Base Sweeper

 

Homer Happy: Don Mincher

When the Minnesota Twins of the early 1960s were loaded with slugging bats, the unsung slugger in the Twins lineup belonged to a left-handed-hitting outfielder and first baseman named Don Mincher. In seven seasons with the Twins, Mincher had more than 400 at-bats only once, yet averaged 19 home runs and 56 RBIs per season from 1963 through 1966.

Don Mincher was part of the devastating lineup that propelled the Minnesota Twins to the American League pennant in 1965. Mincher batted .251 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Don Mincher was part of the devastating lineup that propelled the Minnesota Twins to the American League pennant in 1965. Mincher batted .251 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Mincher was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1956. Just before the start of the 1960 season, he was traded with Earl Battey to the Washington Senators for first baseman Roy Sievers. He made his major league debut with the Senators in 1960, appearing in 27 games with two home runs and five RBIs.

He split the 1961 season between the Minnesota Twins and their AAA affiliate in Buffalo, hitting 24 home runs in Buffalo and five homers in 35 games for the Twins. He appeared in 86 games for the Twins in 1962, hitting nine home runs with 29 RBIs. In 1963, appearing in only 82 games (half the Twins’ schedule), Mincher still managed to club 17 home runs with 42 RBIs … heavy numbers for a half season of production.

During the Twins’ pennant-winning 1965 season, Mincher combined with Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Tony Oliva, Jimmie Hall and American League MVP Zoilo Versalles for one of the most dangerous slugging lineups of the 1960s. Mincher contributed 22 home runs and 65 runs batted in from only 346 at-bats.

Don Mincher’s best season came with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He led the team with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

Don Mincher’s best season came with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He led the team with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

Following the 1966 seasons, the Twins traded Mincher and Hall to the California Angels in the deal that brought pitcher Dean Chance to Minnesota. Mincher got 487 at-bats as the Angels’ everyday first baseman, and responded by batting .273 with 25 home runs and 76 RBIs. After a “down” year in 1968 (shared by most batters in the American League that season), Mincher was the second pick in the 1968 expansion draft, being the first player selected by the Seattle Pilots. Mincher had one of his best seasons for the Pilots, hitting .246 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

In January of 1970, Mincher was traded again, with Ron Clark, to the Oakland Athletics for Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, Phil Roof and Ken Sanders. He hit .246 for the A’s in 1970 with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs, and the next spring was dealt to the Washington Senators in a swap that brought Mike Epstein and Darold Knowles to Oakland. He batted .280 combined for Oakland and Washington in 1971, with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs. He split the 1972 season, his last as a player, between the Texas Rangers and Oakland, hitting six home runs with 44 RBIs.

Over his 13-season career, Mincher batted .249 with 200 home runs and 643 RBIs. He was a member of the American League All-Star team twice, in 1967 and in 1969.

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Invest in Utility

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cesar Tovar

Cesar was a multi-talented, multi-purpose ballplayer who could play any position in the field – and in one game, did everything a fielder could do.

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As the Minnesota Twins starting center fielder in 1971, Cesar Tovar batted .311 and led the American League with 204 hits.

With the bat, Tovar did one thing: make contact. Tovar was no slugger, but he was a contact hitter who batted .278 over a 12-season major league career and twice hit better than .300.

A native of Venezuela, Tovar was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as a teenager in 1959. He toiled in the Reds’ farm system for five years, advancing steadily but ultimately was blocked from starring in Cincinnati by players like Pete Rose at second and Vada Pinson in centerfield.

Tovar’s break came in December of 1964 when the Reds traded the outfielder/infielder to the Minnesota Twins for left-handed pitcher Gerry Arrigo. Tovar hit .328 for the Twins’ AAA team in Denver in 1965, and by 1966 he was the Twins’ starting center fielder, hitting .260 in his rookie season with Minnesota. In 1967, Tovar set an American League record by appearing in 164 games.

On September 22, 1968, Tovar became the second major league player (after the Athletics’ Bert Campaneris) to assume all nine field positions in a single game. Facing the A’s, Tovar was the game’s starter and threw a scoreless first inning, striking out Reggie Jackson.

Tovar raised his batting average in successive seasons with the Twins, hitting .267 in 1967, .272 in 1968, .288 in 1969, .300 in 1970 and .311 in 1971. He led the league in doubles and triples in 1970, when he scored a career-best 120 runs. Tovar led the league with 204 hits in 1971.

Tovar’s batting average slipped to .265 in 1972, and after eight seasons in Minnesota, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies. After one season in Philadelphia (hitting .268), Tovar spent the next three seasons with Texas, Oakland and the New York Yankees. He retired after the 1976 season.

In 12 major league seasons, Tovar collected 1,546 hits with a .278 career batting average. He also stole 226 bases, averaging 37 steals per season from 1968-1970.

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Scratching Out Wins

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Kralick

Jack Kralick was a slender, left-handed starting pitcher with first-division stuff … and second-division teams playing behind him. He could be dominating – even un-hittable – on occasion. He had an appetite for innings, and kept his team in the game.

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

Kralick was signed out of Michigan State University by the Chicago White Sox in 1955. He never pitched in Chicago. He was released by the White Sox in 1958 and signed immediately as a free agent by the Washington Senators, making his debut with the Senators at the end of the 1959 season. He was 8-6 as a rookie with the Senators in 1960, posting a 3.04 ERA as a starter-reliever, with seven complete games (and two shutouts) in 17 starts.

Kralick moved with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and went 13-11 as part of the Twins’ starting rotation. He pitched 242 innings for the Twins, posting a 3.61 earned run average with 11 complete games and two shutouts. He was 12-11 for the Twins in 1962.

In May of 1963, Kralick was traded to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jim Perry. At 13-9, Kralick led the Tribe staff in victories (tied with Mudcat Grant) and posted a 2.92 ERA, best among the Indians’ starters that season.

He started strong in 1964, going 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA in the first half of the season, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished the 1964 season at 12-7 with a 3.21 ERA, leading the team in victories for the second consecutive season.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

The 1964 season was one of transition for the Cleveland pitching staff, with the influx of young arms like those of Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Tommy John. Kralick, now 30, was a senior member of the staff, and faded to 5-11 in 1965, spending more time coming out of the bullpen than working in the starting rotation. He was 3-4 mopping up in relief in 1966, and appeared in only two games in 1967 before being purchased by the New York Mets. He retired rather than report to the Mets.

In his nine-season career, Kralick posted a 67-65 record with a 3.56 ERA. He pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics on August 26, 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced before walking George Alusik in the ninth inning.

 

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Indians Trade Power for Pitching

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(April 2, 1962) The Cleveland Indians announced today that the team had acquired veteran right-handed pitcher Pedro Ramos in a trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

In exchange for Ramos, the Twins received left-handed pitcher Dick Stigman and first baseman Vic Power, acknowledged by many to be the best defensive first baseman ever.

Ramos was signed by the Washington Senators in 1953 and made his major league debut with the team in 1955. In seven seasons with that organization (the last year in Minnesota), Ramos recorded only a single winning season (12-10 in 1956). From 1958 through 1961, he led the American League in losses, with a record of 11-20 in 1961.

Vic Power won three Gold Gloves with the Cleveland Indians before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1962. He won four more Gold Gloves after the trade, and was generally considered the league’s most spectacular first baseman in the in the first half of the 1960s.

To acquire the league’s losingest pitcher, the Indians parted with the league’s best first base glove … maybe of all time. Power won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1961. He would collect seven in all during his career, as well as leading American league first basemen in assists six times.

A career .292 hitter going into the 1961 season, his average dropped to .268 in 1961. With the Twins in 1962, Power’s batting average would rebound to .290 and he would be voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Stigman moved into the Twins’ starting rotation, winning 12 games for Minnesota in 1962 (while leading the American League with a .706 won-loss percentage).

 

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Keepin’ ‘em Close

 

Oh, What a Relief: Johnny Klippstein

Right-hander Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams in an 18-year major league career.

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In 18 major league seasons, Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams. He won 101 games and saved 65. In 1960, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League with 14 saves.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and drafted, in consecutive years, by the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1950, going 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. In five seasons with the Cubs, Klippstein was 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA.

Klippstein was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 and won 12 games for the Reds in 1956. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He went 4-0 out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1959, and won a World Series game that year, only to be purchased by the Cleveland Indians just before the 1960 season. Klippstein was 5-5 for the Indians in 1960 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the American League in saves with 14.

Following the 1960 season, Klippstein was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft. After a 2-2 season with the Senators, he was traded to the Reds again, and a year later was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Klippstein’s control and pitching savvy improved with age. At 35, he was 5-6 for the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA and eight saves. He was purchased by the Minnesota Twins after the start of the 1964 season, and had several outstanding seasons working out of the Twins’ bullpen. In 1965, he was 9-3 with five saves and a 2.24 ERA.

He retired after pitching in five games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, posting a career record of 101-118 and a 4.24 ERA. Klippstein appeared in 711 games.

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Smoking Cigars and A.L. Hitters

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Luis Tiant

You would never mistake Luis Tiant for any other pitcher in baseball. From his unique pitching style that often included turning his back to the batter, to his “Fu Manchu” mustache, to his smoking victory cigars in the shower, Tiant was truly one of a kind. He was also, at his best, one heck of a pitcher.

Luis Tiant's best season during the 1960s came in 1968 when he was 21-9 and led the American League with a 1.60 ERA.

Luis Tiant’s best season during the 1960s came in 1968 when he was 21-9 and led the American League with a 1.60 ERA.

Tiant’s best years came in the 1970s, when he won 15 or more games each year for the Boston Red Sox from 1972 through 1976 (including a trio of 20-win seasons). But he also pitched consistently well for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s, including one year (1968) when he recorded the lowest earned run average by an American League pitcher since 1919 (when Walter Johnson posted a 1.49 ERA for the Washington Senators).

The Indians purchased Tiant from the Mexico City Tigers in 1962. He won 36 games in two-plus seasons in the Indians’ farm system. In 1964, he was called up to the Tribe after going 15-1 for their AAA affiliate, Portland, striking out 154 batters in 137 innings. Debuting in the big leagues on July 19, 1964, he proved quickly that his performance at Portland was no fluke, going 10-4 for Cleveland the rest of that season with a 2.83 ERA.

The next three years Tiant went 35-31 with a 3.03 ERA, striking out an average of 8.2 batters per nine innings pitched. Had he played for better Cleveland teams, Tiant should have won more games. And when Cleveland had its best showing in the 1960s, finishing third in 1968, Tiant turned in an outstanding season. He went 21-9, leading the American League in shutouts (9) and ERA (1.60), allowing only 5.3 hits for every nine innings pitched. He was the starter (and loser) in a 1-0 All-Star Game, which turned out to be a fitting symbol for the “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968, as the game’s only run was unearned.

Cleveland’s strong showing in 1968 was followed by the team’s total collapse in 1969, finishing with the worst record in the American League. Likewise, Tiant’s numbers slid from his masterpiece season of 1968, as he went from 20-game winner to 20-game loser, finishing 9-20, though with a respectable 3.71 ERA. In 1969, Tiant led the American League in both walks allowed (129) and home runs allowed (37). Those 37 home runs are still a Cleveland team record, and the only Cleveland team record Tiant holds.

Following the 1969 season, Tiant was traded to the Minnesota Twins in the deal that brought Dean Chance and Graig Nettles to the Indians. He struggled in Minnesota, due partly to injuries, and was released by the Twins in 1971 (and by the Atlanta Braves that same year) prior to his resurrection in Boston.

During the 1960s, pitching for mostly lackluster Cleveland teams, Tiant won 75 games in six years with a fine 2.84 combined ERA. A three-time All-Star, he retired in 1982 after winning 229 games.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to Wally’s World of Wins

 

Career Year: Wally Bunker – 1964

The Baltimore Orioles of the early 1960s were a fountain of young pitching talent, from the likes of Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas and Steve Barber at the beginning of the decade to later arrivals such as Jim Palmer, for whom the 1960s were a struggle until he matured into the Hall of Fame bound ace of the O’s staff in the 1970s.

"19" was Wally Bunker's lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

“19” was Wally Bunker’s lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

One of the latest of the Baltimore “Kiddie Corps” was also one of the most immediately successful. Wally Bunker was a right-handed power pitcher who was the ace of the Orioles staff at age 19 and then retired from baseball by age 27.

Bunker was signed by the Orioles in 1963 and was a member of the starting rotation a year later. The 1964 season marked his career year, as Bunker was the ace of the Orioles staff, going 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA. He threw 12 complete games, second on the Orioles staff to Pappas. Bunker led the American League with a .792 winning percentage and pitched a pair of one-hitters. He finished second in the balloting for American League Rookie of the Year to the Minnesota Twins outfielder (and league batting champion) Tony Oliva.

In late September of 1964, Bunker felt something give in his right arm and was never the same pitcher, plagued by consistent arm miseries for the rest of his career. He was 10-8 for the Orioles in 1965 and 10-6 for the American League champion O’s in 1966. He was the winning pitcher in the third game of the 1966 World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 with a six-hitter and outdueling Dodger lefty Claude Osteen.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals' history.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals’ history.

Bunker struggled with arm problems over the next two seasons, going 3-7 in 1967 and 2-0 in only 18 appearances in 1968. He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1968 expansion draft, and was the Opening Day starter, throwing the first pitch in Royals history. At 12-11, he was the team’s winningest pitcher in the Royals’ inaugural season, but was only 2-11 for Kansas City in 1970. He was released by the Royals after seven appearances in 1971, going 2-3 in his final season.

Bunker pitched for nine big league seasons, posting a 60-52 record with a career earned run average of 3.51.

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Sandy Secures Second Cy

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(November 3, 1965) In a unanimous vote, Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Sandy Koufax (26-8, 2.04, 382 strikeouts) today was named the Cy Young Award winner.

Sandy  Koufax was the first pitcher to win a second Cy  Young Award.

Sandy Koufax was the first pitcher to win a second Cy Young Award.

It was Koufax’s second Cy Young Award in the past three years. He became the first pitcher to win the honor more than once.

Koufax won the pitching “Triple Crown” by leading the major leagues in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He also led the majors in winning percentage (.765), complete games (27) and innings pitched (335.2). The National League’s Most Valuable player in 1963, Koufax finished second to Willie Mays in the MVP balloting for 1965.

On September 9, 1965, Koufax pitched his fourth career no-hitter, a 1-0 perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.

In the 1965 World Series, Koufax was 2-1 against the Minnesota Twins with a 0.38 ERA. He struck out 29 Twins batters in 24 innings pitched.

 

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Who’s Afraid of Big Daddy?

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Stan Williams

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Stan Williams was an imposing presence on the mound. He threw hard and tight. He made nervous hitters bail out.

Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, Williams made his debut the same season that the Dodgers landed in L.A. He was 9-7 in 1958 with a pair of shutouts, and then was 5-5 in 1959, serving as both a starter and a reliever.

From 1960-1962, Stan Williams won 43 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1961, he was second in the league in strikeouts to teammate <a rel=

From 1960-1962, Stan Williams won 43 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1961, he was second in the league in strikeouts to teammate Sandy Koufax.

In 1960, Williams started 30 games, going 14-10 with a 3.00 ERA. He pitched nine complete games and tossed a pair of shutouts. In 1961 he went 15-12 with a 3.90 ERA. He had a career- best 205 strikeouts, second in the National League to Sandy Koufax.

In 1962 Williams was 14-12 for the Dodgers, but his strikeouts fell to 108 and his ERA rose to 4.46. In the off-season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for first baseman Bill Skowron. He opened the season in the Yankees’ starting rotation, but ended the 1963 season in the bullpen as the team’s forgotten man, finishing at 9-8 with a 3.21 ERA. He went 1-5 in 1964, and in March of 1965 was purchased by the Cleveland Indians. In four seasons with the Indians, Williams was a combined 25-29 with a 3.12 ERA. His best season in Cleveland came in 1968, when he went 13-11 with a 2.50 ERA.

Stan Williams was 13-11 with a 2.50 ERA for the Cleveland Indians in 1968.

Stan Williams was 13-11 with a 2.50 ERA for the Cleveland Indians in 1968.

In 1970 Williams was traded with Luis Tiant to the Minnesota Twins for Dean Chance, Bob Miller, Graig Nettles and Ted Uhlaender. He was used strictly in relief by the Twins, and had an excellent season, going 10-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 15 saves in 68 appearances. He split the 1971 season between Minnesota and the St. Louis Cardinals, going 7-5 with a 3.77 ERA. He retired after three appearances with the Boston Red Sox in 1972.

In 14 seasons, Williams compiled a career record of 109-94 with a 3.48 ERA. He was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1960.

 

 

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Harmon’s Fastball Insurance

 

Homer Happy: Bob Allison

For the better part of his career, it was Bob Alison’s misfortune to find himself batting after Harmon Killebrew, the most prolific home run hitter of the 1960s.

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From 1961-1964, Bob Allison averaged 31 home runs and 96 RBIs per season.

Allison’s power statistics were regularly overshadowed by the beastly home run numbers that Killebrew consistently posted. Killebrew’s bat too often cleared the bases of runners who could have been Allison’s RBIs.

But Allison’s abilities were not overlooked by the American League pitchers who faced him, and who fed fastballs to Killebrew to avoid putting on base another potential run for Allison to bring home. The fact was, during the early 1960s, there were just too many lethal bats in the Minnesota Twins’ lineup for pitchers to issue free passes or make a mistake.

The Twins were the highest-scoring American League team of the 1960s, and Bob Allison was one reason why.

The Washington Senators signed Allison out of the University of Kansas in 1955. In four minor league seasons, Allison hit a total of only 28 home runs. But his .307 batting average in 1958 with Chattanooga in the AA Southern Association earned him a look with the Senators, and a spot on the Washington roster for 1959.

In his rookie season, Allison surprised everyone with his power. For 1959, he batted .261 with 30 home runs and 85 runs batted in, third on the team in both categories (behind Killebrew and Jim Lemon). Allison led the league with nine triples and was selected as American League Rookie of the Year.

In 1960 – the team’s last season in Washington, D.C. — Allison slipped to 15 home runs and 69 RBIs, though his 30 doubles were eighth best in the American League. His hitting rebounded when the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 to play as the Twins. Allison hit 29 home runs and drove in 105 runs, a performance he nearly duplicated in 1962 when he again hit 29 home runs and drove in 102 runs. He also scored 102 runs in 1962, third most in the league.

Bob Allison had his best season in 1963, hitting 35 home runs with 91 runs batted in. He also led the league in scoring with 99 runs.

Bob Allison had his best season in 1963, hitting 35 home runs with 91 runs batted in. He also led the league in scoring with 99 runs.

All this was accomplished while hitting behind Killebrew, who led the league in home runs (46) and RBIs (126).

Allison led the America League with 99 runs scored in 1963, hitting .271 with 35 home runs and 91 RBIs. It would be his highest single-season home run total, but Allison came close the following year with 32 home runs (and 86 RBIs).

Yet Allison’s productivity in the batter’s box was beginning a steady decline. In the Twins’ pennant-winning season of 1965, Allison (now 30) managed only 23 home runs with 78 RBIs on a .233 batting average. In 1966 he missed more than half the season with a broken left hand that limited him to eight home runs and 19 RBIs. He played full seasons in 1967 and 1968, hitting 24 and 22 home runs. He was a part-time player over his last two seasons, retiring in 1970.

In 13 major league seasons, he batted .255 with 256 home runs and 796 RBIs. Allison finished in the top ten in home runs among American Leaguers eight times during his career, and teamed with Killebrew in 1962 to become the first pair of sluggers to hit grand slam home runs in the same inning.

Allison was a member of the American League All-Star team three times.

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