NL All-Stars Turn Up the Heat; Perry Prevails

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 12, 1966) In St. Louis, the National League All-Stars edged the American League 2-1, in a game played at Busch Stadium in 105-degree weather. Continue reading

On a Winning Warpath

 

Career Year: Dick Donovan – 1962

Dick Donovan made a career of pitching better than the teams behind him. And he seemed to have the knack of pitching especially well for teams that were especially bad.

His two best seasons came with the 1961 Washington Senators (who finished ninth) and the 1962 Cleveland Indians (who finished sixth). He was particularly outstanding throughout 1962, turning in the finest season-long performance of his distinguished career. Continue reading

Twins Destroyer

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 24, 1967) Known more in the 1960s for their pitching rather than their hitting, the Chicago White Sox brought their run-scoring bats to Metropolitan Stadium today and clobbered the Minnesota Twins 14-1.

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Tommy McCraw had three home runs and eight RBIs against the Twins on May 24, 1967.

Twins destroyer-in-chief was White Sox first baseman Tommy McCraw. McCraw, who entered the game with a .259 batting average, got three hits in six at-bats … all home runs. McCraw drove in eight runs for the game.

Altogether, the White Sox collected 21 hits off three Twins pitchers. Center fielder Ken Berry had four hits, and a pair of White Sox players — in addition to McCraw — had three hits each: catcher J.C. Martin, and pitcher Gary Peters. Peters also had two RBIs, and hit his first home run of the season, a solo blast off Jim Kaat in the ninth inning. Peters pitched a six-hit complete game, striking out nine and raising his season record to 6-1.

The losing pitcher was Twins ace Dean Chance, whose record dropped to 7-2. Chance allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in 6.1 innings.

The 14 runs would mark the highest scoring total for the White Sox during the 1967 season. In fact, the team reverted to more familiar form after this offensive outburst, scoring a total of 15 runs in its next seven games. The White Sox, in first place after this win over the Twins, would finish the season in fourth place in the American League with an 89-73 record, three games behind the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox.

The main beneficiary of the Chicago onslaught was starting pitcher <a rel=

Gary Peters pitched a six-hit complete game, striking out nine and driving in two runs himself.

The Twins would recover to battle with the Red Sox until the last day of the season. Chance would finish the 1967 season at 20-14 with a 2.73 ERA. He would also lead the league in starts, complete games and innings pitched.

McCraw would finish the 1967 season batting .236 with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in.

Solid All Around the Plate

The Glove Club – Earl Battey

Throughout the 1950s, playing in Washington D.C. as the Senators, they were perennial doormats in the American League.

Earl Battey caught an average of 138 games for the Minnesota Twins from 1960-1965. He won three Gold Gloves and led the league twice in throwing out base runners.

Earl Battey caught an average of 138 games for the Minnesota Twins from 1960-1965. He won three Gold Gloves and led the league twice in throwing out base runners.

Gradually, the franchise that became the Minnesota Twins in 1961 also became a contender throughout the 1960s. And they did it by adding talent, methodically, piece by piece: a Harmon Killebrew here, a Bob Allison there, and then throw in a Jim Kaat with a raw hitting talent named Tony Oliva tearing up minor league pitching.

A critical piece of the Twins’ future success was added in 1959 when the Senators acquired catcher Earl Battey (and slugger Don Mincher) from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for veteran first baseman Roy Sievers. It was a smart trade for the Senators/Twins. Sievers had two productive years for the White Sox but was nearing the end of his career. Mincher would hit 92 home runs as a part-time player for the Twins.

And Battey soon established himself as the team’s on-the-field leader, providing outstanding defense behind the plate while wielding a stinging bat that nicely complemented the power throughout the Twins’ 1960s lineups.

Battey took over the duties of everyday catcher in 1960 and immediately starting showing his defensive prowess. He led American League catchers in assists and putouts every year from 1960-1963. He was the American League Gold Glove winner each year from 1960-1962.

He was outstanding at throwing out potential base stealers. Battey set a major league record by picking off 15 base runners in 1960, and he gunned down 59 percent of those who tried to steal off him. He also led the league with 48 percent caught stealing in 1965. His career fielding percentage was .989, and never slipped below .987 for any single season.

Battey was a catcher who could also hit. In 1963, he batted .285 with 26 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Battey was a catcher who could also hit. In 1963, he batted .285 with 26 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Battey was no slouch when it was his turn to hit. From 1960-1965, he caught an average of 138 games per season and batted a combined .284, averaging 14 home runs and 61 RBIs. His best season as a hitter came in 1963 when he batted .285 with 26 home runs and 84 RBIs.

A four-time All-Star, Battey caught a record 990 games for the Senators/Twins and retired with a career batting average of .270.

 

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His Season was Su-purr-b.

 

Career Year: Jim Kaat – 1966

Jim Kaat had a great baseball career – period. And one that was mostly under-rated.

Twins southpaw Jim Kaat was 25-13 in 1966, leading the American League in wins, starts, complete games and innings pitched.

Twins southpaw Jim Kaat was 25-13 in 1966, leading the American League in wins, starts, complete games and innings pitched.

Kaat’s career as a player lasted 25 seasons. He was a 20-game winner three times, and won at least 10 games 16 times. He also won 16 Gold Gloves … in a row. He was every bit the fielder on the pitching mound that Brooks Robinson and Bill Mazeroski were on the infield.

As a pitcher, Kaat was mostly a workhorse who won 283 games in his career, the second most among all eligible pitchers in the modern era who are not in the Hall of Fame, and more than the career win totals of 46 pitchers who are. (Tommy John is ahead of Kaat with 288.) He averaged 35 starts and 246 innings per season from 1962-1971.

Kaat’s best season came in 1966, when he was 27. Kaat had made his major league debut with the Washington Senators in 1959 and was 1-7 for the Senators in 1960. He moved into the starting rotation when the team moved to Minnesota and remained in that rotation for the next dozen years.

The Twins opened the 1966 season as the defending American League champions. Kaat had won 18 games in 1965, and 63 in the previous four seasons. He opened the 1966 season with three losses in his first five decisions. But by the end of June, he was 9-5 with a 2.68 ERA.

Jim Kaat won 283 games during his major league career. There are 46 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who won fewer games than Kaat.

Jim Kaat won 283 games during his major league career. There are 46 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who won fewer games than Kaat.

Kaat won five straight complete-game decisions in July, and then went 7-1 in August. He pitched his third shutout of the season on September 25 to raise his record to 25-11, then took the losses in his last two starts.

Kaat finished the 1966 season at 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA. He led the American League in victories, games started (41), complete games (19) and innings pitched (304.2). Only Sandy Koufax, at 27-9, won more games in 1966 than Kaat.

Koufax claimed the Cy Young award for 1966. It was his third and the last season in which only one pitcher would be recognized. Despite his outstanding season, Kaat failed to receive a single vote.

Under-appreciated, if not under-rated: that was Jim Kaat in his best season, if not in his remarkable career.

 

 

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Mudcat Fever

 

Career Year – Jim Grant (1965)

Jim (Mudcat) Grant was an effective starting pitching for the Cleveland Indians from 1958 to 1964. The right-hander averaged 11 victories and 192 innings per season for the Tribe, and was sixth in the American League in wins in 1961 when he went 15-9 with a 3.86 ERA.

Prior to 1965, Mudcat Grant's best season was 1961, when he went 15-9 for the Cleveland Indians.

Prior to 1965, Mudcat Grant’s best season was 1961, when he went 15-9 for the Cleveland Indians.

The 1961 season was his best in a Cleveland uniform. But it paled in comparison to what Grant accomplished a year after arriving in the Twin Cities.

In June of 1964, the Indians traded Grant to the Minnesota Twins for infielder George Banks and pitcher Lee Stange. Grant was immediately inserted into a Twins starting rotation that already included Camilo Pascual, Jim Kaat and Dick Stigman. Grant pitched well for the Twins over the rest of the 1964 season, going 11-9 with a 2.82 earned run average. But his best was yet to come.

In 1965, Grant went unbeaten through May, winning his first five decisions, four of them with complete games. He was 9-2 at the All-Star break, and pitched two All-Star innings, allowing a pair of runs on a Willie Stargell home run.

Grant continued his excellent pitching in the season’s second half. He dropped his first start after the All-Star game, and then won five games in a row and eight of his next nine decisions. He finished the regular season at 21-7, leading the league in wins, winning percentage (.750) and shutouts (6). He also established career bests in innings pitched (270.1), starts (39) and complete games (14).

Grant was 21-7 for the Minnesota Twins in 1965, leading the American League in wins and shutouts (6).

Grant was 21-7 for the Minnesota Twins in 1965, leading the American League in wins and shutouts (6).

As the ace of the American League champions, Grant finished sixth in the voting for Most Valuable Player.

His fine pitching extended into the postseason. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1965 World Series, Grant was 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA. He won Game Six with his arm and his bat, pitching a six-hit complete game on two days’ rest and hitting a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

Grant would win 13 games for the Twins in 1966, but that would be the highest victory total over the rest of his career. Converted to a relief pitcher, he played for five different teams from 1968-1971, and retired after the 1971 season. Over a 14-year major league career, Grant was 145-119 with a 3.63 ERA.

 

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Brooks At His Best

 

Career Year: Brooks Robinson – 1964

Prior to 1964, Brooks Robinson had already established himself as the finest third baseman in the American League. In 1964, his performance in the field and at the plate established him – for that season – as the league’s best player.

Brooks Robinson led the American League with 118 RBIs in 1964.

Brooks Robinson led the American League with 118 RBIs in 1964.

Robinson was signed by the Baltimore Orioles – his only major league team – in 1955. In his rookie season of 1958, he batted only .238 with three home runs and 38 RBIs, and after a slow start in 1959 he found himself back in the minors. In three months at Vancouver (AAA), Robinson batted .331 and earned a trip back to Baltimore, where he batted .284 but still produced only four home runs with 24 runs batted in. But he was back with the Orioles to stay, a stay that would last 18 more seasons.

Fielding was not the problem. Robinson would win his first Gold Glove in 1960, and own that award every year through 1975, a record of 16 consecutive Gold Gloves matched only by pitcher Jim Kaat. It was his hitting that was questioned, and by 1960 he proved he could handle major league pitching. Robinson batted .294 with 14 home runs and 88 RBIs in 1960, made his first All-Star appearance. (He would be an All-Star 15 times.)

Robinson batted .287 in 1961 and in 1962 he batted .303 with 23 home runs and 86 RBIs. His batting average slipped to .251 (with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs) in 1963.

In 1964 he batted .349 in April but produced only one home run and two RBIs. By the All-Star break, he was batting .317 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs. But Robinson caught fire in the second half of the season. He drove in 25 runs in August and 32 more in September. He batted .381 in September.

Robinson finished the 1964 season leading the American League with 118 RBIs. His 28 home runs would be the most in his career. His .317 batting average was second in the league to Tony Oliva’s .323. He was sixth in slugging percentage (.521), second in hits (194), third in doubles (35) and second in total bases (319).

And for the first time in the 1960s, the American League’s Most Valuable Player was not a member of the New York Yankees. That streak was snapped by Brooks Robinson.

Stunning in Leather

 

The Glove Club: Jim Kaat

Jim Kaat was one of the most amazing all-around athletes to toe a major league pitching rubber. He pitched in the majors for 25 years, was quite possibly the best fielding pitcher ever to play the game, and was one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers throughout his career.

As a fielder, Kaat had no peers among the pitchers of his era. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (matched only by Brooks Robinson).

As a fielder, Kaat had no peers among the pitchers of his era. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (matched only by Brooks Robinson).

He also happened to win enough games to qualify for enshrinement in Cooperstown, though at this writing he was not yet a member of the Hall of Fame.

A teenage Kaat was signed by the Washington Senators in 1957, and joined the Senators’ staff for keeps at the end of the 1960 season. (Kaat was the last member of the original Washington Senators to play in the major leagues.) He was part of the starting rotation during the team’s first year in Minnesota in 1961, going 9-17 for the Twins despite a respectable 3.90 ERA. In 1962, Kaat went from a 17-game loser to an 18-game winner, finishing 18-14 for the Twins with a 3.14 ERA and leading the league with five shutouts. He won 17 games for the Twins in 1964 and 18 games as the Twins won the American League pennant in 1965. He led the league with 42 starts that year. In the 1965 World Series (won by the Los Angeles Dodgers), Kaat started three games, going 1-2 with a 3.77 ERA.

Kaat’s best season for the Twins came in 1966, when he went 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA. He also led the majors in starts with 41, and led the American League in complete games (19) and innings pitched (304).

Kaat won 16 games for the Twins in 1967, and 14 in each of the next three seasons. He would not be a 20-game winner again until 1974 and 1975, when he won 21 and 20 games respectively for the Chicago White Sox.

As a batter, Kaat often helped his own cause, hitting .185 over his career with 16 home runs and 106 RBIs. As a fielder, Kaat had no peers among the pitchers of his era, and few major leaguers at any position fielded as well as he did. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, a streak matched only by Brooks Robinson.

 

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