Marty Noble

X (10) Super baseball things from 50 years ago

X (10) Super baseball things from 50 years ago

This weekend, football's final fling until after baseball's All-Star break, is all about number 50. Not the 50-yard line or Ken Strong of the New York Giants of the 1930s and '40s, the only player for whom No. 50 is retired, but for the 50th Super Bowl. You might have heard it's being contested on Sunday.

Inspired by the NFL's emphasis on the two-digit Arabic numeral that baseball fans most readily associate with J.R. Richard, Jamie Moyer, Adam Wainwright, Tom Henke, Sid Fernandez and John Montefusco, herein is a recognition of the 50th anniversaries of 10 intriguing baseball news stories.

(Note the NFL's use of the Arabic numeral rather than the traditional Roman this year. "Super Bowl L" presumably posed problems for the design of the logo. Moreover, baseball box score readers have a different association of the letter L. But we'll do as the Romans did.)

I: Making the first selection in the second amateur Draft, the Mets chose catcher Steve Chilcott, who, because of a shoulder injury suffered in 1967 and various subsequent injuries, never advanced beyond the Minor Leagues. He became the first No. 1 Draft pick never to play in the big leagues.

The second player selected in the Draft, by the Kansas City Athletics, was a slugging outfielder from Arizona State: Reginald Martinez Jackson.

Despite Chilcott's problem, 1966 was a good year for the Mets. In April, they won the negotiating rights to a young right-handed pitcher from USC -- Tom Seaver -- in a special drawing.

II: Playing his first season with the Orioles, Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown and the American League Most Valuable Player Award five years after winning the National League MVP Award as a member of the Reds. Robinson remains the only player to win an MVP Award in each league.

III: The great Sandy Koufax retired at age 30 in November, less than two months after completing his third Cy Young Award-winning season -- the vote was unanimous, as it had been in his other two Cy Young seasons, 1963 and '65 (1966 was the last year of a Major League Cy Young Award; one in each league was introduced in '67). Koufax indicated at the time of his retirement that the condition of his left elbow was such that he worried that more pitching might cripple him, make him unable to handle everyday activities.

IV: The Yankees, two years removed from their fifth World Series appearance in five years, were outscored by one run and finished 10th, in last place for the first time since 1912. Five other teams were outscored by an average of 63 runs and finished ahead of the team that cost second-year manager Johnny Keane his job after 20 games -- the record was 4-16 -- and after a sixth-place finish and a 77-85 record in '65.

V: The Mets, outscored by 174 runs -- the greatest deficit in the NL -- didn't finish 10th for the first time in their five-year history. They finished ninth, 7 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs.

VI: The second Busch Stadium, the cookie-cutter salute to the Arch that was merely a few thousand feet away, opened on May 12 and served as the site for the All-Star Game two months later. Casey Stengel, who had ended his 25-year career as a big league manager the previous summer, attended the All-Star Game that was played despite 105-degree midday temperature made more debilitating by the new, synthetic-grass field.

Bernie McCoy, covering the game for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, asked Stengel for his perspective of the new park. Stengel's reply was priceless: "Well, I'll tell ya, young fella, it sure seems to hold the heat real good."

VII: The Major League Baseball Players Association appointed Marvin Miller to serve as its executive director.

VIII: Shortly after the Dodgers' victory in the 1965 World Series, Koufax and Dodgers teammate Don Drysdale notified their club of their intention to negotiate their contracts for 1966 as an entity. And before Spring Training was a week old, the two pitchers began the first dual holdout by teammates in Major League history. The two had won three of the previous four Cy Young Awards and were responsible for three of the Dodgers' victories against the Twins in the '65 World Series. According to then-Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi, Koufax and Drysdale sought a three-year, $1 million contract that would guarantee each pitcher $166,667 each year. Koufax's salary for 1965 had been $85,000, Drysdale's $80,000. The players said neither would sign unless both were satisfied. When the players finally signed, Koufax's salary was $125,000, Drysdale's $100,000.

IX: Braves starting pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams and drove in nine runs in one game against the Giants in San Francisco on July 3. Nineteen days earlier, he hit two home runs and had five RBIs in the Braves' 17-1 defeat of the Mets in Atlanta. His production in those two games and the three starts and a relief appearance he made in between, Cloninger drove in 18 runs in 22 at-bats.

Teammates Henry Aaron and Joe Torre drove in 127 and 101 runs, respectively, that season. Aaron led the NL in RBIs. But in a 57 at-bat sequence that covered the same period as Cloninger's 22 at-bats, Aaron drove in seven runs. Torre had 58 at-bats in that period and drove in 12. Combined, Aaron and Torre drove in 19 runs in 115 at-bats. Cloninger had 18 in 22.

X: Cardinals rookie pitcher Larry Jaster won 10 of his 21 starts, five by shutout, and all five shutouts came against the defending World Series-champion Dodgers. Jaster threw six more complete games, two of them shutouts (neither against the Dodgers) in 56 subsequent starts before returning to the Minor Leagues for good in 1972. His career record in 18 starts and seven relief appearances against the Dodgers was 9-5.

Marty Noble is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.