Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong, became the first man to walk on the moon after landing the lunar module, known as the "Eagle" at Tranquility Base on July 16 th . Armstrong made his historic descent to the surface live on television making the now historic statement: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Twenty-one hours and thirty-six minutes later (after conducting several experiments and planting the U.S. flag) the Eagle returned safe and sound to the Columbia for its return flight to Earth on July 24 th .
On the night of August 9 th , several members of a hippie cult led by self-proclaimed messiah Charles Manson brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others in her Beverly Hills mansion. The next evening Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy owners of a grocery chain, were also brutally attacked in their Los Angeles home. Initially the crimes were not connected even though victims in both cases had suffered from multiple stab wounds and the words "pig" and "Helter Skelter" were written in blood all over both crime scenes.
The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York representing the culmination of the counterculture of the 1960's and the high point of the "hippie era." Although 10,000 to 20,000 people were expected, well over 400,000 showed up and crashed the gate as music's biggest names including Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Joe Crocker, The Who and the Grateful Dead came together for three days of "music, peace and love".
On March 1 st , "The Commerce Comet" also known as Mickey Mantle announced his retirement after eighteen years in professional baseball. During his Hall of Fame tenure with the New York Yankees, "The Mick" batted .298, hit five-hundred thirty-six home runs and appeared in an amazing sixty-five World Series games in which he tallied a record eighteen home runs and forty RBIs.
As Major League Baseball celebrated its Centennial season, two New York Yankees topped the commemorative list of the games greatest. "Babe" Ruth was unanimously crowned as the "Greatest Player Ever" and Joe DiMaggio was christened as the "Greatest Living Player".
Reggie Jackson hit two home runs and drove in a whopping ten runs as the Oakland Athletics regained first place in the American League West with a 21-7 romp over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 14 th . Jackson doubled home a run in the first, homered in the third and fifth, singled in two in the seventh and drove in three more with a single in the eighth. The whopping twenty-one run total set a team record that wouldn't be matched until the 2000 season.
In the first regular season Major League Baseball game ever to be played outside of the borders of the United States, the Montreal Expos defeated the visiting St. Louis Cardinals 8-7. Both teams were introduced to the capacity crowd of 29,184 in both English and French Canadian.
St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson set a National League record on August 16 th (reaching two-hundred strikeouts for the seventh season) after an 8-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
On May 13 th , Ernie Banks, of the Chicago Cubs, hit seven RBIs (including his one-thousand five-hundredth) with two, three-run home runs and a double during a 19-0 massacre over the San Diego Padres. The blowout tied the mark for the largest shutout margin in the history of the modern National League.
Ted Williams was named Jim Lemon's replacement as manager of the Washington Senators after the Capital's franchise finished in last place with a miserable 65-96 record. "Teddy Baseball" was reported to have signed a five-year contract for $75,000 a season and ten percent in the team's stock.
Both leagues agreed to try the new "designated pinch hitter" rule during spring training, but under two different variations. The American League allowed the optional use of a DPH only for the home team while the National League required home managers to obtain the visiting skipper's approval for the experimental substitution.
Bowie Kuhn, a forty-two year old lawyer whose firm had handled all of the National League's legal affairs was unanimously elected as the new Commissioner of Baseball. Two other top candidates; Mike Burke of the New York Yankees and Charles Feeney of the San Francisco Giants had been previously deadlocked resulting in Kuhn's nomination.
In an effort to prevent an impending strike, Major League Baseball and the Players Association finally settled on a new revised pension plan. The tenure for qualifying was shortened from five years to four and the minimum age requirement was also lowered from fifty to forty-five. The players also agreed to get $5.45 million per year (retroactive to 1959) as well as a percentage of all televised game revenues.
"I can't play anymore (retirement press conference on March 1, 1969). I can't hit the ball when I need to. I can't steal second when I need to. I can't go from first to third when I need to. I can't score from second when I need to. I have to quit." - Mickey Mantle
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On April 8, 1969 , the expansion Seattle Pilots made their American League debut versus the California Angels and won 4-3 at Anaheim Stadium. Three days later, April 11, 1969 , they played their first home game, in Sick's Stadium, and beat the White Sox 7-0!
More expansion and also new alignments. With the additional two teams both leagues moved into two six team divisions. This would allow an expansion of post season play as the division leaders would square off in a 5 game playoff series to determine who should win the league pennant. The other change was the lowering of the pitching mound and the narrowing of the pitching zone to provide more offense.
In the American League the change did not instill a more competitive balance as both the Orioles and the Twins had an easy time capturing first place in their division. The Orioles added Mike Cuellar and his 23 wins to their already solid core of pitching. Their offense was anchored by Frank Robinson and Boog Powell. The Twins countered with MVP Harmon Killebrew and 2B Rod Carew to support the pitching of two twenty win pitchers Jim Perry and Dave Broswell. The Orioles swept the playoffs in 3 games. Pitchers Dave McNally and Jim Palmer totally shutdown Killebrew and Carew. Brooks Robison, centerfielder Paul Blair and Powell supplied the offense.
The two new clubs, the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots, played as teams comprised of expendables are expected to play.
#1 Baltimore Orioles (109-53) . The Birds were never challenged and won the division by 19 games. Mike Cuellar, 23 wins, Dave McNally, 20, and Jim Palmer, 16, mowed down the opposition. The bullpen duo of Eddie Watt and Pete Richert locked down 28 games between them. Frank Robison and 1B Boog Powell both batted over .300 and combined for 69 home runs and 221 RBIs.
#2 Detroit Tigers (90-72) . The Tigers still had plenty of power, but did not display the consistency at the plate as no hitter batted .300. Denny McClain led the league in wins with 24, and Mickey Lolich was still effective, but a weak bullpen cost them. A mid-season knee injury that knocked out SS Dick McAuliffe also contributed to the 13 more losses than 1968.
#3 Boston Red Sox (87-75) . Pretty much a repeat of 1968. Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Petrocelli each blasted 40 home runs and the BoSox led the league in homeruns. Outfielder Reggie Smith had a fine season leading the club in batting .309 and adding 25 home runs and 93 RBIs. In an attempt to build up a weak pitching staff they traded Ken Harrelson to Cleveland for Sonny Siebern (14 wins), but that was not enough to move forward.
#4 Washington Senators (86-76) . The Senators recorded their first over .500 season since their 1961 recreation primarily due to the power duo of OF Frank Howard and 1B Mike Epstein who combined for 78 home runs. Dick Bosman led the pitching staff with 14 wins and posted the lowest ERA (2.19) in the league. A successful debut for their new manager Ted Williams.
#5 New York Yankees (80-81) . A poor hitting team with no .300 hitters and mediocre pitching caused the Yanks to fall back below .500. It would have really been ugly if not for pitcher Mel Stottlemeye's 20 win season.
#6 Cleveland Indians (62-99) . The change to division play did not help the Indians. Picking up Ken Harrelson added little to their offense as he missed the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Sam McDowell led the league in strikeouts, but they missed Sonny Siebert as the pitching staff collapsed. In particular, Luis Tiant who could only win 9 games as opposed to his 23 win season in 1968.
#1 Minnesota Twins (97-65) . The division set up worked wonders for the Twins as they regained their previous elite status. Harmon Killebrew was the MVP leading the league in home runs (49) and RBIs (140). Rod Carew took the batting title with a .332 average and Tony Olivia batted .300 with 24 HRs and 101 RBIs. Pitchers Jim Perry and Dave Boswell each won 20 games.
#2 Oakland Athletics (88-74) . The young A’s continued their improvement. Twenty two year old Reggie Jackson socked 47 homer uns with 119 RBIs and 3B Sal Bando was awesome with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs. Pitchers Blue Moon Odom and Chuck Dobson each won 15. Nineteen year old Vida Blue was a September call-up.
#3 California Angels (71-91) . A very poor offense in all categories. Pitching was not much better with the exception of young Andy Messersmith who won 16 games.
#4 Kansas City Royals (69-93) . The expansion team played as expected. It was a team of castaways with little offense with the exception of Rookie of the Year Lou Pinella who batted .282. Ex-Oriole Wally Bunker attempted to rejuvenate his career and led the pitching staff with 12 wins.
#5 Chicago White Sox (68-94) . An aging team with little offense and no starting pitcher with more wins than losses.
#6 Seattle Pilots (64-98) . The team went bankrupt on the field as well as at the bank. The team did have some familiar names — Tommy Davis, Don Mincher, Steve Barber and Jim Bouton, but they were past their prime. Only utility man Tommy Harper stood out by leading the league in steals with 73.
On June 8, 1969, the New York Yankees retired Mickey Mantle's number 7 in front of 60,096 fans. During his on-field speech he said, "Playing 18 years in Yankee Stadium for you folks was the best thing that could ever happen to a ballplayer."
On September 26, 1969, Rod Carew attempted to tie the record for stealing home base during a season which was set during the 1912 season. Carew stole home safely against Skip Lockwood of Seattle, but during his slide he knocked over home plate umpire Jim Honochick who called Carew out then ejected him for throwing his equipment on the field.