The title of this book tells it all. Here is a nostalgic and tremendously interesting account of the 1960 baseball season climaxed by the Pirate's Bill Mazeroski's dramatic ninth-inning home run and the victory of the Buccos over the Yankees who outscored them 55-27.
The 1960 season, according to Keene, was the last "pure" season in that it marked the end of much that was old and the beginning of much that was new. This was the last season when the original National and American League teams were intact, the next year baseball began its expansion which eventually led to baseball "play-offs" and league "Divisions." This was a season when baseball's highest paid players earned approximately twenty-five times that of the average American worker while today that figure exceeds four-hundred. The highest-priced ticket in the major leagues were the $3.50 box seats in Yankee Stadium and The Coliseum. In that season, two of baseball's enduring stars, Stan Musial and Ted Williams, asked for and received pay cuts because they believed they had sub-par seasons the year before. In 1960, nine of the sixteen members of the 500 Home Run Club were active. In 1960, some fifty-one individuals who were directly involved with baseball during that season have been inducted into the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame. This was the year too when the Chicago White Sox introduced the practice of putting players' names on the back of their uniforms. So, when nostalgia reigns-let it reign for this season that was remarkable in so many ways.
Keene sets the stage for the season by talking about recent trades, the famous ballplayers, and the ballparks where the season unfolded. This was the year of Ted Williams' retirement, "the Kid's Swan Song," which featured his home run at Fenway Park on September 28 against the Orioles. Keene lists the home run milestones of the season, including Eddie Mathews and Mickey Mantle who hit #300, Gil Hodges who hit #350 and Williams' who hit his 500th joining at that time only Ruth, Foxx, and Mel Ott.
This was also the year of the popular TV show, "Home Run Derby" won, ultimately, by Hank Aaron who was the victor in six of his seven games with Mickey Mantle as the runner-up.
1960 was also marked by the playing of two All-Star Games, a practice begun in 1959 but abandoned by 1962. It was the year when visionary Branch Rickey helped light the fire to establish an ill-fated "third major league" - the Continental League. While Rickey and New York attorney William Shea sought to get the league off the ground, it eventually fell through when the major leagues voted to expand to ten teams each. Ironically, the New York expansion team, the Mets, play at Shea Stadium-named in Shea's honor.
Three no-hitters were tossed in 1960. On May 13, the Phillies traded twenty-four year old pitcher Don Cardwell to the Cubs. Two days later, in his Cubs debut, Cardwell pitched a no-hitter against St. Louis at Wrigley Field. The two Braves' aces, Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn also had no-hitters that year. After Burdette threw his, presidential candidate John Kennedy telegrammed him and said: "Congratulations on your fine pitching performance last night. If I can learn your technique, I might possibly throw a no-hitter in November."
By 1960, African American players were truly coming into their own in the major leagues. The first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the majors was Sam Jones of the Cubs in 1955. By 1960, top players included Mays, Aaron, and Banks while George Crowe of the Cardinals set a major league record (June 1960) for pinch-hit home runs with eleven and Maury Wills of the Dodgers led the National League in stolen bases with fifty - the highest number since Max Carey stole the same amount in 1923. Promising "youngsters" that year included Vada Pinson, Bob Gibson, Billy Williams, and Curt Flood.
The story of the dramatic 1960 World Series is well-known. Keene tells it here again in a succinct and attractive way. He also throws in some other tidbits along the way: Pirate star Dick Groat's roommate at Duke University was Richard Nixon's brother, Ed. When Joe Garagiola pointed out to Yankee star Yogi Berra that he had become such a world figure that he drew more applause than former President Herbert Hoover and India's Prime Minister who attended game three in New York, Yogi inimitably replied: "Sure, I'm a better hitter." When hapless Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry was asked what pitch he had served up for Maz's home run, he replied: "I don't know what the pitch was. All I know is it was the wrong one."
Five days after the Yankees' stunning loss in the Series, manager Casey Stengel was "fired" by the Yankees. Yankee owners thought that seventy years of age was too old for the strains of managing the team. Stengel said at the time, "I'll never make the mistake of turning seventy again."
Keene also tells us about the award winners that year, the moves toward expansion, and includes a chapter on "Reflections of a Year for the Ages." Changes in team ownership, managers, and stadiums marked the beginnings of many more changes to come during the decade of the 60's and beyond. Five appendices conclude the volume: 1960 League Standings and Statistics, 1960 Salaries of Noteworthy Major League Players, Complete Major League Rosters for 1960, Listing of 1960 Major League Umpires, and a Chronological Listing of 1960 Major League Player Transactions.
A number of fine pictures accompany the text here along with a generous sampling of 1960 Topps Baseball cards of prominent players. Some typographical errors and several other mistakes have been pointed out, but they do not diminish the sheer joy of reliving this pivotal season. As a ten year old in 1960, living in western Pennsylvania and rooting for the Pirates, 1960 was "memorable" for me. Keene's fine book will bring back a flood of recollections for many others too; and will return us to "another time" and season when baseball was dominated by legendary personalities. Arguably, says Keene, "there had never before been a year that had witnessed so many significant events and monumental decisions that would impact the game so profoundly."