Year In Review : 1976 American League
Off the field…
The United States celebrated its bicentennial, marking the 200th anniversary of its independence. During the Fourth of July holiday period, hundreds of sailing ships (most from the nineteenth century) from around the world converged on New York City's harbor to participate in the celebration.
Jimmy Carter was selected as the Democratic Party's nominee for president, and the American people elected him to office over the incumbent president, Gerald Ford. In choosing Carter, the voters took a chance on a president about whom they knew little and one who prided himself on being relatively unknown outside his home state of Georgia. A political "recluse", he had never been a national candidate and had no significant experience on the national scene or any close ties to Washington. In addition, as a candidate from the Deep South, Carter was distrusted by many in the New Deal coalition that had dominated his party since 1932.
An Air France jetliner was hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda by the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" on June 27th. Once there, the hijackers separated the Jewish and Israeli passengers from the rest of the captives and demanded the release of several terrorists held in Israeli prisons. In a daring commando operation known as "Operation Thunderbolt" Israeli forces traveled 2,000 miles and landed at the Entebbe airport rescuing all hostages and terminating the terrorists.
In the American League…
New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson was named the first team captain since "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig had held the position in the 1930's. Unfortunately, Munson, like his predecessor, would die before his time in a plane crash in 1979.
The Chicago White Sox's Minnie Minoso joined the "four-decade player club" after entering a September 11th contest against the California Angels as a designated hitter. The fifty-three year-old went 0-3 as his team fell 7-3 to the "halos" and four years later Minoso became only the second five-decade player in Major League history.
On August 25th, the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees went head-to-head for five hours and thirty-six minutes during a nineteen-inning marathon. Willie Randolph, of the Yanks, set an American League record for extra innings with thirteen assists and twenty chances at second base.
In the National League…
On April 17th, Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies, hit four consecutive homeruns (and a single) accounting for eight runs himself during an 18-16 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh's John Candelaria proved that the "Candy Man" can after he pitched a 2-0, no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 9th. The six-foot, seven-inch Pirate struck out seven and walked one for the first perfect game ever against the L.A. version of the Dodgers.
Sparky Anderson's "Big Red Machine" compiled another stellar season with a record of 102-60. The Cincinnati Reds as they were also known as, later went on to sweep the New York Yankees in the World Series proving that they could maintain the momentum of their previous record-setting year (108-54) and once again, go the distance en route to their second Major League Championship in as many years.
Around the League…
The newly renovated Yankees Stadium was dedicated in a special pre-game ceremony attended by Mrs. Babe Ruth, Mrs. Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen and eighty-five year old Bob Shawkey, who had pitched at the ballpark when it opened in 1923. In what some have considered to be a sign of the "Babe" showing disapproval of the changes to "his house", the $3 million dollar scoreboard ceased to function.
Media tycoon Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves and their broadcasting station, took advertising to new highs (and lows) after signing Andy Messersmith for the 1976 season. First he chose to "nickname" their newest acquisition "Channel" then he issued him the number "17" which also happened to be Turner's TV number. The preplanned marketing scheme resulted in Messersmith taking the field with "Channel 17" on his back. National League president, Chub Feeney quickly caught onto Turner and put an end to the tacky campaign.
On July 20th, "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron hit the 755th and final homerun of his career off the Anaheim Angels' Dick Drago during a 6-2 Milwaukee Brewers' win. The historical moment was soured though after the ball was retrieved by Dick Arndt, a member of the ground crew, who refused to return it to the rightful owner. Arndt was subsequently fired and has since then turned down offers of up to $10,000 from Hank Aaron himself.
In August, a contest was conducted across Washington to name the new expansion team in Seattle. After 15,000 entries, Roger Szmodis from Bellevue emerged the winner after proposing the name "Mariners".