Ruane: A Retro-review of the 1969 MLB season

From SABR member Tom Ruane at Retrosheet on June 15, 2014:

The eight-team league had lasted from 1900 to the early 1960s, but the ten-team version wouldn’t survive a decade. Both the NL and AL voted to expand in time for 1969, increasing its west coast contingent with teams in San Diego and Seattle, placating angry politicians in Missouri by returning a team to Kansas City, and making major league baseball an international sport with a franchise in Montreal. All of which meant that in the span of nine years, major league baseball had effectively added that third eight-team league proposed by Branch Rickey and his Continental League associates back in 1959.

To ensure that no team would have to remind their fans of the woeful 1899 Cleveland Spiders, the last outfit to finish a season in twelfth place, each league was split into two six-team divisions, doubling the number of playoff races while squeezing in a round of post-season play between the end of the regular season and start of the World Series.

There were other changes in store for major league baseball fans in 1969. After six years of depressed offense, the height of the pitching mound was lowered by five inches and the strike zone reduced slightly so that it extended up to the batter’s armpits rather than the top of his shoulders, moves designed to answer the claims of critics that the game had grown boring with too many low-scoring games.

But the big story this year was not expansion, the height of the mound or the shape of the strike zone. It was the Miracle Mets. On June 3rd, they defeated the Dodgers 5-2, behind Tom Seaver’s eighth win of the season. The victory left them with a 24-23 record, the latest the team had ever had more wins than losses. Prior to 1969, the perennial doormat had poked its head above .500 only once, when their win on April 17, 1966 had given them a 2-1 mark.

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Originally published: June 17, 2014. Last Updated: June 17, 2014.