After large numbers of North Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia in 1969. Premier Lon Nol assumed control of the government, while Prince Sihanouk was in Peking, and pledged to force the removal of the occupying military. Initially, the invaders agreed to withdraw, but then announced their support for Sihanouk, who had promised to fight the new government. President Nixon announced that U.S. troops would join with South Vietnamese troops to invade the border areas of Cambodia and eliminate all Communist sanctuaries.
Four students were killed at Kent State University after Ohio National Guardsmen clashed with anti-war protesters. The students were engaged in a rally condemning President Nixon's approval for a massive incursion into Cambodia. While appearing on television on April 30th, Nixon announced that the invasion was for a limited period, and was to save American lives, and claimed that American forces would not advance more than twenty-one miles into the country.
Monday Night Football debuted on ABC, with Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and Don Meredith all giving play-by-play. The on-camera camaraderie in the booth as well as the groundbreaking approach to covering the game resulted in the development of several multi-camera and play-by-play technologies that are still being used today. As a result, Monday Night Football has become the most successful and longest-running primetime sports series in television history.
Baltimore's Frank Robinson hit two successive grand slams during a 12-2 Orioles triumph over the Washington Senators becoming just the seventh major leaguer to ever accomplish the feat. The back-to-back historic blasts were the only grand slams Robinson ever hit as a "Blackbird".
The Kansas City Royals set an unwanted Major League mark on August 3rd after falling 10-8 to the Baltimore Orioles for the twenty-third time in two seasons.
Tommy Harper of the Milwaukee Brewers matched thirty stolen bases with his thirtieth home run of the year to become the fifth major leaguer to go 30-30 in the same season. Incidentally, the stats added up as the resulting 4-2 win over the Anaheim Angels marked the Brewers "60th" of the year.
On July 8th, San Francisco Giant Jim Ray Hart tied a modern Major League record with six runs batted in during one inning with all coming in the fifth. The "bay area brawler" slammed a three run home run and three run triple and eventually hit for the cycle en route to a 13-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
The New York Mets' Tom Seaver set a Major League record after striking out nineteen Padres, including the last ten in succession, during an April 22nd, 2-1 victory over San Diego. The feat topped every pitcher ever to take the mound in the 20th Century and no one had ever struck out ten in a row to date.
Atlanta Braves icon "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron collected his three-thousandth hit with an infield single as well as his five-hundred seventieth home run off of Wayne Granger during a 7-6, 15-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds on May 17th.
St. Louis Cardinals' Golden Glove outfielder Curt Flood filed a civil lawsuit against Major League Baseball in an effort to challenge their contract reserve clause. Flood refused to report to the Philadelphia Phillies after being traded and contended that the rule violated federal antitrust laws. Flood eventually lost his $4.1 million suit later in the year after Federal Judge Irving Ben Cooper upheld the legality of the clause. However, Cooper did recommend changes in the reserve system, to be achieved through negotiation between both players and owners.
"X-5" baseballs, a new experimental brand claiming to travel faster and farther than traditional balls was field tested during all Major League Spring Training games in both Arizona and Florida. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered a halt to their use after a three week trial period, which had ended with inconclusive results.
All-Star Game voting was finally returned to the fans as punch-card ballots debuted in major league ballparks across the nation. It was the first time since 1958 that the exhibition's squads were not entirely selected by managers, coaches and players.
Both players and management agreed to end their labor dispute on June 8th by settling on a new standard contract. Among the compromises that benefited the players was a raise in the minimum league salary from $10,000 to $12,000 per season.
"It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball and I did it in one afternoon on the golf course." - Hank Aaron (after hitting #3,000 on May 17, 1970)
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Three legends. Two "clubs:" May 12, 1970, Ernie Banks became the first shortstop to join the 500 Home Runs Club ; five days later, on May 17, 1970, Hank Aaron became the first player to join the 3,000 Hits Club who already had at least 500 career home runs ; and on July 18, 1970, Willie Mays joined the 3,000 Hits Club and joined Aaron as the second player in both "clubs."
As was the case in the American League there was probably more excitement off the field than on the field. This was the year that St Louis outfielder Curt Flood presented his anti trust suit against MLB to New York City’s Federal court. Flood stood his ground for the right to decline his trade to the Phillies claiming he was not property to be traded at the will of baseball ownership. The court sided with MLB claiming they were not a business and were excused from anti trust violations. Flood appealed and sat out the season. The case would eventually go to the Supreme Court and, although not successful, it made a significant contribution for the eventual dissolution of the Reserve Clause 5 years later.
Other off the field event that hit the headlines was the release of Houston Astro pitcher Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four which was a tell all book of the lifestyle of many MLB players. Bouton having been censored by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn left the field to enter the world of sports broadcasting and late night talk show celebrity. Kuhn was also deep into settling the bankruptcy of the Seattle Pilots and their move to Milwaukee. One other headache for Kuhn popped up in mid July when the umpires went on a one day strike.
On the field it took a final spurt for the Pittsburgh Pirates to pull away from the Cubs and New York Mets. Clemente and catcher Manny Sanguillen led the batting average charge while Wille Stargell and 1B Bob Robinson provided the power. The Cincinnati Reds had a torrid first half of the season and coasted to the West Division championship. Rookie manager Sparky Anderson guided a roster that included MVP Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Lee May to 102 victories.
The Reds, who had counted on their offense all season, swept the Pirates in three straight games behind their pitching to win the Pennant.
#1 Pittsburgh Pirates ( 89-73) . The team needed all the offense it could muster as the pitching staff was quite mediocre. Pitcher Luke Walker ‘s 15-6 record stood out and reliever Dave Giusti saved 26 games. Otherwise they did not have a champion team group of throwers. Roberto Clemente missed out on the batting title despite hitting .358.
#2 Chicago Cubs (84-78) . The Cubs teased again, but fell short in the stretch run. Ernie Banks was reduced to part time play. Outfielder Billy Williams was better than ever hitting .322 , 42 HRs and 129 RBIs and joined with outfielder Jim Hickman and 3B Ron Santo to form a solid offense. Pitching was led by the Fergie Jenkins, 22 wins, and solid production from Bill Hands and Ken Holtzman. The relief corps was not good.
#3 New York Mets (83-79) . The Mets came down to Earth as they played to their talent level. The offense was medicore with no outstanding hitters. The pitching tailed off from 1969. Seaver won 18 games, but no one else would win more than 12. Young Nolan Ryan and his dazzling fast ball was still struggling to find home plate.
#4 St. Louis Cardinals (76-86) . Not a good season for Cardinal fans. They had some good bats in recently acquired 1B Dick Allen, outfielder Lou Brock and catcher Joe Torre, but outside of Cy Young winner Bob Gibson, 23 wins and 274 strikeouts, the pitching staff was a disaster.
#5 Philadelphia Phillies (73-88) . Trading Dick Allen for catcher Tim McCarver might have helped, but McCarver suffered a broken hand and played in only 44 games. No big offensive threat and no starting pitchers with winning records sealed their fate.
#6 Montreal Expos (73-89) . An improvement of 21 wins versus 1969 kept the fans coming to the park. Outfielder Rusty Staub’s 30 home runs and 94 RBIs along with Rookie of the Year Carl Morton’s 18 wins were largely responsible for the improvement.
#1 Cincinnati Reds ( 102-60) . Led by MVP Johnny Bench (45 HRs, 128 RBIs), 2B Pete Rose .316, 1B Tony Perez .312, and Bobby Tolan, 57 stolen bases, the Reds made it look easy. All that offense powered pitcher Jim Merritt to a 20-win season.
#2 Los Angeles Dodgers ( 87-74) . The Dodgers were starting to resurface. Still with little power but excellent speed on the bases The pitching staff was a shadow of their glory years featured Claude Osteen, 16 wins, and future HOF Don Sutton, 15 wins.
#3 San Francisco Giants (86-76) . Willie Mays at age 39 hit 26 HRs and batted .291. It was now Willie McCovey's team , 39 HRs, 126 RBIs along with young Bobby Bonds, .302 with 20 HRs. Pitching ace Gaylord Perry tied for the league lead with 23 wins, but there was not much behind him.
#4 Houston Astros (79-83) . The Astros could not improve on their upwards movement of 1969. Second baseman Joe Morgan was starting to show his HOF skills in leading the team with 47 steals. Pitcher Larry Dierker continued to be their ace in winning 16 games.
#5 Atlanta Braves (76-86) . A big drop off for the Braves despite the numbers of Hank Aaron (.298, 38 HRs, 115 RBIs) and the league batting champ outfielder Rico Carty .366. Only one starting pitcher won more than they lost — Jim Nash (13-9).
#6 San Diego Padres (63-99) . Only 1B Nate Colbert made an impression on offense with 36 HRs. His 56 RBIs indicates the few runners that were on base for the expansion team. Again there were no pitchers able to win more than they lost.
On July 8, 1970, Jim Ray Hart hit for the cycle to become the 13th Giants player with a cycle . However, did you know that on this same date he also drove in six runs during the same inning - a feat not accomplished since 1911?
On May 12, 2001, A.J. Burnett of the Florida Marlins no-hit the San Diego Padres, yet walked nine batters setting a new National League record. The record he broke belonged to Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates who walked eight in his no-hitter tossed on June 12, 1970 versus (yet again) the San Diego Padres.