Monday, March 30, 2009

# 85 & 86 -- NL Batting Leaders & AL Batting Leaders

NL Batting Leaders

Joe Torre .363
Ralph Garr .343
Glenn Beckert .342

AL Batting Leaders

Tony Oliva .337
Bobby Murcer .331
Merv Rettenmund .318

In 1971, the NL hit .252 and the AL hit .247. That was when I started following baseball and to a certain degree, things from the 1970's are ingrained in my head as the way things ought to be. A car ought to cost about $5,000. A house should cost about $25,000. A meal at McDonald's, well, that was a luxury in the mid-1970's, not an everyday occurrence. Before I go sounding like one of those "we walked through the snow uphill both ways" kind of guys, I take my kids to drive throughs a lot more than I went to them when I was a kid.

However, it's still ingrained in my head that the average baseball game should be a 4-3 game. That's changed and I don't like it. Another thing that's ingrained in my head is .363. When I see Joe Torre, I don't think "World Series Manager" or "He just wrote a book" or even "He has a magic touch. He tamed Manny Ramirez and look what happened to A-Rod when Joe left New York." Nope, when I think of Joe Torre, I think .363 because I was a Cardinal fan as a young baseball fan and I know Torre hit .363 to win his batting title in 1971.

He didn't have competition. The Roadrunner had a great year and came up 20 points short. Glenn Beckert had a career year, hitting .341 and I thought (wrongly so) that would happen every year. As you read down the top 10 on the card back you see an All-Star team with names like Cleon, Sanguillen, Clemente, Aaron, Brock and Staub. However, despite there being 3 Hall of Famers down the line, the 3 faces on the card are Torre, Garr and Beckert. Two of them got there with by far their career best in batting average (Garr hit .353 in 1974).

The AL card shows that the AL was not a hitters league. Now there's nothing wrong with Tony Oliva, Bobby Murcer and Merv Rettenmund. However, there were only 6 guys that hit .300. Wow. Of course, the AL had all kinds of pitching. The A's and Orioles alone had all kinds of talent. I'm amazed that there was only about a 5 point difference in league batting average.

Tony O was a great player and if he hadn't torn up his knee, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. He was kind of the Billy Williams of the AL, but he just didn't have the longevity. He beat out Bobby Murcer, who was unfairly saddled with the "Next Mickey Mantle" expectations. Murcer had a great career, but he, nor anyone else that's played in the Yankee outfield in the last 40 years has been "The Next Mickey Mantle." Even though they finished 6 points apart, there wasn't a real batting race. Oliva hit .350 most of the year, but tailed off considerably the last month (he hit .217 in September) and Murcer was solidly in the .330's all year.

But there's no depth in the AL top 10. Rod Carew got his mail delivered in the AL Top 10, but there were no other Hall of Famers. Amos Otis and Roy White were solid players, but I don't think I ever knew that the recently deceased Ted Uhlaender ever finished Top 10 or that he even played enough to qualify.


  1. Looks like there wasn't much hitting in the NL West in '71---the only guys to place in the top ten played for Atlanta.

    I always think of baseball as it was in the mid 70s as the way it should be. Four division, 24 teams, only four teams making the playoffs, the Brewers in the AL, and baseball in Montreal.

  2. I love the leader cards on the 1972 set!