Today we take a look at 1969, the first season after MLB lowered the pitching mound after the "Year of the Pitcher" in 1968 in hopes of stimulating offense, as baseball was losing ground to the N.F.L. in popularity as "America's Game".
Yet while offense did indeed increase a bit over the previous year, there were still some stellar pitching performances to be had.
And the guys that ended up taking home the Cy Young hardware as top pitchers of their respective leagues were Tom Seaver in the N.L. and Denny McLain and Mike Cuellar in the A.L.
As you all know, for the first (and only) time in Cy Young voting, there was a tie, and it has made for somewhat of a unique card in my thread of an imagined "Cy Young" 1975 sub-set.
Take a look at the end result:
I struggled a bit with this one, trying to come up with a nice, clean design that showed all three pitchers, without altering the continuity of my sub-set too much.
And while I wanted to be a bit more "creative" with this card, the best design really was the ho-hum split panel you see here.
Let's start with the National League's top pitcher, Tom Seaver.
While he burst onto the Major League scene as N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1967, and followed up with a solid sophomore season in 1968, this was the year "Tom Terrific" was born, leading the New York Mets to the most improbable World Championship in ages, defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles juggernaut and posting eye-popping numbers that not only would get him the first of THREE Cy Young Awards, but a second place finish in Most Valuable Player voting as well.
Let the numbers speak for themselves: a 25-7 record, 2.21 earned run average and 208 strikeouts, along with five shutouts and a .781 winning percentage.
Fantastic! And only a single vote for Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro prevented Seaver from unanimously winning the award.
Of course, we all know that Seaver would wind his career with Hall of Fame numbers, totaling 311 wins, a 2.86 E.R.A., 61 shutouts and 3640 strikeouts, easily entering the hallowed halls of Cooperstown in 1992 after seeing his name on 425 of 430 ballots.
I hate to say it since it was at the expense of the Yankees, but I was in attendance the day Seaver logged his 300th win (on Phil Rizzuto day of all days), in 1985 at Yankee Stadium, and man was it a scene! And I have to admit I went home elated at what I just witnessed.
Over in the American League things got a bit more sticky, as voters ended up with a tie, picking the 1968 A.L. Cy Young winner (and Most Valuable Player), Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers, AND Mike Cuellar, who excelled in his first year as a Baltimore Oriole after some decent years in the National League, mainly as a Houston Astro.
Both pitchers received 10 first place votes, and it's understandable why, with their final numbers being so close.
Denny McLain followed up his 30-win season of '68 with a nice 24-9 record, along with a 2.80 earned run average, nine shutouts and 181 strikeouts over 41 starts, while Mike Cuellar was equally as impressive, posting a 23-11 record with a 2.38 E.R.A., five shutouts and 182 strikeouts over 39 starts for the powerful Baltimore pitching staff that also featured Dave McNally and Jim Palmer.
And while both pitchers didn't end up in the Hall of Fame like their National League counterpart, they did fashion nice Major League careers, Cuellar ending up with a 185-130 record, and McLain with a 131-91 mark.
OK, next up we move into the 1970's, and take a look at the 1970 Cy Young Award winners: Jim Perry of the Minnesota Twins and Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals.