This Week In Twins History – 1961

Minnesota Twins:

The Senators looked for a fresh start in Minnesota, and we happily provided it! Building off excellent years from Harmon Killebrew(.246/44/122 ho hum), Earl Battey(.270/15/60, 24 doubles), Jim Lemon (.269/10/100), and sophomore Bob Allison(.251/15/69, 30 doubles) the Twins hoped to finish better than 73-81 in their last year in Washington. Management shake-ups and a rough American League plagued the Twins however and they finished 70-90, 7th overall. Three teams finished with more than 90 wins, Baltimore(95), Detroit(101) and the eventual World Series Champs the Yankees(109) led by the M&M Boys in the year of the tater. Twins starting pitching was excellent led by Jack Kralick and Camilo Pascual who kept it close, and Ray Moore slamming the door, the league would soon come to fear Twins hurlers. Killer would be nominated for both All-Star games only playing in the first, Camilo Pascual joining him and pitching in the second. Earl Battey brought home his second Gold Glove trophy.


The Twins finished in a place where the Washington Senators/Nationals commonly ended, 7th in the American League with a 70-90 record. Better things were on the horizon however! After a sabbatical, the Twins first manager, Cookie Lavagetto, was canned early in the season with Sam Mele taking the reigns. Mele’s Twins finished stronger, but this just wasn’t our year.

On the farm:

Sherry Robertson named the club’s first farm director, keeping his old post in the move from Washington. Starting in 1958, Sherry would hold the title until his death after the 1970 season. Some say ol’ Calvin Griffith played too much into his cronyist favorings, Robinson being his adopted son and brother in law of Joe Cronin and Joe Haynes didn’t help Griffith’s detractors. A great year for new contracts however helped – amongst others, Bernie Allen, Jim Roland, Ted Uhlaender, future manager Frank Quilici, and most importantly, Robinson inked a young outfielder from Pinar del Rio, Cuba. The 1964 and(!) 1965 major league batting leader, Tony Oliva!

Key additions/losses:
1961 Expansion Draft – Selected before the season started to help fill out the expansion Angels and Senators franchises, these players were a few short months away from being Twins alumni! Los Angeles Angels selected Faye Throneberry, Tex Clevenger, Julio Becquer. Washington Senators selected Hal Woodeshick, Hector Maestri, Johnny Schaive, Rudy Hernandez.

Rule 5 Draft – Added Ron Henry(Milwaukee Braves), Gerry Arrigo(Chicago White Sox), and Gary Dotter(St. Louis Cardinals).

Key Trades – June 1st, 1961 traded Billy Consolo to Braves for future manager Billy Martin. Only to trade him on the 14th to the Kansas City Athletics with Paul Giel, Reno Bertoia, and a player to be named later(cash) for Bill Tuttle and a player to be named later(Paul Giel). So, Giel was traded for himself? Talk about narcissistic!

Card Of The Year:

1961 Topps #21 the misprinted Zoilo Versalles, unless you believe his name is Zorro. After two cups of coffee with the Senators Zoilo’s bat would keep him up for good starting in 1961. He’d stay with the Twins until 1967, including the Twins first MVP season(1965) where he’d hit .273/.319/.462 with 45(!) doubles, 12 triples, 19 homers and 77 driven in to help lead the Twins to their first AL pennant.


Best of:

The top song of 1961, having spent 7 weeks at Billboards #1 was Bobby Lewis’ Tossin’ and Turnin’. Check that out while you continue reading. The top movie of 1961 was West Side Story having earned almost 44 million at the box office(versus a budget of 6 million, not bad.). New t.v. shows that started broadcast this year include CBS’ The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mister Ed(a baseball fan himself), ABC’s Wide World Of Sports, and NBC started it’s Saturday Night At The Movies. Walt Disney Presents… also changed it’s broadcaster from ABC to NBC.

Famous Births:

Eddie Murphy(actor), George Clooney(actor), Michael J. Fox(actor), Julia Louis-Dreyfus(actress), Princess Diana(royalty), Barack Obama(politician), Bill Hicks(Comedian), Steve Young(NFL), Wayne Gretzky(NHL), Mark Messier (NHL), Reggie Fils-Aimé (President/COO Nintendo), Dennis Rodman(NBA).

Famous Deaths :

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson(Woodrow Wilson’s first lady 1915-1921), Chico Marx(Marx brothers), Ernest Hemingway(author/poet), Leo Carrillo (actor), Erwin Schrödinger(scientist), Dazzy Vance(MLB), Ty Cobb(MLB), Gary Cooper(actor), Carl Jung(psychologist).

Twins Born This Week:

Bill Bethea, Sherry Robertson, Bob Gebhard, Michael Restovich.

All decade candidate:

It would be easy to say Harmon Killebrew here, or for most of these years, let’s focus on Earl Battey’s year. Having hit .302/.377/.470, this easily could have been his first all-star season(if it wasn’t for those dreaded Yankees…). Battey padded his stats with 17 homers, 55 driven in and 24 doubles on the year in 131 games, not too bad for a catcher! Perhaps his best performance coming on July 1st against the Kansas City Athletics, Battey rapped three hits in four plate appearances including a double, home run, two runs scored and a run batted in as the Twins smoked the A’s 9-3 in K.C. It also would have been his 80th birthday this week.