Year In Review : 1972 American League
Off the field...
LIFE, the blueprint for magazine publishing in America folded as a weekly in December of 1972. Though the weekly version's life span covered only thirty-seve years, it is impossible to think of any other magazine that had such an extraordinary impact on the art of photo-journalism. Debuting in 1936, Henry R. Luce and his colleagues at Time Inc. decided to publish a magazine that would take pictures and words to an unprecedented level. Up to then, most newsworthy imagery had been deliberately posed and static, but after the portable 35mm camera was developed in the 1930's, it was discovered that a skilled photographer could take pictures of almost anything, anywhere; at anytime. Most magazines had been built around editors and writers, but LIFE was very different, as it was entirely been built around its photographers.
President Richard Nixon defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern by one of the widest margins on record. However, within a few months, his administration was under fire over the so-called "Watergate" scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to several officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. As a result, many resigned and some were later convicted of offenses connected with efforts to cover up the affair. Nixon himself denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield White House tape recordings, which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to interfere with the ongoing investigation.
In the American League...
On May 12th, the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins went head-to-head for twenty-one innings before the one A.M. curfew halted play with the score 3-3. Both teams combined to tie the Major League record for intentional walks during an extra-inning game with seven and the Twins went a step further and tied their own club record by stranding twenty-three men on base. The following day play resumed as the Brewers scored in the top of the twenty-second to win 4-3, but the Twins prevailed with a 4-3 victory of their own in the second outing after fifteen innings. At the end of the day, both games tallied nine hours and twenty-three minutes setting an American League record for the most consecutive innings ever played in a two-day span.
June 4th belonged to the pitchers as a Major League record eight shutouts were pitched in sixteen games. Five took place in the American League and three in the National League with two being recorded by the Oakland Athletics who swept the Baltimore Orioles twice with a pair of identical 2-0 decisions.
California Angels' ace Nolan Ryan sat down sixteen batters for a 3-0 victory and an American League record with eight K's in a row on nine pitches. Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox, managed a one-out single in the first for the team's only hit, but Ryan responded by retiring the last twenty-six consecutive batters. In doing so, the future Hall of Famer became only the third pitcher in Major League history to twice fan the side on nine pitches.
In the National League...
Giants' giant Willie McCovey tied both Gil Hodges and Hank Aaron for the National League grand-slam record with fourteen of his own as San Francisco beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-3.
On September 30th, Roberto Clemente doubled to left-center off of the New York Mets' John Matlack at Three Rivers Stadium for his final at-bat and career hit number three-thousand. The Pittsburgh Pirates went on to win 5-0 and "The Great One" went on the list with Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Hank Aaron, Eddie Collins, Napoleon Lajoie, Willie Mays, Paul Waner, and Adrian Anson as the newest member of the "3,000 hit club".
Unfortunately, Clemente was killed in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission that was taking supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The DC-7 aircraft he was flying in went down off the coast of Puerto Rico one-mile from San Juan with no survivors. The four time National League batting champion was only thirty-eight years old and had just won a World Series championship in 1971. As a tribute, he was elected on a special consideration to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a 93% vote becoming the first Latin American to be inducted into Cooperstown.
Around the League...
Eighty-six games were cancelled due to the first general players' strike, which was eventually resolved on April 13th. Concessions came after both the owners and players agreed on a $500,000 increase in pension fund payments. In an effort to prevent paying the players for the work stoppage, the league decided not to make up the missed contests. As a result, some teams only played one-hundred fifty-three total games.
The Philadelphia Phillies' Steve Carlton became the first pitcher at 27-10, to win the Cy Young Award while playing with a last-place team and Rod Carew, of the Minnesota Twins, became the first American League player to lead the league in hitting without ever hitting a single home run.
The Oakland Athletics' Reggie Jackson set a new trend in baseball after being the first Major League ballplayer to wear a mustache since Wally Schang in 1914. As a result, the A's owner Charles Finley declared June 18th "Mustache Day" at the ballpark and offered $300 to each player that could grow one before Father's Day.
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed lower court rulings in the Curt Flood case by a vote of 5-3 upholding baseball's exemption from antitrust laws. The decision cleared the way for future legislation or collective bargaining to undercut the reserve system, but proved meaningless after all major league owners agreed to salary arbitration at the end of the season.