GOTW: 4.11.61: Welcome the Minnesota Twins

Tuesday April 11, 1961

Minnesota Twins (0-0) @ New York Yankees (0-0)

Pre-Game

In 1955, at the age of 85, long-time Washington Nationals owner Clark Griffith died. In his absence, his nephew (and adopted son) Calvin took over as the owner of the team. It became clear early on that Calvin wanted to move the team. For five years he politicked to move the team, and an agreement was finally reached that made the old Washington Senators into the Minnesota Twins.

The last few years in Washington had been tough. The team finished either seventh or eighth in the eight team AL in every season from 1955-1959. The 1960 season showed some progress, with star prospects such as Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Bob Allison, and Zoilo Versalles; the team looked like it might be on the verge of contending when they finished 73-81 in the final season in Washington.

If there was an opposite team to the old Washington club, it was probably the New York Yankees. 1960 marked the 11th AL Pennant the team had won in the last 14 seasons. Stars like Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto had given way to Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris, but the Yankee machine just kept rolling. A disappointing loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series cost manager Casey Stengel his job, and probably just made the team angry, giving them a reason to pay attention in the 1961 season.

The new Minnesota Twins opened on the road at Yankee Stadium in front of 14,607 shivering fans. The Yankees were awarded rings for their AL victory in 1960 before the game, a near unanimous choice of the players who had the option of rings or watches.

*All Stats from 1960

Managers:
Cookie Lavagetto 5th Season (5th with Washington/Minnesota)
Ralph Houk 1st Season (1st with New York)

Pitchers:
Pedro Ramos 11-18 3.45 ERA 1.29 WHIP vs
Whitey Ford (L) 12-9 3.08 ERA 1.21 WHIP

Twins Lineup
1. Zoilo Versalles SS .133/.170/.267 0 HR
2. Lenny Green CF .294/.383/.430 5 HR
3. Harmon Killebrew 1B .276/.375/.534 31 HR
4. Jim Lemon LF .269/.354/.508 38 HR
5. Bob Allison RF .251/.367/.413 15 HR
6. Earl Battey C .270/.346/.427 15 HR
7. Reno Bertoia 3B .265/.313/.359 4 HR
8. Billy Gardner 2B .257/.313/.363 9 HR
9. Pedro Ramos P .116/.126/.221 2 HR

Yankees Lineup
1. Bobby Richardson 2B .252/.303/.298 1 HR
2. Hector Lopez LF .284/.361/.414 9 HR
3. Yogi Berra C .276/.347/.446 15 HR
4. Mickey Mantle CF .275/.399/.558 40 HR
5. Roger Maris RF .283/.371/.581 39 HR
6. Bill Skowron 1B .309/.353/.528 26 HR
7. Tony Kubek SS .273/.312/.401 14 HR
8. Clete Boyer 3B .242/.285/.405 14 HR
9. Whitey Ford P .151/.274/.189 0 HR

The Game

Baseball Reference boxscore and play-by-play

The pitchers dominated through the first six innings. Here are the lines going into the seventh inning:

Pedro Ramos MIN 6 IP 3 H 0 R 0 ER 1 BB 4 K
Whitey Ford NYY 6 IP 2 H 0 R 0 ER 2 BB 3 K

In the top of the seventh inning, the Twins finally go to Ford. Bob Allison led the inning off with a solo home run. Earl Battey followed with a double to left, and Reno Bertoia drew a walk to put runners at second and third with no outs. Billy Gardner was able to sacrifice the runners over to second and third with the pitcher due up. Pedro Ramos, a decent hitting pitcher, drove his counterpart from the game with a line drive up the middle to knock in two, and give the Twins a 3-0 lead.

Ralph Terry came in and ended the sixth with no further scoring, but the Twins got to him just an inning later. Allison started it again, this time with a single. He was forced out on a Battey grounder before Bertoia sent a Terry pitch into the left field bleachers for a 5-0 lead. The Twins added a run in the ninth when Zoilo Versalles stole second and third after reaching on a single, and scored on a Harmon Killebrew sacrifice fly.

While Yankee pitching faded after the sixth, Pedro Ramos seemed to get stronger. The Cuban retired the last 13 batters he faced, and capped off a three-hit shut out when Mickey Mantle hit a harmless fly ball to right.

Stars of the Game
1. Pedro Ramos MIN: 3-hit shutout, 1-4, 2 RBI at the plate
2. Reno Bertoia MIN: 1-2, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI
3. Bob Allison MIN: HR, RBI

Post-game

Despite the outcome of the first game, the Twins did not remain undefeated in their new uniforms for long. The team lost their first game later in the week, and finished their first season in Minnesota 70-90, good for seventh in the AL. The young team would have success starting in 1962.

The Yankees went on to have one of the better seasons in franchise history, and that is saying a lot. The story of 1961 was the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Maris, of course, outpaced an ailing Mantle late in the year and set a new record with 61 home runs. That record stood for 37 years.

At the end of the season, another World Championship came to the Bronx. The Yankees won 109 games and marched to a relatively easy five-game win over the Cincinnati Reds. New York will rattle off three more consecutive pennants and another World Series Championship before any other team got a sniff of the top spot in the AL. It would be these very Twins that would finally end the Yankee dominance in 1965.

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