Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Double Figure Twins

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  IN 1966 Don Mincher, Jimmy Hall and Pete Cimino were traded to the Angels for a package of player which included which star pitcher?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Mel Queen's amateur teammate who later became the pitcher's brother-in-law was Red Sox 22 game winner, Jim Lonborg

It is unusual for an entire starting line up for a major league team to reach double figures in home run, but when you include every starting pitcher in the regular rotation ending up in double figure Wins, you have the 1962 Minnesota Twins. 

In 1962 the Twins were a team really in transition. It was only the club's second year in Minnesota, having moved from Washington in 1961 when the new Washington Franchise became the expansion club. Confusing but the idea was to keep a team in the nation's capitol at least until it moved again; to Texas.

All that aside, in 1961 the Twins lost 90 games but the following year they moved up to finish in second place with 91 wins. A complete reversal from the previous season. 

The Twins were loaded with aging players. Vic Power, Hal Naragon, Lenny Green, Bill Tuttle, Jim Lemon and five pitchers who were well over 30 years old. Rising stars were Zoilo Versalles, Don Mincher and Tony Oliva, along with Jim Kaat, and all were ready to bust out. In the middle of the mix was established slugger Harmon Killebrew, catcher Earl Battey and the powerful Bobby Allison. These players would form the heart of the team which in 1965 went on to win the AL pennant.

Up and down the line-up the 1962 Twins had power. Killebrew smacked 48 dingers while Allison was a distant second with 29. Versalles had 17, while clocking in with 16 each were Power and Rich Rollins. Green, Battey and Bernie Allen also reached double figures. Mincher, a part-time player added nine more. The team finished with 185 homers for third best in the AL. 

Of those eight players none of them played fewer than 144 games and no one outside the group batted more than 157 times (Mincher). Same Mele put the same eight guys out there day after day and it worked.

On the mound Camilo Pascual won 20, Kaat had 18, Jack Kralick posted 12 as did Dick Stigman. The bullpen was truly a by-committee proposition. 

The following year it was more of the same with the addition of outfielder Jimmy Hall who cranked 33 homers in his rookie season. Allison belted another 35 and Killebrew added 45. The emergence of Oliva in 1964 batting .323 with 32 home runs, solidified the team for the run at the pennant in 1965. It was however, the 1962 season which put the Twins onto the road of change and a place in baseball history.

Killebrew would finish his career with 573 homers and easily made it into the Hall of Fame. Versalles would be named MVP in 1965 leading the league in seven offensive categories. Kaat won 283 games in his career and Allison eclipsed 20 home runs in a season eight times. Mincher and Hall would be traded to Los Angeles a few years later after helping Minnesota get to the Series in "65. Mincher found a new home in California where he starred for the Angels.

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

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