We just finished up our discussion on the 1960 NL MVP, so you’d figure that we’re going to zip ahead a few years, maybe switch leagues. But here’s the thing – the next really interesting election is in the same league, just two years later. Which brings me to our next election: the 1962 National League.
This feature is authored by Dr. Doom. Thanks Doc for your research in putting this series together.
Well, the pennant winners were the Giants, who became the fifth NL pennant winner in five years (then the longest-such streak of unique pennant winners on the senior circuit in the live-ball era; other stretches of 5+ years are: 1914-1919, 1960-1964, 1986-1991, 1997-2002, and 1998-2005; I didn’t check the AL, so someone else can do that, if they feel so inclined). 1962 was one of the odd ducks that featured two 100-game winners in the same pennant chase, as the Dodgers also won 101 games. The Giants lost first place on July 8th, being defeated by the Dodgers, and didn’t crawl back into first until the final day of the season, when they topped the expansion Colt .45s to earn a tie with the Dodgers. A best-of-three series for the pennant commenced. The Giants took the first at home, and the Dodgers took the second in their home park. The rubber match was also scheduled for Dodger stadium, where the road Giants took it 6-4, the winning pitcher being former Yankee hero Don Larsen.
Anyway, the MVP was the man who is credited with revitalizing the stolen base – Maury Wills, the Dodger SS who stole 104 bases and nearly hit .300, batting .299/.347/.373 while playing in all 165 Dodger games. Wills scored 130 runs while belting 6 HR and knocking in 48 as the Dodgers debuted in their new home, the cavernous Dodger Stadium (a true pitchers’ park where the Dodgers allowed 289 runs for the season, compared to 408 on the road!).
Much like our previous discussion of the NL in 1960, this MVP vote was utterly dominated by one team – but it wasn’t the pennant winner, this time. The Dodgers also boasted the third- and fifth-place finishers in the race. Tommy Davis, the Dodger LF, scored nearly as many runs as Wills (120), but spoke more softly and carried a much, MUCH bigger stick. He led the league in hits (230), average (.346), and RBI (a remarkable 153 – the most in MLB from 1950-1997, and the most in the NL from 1931-1997!). Davis also added 27 each of doubles and homers to go along with his .374 OBP and .535 SLG. Another (somewhat hilarious) note of Davis’ season is that he finished 2nd in the NL in SB – with 32! I’m guessing that the margin of 72 SB between the leader and second place is the largest in history. Also showing up in the MVP voting was the Dodger ace and Cy Young winner Don Drysdale. Drysdale led the league in innings with 314.1 and strikeouts with 232. His 2.83 ERA was fourth (but only .03 out of second), and his WHIP of 1.113 was third. And most important of all to the voters of the time was Drysdale’s sparkling 25-9 record, those 25 wins being tops on the senior circuit.
Jack Sanford of San Francisco (24-7, 3.43 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 147 Ks in 265.1 IP) and Bob Purkey of Cincinnati (23-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.124 WHIP, 141 Ks in 288.1 IP) put up remarkably similar lines to Drysdale, put didn’t appeal as much to the voters, who were (rightly or wrongly) more seduced by his Dodger Stadium-influenced numbers. But each of them had a teammate who showed up near the top of the vote.
Sanford’s teammate was – who else – Willie Mays. Mays led the NL in HR with 49 and was second in RBI (141, a career high), second in doubles (36), second in runs scored (130), and managed a league-leading 382 TB. His .304/.384/.615 line screams “Willie Mays!” – and let’s not forget that Mays was still considered the best center-fielder in baseball, winning the Gold Glove for his work (and, at age 31, he still had five Gold Gloves ahead of him, so don’t think that his skills were totally diminished yet).
Purkey’s teammate of note was the previous season’s MVP, Frank Robinson. Unfortunately for opposing pitchers, Robinson was even better in ’62 than he’d been the year before, improving in literally every statistical category except for SB, CS, SF, and IBB (though he still led the majors in the last of those categories). Robinson’s .342 average was second and his 39 HR were third, but he paced the league in runs (134), 2B (51), OBP (.421), and SLG (.624) (and, obviously, OPS). He finished a measly 2 TB behind Mays for the league lead. Although Robinson was better than he’d been as MVP, his Reds were worse. They’d outplayed their Pythagorean record by a remarkable 10 games in 1961, winning 93 and the pennant. In ’62, Pythagoras says they were to actually win 93 – and again, they were lucky, winning 98. But as the star on a third-place team, the bloom was off the Frank Robinson rose for the voters in 1962.
The final serious candidate for the MVP in 1962 was – who else? – Hank Aaron. Aaron banged out 45 homers, scored 127 runs, knocked in 128, and slashed .323/.390/.618. And while all those marks were near the top of the league (all in the top 5), he didn’t lead the league in anything.
So that brings us to it: who is the 1962 NL MVP? Is it a Dodger, a Red, a Giant, or the lone Brave? Or do you have another player who should be in the race?
DIRECTIONS: Please list 5-10 players on your MVP ballot (ballots with fewer than 5 candidates will be thrown out). Ballots will be scored as per BBWAA scoring (14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). Strategic voting is discouraged, though unenforceable, so please just don’t do it, as the goal here is to (somewhat) mimic the BBWAA process. We will discuss for the first 3 days, and then have 4 days during which discussion can continue, but when ballots may be submitted.