For the New York Yankees, 1968 was a very special season. It marked the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.
The great Mickey Mantle was making his final tour around the league. Despite playing through severe pain, Mickey still led the club with 18 home runs.
“To play eighteen years in Yankee Stadium is the best thing that could ever happen to a ballplayer.” Mantle said according to The Baseball Almanac.
And the Yankees had a memorable cast of characters in 1968. The lineup included Jake Gibbs at catcher, Mantle at first, Horace Clarke at second, Tom Tresh at short, Bobby Cox at third, and Roy White, Joe Pepitone and Andy Kosco in the outfield.
Pitcher Jim Bouton, in his book “Ball Four”, reportedly sassed Pepitone about his constant use of hair products. Bouton claimed that Pepitone once stood with the Yankees preparing to sing the National Anthem. According to Bouton, when Pepitone removed his hat, he mistakenly removed his toupee with it.
Interestingly, the Yankees had three players on the 1968 team that later became managers. Bobby Cox went on to manage the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays. Dick Howser managed the Yankees for one game in 1978 as the Yanks transitioned from Billy Martin to Bob Lemon. He managed them again in 1980. But his longest service as a manager came with the Kansas City Royals from 1981-1986. The other player to manage later was Gene Michael, who managed the Yankees in 1981 and 1982, and is most known for being the architect of the last Yankees’ dynasty of the 1990s.
The rotation also included Fritz Peterson and Stan Bahnsen, who went 17-12 with a sparkling ERA of 2.05. Other pitchers on the staff included Al Downing, Lindy McDaniel, Steve Hamilton, and the unforgettable Dooley Womack.
The Yankees finished in 5th place in a league that had not yet been separated into divisions. The had a record of 83-79. But the season is remembered most for being the last year for The Mick.
Still, a new era was right around the corner. The Yankees had the fourth pick in the first round of the draft that year. They used it to select a tough, talented, and promising catcher by the name of Thurman Munson.