Sadness ushered in the 1958 baseball season as the Dodgers lost their great catcher Roy Campanella when a January automobile accident left the three-time N.L. MVP permanently paralyzed below the waist. Campanella’s career ended before the Dodgers played their first game in Los Angeles.
Campanella’s tragic accident only added to the woes of Brooklyn fans, who saw their beloved Dodgers depart for the West Coast. The Dodgers called Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum home for the next few seasons, prior to moving into the newly-constructed Chavez Ravine in 1962. Meanwhile, the arch-rival Giants set up shop at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, before they eventually set up residence at Candlestick Park.
The combination of Campanella’s loss and an aging roster relegated the Dodgers to a seventh-place finish in their first year in California. The Giants fared somewhat better, placing third in the final standings. Nevertheless, they finished 12 full games behind the Milwaukee Braves, who captured their second consecutive National League pennant by compiling a record of 92-62 over the course of the regular season. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished second, eight games behind Milwaukee.
The Braves had little difficulty winning their second straight flag even though they finished just fourth in the senior circuit with 675 runs scored. With slugging first baseman Joe Adcock limited to only 105 games by injury, Eddie Mathews, Wes Covington, and Hank Aaron carried the offense most of the year. Mathews hit 31 homers and scored 97 runs. Covington batted .330, hit 24 homers, and drove in 74 runs, in only 294 official at-bats. Aaron hit 30 home runs, knocked in 95 runs, scored 109 others, and batted .326, en route to earning a third-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting.
The Braves’ greatest strength lay in their pitching staff, which posted a league-leading 3.21 team ERA. Warren Spahn compiled a 3.07 ERA and led all N.L. hurlers with 22 wins, 23 complete games, and 290 innings pitched. Lew Burdette finished among the league leaders with 20 victories, a 2.91 ERA, 19 complete games, and 275 innings pitched.
The Braves faced the Yankees in the World Series for the second straight year, and they appeared to be well on their way towards capturing another world championship when they grabbed a three-games-to-one lead. However, the Yankees rallied, winning the last three contests and defeating old nemesis Burdette twice in the process, to win their 18th world title. New York’s Bob Turley earned Series MVP honors by posting two of his team’s final three victories.
Although the Braves represented the National League in the World Series, most of the senior circuit’s best players performed for other teams. Bob Friend, Bob Skinner, and Frank Thomas all excelled for the second-place Pirates. Friend tied Warren Spahn for the league lead with 22 victories, and he also finished among the leaders with 274 innings pitched and 16 complete games. Skinner batted .321 and drove in 83 runs. Thomas was Pittsburgh’s most productive hitter, earning a fourth-place finish in the league MVP balloting by batting .281, hitting 35 homers, and knocking in 109 runs.
Orlando Cepeda had a big year for third-place San Francisco, earning N.L. Rookie of the Year honors by hitting 25 homers, driving in 96 runs, batting .312, and topping the circuit with 38 doubles. Willie Mays showed no ill effects from moving to the West Coast, hitting 29 home runs, knocking in 96 runs, batting a career-high .347, collecting 208 hits, and leading the league with 121 runs scored and 31 stolen bases. He placed second in the N.L. MVP voting.
Chicago’s Ernie Banks won the honor for the first of two straight times by having the finest all-around year of his Hall of Fame career. Banks batted .313, scored 119 runs, and led the league with 47 home runs, 129 runs batted in, 379 total bases, and a .614 slugging percentage. The members of the BBWAA named him N.L. MVP even though the Cubs finished tied for fifth in the league, 20 games behind the pennant-winning Braves.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• January 28 - Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella suffered a broken neck in an early morning auto accident on Long Island. His spinal column was nearly severed and his legs were permanently paralyzed. Campanella never again played in the major leagues, although a newspaper story (showing a picture of him wearing a Brooklyn cap) described him as being a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• April 15 - In the first Major League Baseball game played on the West Coast, Rubén Gómez of the San Francisco Giants hurled an 8-0 shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Giants' shortstop Daryl Spencer hit the first Major League home run on the Pacific Coast. A park-record 23,192 fans packed Seals Stadium to witness the historic contest.
• April 25 - The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 5–3, setting a record for the most fans at a regular season night game, as 60,635 patrons showed up at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
• May 13 - Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals collected his 3,000th career hit when he pinch hit a double off Chicago Cubs pitcher Moe Drabowsky at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals won, 5–3.
• Philadelphia’s Richie Ashburn led the National League with a .350 batting average, 215 hits, 13 triples, 97 walks, and a .441 on-base percentage. Ashburn also tied a National League record by leading outfielders in chances for the ninth time in his career.
• San Francisco’s Stu Miller led all N.L. hurlers with a 2.47 ERA.
• The Cincinnati Reds established a new major league record by committing only 100 errors in the field.
• By compiling 225 strikeouts, Sam Jones of St. Louis became the first National League pitcher since 1941 to fan 200 or more batters.
• Pittsburgh's Elroy Face led the National League with 20 saves.
- 1958 World Series, Bob Friend, Bob Skinner, Brooklyn Dodgers, Daryl Spencer, Ebbets Field, Eddie Mathews, Elroy Face, Ernie Banks, Frank Thomas, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Lew Burdette, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Milwaukee Braves, Moe Drabowsky, New York Giants, Orlando Cepeda, Polo Grounds, Richie Ashburn, Roy Campanella, Ruben Gomez, Sam Jones, Seals Stadium, Stan Musial, Stu Miller, Warren Spahn, Wes Covington, Willie Mays