The New York Yankee dynasty came to an end in 1965. After winning five straight American League pennants and finishing atop the league standings in 14 of the previous 16 seasons, the Yankees tumbled to sixth place in the junior circuit, posting a record of only 77-85 during the regular season. New York’s final placement in the standings, which was their lowest since 1925, could be attributed in part to an aging and oft-injured core of veteran players. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, and Jim Bouton all missed a significant amount of playing time due to injuries. Also contributing to New York’s poor showing were the subpar seasons turned in by younger veterans such as Joe Pepitone and Bobby Richardson. The Yankees’ failure to keep pace with other teams in developing talented young black players played a huge role in their fall from grace as well.
With the Yankees no longer a major factor in the junior circuit, the Minnesota Twins ascended to the top of the American League standings. After finishing the previous year tied for sixth in the league with a record of only 79-83, the Twins compiled a record of 102-60, en route to separating themselves from the second-place Chicago White Sox by seven games. The Baltimore Orioles finished third, eight games off the pace.
Despite losing Harmon Killebrew for almost two months with an injury, the Twins featured the American League’s most potent offense for the third straight year, topping the circuit with 774 runs scored. Bob Allison hit 23 homers and drove in 78 runs. Jimmie Hall hit 20 home runs, knocked in 86 runs, and batted .285. Tony Oliva won his second batting title in as many seasons, leading the league with a mark of .321. He also topped the circuit with 185 hits, and he placed among the leaders with 98 runs batted in and 97 runs scored, en route to earning a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting. Finishing just ahead of Oliva in the balloting was Zoilo Versalles, who had easily the finest season of his career. The Twins’ shortstop batted .273, hit 19 homers, drove in 77 runs, stole 27 bases, finished second to Oliva with 182 hits, and led the league with 126 runs scored, 12 triples, 45 doubles, and 308 total bases.
Minnesota’s improved pitching played an even larger role in the team’s first-place finish. The Twins finished third in the league with a team ERA of 3.14, and their staff featured two of the circuit’s top hurlers. Jim Kaat finished 18-11, with a 2.83 ERA and 264 innings pitched. Jim “Mudcat” Grant had a career year, compiling a record of 21-7, with an ERA of 3.30, 270 innings pitched, 14 complete games, and a league-leading six shutouts.
The Twins got off to a good start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, winning the first two games in Minnesota. However, the momentum of the Series shifted when the two teams traveled to Los Angeles for the next three contests. Claude Osteen and Sandy Koufax hurled shutouts as the Dodgers swept the Twins at home, 4-0, 7-2, and 7-0. After Minnesota tied the Series with a victory in Game Six, Koufax returned to the mound on only two days’ rest for Game Seven. Allowing the Twins just three hits, the Dodger left-hander tossed his second straight shutout, clinching the Series for his team with a 2-0 win.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• June 8 - The first major league draft was held for high school and collegiate players. The Kansas City Athletics selected outfielder Rick Monday with the first pick. The New York Mets picked up Nolan Ryan in the tenth round.
• September 18 – The Yankees celebrated "Mickey Mantle Day" at Yankee Stadium on the occasion of Mantle's 2,000th career game.
• Detroit’s Willie Horton placed among the league leaders with 29 home runs and 104 runs batted in.
• Mudcat Grant posted two of Minnesota’s three victories in the World Series.
• At age 60, Satchel Paige became the oldest man to play in a major league game when he hurled three scoreless innings for Kansas City vs. Boston on September 25.
• Bert Campaneris played all nine positions for the A's on September 8.
• Spike Eckert replaced Ford Frick as baseball's commissioner.
• Boston’s Dave Morehead threw a no-hitter against Cleveland on September 16.
• Carl Yastrzemski hit 20 home runs, batted .312, and led the American League with 45 doubles, a .395 on-base percentage, and a .536 slugging average.
• Boston's Tony Conigliaro led the American League with 32 homers, establishing himself in the process as the youngest player ever (20) to lead his league in home runs.
• Cleveland's Sam McDowell led the American League with a 2.18 ERA and set a new American League record for left-handers by striking out 325 batters.
• Emmett Ashford, the first black umpire in major league history, made his American League debut.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Pud Galvin.
• Baltimore’s Curt Blefary (22 home runs, 70 RBIs, .260 batting average) earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Branch Rickey died.
• Bill McKechnie died.
• Despite being named A.L. MVP, Zoilo Versalles set a major league record for shortstops by striking out 122 times.
• After the season, the Baltimore Orioles acquired Frank Robinson from the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Milt Pappas and two other players.
• Bert Campaneris ended Luis Aparicio's reign as American League stolen base champ by swiping 51 bags.
• Cleveland's Rockey Colavito hit 26 home runs, batted .287, scored 92 runs, and led the American League with 108 runs batted in and 93 walks.
• New York’s Mel Stottlemyre finished 20-9, with a 2.63 ERA and a league-leading 291 innings pitched and 18 complete games.
• Ron Kline of Washington led the American League with 29 saves.
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- 1965 World Series, Al Kaline, American League, Bert Campaneris, Bill McKechnie, Bob Allison, Branch Rickey, Brooks Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Claude Osteen, Curt Blefary, Dave Morehead, Elston Howard, Emmett Ashford, Ford Frick, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Bouton, Jim Kaat, Jimmie Hall, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mel Stottlemyre, Mickey Mantle, Milt Pappas, Minnesota Twins, Mudcat Grant, Nolan Ryan, Pud Galvin, Rick Monday, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Ron Kline, Sam McDowell, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Tony Conigliaro, Tony Kubek, Tony Oliva, Willie Horton, Zoilo Versalles