TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Dennis Cimpl of Wauwatosa, WI, who revealed three of the players highlighted in last weeks column all played for the Washington Senators at one time in their careers. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.
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ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: Frank Howard, Don Rudolph and Bob Allison all played for the Washington Senators at one time in their career.
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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: How many times did Zoilo Versalles lead AL shortstops in errors?
When a team wins a championship one year and then competes the following year but drops off substantially it drives the front office and the fans crazy. The 1960s were far from the Internet and one could only imagine the fallout for the Minnesota Twins from 1965 to 1966 would have played today. It would be a social media nightmare.
The Twins won the American League pennant but lost the World Series to the Dodgers in 1965 after finishing with 102 wins. In 1966 the finished second with 89 wins, a drop off of 13 games. Frank Robinson's Orioles topped the AL that season but to explore the Twins demise you don't have to look far. The hitting really dropped off, as did the pitching and some new players did not perform as well as the aging guys they replaced. And then there was Zoilo Versalles.
Versalles had a marvelous 1965 and was awarded the AL MVP Award. The shortstop was the Twins spark plug. He batted .273 but scored 126 runs, ripped 45 doubles, 12 triples and 19 homers. His 39 errors notwithstanding, he was the driver in 1965. In 1966 those numbers fell off drastically. He scored just 73 runs (a 40 percent drop), had 20 doubles (more than 50 percent less), and halved his triples with 6. His home runs fell by almost 60-percent to just 7. His BA went to .249 and he committed 35 errors.
But he wasn't the only one. Earl Battey's BA dropped more than 40 points, Don Mincher went from 22 homers to 14, Bob Allison hit 23 dingers in 1965 but only 8 the following season. Ted Uhlaender and Bernie Allen became starters and neither were up to the task performed by their predecessors. Jimmie Hall dropped from .285 to .239 but matched his 1965 HR total with 20. Others who saw their production falter were Sandy Valdespino and Rich Rollins.
The bright spots were Harmon Killebrew's 39 homers versus 25 from the previous season, Tony Oliva's consistency, batting .321 and then .307. He did up his homer totals from 16 to 25. The real bright spot however was Cesar Tovar. He played just about every position and starred with a .260 BA in 134 games.
The big three on the pitching staff won just two less games 51-49 but flip flopped. Mudcat Grant went from 21 wins to 13 while Jim Kaat went from 18 to 25. Jim Perry won 12 instead of ll and Dave Boswell picked up the slack with a 12-5 season. The bullpen slipped a bit with ace closer Al Worthington seeing his 10-7 record with 21 saves and a 2.13 ERA go to 6-3, 16 Saves and 2.46 ERA. The club did improve it's fielding going from last in the AL with 172 Errors to fifth with 139.