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1968: If you love pitching, it was your year in MLB

In this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the sluggers had a field day; there were 10 home runs and the final score was 8-6.

Fifty years ago, power hitters Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were the offensive stars in the game. Mays singled, moved to second when a pick-off attempt went awry, took third on a wild pitch, and scored when McCovey grounded into a double play.

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That was it. Final, 1-0.

Yes, there are good reasons 1968 was known as the Year of the Pitcher.

Here are a few more:

-- There were 339 shutouts (with only 10 teams in each league), five no-hitters and 17 one-hitters.

-- Seven full-time starters had earned-run averages under 2.00.

-- On Sept. 17, Gaylord Perry of the San Francisco Giants no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals. The next day, Ray Washburn of the Cardinals returned the favor.

-- The New York Yankees hit .214.

-- Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox won the American League batting title with an average of .301.

-- In the National League, 44 games ended in scores of 1-0.

-- Don Drysdale of the Dodgers had a record streak of 58 scoreless innings. And Bob Gibson of the Cardinals had a streak of 48 innings. And Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians had a streak of 41.

-- Gibson, the National League Cy Young Award winner, pitched 304⅔ innings with a 1.12 earned-run average and completed 28 of 34 starts during the regular season. At one point, he had a 1.32 ERA — and a record of 3-5. He won his next 15 decisions, 10 by shutout.

-- Gibson struck out 17 Detroit Tigers in the Game 1 of the World Series.

-- Juan Marichal of the Giants pitched 326 innings with a 26-9 record and 30 complete games — and didn’t get a single first-place nod in Cy Young voting.

-- Denny McLain of the Tigers became the only player since Dizzy Dean in 1934 to win more than 30 games. He went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA and completed 28 of 41 starts.

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-- Mickey Lolich of the Tigers pitched three complete games during the World Series, including the clinching win over Gibson and the Cardinals in Game 7.

After the 1968 season, the pitching mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 and the strike zone shrunk. Instead of a zone encompassing the area between the shoulders and the bottom of the knees, it became the space between the armpits and top of the knees.

The next year, Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds hit .348, Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins slugged 49 home runs, and Marichal had the game’s best ERA, 2.10.

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