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The 1996 Major League Baseball season was the final season of league-only play before the beginning of interleague play the following season. The season ended with the New York Yankees defeating the defending champion Atlanta Braves in six games for the World Series title, the Yankees' first championship since 1978. The record for most home runs hit in an MLB regular season, set at 4,458 in 1987, was broken, as the AL and NL combined to hit 4,962 home runs. Only 196 shutouts were recorded in the 2,266 MLB regular-season games. This was the first season in the Divisional Series era to be played to the full 162 games, as the 1994-95 player's strike caused the first two seasons of the era to be abbreviated.
March 5 - The Veterans Committee elects four new members to the Hall of Fame, and just misses naming a fifth. The group elected includes Earl Weaver, Baltimore Orioles manager for 17 seasons; pitcher Jim Bunning, who won 100 games in each league; 19th-century manager Ned Hanlon, who won pennants in Baltimore and Brooklyn, and Bill Foster, the Negro leagues' winningest pitcher. Second baseman Nellie Fox receives the necessary 75% of the Committee's votes, but the rules allow for election of only one modern player, and Bunning has more votes.
April 1 - Seven pitches into the first game of the season, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, home plate umpire John McSherry collapses on the field and dies of a massive heart attack. The game between the Cincinnati Reds and Montréal Expos is postponed, along with the rest of the games scheduled for that day. Reds owner Marge Schott later comes under fire for wanting the game in Cincinnati to continue despite the tragedy (and against the wishes of the players on both teams), saying that she felt "cheated" when it was canceled.
April 6 - Cleveland Indians player Albert Belle hits Sports Illustrated photographer Tony Tomsic in the hand prior to a game between the Indians and Toronto Blue Jays at Jacobs Field. The angry Indians outfielder had told the photographer to stop taking pictures of him doing pre-game stretches and Tomsic complied. Belle then throws a ball from the outfield that breaks the skin of the photographer's hand in two places and draws blood.
May 17 - Baltimore Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles hits a walk-offgrand slam against the Seattle Mariners in the bottom of the ninth, down by three, with two outs and a full count. This is only the second occurrence of this cliché ultimate game ending event in the history of professional baseball; during the 1988 season, Alan Trammell became the first to accomplish this feat in a 7-6 comeback win over the Yankees.
June 1 - Major League Baseball games begin to be broadcast on Fox.
February 8 - Del Ennis, 70, All-Star left fielder for the Phillies who had seven 100-RBI seasons, leading the NL for the 1950 "Whiz Kids" team, and was the team's career home run leader (259) until 1980
February 19 - Charles O. Finley, 77, owner of the Athletics from 1960 to 1981 who moved the team from Kansas City to Oakland, and was known for numerous gimmicks and controversies; won three straight World Series from 1972-74
March 8 - Bill Nicholson, 81, 5-time All-Star right fielder for the Cubs and Phillies who twice led the NL in home runs and RBI
April 1 - John McSherry, 51, National League umpire since 1971 who worked in eight NLCS and two World Series
May 3 - Alex Kellner, 71, an All-Star pitcher who played for the Athletics, Reds and Cardinals between 1948 and 1959
May 19 - Johnny Berardino, 79, infielder for the Browns and Indians who topped 80 RBI in 1940 and 1941; became an actor, best known for the soap opera General Hospital
May 26 - Mike Sharperson, 34, All-Star infielder for the Dodgers who batted .300 in 1992
June 16 - Mel Allen, 83, legendary broadcaster who spent over 35 years with the Yankees, also on national broadcasts and This Week in Baseball
July 8 - Jim Busby, 69, All-Star center fielder for six teams who batted .312 for 1953 Senators, led AL in putouts twice; later a coach
August 4 - Willard Brown, 81, All-Star outfielder of the Negro leagues who became the first black player to hit a home run in the American League
September 4 - Babe Dahlgren, 84, All-Star first baseman best remembered for replacing Lou Gehrig to end his 2,130 consecutive games streak, hitting a home run in the game
September 6 - Barney McCosky, 79, outfielder for the Tigers and Athletics who batted .312 lifetime, led AL in hits in 1940
October 4 - Joe Hoerner, 59, All-Star reliever for seven teams who averaged 15 saves for 1966-69 Cardinals
October 29 - Ewell Blackwell, 74, six-time All-Star pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who came within two outs of throwing consecutive no-hitters in 1947; led NL in wins and strikeouts that season
November 11 - Lum Harris, 81, manager who won 1969 NL West title with the Braves; previously a pitcher for the Athletics, and Houston manager
December 27 - Gene Brabender, 55, pitcher who led the Seattle Pilots with 13 wins in their only season