minute shooting spree. He was eventually shot and killed himself after a civilian and two police officers stormed the tower and overpowered him.
Media icon Walt Disney, who turned the whimsical cartoon world of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck into a million dollar a year entertainment empire, died of cancer at the age of sixty-five. The pioneering animator had produced the first fully animated motion picture and had invented the original concept of theme parks with his final masterpiece, Disneyland in California.
The first U.S. manned space flights, Gemini 8 thru 12, were launched in preparation for man's eventual trip to the moon. Following the pioneering Mercury program and preceding the Apollo missions, Gemini flights were specifically developed to learn how to maneuver a spacecraft into orbit and rendezvous with other docking vehicles.
On July 29th, Mickey Mantle hit his four-hundred ninety-fourth homerun off of Chicago White Sox ace Bruce Howard moving himself ahead of fellow Yankee Lou Gehrig for sixth place on the all-time list. Teammate Al Downing sweetened the deal with a clutch 2-1 performance on the mound.
Baltimore Orioles slugger "Boog" Powell astonished the crowd at Fenway Park after hitting not one, not two, but three, opposite-field homers OVER the "Green Monster" on the way to a 4-3, victory in which he totaled thirteen bases himself. Powell would also go on to become the first player ever to appear in the Little League World Series as well as the Major League version.
Teammate Frank Robinson was unanimously voted as the American League MVP becoming the first player to win the title in both the American and National Leagues since the Baseball Writers Association took it over in 1931. Robinson, who also won the American League Triple Crown, was also voted most valuable player in 1961 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
Tony Cloninger, of the recently transplanted Atlanta Braves, became the first National League pitcher to ever hit two grand-slams in a single game during a July 3rd, 17-3 triumph over the San Francisco Giants. Cloninger's first slam came off of rival pitcher Bob Priddy in the first, and then in the fourth he added another off of Ray Sadecki.
Willie Mays moved up to #2 (behind Babe Ruth) on the all-time list with his five-hundred thirty-fifth career home run, off of Ray Washburn, as the San Francisco Giants topped the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on August 17th.
On October 2nd, Sandy Koufax tallied his last Major League victory with a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League pennant. The Los Angeles Dodgers ace completed his twelve-year career with an amazing 165-87 record with a 2.76 ERA, forty shutouts and two-thousand three-hundred ninety-six strikeouts. Koufax also held the National League single-season strikeout record with three-hundred eighty-two K's (1965) and compiled an astounding 0.95 ERA in World Series starts.
Major League Baseball's first African-American umpire, Emmett Ashford made his debut on Opening Day as the American League's Washington Senators lost to the visiting Cleveland Indians 5-2.
Ted Williams used a portion of his Hall of Fame induction speech to plead for the inclusion of Negro League players including Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The infield at Houston's Astrodome became the first to be replaced by the new experimental surface known as "Astroturf". In the first game ever to be played on the artificial grass, the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed over the home team 6-3.
Dan Topping sold his remaining shares of interest in the New York Yankees to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for a reported $1.4 million dollars. In the end, the television dynasty paid a total of $14 million for total control of the franchise. Topping initially looked to come out on top in the deal as three days later, only four-hundred thirteen fans showed up at Yankee Stadium for a game against the Chicago White Sox.
"You know, I never had a cross word with anybody in 15 years in Milwaukee. Everybody had fun. We'd get to the park 2 or 3 hours early, sit around 2 or 3 hours after the game. Boy, that was enjoyable." - Eddie Mathews
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
On April 12, 1966, baseball made its debut in Atlanta, Georgia when the Milwaukee Braves moved their "home" to Fulton County Stadium. Nearly a quarter-million fans watch the pre-game parade and 50,671 fans attended the inaugural game where the Pirates won 3-2 on a 13th inning Willie Stargell home run.
The Giants lost out again to the Dodgers. No one was going to stop the four headed starting pitching of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen and rookie Don Sutton. In addition, they had Phil “The Vulture” Regan coming out of the bullpen. This would be the last hurrah for Koufax who’s twelve year career included 40 shutouts and 2,390 strikeouts. The Giants did hang around until the very end. Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were swinging their powerful bats while pitchers Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry kept batters confused.
The Pirates with MVP Roberto Clemente and batting league champion Matty Alou were showing that they were not to be taken lightly. The Reds disappointed and the Mets escaped the cellar for the first time since their creation. Discovering that it is hard to maintain grass in a dome stadium the Astros installed Astroturf – the first attempt of using artificial turf.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) . Almost totally dependent on their fine pitching staff—five pitchers with double digit victories. One of them was relief pitcher Regan 14-1 with 21 saves. Not much power. Second baseman Jim Lebrevre had the most with 24 homeruns. No batter hit over .300. They did have the speed of Maury Wills, 38 stolen bases, and outfielder Willie Davis with 21.
#2 San Francisco Giants (93-68) . Willie Mays led a powerful offense cranking out 37 home runs with 103 RBIs, McCovey had 38 hrs and 96 RBIs, 3B Jim Ray Hart, 33 hrs, 83 RBIs and catcher Tom Haller with 27 . Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry accumulated 46 wins.
#3 Pittsburgh Pirates (92-70) . Four outfielders batted over .300 — Roberto Clemente, Matty Alou, Willie Stargell and Manny Mota. Stargell delivered the power with 33 home runs. Despite the awesome offense, the pitching staff failed to hold up their end of the bargain. Ace Bob Veale won 16 but the rest of the staff was inconsistent.
#4 Philadelphia Phillies (87-75) . The Phillies played pretty much as expected. Third baseman Dick Allen carried the offense (.317, 40 home runs 110 RBIs), but no one was backing him up. Pitcher Chris short was a 20-game winner and Jim Bunning was right behind with 19. The bullpen lacked a closer.
#5 Atlanta Braves ( 85-77) . The relocated Braves played in front of packed crowds in their new home, but stayed at 5th place. Hank Aaron hit 44 home runs, knocked in 121 runs, and catcher Joe Torre hit a career high 38 home runs. Third baseman Eddie Mathews power dropped. Pitching disappointed with no one registering more than 14 wins.
The Rest of Them
#6 St. Louis Cardinals (83-79) . Picking up 1B Orlando Cepeda from the Giants was not the answer. Although his .303 batting average and 17 home runs led the team, there was not much behind him at the plate. Lou Brock excited the fans with his league leading 74 stolen bases. They did have, arguably, the second best pitcher in the league with Bob Gibson who won 21 games.
#7 Cincinnati Reds (76-84) . The Reds sent Frank Robinson to the Orioles and paid a big price. They still had the bats of Pete Rose and Vada Pinson, but there was no one to fill the loss of power. Pitching was not good. Jim Mahoney won 15, but Pappas could only win 12.
#8 Houston Astros (72-90) . Fans continued to pass through the turnstiles, but more than likely to view the stadium and not the ball club. The offense showed little power and no .300 batters. The pitching was just as dull with the exception of Mike Cuellar's 175 strikeouts.
#9 New York Mets (68-95) . The Mets escaped the cellar and improved their win column by 18 games. Still not much to mention in the way of statistics but they did add some youth — Catcher Jetty Grote and outfielder Cleon Jones joined the offense. No pitchers recorded more than 11 wins. Nolan Ryan was a September call up and appeared in two games.
#10 Chicago Cubs (59-102) . Being passed by the hapless Mets was an embarrassment to the Cubbie fans. Third baseman Ron Santo and OF Billy Williams continued to carry good bats, but Ernie Banks was slowing down and no one was there to take his place. No pitchers with winning records. Dick Elsworth led the staff in losses with 22.
On April 24, 1966, Willie Mays tied Mel Ott for the National League record for career home runs when he hit his 511th long ball. On May 4, 1966, Claude Osteen of the Dodgers served up the record breaker and Mays stood at the top of the senior circuit.
On October 2, 1966, one of the most dominant pitchers of the era recorded his final victory. Sandy Koufax won his 27th of the season and captured the Dodgers second consecutive pennant before hanging up his spikes at the top of his career. Asked why he chose to leave the game at this moment he replied, "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with the complete use of my body."