Howard to the Rescue

 

Career Year: Elston Howard – 1963

For four straight seasons, from 1960 to 1963, the New York Yankees won the American League pennant. Nothing unusual for those Yankee teams.

In those four seasons, the Yankees also fielded the American League’s Most Valuable Player, starting with Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961, then Mickey Mantle in 1962. Injuries would strike down the mighty M&M duo for much of the 1963 season, but the Yankees finished at the top in both the regular season standings and in the MVP sweepstakes.

The single everyday player most responsible for the Yankees’ success in 1963 – and for extending the Yankees’ MVP streak – was one of the most unlikely of Yankee superstars. Continue reading

Gentle Man, Brutal Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron had so many ways to beat National League pitchers that his prowess as a home run hitter was nearly overlooked until he passed Babe Ruth in career home runs in 1973.

But he was the second most productive home run hitter in the 1960s, and of course, he was the most productive home run hitter in the Twentieth Century. Continue reading

The Fabulous 50-50 Club

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 3, 1961) – The New York Yankees today defeated the Detroit Tigers 8-5, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on home runs from Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard.

The winning pitcher was Luis Arroyo (13-3).

The Yankees took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on home runs from Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. New York added another run in the fifth inning on Bobby Richardson’s two-out RBI single. Continue reading

Four in a Row

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Art Shamsky

Art Shamsky played eight seasons in the major leagues for four different teams. While most of his success as a hitter came while he was playing with the New York Mets, his shining moment as a major leaguer occurred during his second season, when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Continue reading

Dodgers’ Broom Sweeps Yankees Done

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 6, 1963) The Los Angeles Dodgers today completed a four-game World Series sweep of the New York Yankees as Sandy Koufax won his second game of the Series, 2-1.

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A six-hit pitching performance by Sandy Koufax clinched the 1963 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they beat the New York Yankees 2-1. In the Series, Koufax was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA to earn MVP honors.

Koufax, who was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the 1963 World Series, allowed one run on six hits with eight strikeouts. For the Series, Koufax struck out 23 Yankee batters in 18 innings pitched.

In Game Four, Frank Howard led the Dodger offense with a home run and a single, the only two hits Whitey Ford gave up. The Dodgers scored the decisive run in the seventh inning when New York first baseman Joe Pepitone lost a thrown ball in white-shirted crowd. Junior Gilliam scored on the error.

The Yankees scored their only run in the top of the seventh inning on Mickey Mantle’s solo home run. It was the fifteenth World Series home run of Mantle’s career, and his only RBI in this Series.

 

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Glancing Back, and Remembering John Blanchard

It was John Blanchard’s misfortune to play for some of the best New York Yankees teams of all time, in positions stocked with MVPs and Hall of Famers. As a catcher, he played back-up to HOFer Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, who collected four MVP awards between them. As an outfielder, he was competing with HOFer Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (five MVPs between them) as well as Tom Tresh and Berra.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Never a strong defensive player, in the outfield or behind the plate, what Blanchard could do was hit with power. Given enough at-bats, he fully demonstrated his hitting ability, especially as a pinch hitter, and especially in clutch situations. He was an integral part of the Yankees’ success in the early 1960s, even with limited playing time.

Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and had an outstanding season for Joplin in 1952, hitting .301 with 30 home runs and 31 doubles. He spent the next two years in military service and made his first appearance in a Yankees uniform in 1955. From 1956 through 1958, he hit well in the Yankees’ farm system, and was promoted to the big league club for good in 1959.

He spent more time sitting than playing in New York, never appearing in more than 93 games in any single season. He hit .242 in 99 at-bats in 1960, with four homers and 14 RBIs. He got more playing time and more at-bats in 1961, responding with the best season of his career: a .305 batting average with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs. Four of his homers came as a pinch hitter. That season the Yankees set a major league record with 240 team home runs, and six different players hit 20 or more round-trippers. During the 1961 World Series, Blanchard appeared in four games, hitting .400 with a double, two home runs and three RBIs.

In 1962, Blanchard’s batting average slipped to .232 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. He hit 16 homers with 45 RBIs in 1963, but his role was delegated more and more to pinch hitting, at which he was always a threat. In 1964 he produced seven home runs and 28 RBIs in only 161 at-bats.

In May of 1965 the Yankees traded Blanchard with pitcher Rollie Sheldon to the Kansas City Athletics for catcher Doc Edwards. Blanchard appeared in only 52 games for the A’s before being sold to the Milwaukee Braves in September. He retired after the 1965 season.

In eight big league seasons, Blanchard hit .239 with 67 home runs and 200 RBIs. Blanchard appeared in five World Series with the Yankees, hitting a combined .345. He holds the major league record with 10 World Series pinch-hit at-bats.

One HR Down, 60 To Go

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 16, 1961) Mickey Mantle’s tenth-inning home run – a two-run shot off Hank Aguirre (0-1) – propelled the New York Yankees to victory today over the Detroit Tigers in a 13-11 slugfest.

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Mickey Mantle was the hitting star of the day, with two home runs and four RBIs.

Mantle’s game-winning home run was his second of the day and seventh of the season. Mantle drove in four runs to give him 15 RBIs on the young season.

The winning pitcher for the Yankees was Luis Arroyo (1-0). Arroyo pitched the final two innings for the victory, shutting out the Tigers and striking out three.

Two Detroit players – Norm Cash and Chico Fernandez – each had three RBIs for the Tigers. Rocky Colavito hit his third home run of the season in the second inning off Yankee starter Whitey Ford.

Two Yankee batters hit their first home runs of the 1961 season. Shortstop Tony Kubek hit a solo home run off Detroit starter Don Mossi in the second inning. In the fifth inning, Yankee right fielder Roger Maris hit his first home run of the season off Paul Foytack.

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

Maris had struggled at the plate during the Yankees first 10 games of the season. He came into this game batting only .161 with no home runs and only one run batted in. His bat would warm up with the weather, hitting 11 home runs in May and 15 in June on his way to a record 61 by season’s end, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s single-season record.

Mantle Moves On

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 1, 1969) – New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle today announced his retirement from baseball.

Mantle played 18 years in the major leagues, all with the New York Yankees. He finished with a career batting average of .298. He won the American League batting title in 1956 with a .353 average. He also won the Triple Crown that season, hitting 52 home runs and driving in 130 runs.

Mantle was selected as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1956, 1957 and 1962. He was named to the American League All-Star team 16 times, and won the Gold Glove in 1962.

At the time of his retirement, the fabled Yankee outfielder ranked third all-time in home runs with 536, trailing only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. He led the American League in home runs four times, and in runs scored five times.