Year In Review : 1959 National League
Off the field…
The United States expanded its borders as both Alaska and Hawaii were officially admitted to the Union. Despite an overwhelming vote by Alaskans in 1956, it took more than two years for the Senate to finally agree to make Alaska the forty-ninth state. On March 18, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower added Hawaii, the Aloha State, and commissioned a new fifty star U.S. Flag.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), and Ritchie Valens died when their Beechcraft plane crashed just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, during a stormy winter night. Holly was famous for many hits including "Peggy Sue." The Big Bopper had one big hit, "Chantilly Lace." And Valens was best known for his hit, "La Bamba." The tragic accident was penned in the papers as "The Day the Music Died".
Scandal rocked America's most popular Game Show "Twenty-One" after former champion Herbert Stempel confessed to being given the answers to questions, told which questions to miss, and coached in presentation. After he blew the whistle, public outrage was so great that in 1959 Congress opened hearings on the great American quiz show fix and later formally outlawed all future quiz show deceptions.
In the American League…
The Boston Red Sox remained as the only Major League team not to include minority players in its line-up. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a grievance against the franchise charging them with racial discrimination and calling for an official investigation into the team's signing policies.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox managed five hits in seven at bats on Opening Day (including a two-run home run off pitcher Don Mossi to win the game) during a fourteen-inning, 9-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers. His five hits in a season opener tied a Major League record that would not be matched for forty years.
Cleveland's Rocky Colavito hit four consecutive home runs at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium en route to an 11-8 victory over the home team Orioles. The Indian slugger joined Lou Gehrig and Bobby Lowe as the only Major League players ever to hit four consecutive round-trippers.
In the National League…
On May 26, Pirates ace Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game against Milwaukee for twelve innings, only to lose in the 13th. After Felix Mantilla managed to reach base on a fielding error, Hank Aaron was intentionally walked. Pittsburgh's strategy proved meaningless though as Joe Adcock maintained the Braves newfound momentum with a three-run blast for the comeback win. The following day National League President Warren Giles ruled that the final score should be amended to 1-0, since both runners Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock were both ruled out. (Aaron had been called for leaving the field during play, and Adcock had passed him in the base path.)
Seven pitchers combined to tie a National League record with twenty-three strikeouts during a June 10 outing between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax led the effort with nine "K's" for the 5-3 win.
The San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs set a new record for the longest nine-inning game in history after playing for three hours and fifty minutes. The home team finally won the "marathon at Wrigley" with a score of 20-9 after tallying nineteen hits and five home runs.
Around the league…
The Rules Committee finally permitted inter-league trading for a limited, three-and-a-half-week period during Major League Baseball's winter meetings.
The Players Association fired lawyer J. Norman Lewis and replaced him with Judge Robert C. Cannon, the son of Wisconsin Congressman Raymond J. Cannon, who had attempted to unionize the players during the 1920 season.
Controversy erupted over the American League batting title as the Cleveland Indians' Tito Francona finished the season with a league leading .363 average, but fell one at-bat short (three-hundred ninety-nine) of the required total (four-hundred). As a result, Harvey Kuenn of the Detroit Tigers was crowned the American League batting champion.
Washington D.C. Senator Estes Kefauver warned Major League Baseball that they were closely monitoring the "attitudes of organized baseball" toward the Continental League in an effort to prevent any antitrust issues.