It would have been difficult for the 1965 season to live up to the standard set by the exciting pennant races of the previous campaign. And though it didn’t – quite – make it, the ’65 season was pretty darn competitive itself.
The big story in ’65 had to be the outstanding season by the San Francisco Giants. The Giants put up one for the ages as they won 113 games behind a fearsome lineup anchored by Willie Mays (.314-42-123) that saw five hitters top 30 homers. Jim Ray Hart and Orlando Cepeda belted 36 apiece; Willie McCovey hit 32 and catcher Tom Haller chipped in with 31 homers. As a team the Giants led the league with 214 round trippers.
And San Francisco needed every one of those wins as the defending NL champ Phillies were even better than they had been the year before. With Dick Allen making a mockery of the notion of a sophomore slump – 1964’s Rookie of the Year was 1965’s MVP with a Triple Crown season, leading the NL in average (.363), Home Runs (44) and RBIs (129). With a trio of starting pitchers topping 20 victories in Chris Short, Jim Bunning and Dennis Bennett, the Phillies won 107 ballgames and still finished six games off the pace.
Sandy Koufax again copped the Cy Young hardware with a 23-6, 1.53 campaign that was even better than his ’64 totals. And the Giants added a Rookie of the Year to their already stacked lineup with Jose Cardenal winning the award after hitting .306 and swiping a league-best 74 bases.
The Baltimore Orioles finished third in 1964 despite racking up 101 victories. That was because the Twins and Yankees also had stellar – and slightly better – seasons. That was not the case in 1965 as all three again had excellent campaigns, but the ultimate order of finish was reversed. Where the Yanks came out on top in ’64 they finished third – seven games back – while the Twins were again the bridesmaids, finishing three back and falling just shy of the century mark with 99 wins. Baltimore, winners of 101 games in ’64 added one to their total for ’65 and finished with a tidy 102-60 mark.
The O’s were once again led by their outstanding young slugger Boog Powell. While slightly off his MVP totals of the year before, Powell belted 46 homers with 105 RBIs and hit a robust .316, finishing second in the MVP voting to the Yankees Mickey Mantle who had a monster year (.346-46-108) to take the award. The Cy Young Award went to Detroit’s Mickey Lolich, who went 20-8 with a 1.67 ERA. Baltimore’s Davey Johnson took home Rookie of the Year with a strong debut that saw the young second baseman hit .293 with 18 homers.
The World Series was another good one as it again went the distance. And once again it was the junior circuit coming out on top in a game seven as Baltimore took home their first World Series trophy in a seven-game thriller over the west coast juggernaut from the Bay Area.