Year In Review : 1968 National League
Off the field…
On April 4th, a lone assassin later identified as James Earl Ray, shot and killed America's leading civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King as he stood on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A Baptist preacher, King had been on the forefront of the non-violent struggle to obtain civil rights for black Americans everywhere.
Robert Kennedy, brother of the late President John F. Kennedy, was also shot and killed on June 5th, after winning the Democratic primary for the Presidency in California. A lone gunman named Sirhan Sirhan attacked the former Attorney General as he exited through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel following a speech.
The U.S.S. Pueblo, an American intelligence-gathering vessel, was captured by the North Korean military who immediately accused the United States of conducting spy operations within their territorial waters. After eleven months of being taken prisoner and torture, the ships' crew was finally released. The U.S.S. Pueblo, still to this date, is the only ship of the U.S. Navy currently being held captive.
In the American League…
Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers became the first Major League pitcher to win thirty games since Dizzy Dean in 1934 as well as the first American League ace since Lefty Grove in 1931.
Five days later, McLain was on his way to win number thrity-one when the New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle tagged him for his five-hundred thirty-fifth career home run pushing him ahead of Jimmie Foxx for the #3 spot on the all-time list. Despite "The Mick's" mark, the Tigers managed to preserve the pitchers record with a clutch 6-2 performance.
On September 22nd, the Minnesota Twins' Cesar Tovar matched Bert Campanarie's 1965 performance of playing all nine positions against the visiting Oakland Athletics. In an odd twist, the first batter Tovar faced was Campanarie himself who fouled out on the way to a 2-1 loss.
In the National League…
Los Angeles Dodgers' ace Don Drysdale passed Walter Johnson's 1913 record of 55 2/3 scoreless innings after going from May 14th to June 8th while tossing 58 2/3 of his own. Drysdale finally allowed a runner to reach home after Howie Bedell, of the Philadelphia Phillies scored Tony Taylor on a sacrifice fly.
On June 14th, Hank Aaron joined the "500 Home Run Club" with a three-run, four-hundred foot shot over the left-center field fence courtesy of the San Francisco Giants' Mike McCormick. "Hammerin" Hank became only the eighth player in Major League history to accomplish the feat which was sweetened by a 4-2 Atlanta Braves victory.
Bob Gibson, of the St. Louis Cardinals, tallied his twenty-second win and thirteenth shutout of the season on September 27th marking the first time a National tallied thirteen scoreless games since 1916. Gibson also boasted an ERA of 1.12, the second lowest ever in the National League.
Around the League…
The Players Relations Committee and Players Consistency Association signed the first Major League Baseball "basic agreement" which increased the league's minimum salary to $10,000 and identified a formal grievance procedure. Both sides also agreed to explore the options for a reserve clause.
The Major League Players Association signed a major card contract worth millions with the Topps baseball card company.
The Baseball Rules Committee made several major changes to the game resulting in the most modifications to be implemented at one time in the history of the game. They included: the pitcher's mound being lowered from fiteen inches to ten, the strike zone being decreased from the shoulders-to-knees to armpits-to-knees, tighter enforcement and penalties for illegal pitches, extra-inning ties resuming from the point of interruption instead of being replayed and finally the study of artificial surfaces on ball fields and the pros and cons of turf.
Both the American and National Leagues restructured their divisions resulting in the AL East consisting of Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, New York and Washington, the AL West including California, Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland and Seattle, the NL East featuring Chicago, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis and the NL West claiming Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.