The following are the baseball events of the year 1968 throughout the world.
The Year of the Pitcher
In Major League Baseball, the trend throughout the 1960s was of increased pitching dominance. After the record home run year by Roger Maris in 1961, the major leagues increased the size of the strike zone from the top of the batter's shoulders to the bottom of his knees. The delicate balance of power between offense and defense reached its greatest tilt in favor of the pitcher by 1968.
Pitchers such as Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers among others dominated hitters, producing 339 shutouts in 1968, almost double the number of shutouts thrown in 1962. Individually, Gibson set a modern earned run average record of 1.12, the lowest in 54 years, and set a World Series record of 17 strikeouts in Game 1. McLain won 31 regular season games, the only player to reach the 30 win milestone since Dizzy Dean in 1934. Mickey Lolich won three complete games in the World Series, the last player as of 2009 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. Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw a record 58 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings, and Catfish Hunter of the Oakland Athletics threw the first American League perfect game in 12 years during the 1968 season.
Hitting was anemic as Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox would be the only American League hitter to finish the season with a batting average higher than .300. Yastrzemski's batting average of .301 was the lowest batting average of any league batting champion. The American League'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. As a result of the dropping offensive statistics, Major League Baseball Rules Committee took steps to reduce the advantage held by pitchers by lowering the height of the pitchers mound from 15 inches to 10 inches, and by reducing the size of the strike zone for the 1969 season. 1969 batting averages climbed back to their historical averages and never again would pitching have as large a statistical average over batting in the major leagues.
1968 was the final year when baseball had no divisions within the two leagues, with the only post-season competition being the World Series itself. Four expansion teams would join baseball for the season following in 1969. This was also the first season that the Athletics franchise played in Oakland, California, after their departure from Kansas City, Missouri.
Major League Baseball
Awards and honors
MLB statistical leaders
Major league baseball final standings
American League final standings
National League final standings
- February 6 – Voters in King County, Washington, approve by 62 percent a $40 million bond issue to build a domed, multipurpose stadium. The Kingdome, being built between 1972 and 1976, would operate from 1976 until its demolition in 2000.
- February 13 – The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers execute a four-player trade, with Tom Haller one of the two players going to Los Angeles and Ron Hunt one of the two going to San Francisco. The trade is the first between the two clubs since their move to the West Coast, and also the first since the one that would have sent Jackie Robinson from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants after the 1956 season, but he retired rather than report with his new team.
- April 9 – Opening Day is postponed because of the funeral for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated on April 4.
- April 15 – At the Astrodome, the Houston Astros defeat the New York Mets 1–0 in a 24-inning, 6-hour, 6-minute marathon. In the bottom of the 24th, Bob Aspromonte's bases-loaded ground ball goes through the legs of Met shortstop Al Weis for an error (the only one committed by the Mets all game) that plates Norm Miller for the winning run. To date, the game is the longest to end in a shutout in terms of both innings and duration.
- April 19 – Nolan Ryan of the New York Mets becomes the sixth pitcher in National League history to strike out the side on nine pitches. But Los Angeles wins 3–2 at New York's Shea Stadium.
- June 3 – The New York Yankees turn a triple play in the eighth inning of a 4–3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
- July 1 – As a part of the season that will see him post a 1.12 ERA, Bob Gibson's streak of 47 and two-thirds inning of scoreless pitching is broken.
- July 9 – At the Houston Astrodome, in the first All-Star Game ever to be played in an indoor arena and on artificial turf, the National League defeats the American League 1–0. Appropriately, pitching dominates the game. Willie Mays, playing in place of injured Pete Rose, tallies an unearned run in the first inning against American League starter Luis Tiant. Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Ron Reed and Jerry Koosman hold the AL to three hits, as Mays is named MVP.
- July 24 – Hoyt Wilhelm appears in his 907th game as a pitcher, breaking Cy Young's long standing all-time record.
- September 14 – Denny McLain becomes the first 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934 as the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics, 5–4, at Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Reggie Jackson's home run in the 4th puts the A's ahead 2–0, but Norm Cash answers with a three-run shot. Jackson hits another in the 6th, but the Tigers push across two in the 9th to win. Al Kaline, pinch hitting for McLain, walks and scores the tying run. McLain, who posted a 31–6 record in the regular season, gives up six hits and strikes out 10.
- September 18 – Sixteen hours after Perry's feat, Ray Washburn of the St. Louis Cardinals makes major league history by hurling a second consecutive no-hitter in the same park. Run-scoring hits by Mike Shannon and Curt Flood at Candlestick down the Giants, 2–0. This is the first time in history back-to-back no hitters have been pitched between the same two teams on two consecutive days.
- September 28 – Mickey Mantle plays in his 2,401'st and final game, eight days after hitting his last home run ending his career with 536.
- October 10 – In Game Seven of the World Series, Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers, pitching on two days rest, wins his third game of the Series as he beats Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals, 4–1. Lolich brings Detroit its first World Championship since 1945. Lolich hurls a five-hitter, and is named Series MVP. Key moments came in the 6th inning when Lolich picked Lou Brock and Curt Flood off first base to keep the score 0–0. With the game scoreless in the 7th, the Tigers had two on and two out when Jim Northrup hit a line drive to center field. Gold glover Flood misjudged the ball and started in, allowing the ball to sail over his head for a triple. Northrup then scored on Bill Freehan's double for a 3–0 lead. Each team added a 9th inning run to account for the 4–1 final score. It was the first time the Cardinals had ever lost a 7th game of a World Series. The Tigers became only the 3rd team to rally from a 3–1 deficit to win the series 4 games to 3 (the 1925 Pirates and 1958 Yankees were the first two). The Tigers became the last team to win the championship between two first-place teams from leagues without division play where the pennant is automatically awarded to the team with the best won-lost record in its league.
- January 26 – Eddie Phillips, 66, catcher for the Boston Braves, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Indians between 1924 and 1935
- February 7 – Ollie Marquardt, 65, second baseman for the 1931 Boston Red Sox; later a successfully minor league manager
- February 26 – Rip Collins, 72, a four-sport star at Texas A&M University, who pitched in the American League for the New Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns from 1920 to 1931, and also was a member of the 1921 AL champion Yankees team
- February 29 – Lena Blackburne, 81, infielder, manager and coach in almost a 30-year baseball career, who also originated the idea of rubing mud on new baseballs to remove their slippery finish
- March 30 – Bernie Hungling, 72, catcher for the Brooklyn Robins and St. Louis Browns between 1922 and 1930
- April 19 – Tommy Bridges, 61, 6-time All-Star pitcher who won 194 games for the Detroit Tigers, including three 20-win seasons and a 4–1 World Series record
- April 26 – John Kroner, 57, second baseman for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the 1930s
- May 26 – Doc Ayers, 78, spitball pitcher for the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers
- June 11 – Dan Boone, 73, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians from 1920 through 1923
- June 11 – Bill Regan, 69, second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, who became the first player in the team's history to hit two home runs in the same inning (1928), a mark only matched by Ellis Burks 62 years later
- June 15 – Sam Crawford, 88, Hall of Fame right fielder for the Tigers, a lifetime .309 hitter who hit a record 312 triples, led both leagues in home runs, and retired with the 5th-most RBI in history
- July 3 – Pat Simmons, 59, pitcher who played from 1928 to 1929 for the Boston Red Sox
- July 8 – Dusty Boggess, 64, NL umpire for 18 seasons from 1944 to 1962 who worked in four World Series
- July 27 – Babe Adams, 86, pitcher who won 194 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates; the only member of their championship teams in both 1909 and 1925, he won three games in the 1909 World Series
- August 22 – Heinie Groh, 78, third baseman for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds who led the NL in hits, runs and walks once each and in doubles twice, widely known for his "bottle bat"
- August 24 - Dolly Stark, 70, NL umpire for 12 seasons (1928–1935, 1937–1940) who worked in 2 World Series, later became broadcaster.
- August 29 – Paul Howard, 84, outfielder for the 1909 Boston Red Sox
- September 3 – Tony DeFate, 68, Infielder for both the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers in 1917.
- September 14 – Hans Lobert, 86, third baseman for five National League clubs from 1903 to 1917, and later a coach, manager and scout between 1920 and 1944
- September 25 – Ken Holloway, 71, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees between 1922 and 1930
- September 26 – Bud Clancy, 68, first baseman who played from 1924 through 1934 for the Chicago White Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies
- October 21 – Jack Killilay, 81, pitcher for the 1911 Boston Red Sox
- November 3 – Vern Stephens, 48, 8-time All-Star shortstop who led the AL in RBI three times and in home runs once
- November 5 – Wally Mattick, 81, center fielder for the Chicago White Sox from 1912 to 1913, briefly with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1918
- November 17 – Earl Hamilton, 77, pitcher with the St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates, later a minor league team owner
- December 6 – Fats Jenkins, 70, All-Star left fielder of the Negro Leagues
- December 8 – Benn Karr, 75, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the 1920s
- December 17 – Hank Severeid, 77, catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators and New York Yankees between 1911 and 1926, hitting .289 in 1,390 games
- December 24 – Johnnie Heving, 72, a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics between 1920 and 1932