All Stars (4) Bob Allison, Earl Battey, Harmon Killebrew, Zolio Versalles
Franchise (1901-1963) 4466-5095-106; 8-11 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1963) 252-231-2
Injuries plagued the Twins early in the season, causing them to find themselves in last place as late as May 15. Once the full slate of players returned along with a few mid-season acquisitions, the Twins were off and running. From May 16 on, the Twins were 80-50. During that time they had a 10-game winning streak and an 8-game winning streak.
The Twins had the top offense in the American League, outdistancing the traditionally powerful Yankees by 53 runs. Most of the production came from the home run ball, of which the Twins hit 225 in 1964, at the time second most in major league history (the 1961 Yankees held the record with 240).
The hole the Twins dug themselves early in the season made it impossible to catch the Yankees, who ultimately ran away with the AL Pennant. Still, the optimism remained in Minnesota for a team that was stocked with young talent, including a 24-year-old sensation named Tony Oliva who was still a year away from being a major factor.
At season’s end, Calvin Griffith offered manager Sam Mele a contract for the 1964 season. To Mele’s dismay, it called for a pay cut. After taking a few days to think it over, Mele signed the one-year deal to stay on as manager of the Minnesota Twins. The pay cut was unprecedented at the time, and frowned upon by many in and around baseball who thought that Griffith should have offered Mele at least a token raise or changed managers if he thought the job was not being done properly. The move solidified the label of “cheap” that accompanied Calvin Griffith, and very likely helped him in future negotiations with players. TSN reported that one “front line” pitcher said “If Mele couldn’t get a raise, what chance do I have?”
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1963
C Earl Battey .285/.369/.476 26 HR 4.0 BFW 26 WS 31 FRAR 7.7 WARP3
From an article by Arno Goethel in the 7/6/63 issue to TSN:
Earl Battey, work-horse catcher for the Minnesota Twins, credits his indestructibility to Trainer George Lentz.
“If it wasn’t for Doc,” said Battey, “I’d be in trouble and out of the lineup.”
It’s true that Battey has been commanding much of Lentz’ time, ointments, needles, and medications this season.
Foul tips splotched Battey with bruised on both hands, both feet, his right knee, and his right elbow.
He had pulled hamstring muscles in his right leg and wrenched his right knee.
In addition, he had been hit by pitches in the head, left bicep, right shoulder, and left wrist.
Still, the 228-pound 28-year-old backstop was playing at a pace that promised to make Manager Sam Mele a piker as a prognosticator.
Despite all of the knicks throughout the season, 1963 was Earl Battey’s signature year. He had his most productive season at the plate while remaining one of the top fielding catchers in the major leagues.
1B Vic Power .270/.297/.384 10 HR -1.0 BFW 10 WS 14 FRAR 2.3 WARP3
Power’s final full season with the Twins was a disappointment. Though his veteran presence was continuously talked up by the organization through the season and off season, Power was traded to the Angels in June of 1964.
2B Bernie Allen .240/.302/.356 9 HR -2.5 BFW 8 WS 17 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Rather than building on his promising rookie season of 1962, Allen took a step back in ’63. That he managed to finish with the numbers he did was a bit of a testimony to his second half performance, however. Through June 5, Allen was hitting .162/.253/.231. His batting average didn’t stay above .200 until August 17 and his OBP didn’t even reach .300 until September 12. Needless to say, Allen’s playing time was cut significantly by 1964. The fact that he remained with the team as long as he did is a good indication of how difficult it was for the Twins to find a good second baseman in their first several years in Minnesota. In fact, that problem wasn’t solved until a young Carew joined the team in 1967.
SS Zoilo Versalles .261/.303/.401 10 HR 0.4 BFW 19 WS 49 FRAR 6.8 WARP3
While the right side of the infield struggled to produce, the left side was solid throughout the season. Zorro, now 23 years old, turned in another outstanding defensive season, and even showed a bit of improvement at the plate, particularly in the slugging deparment, a skill that was quite scarce among short stops at the time.
3B Rich Rollins .307/.359/.444 16 HR 0.8 BFW 19 WS 17 FRAR 5.4 WARP3
Rollins’ sophomore season didn’t get off on the right foot when his jaw was broken by a pitch in the final exhibition game. He missed the first couple weeks of the season due to the injury, and actually played a couple of weeks with his jaw wired shut, living on a diet of baby food and ground-up foods eaten through a straw. Still, Rollins was able to build on his impressive rookie season and put together what would end up being the best season of his career. At the end of the season, Rollins’ actually credited his broken jaw as a major reason he was able to turn things around after a horrible exhibition season.
LF Harmon Killebrew .258/.349/.555 45 HR 2.5 BFW 23 WS -2 FRAR 5.2 WARP3
Like Rollins, Killebrew had limited playing time in the first month of the season due to injury. During the exhibition season, Killer wrenched his knee on some loose sod. Though the knee would eventually require surgery, the Twins’ slugger would not allow the injury time off to slow him down during the regular season. The Twins were 9-13 when Killebrew finally started to regular playing time on May 5. By the beginning of June, the team was over .500 and only a handful of games out of first place in the American League. By season’s end, Killebrew was once again the league’s home run champion, helped by a late September double header in Boston in which Killer hit four in a single day’s work. In December, Killebrew had surgery on his knee.
CF Jimmie Hall .260/.342/.521 33 HR 2.8 BFW 21 WS 16 FRAR 6.1 WARP3
CF Lenny Green .239/.315/.325 4 HR -1.4 BFW 6 WS 5 FRAR 0.9 WARP3
Harmon Killebrew’s absence early in the season gave rookie Jimmie Hall and earlier-than-expected chance to show his stuff on a major league field. He didn’t disappoint. Though his numbers weren’t great in the first month, his performance off the bench in May and June made it clear that Sam Mele needed to find a home for Hall. He did so by shifting the rookie to center field. Though he was, by most accounts, out of his fielding element in center, he managed to knock 33 home runs and finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Lenny Green served as a late inning defensive replacement for Hall, but had become expendable, and was traded away in the Vic Power deal the next season.
RF Bob Allison .271/.378/.533 35 HR 3.8 BFW 28 WS 23 FRAR 8.7 WARP3
The 6’4″ 220 lb former college fullback got into a bit of a war of words with future teammate Dean Chance in the middle of the season. Chance had been very vocal about how easily he would be able to retire both Killebrew and Allison before an early season game. When he didn’t have the success he predicted against Allison, Chance seemingly resorted to the bean ball. After the third time Chance beaned Allison in the season, Bob got annoyed, saying “I’m not threatening anybody, but Chance better stay loose if he hits me again.”
Chance wasn’t the only American League pitcher to have trouble getting Allison out. The Twins’ outfielder had his best season to date, and actually was in the driver’s seat of the AL home run race during the middle months of the season. Allison’s most memorable game of the season was a three home run effort on May 17.
1B Don Mincher .258/.351/.520 17 HR 0.5 BFW 10 WS 1 FRAR 2.3 WARP3
Mele didn’t tend to use his reserves very often, but the fact that Mincher showed so much power in such little playing time meant that he was sure to get at-bats off of the Twins’ bench.
SP Camilo Pascual 21-9 2.46 ERA 1.15 WHIP 4.7 PW 22 WS 9.2 WARP3
For the second consecutive season, everything came together for Camilo Pascual. Not only did he continue to miss bats (for the third consecutive season he led the league in strikeouts with 202), but he got enough run support to top the 20-win mark for the second time in his career. The only thing that seemed to slow Pascual down in 1963 was a sore shoulder that limited him to only three innings pitched from June 12 to July 18. Without the layoff, Pascual may well have taken some Cy Young votes away from Sandy Koufax. As it stood, Pascual did enough in 1963 to finish 12th in AL MVP voting.
SP Jim Kaat 10-10 4.19 ERA 1.31 WHIP -1.0 PW 5 WS 1.6 WARP3
Kaat had a tough year in 1963, mostly due to numerous arm injuries. He ended up pitching just 178.3 innings over the course of the season, and spent the majority of the last two months of the season watching rather than pitching. For Griffith, it was enough to put Kaat on the trading block at season’s end. Fortunately for the Twins, a deal was never made, and Kaat returned to the rotation in 1964. Despite the poor numbers in other areas, Kaat did manage to win his second consecutive Gold Glove award.
SP Dick Stigman 15-15 3.25 ERA 1.21 WHIP 1.4 PW 14 WS 5.7 WARP3
With all of the injuries to starting pitchers, Dick Stigman picked up his innings and performance, putting together the busiest and most productive season of his career. The talk of the off season was Stigman’s 15-15 record, thought not to be indicative of his true performance. The reasons cited by the media and the Twins were that Stigman allowed too many home runs (32 total, 23 at home) and lost too many one-run games (6).
SP Jim Perry 9-9 3.74 ERA 1.33 WHIP 0.2 PW 8 WS 2.7 WARP3
Jim Perry came from the Indians in a May trade that was an even exchange for Jack Kralick. Perry had spent the previous four seasons in Cleveland, and had followed up very promising rookie and sophomore campaigns with a couple of disappointing seasons in which it looked as though he might not regain the form of his youth. After spending the first month in Cleveland pitching out of the bullpen, Perry was installed in the starting rotation for the Twins. Despite fairly good results at that spot, Perry was moved to a full-time relief role in 1964, and served as a bit of a tweener during the rest of Sam Mele’s tenure as manager.
SP Lee Stange 12-5 2.62 ERA 1.14 WHIP 1.8 PW 12 WS 4.7 WARP3
Stange had been used mostly as a reliever in his early years, but was moved to the rotation out of necessity in 1963. Stange had a lot of success, something he credited partially to his off season bowling regiment. Stange was the major league bowling champion in the spring and actually signed a contract with Brunswick to bowl exhibitions during the off season. He credited his bowling for strengthening his arm, making it possible to go deeper into games. Stange’s WHIP at the beginning of 1964 was not too far off from his 1963 level (1.22), but a poor win-loss record (3-6) and a relatively high ERA (4.74) made him ripe for the trade block. He was sent to Cleveland in June of 1964 as part of the package that brought Mudcat Grant to the Twins.
RP Bill Dailey 6-3 1.99 ERA 0.91 WHIP 2.9 PW 17 WS 6.2 WARP3
The reason Lee Stange was able to move to the rotation for Minnesota was Griffith’s pre-season purchase of Bill Dailey from the Cleveland Indians. Dailey represented the sole spring roster move for the Twins, and his acquisition meant that a young Tony Oliva would start the season with the farm club in Dallas-Fort Worth. The reported $50,000 deal turned out golden for the Twins. Despite the fact that Dailey had little in the way of a major league track record, he proved that he was more than capable in the stopper role, and put together one of the best seasons for a relief pitcher in franchise history. Dailey was dominant in 1963. Being the only real strong right-handed option out of the pen, he was used accordingly. Dailey logged 108.7 innings in 66 relief appearances. Unfortunately for both the Twins and Dailey, the work might have been his downfall. Early in the 1964 season, Dailey reportedly couldn’t lift his pitching arm without pain. He tried to pitch through it, but saw his last major league action in a pretty ugly performance in which he allowed eight earned runs in just 1/3 innings pitched in June of 1964.
RP Bill Pleis 6-2 4.37 ERA 1.22 WHIP -0.6 PW 3 WS 0.6 WARP3
Pleis’ 68 innings pitched marked a career high, as did his win total of six.
RP Gary Roggenburk 2-4 2.16 ERA 1.38 WHIP 0.4 PW 3 WS 0.8 WARP3
Roggernburk’s rookie season was a success, but he would not again repeat the results.
1963 World Series
The Los Angeles Dodgers brought the World Series title west when they swept the Yankees in four games. Don Drysdale pitched a three-hit shut out in Game 3, while Sandy Koufax allowed just a single run in the 2-1 clinching victory.