On MLB Monday this week, it’s a special turning point in professional baseball, for two interesting reasons: First, the New York Yankees started a championship dry spell that would last until 1977, and second, some kid named Pete Rose arrived on the scene.
The sport would never be the same, of course, as Rose has supplied fans and historians with one of the best quotes ever about playing ball: “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” That being said, let’s hit it!
1963 AL MVP: Elston Howard (original), Bob Allison (revised)
The Yankees won the pennant by 10.5 games, but their best player, catcher Elston Howard, registered just 5.2 WAR—meaning no player on the New York roster was valuable enough to be considered for this award. The two best players in the league were Minnesota Twins right fielder Bob Allison (7.1 WAR) and Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski (6.6).
Howard won the vote, of course, but we can’t give him the award ourselves. Since Boston finished 28 games out of first place and under .500 for the year, we give this nod to Allison, almost by default: The Twins won 91 games, even though that was only good enough for third place. He topped the AL in runs (99) and OPS (.911), demonstrating what a down year it was in the junior circuit.
Allison added 35 home runs, 91 RBI, and 90 walks, too, however. Remember, we took away Allison’s 1959 ROTY Award, so this could be justice for him.
1963 NL MVP: Sandy Koufax (original), Willie Mays (revised)
Eight position players finished in the Top 10 overall for MLB WAR: San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays (10.6), Milwaukee Braves right fielder Hank Aaron (9.1), Philadelphia Phillies RF Johnny Callison (8.1), Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews (8.0), St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Dick Groat (7.1), Chicago Cubs 3B Ron Santo (6.7), Giants utility man Willie McCovey (6.5), and Cubs LF Billy Williams (6.5).
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax won the MVP vote (see below), and we have to re-assign it here. It’s been awhile since a pitcher took the MVP Award in either league, that’s for sure.
The Dodgers won the pennant by 6 games over the Cardinals, with the Giants (11 GB), Phillies (12), Braves (15), and Cubs (17) all finishing above .500 for the season. This is where it gets complicated: Mays was clearly the best player, although perhaps Groat was more valuable.
The WAR edge for Mays is considerable, however. Without the Say Hey Kid, the Giants probably finish under .500 overall, even with McCovey on the roster. It’s pretty easy, therefore, to give Mays another MVP Award: This is his sixth nod from us in a 10-season span, which is stunning.
His numbers? A .314 average, 38 HRs, 103 RBI, .962 OPS, and 347 total bases. None of those numbers led the NL, strangely, but Mays did win his seventh-straight Gold Glove—and he would go on to win five more consecutive GG nods. He truly was a once-in-a-generation player.
1963 AL Cy Young: Gary Peters
The three best pitchers in the American League were Twins star Camilo Pascual (6.1 WAR), Chicago White Sox rookie southpaw Gary Peters (6.0), and Boston closer Dick Radatz (5.7). With the value for all three so close, we have to give this to the guy whose team finished highest: Peters, as the Pale Hose won 94 games to edge the Twins for second place by 2.5 games.
Peters’ stats: 19-8, 2.33 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, and 189 strikeouts. His ERA was best in the league, and he tossed 243 innings to make a serious contribution to Chicago’s overall success. Pascual won this award from us in 1961, but the rookie denies him a second nod.
1963 NL Cy Young: Sandy Koufax (original, confirmed)
This is an easy award to confirm, as Koufax topped all MLB pitchers with 10.7 WAR, just edging out Mays for the highest WAR total in the sport for the season overall. We do want to give a serious nod, however, to Cubs pitcher Dick Ellsworth (10.2 WAR), who also had an amazing season.
The two stat lines are here for your comparison …
- Koufax: 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 0.875 WHIP, 306 Ks, 311 IP, and a league-best 11 shutouts
- Ellsworth: 22-10, 2.11 ERA, 1.025 WHIP, 185 Ks, 290 2/3 IP, and a league-high 167 ERA+
That is some serious pitching as we start to see a trend in the senior circuit that would result in the pitching mound being lowered by the end of the decade to give the batters a fighting chance against the likes of Koufax and his peers.
Remember, ERA+ factors in ballpark factors, which is why Ellsworth topped the league in the sabermetric category, pitching in cozy Wrigley Field, while Koufax was tossing half his innings in spacious Dodger Stadium. Regardless, Koufax’s season has to rank among one of the best ever in the modern era, which is why he won the MVP Award at the time.
1963 AL ROTY: Gary Peters (original, confirmed)
Yes, this is a rare double: Both the Cy Young and the ROTY awards to the same guy! It will happen again, eventually, but this is the first time we’ve awarded two trophies to the same player. Peters actually finished with 7.0 WAR overall, tossing in his hitting stats (.259 average, 3 HRs, 12 RBI).
Just for the historical record, Twins CF Jimmie Hall (5.4 WAR) and White Sox 3B Pete Ward (4.1) also had great rookie seasons in the junior circuit. Most seasons, those efforts would have good enough to claim this award.
1963 NL ROTY: Pete Rose (original), Ray Culp (revised)
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Rose (2.4 WAR) won the vote at the time, while New York Mets 2B Ron Hunt (2.5) and Phillies pitcher Ray Culp (2.5) had slightly better seasons. The Mets won just 51 games to finish last, which makes Hunt’s contributions relatively meaningless. Meanwhile, Philadelphia (87 wins) and Cincinnati (86 wins) finished a game apart in the standings.
Culp led the NL in walks (102), however, which is not a good thing. His overall numbers—14 wins, 2.97 ERA, and 5 shutouts—are pretty good, though. Meanwhile, Rose didn’t really “wow” anyone with his stats: .273 average, .705 OPS, and 13 stolen bases. Charlie Hustle also got caught stealing 15 times, while displaying a below-average glove (-0.4 dWAR). That’s two strikes on Rose, but only one on Culp. So we give the award to the latter, easily.