1960: The Last Pure Season
By Kerry Keene
Sports Publishing, Inc. 2000
The premise of the title is that after 1960 baseball was less pure -- after that it became diluted by expansion. You can accept this premise or not, it won't effect your enjoyment of the book. Kerry Keene was the co-author of The Babe in Red Stockings (1977) ; he is a baseball historian who lives in Raynham, Mass. Much of this book is drawn from the archives of The Sporting News, which in 1960 was the Bible of Baseball.
Nineteen-sixty was quite an eventful year. In New York, the Yankees won the pennant but lost the Series and fired manager Casey Stengel and general manager George Weiss. Meanwhile the New York had no National League team but was plotting to get one, as the flagship of a whole new league. Keene does a very good job in his chapter on the Continental_League, detailing its slow painful expiration at the hands of Congress and the Lords of Baseball. The Mets and the Astros were the only real survivors.
Then there was Trader Frank Lane, a general manager who did a pretty good job of building up the Chicago White Sox, then got full of himself, went crazy, and demolished the Cleveland Indians as a publicity stunt. On April 17, 1960, the Indians traded Rocky Colavito, the previous year's home run champ, straight up for Harvey Kuenn, the previous year's batting champ. I myself have a dim memory of the buzz this trade created, sitting in the stands at Fenway in early 1960, listening to people discuss the trade. It was a great conversation piece (which helps a ballclub more: singles or home runs?). It also ruined the Cleveland ballclub, which took about 35 years to get back into contention. The trade is Cleveland's version of Ruth going to the Yankees.
That wasn't Frank Lane's only trade of 1960. He also traded Norm Cash, who became one of the hitting stars of the 1960's, to Detroit for someone named Steve Demeter. Then in July, he made yet another deal with the Tigers: he traded managers with them! Joe Gordon went to Detroit, Jimmie Dykes went to Cleveland.
The most famous events of 1960 are here, the foremost being a pair of walk-off home runs: Bill Mazeroski's smash which won the World Series for the Pirates, and Ted Williams' farewell blast into the bleachers. The great moments are covered, as well as the minutia, such as why how and why Billy Jurges got fired as Red Sox manager in the middle of the season. Nineteen-sixty boasted a wealth of future Hall of Famers on the field: Williams, Musial, Aaron, Mantle, Spahn, Banks, Berra, Mathews, Ford, Frank Robinson, Snider, Wynn, Roberts, Fox, Kaline, Drysdale...
Click on the picture for a Nellie Fox story.
This is a well-researched book, and if you grew up in those times, you'll want to read it. The book is full of great photos. Just look at this picture of old Nellie Fox, from the book. He's choking up on the bat! Who does that anymore? By the way, Nellie was the first player to have his name on the back of jersey -- a novelty introduced by ChiSox owner Bill Veeck. Hank Aaron won $13,500 in Home Run Derby. That was 1960, a year when Ted took spring training with Yaz, when the old collided with the new.
Review by David Nevard
The Bison Den Library of Book Reviews