1968 was the ‘Year Of The Pitcher.’ Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers won 31 games- the first 30 game winner in baseball since Dizzy Dean back in 1934 [and no one has won 30 since McLain.] In the National League Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals set the post dead ball era record with an ERA of 1.12. Those were just the highlights-the entire American League hit .230 that season which was the lowest in history. The National League fared better at .243 which was the second lowest in NL history. Overall the Major League Baseball batting average was a puny .237 for the season. There was only one .300 hitter in the entire American League- the batting title went to Carl Yastrzemski with a .301 average.
Here is just a small example of how it was going that season. The first game I ever went to was in mid-May 1968- the St. Louis Cardinals vs the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. A three game series. The Monday game was won by the Cardinals 1-0. The Wednesday game the first game I ever attended- was won 1-0 by the Cardinals. The third game of the series on Thursday was won 3-0 by the Pirates. 3 games- 3 shutouts- 5 total runs scored in 3 games.
The popularity of baseball over time seems to have its ups and downs- but it always seems to come back. In the late 1960’s baseball was on the outs – professional football seemed to fit the times and was growing rapidly in popularity. The major problem baseball was having was the lack of action- a lack of scoring.
On this day the Baseball Rules Committee made major changes with the goal being to increase the amount of offensive run production in both leagues. The committee agreed to decrease the size of the strike zone- and to lower the height of the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. The rules changes went into effect in 1969- and their goal was achieved- the increase of run scoring.