A videotape recently rediscovered by Chicago writer Al Yellon has given us a glimpse into what baseball was like nearly 50 years ago. Yellon located a videotape from Jim Maloney’s 1965 no-hitter against the Cubs, and while it’s not the new discovery that some observers have promoted it to be, it is a WGN broadcast that has not received much circulation since the mid-1960s.
The footage, in full color, does not encompass the entire game, but it does contain the eighth, ninth and 10th innings of Maloney’s walk-filled masterpiece. There is enough substance here to tell us about both the sport in 1965 and the way that it was televised 48 years ago.
In watching the late innings of this game from Wrigley Field, I’m first struck by the Reds’ road uniforms, specifically the backs of their jerseys. I love their old jerseys, with the player’s name listed below the number. I cannot recall another team doing this. It’s unusual, a little bit offputting at first, but very cool.
The Reds’ caps might also cause a double take. I’ve become used to Cincinnati wearing red caps and helmets, but back in the ’60s, the Reds opted for a white crown atop a red bill. Additionally, we see that some of the Reds are stepping to the plate wearing those same caps instead of their helmets; the rules of the day allowed players that choice, with helmets not becoming mandatory until 1971.
In contrast, the Cubs’ home uniforms, with their traditional and comfortable blue pinstripes, offer a breath of familiarity. They look practically identical to what the team wears today, except for two factors. First, the flannel uniforms are loose and baggy, as was the style of the day, while today‘s player wears more tight-fitting polyester. Second, the players of 1965 are wearing their uniforms properly: with the stirrups and socks clearly visible, instead of the awful pajama look that has become all too popular in today’s game.
As the game footage unfolds in the eighth inning, the pace of the game becomes readily apparent. The two starting pitchers work far more quickly than their counterparts today, at least when there is no one on base. The Cubs’ Larry Jackson does become a bit fidgety when Maloney reaches base on a single to right, but he is still nowhere near the legendarily slow pace of future Cub Steve Trachsel. Once Jackson receives the sign from his catcher, he is generally ready to throw. If only today’s pitchers would learn.
In the bottom of the eighth, Maloney surrenders a leadoff walk on a 3-and-2 pitch to Jackson; the ball might have hit the backstop if not for a nifty grab by catcher Johnny Edwards. But there’s something more interesting developing in this half-inning. With a runner on base, Maloney does not appear to come to a full stop before delivering pitches to the plate. In today’s game, we could have seen multiple balks called against the blazing right-hander.
In the top of the ninth, Pete Rose leads off for the Reds. Like many of the hitters in this era, he warms up by swinging two bats before discarding one. (The weighted doughnut had not yet been popularized.) Rose also steps to the plate wearing a cap, and not the helmet that he wore throughout the ’70s. This is the first time that I recall seeing Rose step to the plate without a helmet, but that’s exactly what he did throughout the 1965 season.
After Rose reaches on an error by Ernie Banks, Vada Pinson puts down a bunt single. With runners on first and second and no one out, Frank Robinson and Gordy Coleman both appear to hit home runs, but a stiff Wrigley Field wind, estimated at about 15 miles an hour, keeps both long flies within the confines. The Reds’ threat then comes to an end when Deron Johnson chops a routine grounder to the sure-handed Ron Santo at third base.
With the game still scoreless, the Cubs take their turn in the bottom of the ninth. Ever erratic, Maloney clips Santo in the shoulder, putting the leadoff runner aboard. Maloney then adds to the mess by walking Ed Bailey on a 3-2 pitch.
But the Cubs show their offensive ineptitude when Glenn Beckert fails to lay down a sacrifice bunt and pinch-hitting Jimmy Stewart lofts a short fly ball to Pinson. With two outs and the winning run at second, Cubs manager Lou Klein allows Jackson to hit for himself; remarkably, Jackson works out a walk to load the bases. Now visibly drenched in sweat, which is plainly evident even on footage that is less than HD quality, Maloney manages to end the threat by retiring Don Landrum on a weak pop-up to shortstop.
In the top of the 10th, the Reds start mildly with Edwards’ infield grounder, but the tenor changes quickly. Leo Cardenas, the eighth-place hitter, swings at the first pitch and wallops a high fastball deep into the left field corner. Doug Clemens gives chase, but we lose sight him of as he drifts into the corner, obscured by the left field stands. We can barely see the ball clear the wall before bouncing off a screen above the outfield barrier and then caroming back into the field of play. It’s a solo home run for the bony-limbed Cardenas, who weighs all of about 155 pounds but is on his way to an 11-home run season.
Bolstered by a sudden lead of 1-0, Maloney begins the bottom of the 10th precariously by walking the light-hitting Clemens. He then falls behind Billy Williams, 3-and-1, but retires the Hall of Famer on a lazy fly to Tommy Harper in left field. And then Banks, swinging at the first pitch, bounces a tailor-made ground ball to Cardenas, who initiates an easy 6-4-3 twin killing to bring a sudden end to the dramatics. Finishing the game with over 180 pitches thrown, Maloney has completed the unlikely no-hitter.
Aside from the game itself, let’s make some observations about the two teams in 1965. Despite the trio of longtime stars (Santo, Banks and Williams), the Cubs did not have a good ballclub. They had two forgettable journeymen in the outfield that day, Landrum and Clemens, backed up by George Altman. Their rookie shortstop, Don Kessinger, hit only .201 in what amounted to his worst major league season. Chicago’s two catchers, Bailey and Vic Roznovsky, provided little offense and little foreshadowing of the defense that Randy Hundley would eventually provide.
Of Chicago’s four main starting pitchers, no one posted an ERA under 3.60. And the bullpen, outside of old reliables Ted Abernathy and Lindy McDaniel, offered little depth. It was no wonder the Cubs were on their way to losing 90 games and had already changed managers in midseason.
While the Cubs struggled that summer, the Reds prospered, at least relatively speaking. The 1965 Reds had one terrific lineup: Harper and Rose setting the table for a heavy-hitting middle of the order (featuring Pinson, Robinson, Coleman and Johnson), with the respectable duo of Johnny Edwards and Cardenas batting eighth and ninth. The Reds did not have a weak link at any point in their lineup.
Rather than relying strictly on one dimension, the ‘65 Reds boasted a nice blend of offensive talents. Dick Sisler’s team had speed (Harper, Rose and Pinson), high average hitters (Rose, Pinson and Robinson), left-handed power (Pinson, Coleman and Edwards) and right-handed power (Robinson, Johnson, and Cardenas). It was a lineup that could have competed with the deep, power-packed lineups of recent memory.
On paper, the Reds’ lineup gave them the appearance of a pennant winner. Yet, the ’65 Reds won only 89 games and finished a distant fourth, well behind the pennant-winning Dodgers. So how do we explain the Reds’ lack of relevancy? Simple. It was largely because there wasn’t much starting pitching beyond Maloney and 22-game winner Sammy Ellis, and little of consequence in the bullpen.
Maloney, however, was very good. On this particular day against the Cubs, he had electric stuff, with both his fastball and curve ball crackling. His stuff was so good that he had absolutely no idea where his fastball was going. Hence, he walked 10 batters and hit one, making this one of the more eventful no-hitters in memory.
I’ve heard some fans comment that pitchers from the ’60s did not seem to throw with as much exertion as today’s hurlers, and therefore did not throw as hard. That may have been true of some pitchers in 1965, but certainly not Maloney. Although no radar gun was in evidence at Wrigley Field, it looked like Maloney was throwing very hard, easily upwards of 95 miles per hour. He certainly wasn’t soft-tossing junk that afternoon in the Chicago sunshine.
Maloney’s workload that day was also noteworthy, and quite shocking, at least by today’s standards. Thanks to all of the walks and strikeouts, he threw a total of 187 pitches over 10 innings. That would never happen today, and probably won’t ever happen again as long as pitchers’ contracts remain in the seven-figure salary range. While 187 pitches was probably one of Maloney’s highest totals ever, it may not have been that much out of the ordinary. A true workhorse, Maloney likely threw his share of 140 to 150-pitch games. Yes, it was a completely different game in the 1960s.
The Reds’ lack of pitching depth motivated general manager Bill DeWitt to make the infamous Frank Robinson trade that winter. The Reds sent Robinson to the Orioles for right-handers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and spare outfielder Dick Simpson. DeWitt hoped that Pappas could move into the No. 2 slot in the rotation behind Maloney, and while he didn’t pitch terribly in Cincinnati, he quite obviously lacked the impact of Robinson in Baltimore. Pappas fell into mediocrity, while Robinson was on the verge of padding his Hall of Fame resume with a Triple Crown in 1966 and several additional fine seasons that would catapult the Orioles into frequent postseason appearances.
While the actual baseball and the ability to visualize the players is the most interesting part of the 1965 WGN footage, there is also the pertinent issue of television coverage. It was radically different from today’s more sophisticated and overproduced broadcasts. WGN used only four cameras in covering the game. The station employed a center field camera, just like today’s practice, but also featured a camera behind the plate, offset a bit to the left.
I love this additional angle, which gave us a glance into what the batter was seeing as the pitch is delivered. The camera was smartly placed at field level, and not elevated, giving us a sense of being on the field next to the players. I wish that more of today’s television networks would give us this perspective from behind the screen, as a way of changing up what we always see from the center field angle.
With four cameras, the broadcast was much simpler. Additionally, there were virtually no graphics, other than a basic stamp that identified each batter. The Wrigley Field scoreboard was used to update the score at the end of each half-inning. Thankfully, there were no crowd shots (badly overdone in today’s coverage), with the producers and the broadcasters placing the entire emphasis on the game itself.
Similarly, close-ups of players were rarely used, so that we can enjoy the tapestry of the entire field and the natural attractiveness of Wrigley Field. Another plus was the relative lack of commentary by the two broadcasters, Lloyd Pettit and Jack Brickhouse. They didn’t talk constantly, didn’t overanalyze each pitch and play, and basically allowed the game to breathe.
If there was one drawback to the WGN broadcast, it was the paucity of replays. We’re spoiled today, thanks to having repeat opportunities to watch standout or controversial plays, but replay was still in its infancy in 1965 and used very selectively.
The WGN footage lasts only an hour, but it provides a treasure trove of information. As a rabid historian of the game, I love chronicling earlier generations of baseball; thanks to the WGN videotape, we now have a much clearer picture of what baseball looked like in the middle of the 1960s, how it was played, and how it was covered by the burgeoning television industry.
For those who believe baseball never changes, well, you’ll need to take another look at the videotape.