After a subpar 1964 campaign in which they finished tied for sixth in the senior circuit, the Los Angeles Dodgers returned to the top of the National League standings in 1965, compiling a record of 97-65 over the course of the regular season. However, the Dodgers’ second pennant in three years didn’t come easy, as the San Francisco Giants battled them right down to the wire for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. In fact, San Francisco led Los Angeles by 3 ½ games as late as September 17, before the Dodgers won 14 of their last 15 games to edge out the Giants by a mere two games. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished third, seven games back, and the Cincinnati Reds came in fourth, eight games off the pace.
The Dodgers finished atop the N.L. standings in spite of their relatively weak offense. While the fourth-place Reds scored a league-leading 825 runs, the Dodgers finished just eighth in the senior circuit with 608 runs scored. Maury Wills was the only member of the team who placed among the league leaders in any major offensive category. The Dodger shortstop batted .286, scored 92 runs, collected 186 hits, and topped the circuit with 94 steals.
The success of the Dodgers could be attributed primarily to their pitching staff, which posted a league-leading 2.81 team ERA. Claude Osteen won 15 games and compiled an ERA of 2.79. Ace reliever Ron Perranoski saved 17 games and won six others. The heart and soul of the team remained the formidable mound duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, which posted 49 of the club’s 97 victories. Drysdale finished the campaign with a record of 23-12, a 2.77 ERA, 210 strikeouts, 308 innings pitched, and 20 complete games. The numbers Koufax compiled were simply mind-boggling. The brilliant left-hander led all National League hurlers with a record of 26-8, a 2.04 ERA, 382 strikeouts, 335 innings pitched, and 27 complete games. He also finished second in the league with eight shutouts, en route to earning Cy Young honors and a second-place finish in the league MVP voting.
Koufax continued to perform magnificently against the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, throwing two shutouts, including a 2-0, three-hitter on just two days’ rest in Game Seven that clinched the world championship for the Dodgers. Koufax was appropriately named MVP of the Fall Classic.
Although the Dodgers represented the senior circuit in the World Series, both the second-place Giants and fourth-place Reds had significantly better offenses. In addition to leading the league in runs scored, the Reds compiled a league-best .273 team batting average. Frank Robinson and Deron Johnson provided much of the power in the middle of Cincinnati’s batting order. Robinson hit 33 home runs, knocked in 113 runs, scored another 109, and batted .296. Johnson hit 32 homers and led the league with 130 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Tommy Harper and Pete Rose served as the team’s table-setters at the top of the lineup. Harper stole 35 bases and led the league with 126 runs scored. Rose batted .312, scored 117 runs, and topped the circuit with 209 hits.
San Francisco’s lineup featured two of the league’s top sluggers in Willie McCovey and Willie Mays, who combined to hit 91 home runs. McCovey finished second in the N.L. with 39 homers, knocked in 92 runs, and scored 93 others. Mays earned league MVP honors by topping the circuit with 52 home runs, 360 total bases, a .399 on-base percentage, and a .645 slugging percentage. He also placed among the leaders with 112 runs batted in, 118 runs scored, and a .317 batting average. Jim Ray Hart gave the Giants a third big bat, hitting 23 homers, driving in 96 runs, and batting .299. Meanwhile, Juan Marichal anchored San Francisco’s pitching staff, compiling a record of 22-13 and an ERA of 2.13, striking out 240 batters, throwing 295 innings and 24 complete games, and leading the league with 10 shutouts.
Yet, Marichal’s outstanding performance over the course of the regular season was overshadowed somewhat by his unfortunate encounter with Dodger catcher John Roseboro during a game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 22. Read about this incident, other notable events from around the league, and some of the senior circuit’s most outstanding individual performances in the following section:
• The first indoor stadium, the Astrodome, opened on April 9, with the Houston Astros facing the Yankees in an exhibition game.
• April 12 – The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Astros 2-0 in front of 43,000 fans in the first regular-season game played at Houston’s Astrodome.
• July 13 - At Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium, Willie Mays hit a home run, walked twice, and scored two runs, to lead the National League to a 6–5 All-Star Game victory over the American League. Juan Marichal earned Game MVP honors by pitching three scoreless innings.
• August 22 - A game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park turned ugly when mounting tensions between the two clubs resulted in a violent altercation between Giants pitcher Juan Marichal and Dodger catcher John Roseboro. With Marichal batting against Sandy Koufax in the third inning, Roseboro returned Koufax’s offering to him on the mound by whizzing the ball past Marichal’s ear. The San Francisco pitcher responded by attacking Roseboro with his bat, opening up a huge gash on the catcher’s forehead. Both benches subsequently cleared and a 14-minute brawl ensued, before peacemakers such as Koufax and the Giants' Willie Mays restored order. A shaken up Koufax then surrendered a three-run homer to Mays, leading to a 4-3 San Francisco victory. National League president Warren Giles ended up suspending Marichal for eight games and fining him $1,750. Giles also did not permit Marichal to travel with his team to Dodger Stadium for the final series of the season against the Dodgers.
• August 30 - Casey Stengel announced his retirement as manager of the New York Mets, ending a 55 year career as player and manager.
• September 2 - Ernie Banks hit his 400th career home run during a 5-3 Cubs victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
• September 13 - Willie Mays hit his 500th home run off the Houston Astros' Don Nottebart, and Juan Marichal earned his 22nd victory as the Giants beat Houston 5-1 at the Astrodome.
• September 22 - The Braves played their final game in Milwaukee, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6.
• Sandy Koufax struck out 29 Minnesota Twins in his three World Series starts.
• Ron Fairly of Los Angeles led all World Series hitters with a .379 batting average, 11 hits, and six runs batted in.
• Sandy Koufax’s 382 strikeouts established a new major league record.
• Jim Maloney of the Reds pitched a no-hitter for 10 innings against the Mets on June 14, but ended up losing the contest in 14 innings.
• Maloney won a 1-0, 10-inning no hitter against the Chicago Cubs on August 19.
• Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game in defeating the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on September 9. The perfecto was the fourth no-hitter of his career.
• Ted Abernathy's 31 saves for the Cubs established a new major league record. Abernathy also set a new major league record by appearing in 84 games as a pitcher.
• The Chicago Cubs hired Leo Durocher to be their new manager.
• Jim Lefebvre of Los Angeles captured N.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• The Braves’ lineup featured six players with 20 or more homers.
• The Dodgers featured the first all-switch-hitting infield in major league history: Wes Parker, Jim Lefebvre, Maury Wills, and Jim Gilliam.
• Roberto Clemente won his second consecutive batting title with a mark of .329.
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- 1965 World Series, Astrodome, Casey Stengel, Claude Osteen, Deron Johnson, Don Drysdale, Don Nottebart, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Jim Gilliam, Jim Lefebvre, Jim Maloney, Jim Ray Hart, Johnny Roseboro, Juan Marichal, Leo Durocher, Los Angeles Dodgers, Maury Wills, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Ron Fairly, Ron Perranoski, San Francisco Giants, Sandy Koufax, Ted Abernathy, Tommy Harper, Warren Giles, Wes Parker, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey