Monday, November 7, 2011

1977 Topps #1 - 1976 Batting Leaders

  • The 1976 season featured down-to-the-wire batting races in both leagues. Neither championship was decided until the final day of the season.
  • In the American League three players had a shot at the title on the last day. All three players were on the same field, as the Kansas City Royals hosted the Minnesota Twins.
    • On the previous day both George Brett and Hal McRae of the Royals sat out the game. Minnesota's Rod Carew went 2 for 4 to raise his batting average to .329. McRae was batting .33078 and Brett was batting .33073.
    • All three players had a good day on October 3 (the last day of the season). Carew went 2 for 4 to end up at .331. McRae also went 2 for 4 and finished with a .332 average. Brett was 2 for 3 when he came up for his final at bat in the 9th inning. Brett hit a ball that bounced over left fielder Steve Brye's head. It ended up being an inside-the-park home run. Brett won the title with a .333 average and felt bad about the way it turned out. McRae thought Brye had let the ball drop on purpose and went after Twins' manager Gene Mauch after grounding out in the 9th inning.
    • It was the first time since 1971 that Carew didn't win the AL batting crown.
  • The National League batting race came down to two players -- Bill Madlock of the Chicago Cubs and Ken Griffey of the Cincinnati Reds.
    • At the beginning of the day on October 3, Griffey held a 5-point advantage (.338 to .333) over Madlock
    • It was decided by Reds manager Sparky Anderson (after meeting with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez) that Griffey would sit out the final game of the season to preserve his lead.
    • Madlock went 4 for 4 in his game to raise his average to .339.
    • When Anderson learned that Madlock had such a good day, he put Griffey into the game. Griffey struck out twice and his average dropped to .336.
  • This was the second of Madlock's four NL batting titles. Madlock won the title in 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1983.
  • Brett won three batting titles in his career. He won in 1976 (.333), 1980 (.390), and in 1990 (.329). 
  • If Carew had won in 1976, he would have had a streak of seven straight seasons (1972-1978) with batting titles.
  • Minnesota's Lyman Bostock had a shot at the AL title as well, but he tailed off in the last couple of weeks and finished with a .323 average.

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