This article is about the 1968 Major League Baseball season only. For information on all of baseball, see 1968 in baseball.
The 1968 Major League Baseball season was the last season of the traditional two-league system before each of the leagues were split into divisions for the following season. It featured the most dominant pitching year of the modern era, and the first season of the Oakland Athletics (having moved from Kansas City after the 1967 season). The 1968 season was the last year of baseball's pre-playoffs era, in which the team that finished in first place in each league went directly to the World Series to face each other for the "World Championship." The addition of expansion teams in 1961, 1962, and 1969 finally led to the advent of a playoff system in baseball the following season.
In Major League Baseball, the trend throughout the 1960s was of increased pitching dominance, caused by enforcing a larger strike zone (top of armpit to bottom of knee) beginning in 1963. The delicate balance of power between offense and defense reached its greatest tilt in favor of the pitcher by 1968.
During what later became known as "the year of the pitcher",Bob Gibson set a modern earned run average record of 1.12 and a World Series record of 17 strikeouts in Game 1, while Series opponent Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers won 31 regular season games, the only player to reach the 30 win milestone since Dizzy Dean in 1934. Don Drysdale of the L.A. Dodgers pitched 6 consecutive shutout games in May and June, ending with 58 2/3 scoreless innings. Mickey Lolich won three complete games in the World Series, the last player as of today to do so. Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians had the American League's lowest ERA at 1.60 and allowed a batting average of only .168, a major league record. Both MVPs for that year were pitchers.
In the American League and National League combined, 339 shutouts were recorded in 1,619 regular-season games. The St. Louis Cardinals alone pitched 30 shutouts, the most in the Majors. The 472 runs allowed by the Cardinals led the MLB that year and remains the lowest total ever recorded by any Major League team in a 162-game season.
Hitting was anemic. Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox had the lowest batting average of any league champion when his .301 was good enough for the American League batting title. The AL's collective slugging average of .340 remains the lowest since 1915 (when the game was still in the so-called dead-ball era), while the collective batting average of .231 is the all-time lowest. The Chicago White Sox scored only 463 runs during the regular season and were shut out a league-high 23 times. Both those totals are still all-time records in the era of the 162-game season.
After the season, the Rules Committee, seeking to restore balance, restored the pre-1963 strike zone and lowered the height of the pitching mound from 15 to 10 inches. Four expansion teams joined the majors. 1969 batting averages zoomed back to their historical averages and never again would pitching have as large a statistical average over batting in the major leagues.
May 1 – Philadelphia Phillies pitcher John Boozer is ejected from a game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium without throwing a pitch. Boozer had put spit on his hand to clean his uniform, which was in contravention of the anti-spitball rule that had been introduced that year. After being called for that indiscretion and two further examples, umpire Ed Vargo ejected Boozer.