Year In Review : 1979 American League
Off the field…
The construction of nuclear power plants in the United States temporarily came to a halt after a nuclear accident occurred at the Three Mile Island facility near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After several tense days of emergency cleanup, the leak was completely contained, but raised the concern about the safety of people living near such volatile energy sources. After a media frenzy erupted, the facility was toured by President Jimmy Carter in an effort to calm the panic stricken public.
On July 26th, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed the Trade Act Bill in response to trade negotiations with Tokyo. The bill reduced further tariffs on a wide range of items, and introduced a new policy to handle unfair trade practices.
Militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Teheran (taking fifty-two Americans hostage) in protest after the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah of Iran. The hostages were subjected to four-hundred forty-four days of brutal conditions amidst repeated negotiation failures. A rescue attempt called "Operation Desert One" was aborted in the Iranian desert the following year resulting in the deaths of eight Americans.
In the American League…
On April 5th, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Chicago White Sox 5-3 giving Earl Weaver his one-thousandth career win as a Major League skipper.
Thurman Munson, the team captain of the New York Yankees, died when the Cessna Citation twin-engine jet he was piloting crashed outside of Canton, Ohio two-hundred feet short of the Akron Airport runway. The thirty-two year-old catcher was a three-time Golden Glove winner, the 1976 American League MVP and a seven-time All-Star. His lifetime batting average was .292 and included an incredible .529 average in the 1976 World Series.
On July 24th, Red Sox sensation Carl Yastrzemski hit his four-hundredth career home run off of the Oakland A's Mike Morgan at Fenway Park. On September 12th, "The Yaz" totaled his three-thousandth hit becoming the first American League player to tally both numbers.
In the National League…
St. Louis Cardinal Gary Templeton became the first player in Major League history to have one-hundred hits from each side of the plate in the same season. The switch hitter batted strictly right-handed in his last nine games to aid his own cause in setting the record.
Pete Rose, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, totaled over two-hundred hits for the tenth season in his career breaking Ty Cobb's record of nine years.
Willie Stargell hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 7 to push the Pittsburgh Pirates ahead for good in a 4-1 World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles. The championship title capped off a Cinderella season in which "Pops" and his "Family" brought fun back to baseball.
Around the league…
On May 17th, the forty-five day umpires strike concluded after fourteen hours of negotiation. The official's new agreement included a pay increase of approximately $7,000, a heightened cap on maximum salaries from $40,000 to $50,000, two weeks of vacation during the regular season and improved pension benefits. One controversial issue remained though as the league presidents voted to add some of the replacement umpires to the regular roster.
WLUP-FM's promotional "Disco Demolition Night" at Chicago's Comiskey Park went terribly wrong as 50,000 fans turned up to receive a $.98 ticket for the doubleheader with records and eventually rioted on the field. After a delay of one hour and sixteen minutes, the umpires determined that the field was unplayable and called the second game between the White Sox and visiting Detroit Tigers. The following day, American League President Lee MacPhail awarded the Tigers a 9-0 forfeit win.
Walter O'Malley, the man who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, died at the Mayo Clinic on August 9th at the age of seventy-five. The team's still acting Chairman of the Board was still considered a sellout in New York and was quoted as saying that, "Baseball wasn't a business, but more like a disease."
Writer Daniel Okrent drew up the first set of official rules for a new pastime based on the actual day-to-day statistical play of real major leaguers. The "rotisserie league" would eventually evolve into the phenomenon known as "Fantasy Baseball".