A Wealth of Hitting

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Rich Rollins

Seemingly coming out of nowhere in 1962, Rich Rollins claimed the Minnesota Twins’ third base job and established himself as one of the American League’s best all-around hitters – batting in a Twins lineup that featured proven hitters like Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Earl Battey and, later, Tony Oliva and Jimmie Hall. While he never matched the MVP-caliber offensive numbers of his rookie season (when he finished eighth in the American League MVP voting), Rollins was a productive hitter for the Twins for nearly a decade, a perfect complement to the fence-busting machines that surrounded him in the Twins’ potent lineups of the 1960s.

A college baseball star, Rollins was signed by the Washington Senators and, after a less than spectacular minor league career, joined the Twins (the original Senators now in Minnesota) in June of 1961. sparingly as a utility infielder during the rest of that season, batting .294 in only 17 at-bats.

Rich Rollins had an outstanding rookie season in 1962, batting .298 with 16 home runs and 96 RBIs. He was an All-Star and finished eighth in the voting for MVP that season.

During the 1962 spring training, Rollins won the third base job and responded with a magnificent rookie campaign: batting .298 with 186 hits, 23 doubles, 16 home runs and 96 RBIs. He appeared in both All-Star games in 1962.

Rollins followed up in 1963 by hitting .307 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. He batted .270 in 1964 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs, leading the league with 10 triples. He also set a career high with 25 doubles.

He would never put up those kinds of hitting numbers again. From 1965 through 1968, Rollins hit for an average of .246 while averaging only seven home runs and 35 RBIs per season. More and more, he was platooned at third base with Killebrew and Cesar Tovar. After hitting .241 in 1968, Rollins was left unprotected in the off-season expansion draft and was selected by the Seattle Pilots. Rollins hit .225 as a part-time player for the Pilots in 1969.

When the Pilots moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season, Rollins came along. But he appeared in only 14 games before being released and signing with the Cleveland Indians. Rollins hit .233 in 42 games with the Tribe, and retired at the close of the 1970 season.

Rich Rollins led the American League with 10 triples in 1964.

Rollins ended his 10-year career with 887 hits and a .269 batting average. In 1965, he was one of five Twins to set a major league record by homering in a single inning (the others were Killebrew, Oliva, Don Mincher and Zoilo Versalles).

 

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