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Series Wrapup

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If 1968 eventually became known as “The Year of the Pitcher,” then 1961 could just as easily be referred to as “The Year of the Hitter.”  The Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators joined the fraternity of American League franchises in 1961, increasing the number of teams in the junior circuit to 10 and necessitating the institution of a 162-game schedule.  The addition of two new clubs meant that a far greater number of marginal pitchers received employment at the major league level.  As a result, an overall increase in offensive production occurred throughout the league, with many of the circuit’s top performers posting huge offensive numbers.  Harmon Killebrew hit 46 home runs and knocked in 122 runs for the seventh-place Minnesota Twins.  Playing for the third-place Baltimore Orioles, Jim Gentile batted .302, slugged 46 homers, and finished second in the league with 141 runs batted in.  Both Rocky Colavito and Norm Cash had monstrous years for the Detroit Tigers.  Colavito hammered 45 homers, drove in 140 runs, scored another 129, and batted .290.  Cash hit 41 round-trippers, knocked in 132 runs, scored 119 others, and led the league with a .361 batting average, 193 hits, and a .488 on-base percentage.  Al Kaline gave the Tigers a third big bat in the middle of their lineup, hitting 19 home runs, driving in 82 runs, scoring 116 others, placing second in the league with a .324 batting average, and topping the circuit with 41 doubles.

Detroit, in fact, led the American League with 841 runs scored, en route to finishing the regular season with a record of 101-61.  Under ordinary circumstances, the Tigers’ outstanding performance likely would have earned them a trip to the World Series.  However, the New York Yankees posted 109 victories in their first year under new manager Ralph Houk, to relegate the Tigers to a distant second-place finish.  

Still seething after their 1960 World Series defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who they outscored by a two-to-one margin over the course of the seven games, the Yankees took out their anger on the rest of the baseball world.  In addition to finishing the regular season with an exceptional record of 109-53, New York established a new major league mark by hitting 240 home runs.  Six different members of the squad surpassed 20 homers, with catchers Yogi Berra, Johnny Blanchard, and Elston Howard all hitting more than 20 round-trippers.  Berra went deep 22 times in only 395 at-bats.  Blanchard hit 21 homers and drove in 54 runs in only 243 official trips to the plate.  Howard hit 21 four-baggers, knocked in 77 runs, and hit a career-high .348.  First baseman Bill Skowron also had a big year, hitting 28 home runs and knocking in 89 runs.

In the end, though, the 1961 New York Yankees were all about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.  The two men waged a year-long assault on Babe Ruth’s existing single-season home run record, with Maris hitting his 61st homer on the season’s final day to finally surpass the Babe.  In an expansion year that featured several outstanding individual offensive performances around the major leagues, Maris and Mantle established themselves as baseball’s marquis attraction.  The efforts of the two men enabled the Yankees to distinguish themselves as one of the greatest teams ever.  Mantle finished second in the league with 54 home runs and a .452 on-base percentage, he topped the circuit with 132 runs scored, 126 bases on balls, and a .687 slugging percentage, and he placed among the leaders with 128 runs batted in, a .317 batting average, and 353 total bases.  In addition to leading the league with 61 homers, Maris topped the circuit with 142 runs batted in and 366 total bases, and he tied Mantle for the league lead with 132 runs scored.  The two men finished first and second in the A.L. MVP voting, with Maris barely edging out Mantle for the honor.

Although the Yankees were known more for their power at the plate, they also had an outstanding pitching staff. New York finished second in the American League with a team ERA of 3.46, with staff ace Whitey Ford leading the way.  Ford earned Cy Young honors and a fifth-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by leading all major league pitchers with a record of 25-4.  He also topped the junior circuit with 283 innings pitched, compiled a 3.21 ERA, and struck out 209 batters.  Meanwhile, Luis Arroyo anchored New York’s bullpen.  The veteran left-handed reliever appeared in a league-leading 65 games, posted a record of 15-5 and a 2.19 ERA, and established a new major league record by compiling 29 saves.

New York’s extraordinary team balance proved to be too much for the Cincinnati Reds to overcome in the World Series.  The Reds put up a good fight for the first three games.  However, Whitey Ford’s second shutout of the Fall Classic in the fourth contest put the Reds at a 3-1 disadvantage heading into Game Five.  Yankee power prevailed in the final game, with New York pounding out 15 hits, en route to closing out the Series with a 13-5 victory.         

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• January 29 – The Veterans Committee voted Billy Hamilton and Max Carey into the Hall of Fame.

• February 7 – Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Jensen returned to the major leagues by signing a $40,000 contract.  Jensen had retired in 1960 due to a fear of flying.  The layoff proved to be detrimental to Jensen, who batted just .263, with only 13 home runs in 1961.

• April 11 - At Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox rookie Carl Yastrzemski collected the first of his 3,318 hits he amassed over the course of his 23-year career.

• April 11 - The Los Angeles Angels played the first game in franchise history, defeating a strong Baltimore Orioles team, 7–2.

• April 11 - At Yankee Stadium, the Minnesota Twins shut out the New York Yankees, 6–0, in their first game since their move from Washington D.C.

• April 21 – The Minnesota Twins played their very first home game in franchise history, losing to the Washington Senators 5–3.

• July 17 – Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a 154-game schedule in 1927 "cannot be broken unless some batter hits 61 or more within his club's first 154 games."  Two days later, Frick, an old friend of Ruth, announced that, should Ruth's record be beaten after 154 games, the record will carry an asterisk.  When asked about the ruling, Roger Maris replied, "A season is a season."

• August 22 – During a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, Roger Maris became the first player to hit his 50th home run of the season in the month of August.

• September 26 - Roger Maris hit his major league record-tying 60th home run of the season, a third inning solo shot against Jack Fisher of the Baltimore Orioles.

• October 1 – Before a small crowd at Yankee Stadium, Roger Maris smacked a 2–0 pitch from Boston’s Tracy Stallard into the right field stands for his 61st home run of the season (a record that lasted until Mark McGwire broke it in 1998).

• New York's Bobby Richardson led all 1961 World Series batters with nine hits and a .391 batting average.

• Whitey Ford broke Babe Ruth's record for consecutive scoreless innings hurled in World Series play.

• Boston's Don Schwall (15-7, 3.22 ERA) was selected A.L. Rookie of the Year by one vote over Kansas City's Dick Howser.

• Ty Cobb died.

• Dazzy Vance died.
 
• Jim Gentile tied the major league single-season record by hitting five grand slam home runs.

• Luis Aparicio led the league with 53 stolen bases.

• Dick Donovan, of the expansion Washington Senators, led all American League pitchers with a 2.40 ERA.

• Minnesota’s Camilo Pascual led the American League with 221 strikeouts.

• Pascual tied Baltimore's Steve Barber for the American League lead in shutouts, with eight.

• Detroit’s Frank Lary won 23 games and led the major leagues with 22 complete games.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BAL 2073 5481 691 1393 638 .227 227 36 149 39 30 2139 .332 .316 .659 140 48 78
BOS 1973 5508 729 1401 682 .193 251 37 112 56 36 2062 .307 .275 .612 129 42 81
CHA 2059 5556 765 1475 704 .191 216 46 138 100 40 2197 .327 .268 .630 118 51 71
CLE 1953 5609 737 1493 682 .211 257 39 150 34 11 2278 .309 .292 .639 133 50 73
DET 2048 5561 841 1481 779 .185 215 53 180 98 36 2342 .346 .267 .688 125 42 64
KC1 2112 5423 683 1342 631 .198 216 47 90 58 22 1922 .335 .273 .628 107 47 89
LAA 2207 5424 744 1331 700 .172 218 22 189 37 28 2160 .312 .258 .605 116 37 80
MIN 2038 5417 707 1353 665 .182 215 40 167 47 43 2149 .325 .260 .640 141 42 67
NYA 1954 5559 827 1461 782 .198 194 40 240 28 18 2455 .324 .291 .634 120 45 57
WS2 2008 5366 618 1307 578 .185 217 44 119 81 47 1969 .287 .256 .565 127 44 73

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BAL 331 95 67 1472 926 617 6152 1226 109 56.540 526 588 54 20 33 45 3
BOS 394 76 86 1444 831 679 6364 1472 167 80.130 688 792 35 6 30 36 3
CHA 423 86 76 1448 814 498 6236 1491 158 68.640 653 726 39 3 33 29 2
CLE 389 78 83 1443 801 599 6265 1426 178 55.830 665 752 35 9 23 44 3
DET 383 101 61 1457 836 469 6170 1404 170 78.330 575 671 62 10 30 29 2
KC1 430 61 100 1416 703 629 6340 1519 141 167.030 746 863 32 5 23 58 7
LAA 473 70 91 1439 973 713 6333 1391 180 83.400 689 784 25 4 34 53 2
MIN 378 70 90 1431 914 570 6232 1415 163 117.710 681 778 49 14 23 42 1
NYA 364 109 53 1450 866 542 6050 1288 137 115.050 558 612 47 11 39 33 3
WS2 381 61 100 1425 666 586 6164 1405 131 103.770 670 776 39 8 21 55 4

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BAL 2611 7335 5387 1797 151 .982 17657 52 30 0 30
BOS 2318 7279 5318 1793 168 .966 17314 68 24 0 19
CHA 2379 7399 5422 1822 155 .955 17383 48 33 1.00 6
CLE 2289 7291 5453 1680 158 .975 17322 53 39 1.00 14
DET 2357 7315 5570 1577 168 .950 17506 44 42 2.00 13
KC1 2498 7215 5222 1788 205 .956 16978 52 30 0 17
LAA 2490 7207 5193 1783 231 .943 17254 79 37 0 24
MIN 2549 7193 5332 1655 206 .949 17187 55 24 0 16
NYA 2342 7282 5351 1785 146 .978 17411 44 31 2.00 13
WS2 2343 7366 5305 1883 178 .951 17098 84 35 0 23

West

Central

East

Awards

Silver Slugger

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Tagged:
1961 World Series, Al Kaline, American League, Bill Skowron, Billy Hamilton, Bobby Richardson, Camilo Pascual, Carl Yastrzemski, Dazzy Vance, Detroit Tigers, Dick Donovan, Dick Howser, Don Schwall, Elston Howard, Ford Frick, Frank Lary, Harmon Killebrew, Jack Fisher, Jackie Jensen, Jim Gentile, Johnny Blanchard, Luis Aparicio, Luis Arroyo, Max Carey, Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, Norm Cash, Ralph Houk, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Steve Barber, Tracy Stallard, Ty Cobb, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra

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