1972: Tragedy, tumult and pitching...
!972 was a roller-coaster of a year in the world, both inside and outside of the sports realm. It was the year of the re-election of President Richard Nixon, and the beginning of the unraveling of that presidency, the war in
Viet Nam was
still ongoing, and airline hijackings were becoming a routine occurrence.
The Munich Summer Olympic Games in late August dominated the sports news, with American Mark Spitz winning 7 medals in swimming that year, but that was overshadowed by the slaughter of 8 Israeli athletes by Arab terrorists in the
in September. Olypmic Village
In the baseball world, labor strife was beginning to show itself, resulting in the first ever cancellation of regular season games because of a labor dispute, losing the first week and a half of scheduled games that season, which were never made up. As a result, some teams played less games than other teams. One of the results of this was the Billy Martin led Detroit Tigers winning the AL East title by a half game over the Red Sox, with the Tigers having played 1 more game than
Boston. It is safe to say
that with an equal amount of games played, the outcome may have been different.
1972 saw the unexpected, untimely passing of former Dodger great, and current Met manager Gil Hodges, who suffered a massive heart attack at the end of Spring Training. he was replaced by Yogi Berra, who piloted the pitching rich team to a third place finish.
For the first time in over seventy years there was no professional baseball played in
Washington, D.C., as
owner Bob Short moved the franchise to the Dallas area, and renamed them the Texas
Rangers. Hall of Famer Ted Williams piloted the team to a last place finish.
Williams was reportedly miserable in Texas,
and resigned at the end of the season.
Willie Mays' career had quickly fallen into a rapidly declining downward spiral, and had become an expendable player in the Giants' outfield, when long time Giants fan, and New York Mets owner Joan Payson arranged to bring the Say Hey Kid back to
Willie was traded to the Mets on May 11th, and made his Mets' debut on the
14th, against those same Giants. Hitting leadoff, and playing fist base, Mays
homered in the 5th inning in front of his new hometown crowd at Shea Stadium.
The season's end saw Pirate's legend Roberto Clemente's run towards three thousand hits, trying to become the 11th player to reach that milestone. On September 28th in
against my beloved Mets, and lefty Jon Matlack, Clemente doubled to left center
for his three thousandth, and last career hit.
Adding to his legend in the off-season, Clemente chartered a plane in his native Puerto Rico, filled it with emergency relief supplies, and on December 31st, took off for
, which had been decimated
by an earthquake earlier in the month which killed upwards of 12,000 people. Managua, Nicaragua
His plane never arrived. It crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all aboard.
On the playing field, Nolan Ryan debuted with the California Angels, after being traded by the Mets for Jim Fregosi, in what has been widely regarded as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history...Sparky Anderson led the burgeoning Big Red Machine to the NL West crown, again...the A's won their second of five consecutive AL West crowns.
But there was one phenomenal performance of note...
Lefty, Steve Carlton of the Phillies, who had been traded from the Cardinals before the season started, went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for an absolutely terrible Phillies team.
Carlton won 27 games, and the team won just
59 games. He won 46% of the teams wins. And with not a whole lot of offense to
back him up, he pitched 8 shutouts and completed 30 games. (He also batted .197
with 1 homer and 8 RBI)
He endured a 5 game losing streak early in the season, losing 2 of those by 1 run, and 2 others by 2 runs. He also had a stretch of 4 shutouts in 5 games, giving up just 1 run in the non-shutout. So essentially 1 run given up in 45 innings.
So let's see how that matches up. First, we'll look at the
AL, combining the hitters and pitchers...
Dick Allen CHW 1.9162
Bobby Murcer NYY 1.7246
Joe Rudi OAK 1.6705
John MayberryKC 1.6446
Reggie Smith BOS 1.6266
Bill Freehan DET 1.6002
Carlos May CHA 1.5948
C.Yastrzemski BOS 1.5799
Reggie JacksonOAK 1.5494
Dick Allen CHI 1.8250
Gaylord Perry CLE 1.7105
Bobby Murcer NYY 1.6571
Graig Nettles CLE 1.5394
Bill Freehan DET 1.5334
Jim Palmer BAL 1.5278
Joe Rudi OAK 1.5272
The league award voting were as follows:
and the Cy Young:
The voters were correct on Dick Allen AND Gaylord Perry for their individual league awards, and would have earned both honors through my system as well. If there was one award to be given as the overall best player in the
AL in 1972, it was easily Dick Allen.
Allen was on with tremendous potential, born ten years too late. He was born in Wampum,
Pennsylvania, and was signed by the
Philadelphia Phillies in 1960. He spent his first spring training in Florida, where he first
encountered segregation in the deep
In 1963, he was assigned to the Phillies minor league affiliate in
Little Rock, and was met with racial hatred
like he had never experienced. He was the first African-American player for the
team, and the locals apparently arranged protests and parades around his
appearance with the team.
He made the major leagues for good in 1964 with the Phillies, and had one of the best rookie seasons ever. Playing in all 162 games, he amassed 201 hits, with 29 homers, 91 RBI and batted .318. The Phillies that year had an epic end of season collapse, and failed to win the pennant, but Allen ran away with the Rookie of the Year award, with 18 of the 20 votes. He also finished 7th in MVP voting.
1965 is where he began a love/hate relationship with the
Philadelphia fans. Some of that perceived
animosity stems from a batting cage horseplay incident involving Frank Thomas.
Thomas, a veteran ballplayer and reportedly somewhat of a bully, was eager to
share quite a few disparaging remarks, most of them racial in nature, with the
young Allen, leading to a pre-game fistfight in which Thomas flung a bat at
Allen, hitting his shoulder. The popular Thomas was sold to the Houston Astros
a short time later.
Some of Allen's exploits on the field are legendary in their own right. He cleared the Coke sign at Connie Mack Stadium in
with a homerun that went an estimated 529 feet. He hit a line drive so hard,
the opposing shortstop jumped to try and reach it, but the ball kept rising. It
allegedly only stopped rising when it reached the seats.
The fans in
became merciless. Allen, a sensitive man, had endured threats, racial epithets,
and other disgraceful abuse, decided to then hurl things at Allen. Showering
him with fruit, ice and even radio batteries. He took to wearing his protective
batting helmet while fielding his position, which may have egged on the Phillie
Known late in his career for doing things on his own schedule, he partnered with the late, great Chuck Tanner, who was his manager with the White Sox. Tanner essentially let Dick be Dick. If he wanted to show up 20 minutes before a game, that was fine with Tanner...as long as Allen produced. And produce he did. Winning the MVP in 1972, could have easily won the same award in 1969 (as seen in an earlier post of mine).
The funny thing about Allen and all of the turmoil that was around him, with the exception of the Frank Thomas incident, there were not many other players that had a problem with him. (except maybe opposing pitchers)
Bob Uecker and Mike Schmidt both have talked in various books about what a great teammate he was.
So maybe, soon,
Cooperstown may call his name, and he
would be VERY deserving of that honor.
Sorry for the digression...
Let's visit the National League now:
NL vs League
Steve Carlton PHI 1.8168
Johnny Bench CIN 1.7588
Gary Nolan CIN 1.7524
Don Sutton LAD 1.7275
Billy Williams CHN 1.6813
Claude Osteen LAD 1.6267
Bob Gibson STL 1.6175
Dock Ellis PIT 1.6167
Jim Wynn HOU 1.6145
Steve Blass PIT 1.6135
NL vs Team
Steve Carlton PHI 2.1566
1.8783 Colbert SD
Bob Gibson STL 1.6888
Leron Lee SD 1.6694
Ted Simmons STL 1.6442
Phil Niekro ATL 1.6240
Mike Marshall MON 1.6024
Billy Williams CHN 1.5962
Johnny Bench CIN 1.5934
Don Sutton LAD 1.5358
And the league award voting was:
And the Cy Young vote:
4 pitchers tied at 5th
Bench had a very good year, no doubt. And I can understand the hesitance of the voters to vote for a player on a last place team for the MVP award. But the fact is,
Carlton was by and far
the best player in either league and by a long shot. Carlton, notorious for not being
'press-friendly'. But the reality is, that 1972 season by Carlton is easily one of the top 5