1964 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Sam Mele 4th Season (4th with Minnesota 308-278-3)
79 W 83 L 1 T 737 RS 678 RA 6th(T) AL 20 GB (New York 99-63-2)
4.52 RPG (AL = 4.06) 3.58 ERA (AL = 3.63)
.711 DER (6th AL)
All Stars (5) Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Camilo Pascual
Franchise (1901-1964) 4545-5178-107; 8-11 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1963) 331-314-3
The 1964 season solidified the Twins as the best and most feared offense in the American League, replacing the Yankees who held that title for at least a decade. The Twins almost matched their home run output of 1963, falling just four short with 221, still good enough to lead the league by more than 30 home runs. The league lead in SLG (.427) and second place finish in OBP (.319 to Boston’s .321) meant that the Twins had the highest run output in the league for the second straight year.
The Twins’ power was best illustrated in a game on May 2 when, in the top of the 11th inning, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, and Harmon Killebrew hit consecutive home runs to give the Twins a victory.
Offense notwithstanding, 1964 was a huge disappointment for the Twins and their fans. The group that showed so much promise a season earlier underperformed their Pythagorean projection (87-75) by eight wins. The team finished sixth in the league mostly as a function of average pitching a whole lot of bad luck.
Whatever the reason for the struggle, Griffith had his own suggestions for manager Mele, and was very public about addressing them right after the season ended. His main concern was that Mele did not rest the players enough, something that Griffith suggested was a primary reason for all of the injuries the Twins had fought through in recent seasons. Another concern for Griffith was the team’s fielding, which produced 145 errors, second-most in the American League. Unearned runs accounted for the losing margin or more on 24 occasions, something that Griffith was determined to fix for the 1965 season.
While Griffith ultimately kept Mele on as manager, he uncharacteristically reached deep into his pockets to fill out the coaching staff for 1965. Among the names brought on were pitching coach Johnny Sain and Billy Martin, the latter of which was brought on in hopes of lighting a fire under the team. In the winter of 1964-1965, Griffith was confident that he had put together all of the ingredients for a “banner” season.
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1964
C Earl Battey .272/.348/.407 12 HR 1.2 BFW 12 WS 15 FRAR 3.8 WARP3
The story of Battey’s season once again revolved around injuries, and the catcher’s ability to battle through them. After having knee surgery in the off season, Battey tweaked the knee again early in the season. After s short rest of a few days, he was back in the lineup. The doctor assured the media that Battey could not hurt his knee more by playing, saying “he can’t hurt the cartilage in the knee anymore, we took all that out in the off season.” On July 17 Battey, who wasn’t a fast runner on two good knees, was thrown out on a grounder to right field. Battey felt pain for the bulk of the season, but was still able to maintain his position as one of the top catchers in baseball.
1B/OF Bob Allison .287/.404/.553 32 HR 4.5 BFW 25 WS 12 FRAR 8.4 WARP3
1B Don Mincher .237/.300/.547 23 HR 0.6 BFW 8 WS 3 FRAR 2.4 WARP3
To make room for Tony Oliva, Bob Allison was moved to first base for the 1964 season. He spent a good part of the early portion of the season adjusting to his new position, but you wouldn’t know it from his hitting stats. Allison had his best major league season at the plate, and was named the starting All Star first baseman after playing just 75 games at that position. Allison’s time as the regular first baseman was short lived. After the season, Calvin Griffith announced that he would be moving back to left field for 1965. Mincher continued to hit for power as a backup to Allison and pinch hitter.
2B Bernie Allen .214/.309/.329 6 HR -0.7 BFW 4 WS 19 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
2B Jerry Kindall .148/.199/.188 1 HR -1.5 BFW 1 WS 10 FRAR -0.4 WARP3
Allen’s slide from his rookie season continued. His hitting was so poor that the Twins acquired Kindall as part of a mid-season trade in hopes that he would secure the job. Kindall didn’t work out either, and the Twins were left with very little production out of their second basemen.
SS Zoilo Versalles .259/.311/.431 20 HR -0.5 BFW 18 WS 25 FRAR 5.2 WARP3
Versalles continued to carry the label as an “erratic” player mainly due to errors and his tendency to produce peaks and valleys in terms of batting average, but overall he remained one of the best short stops in the league. He had a bit of a down year in most fielding metrics, but had his best season to date at the plate.
3B Rich Rollins .270/.334/.406 12 HR -0.6 BFW 14 WS 12 FRAR 3.5 WARP3
Rollins’ production fell off a bit from the previous two seasons, but he was still considered among the best “clutch” hitters on the team. The numbers do bear that out. In 62 PA’s with runners in scoring position and two outs, Rollins batted .317/.369/.500
LF Harmon Killebrew .270/.377/.548 49 HR 2.4 BFW 24 WS -8 FRAR 6.1 WARP3
Calvin Griffith said of his 28-year-old slugger that 1964 was the year in which Harmon Killebrew would reach his full potential. Killebrew’s season didn’t look a whole lot different than the five previous, but he did set a personal high for home runs with 49. Killebrew got off to what had seemingly become his regular slow start, but just like clockwork he started slugging the ball out of ballparks left and right by mid-May. While Killebrew went through the season as healthy as he had been in years, the wear and tear on his knee started showing in his performance in left field. Following the season, Killer was re-installed as the team’s first baseman.
CF Jimmie Hall .282/.338/.480 25 HR 1.9 BFW 19 WS 24 FRAR 6.2 WARP3
The question heading into the season was could Jimmie Hall avoid the sophomore slump? Hall proved that he could in spite of a rocky start. On July 1, Hall was batting .254/.307/.484, not bad but certainly not up to the expectations set in 1963. After two-week benching, Hall returned to bat .307/.364/.477 through the rest of the season. Though his second-year numbers weren’t quite as sparkling as those he put up as a rookie, he was still had a very good season.
RF Tony Oliva .323/.359/.557 32 HR 3.3 BFW 27 WS 12 FRAR 8.3 WARP3
Oliva had signed as an amateur free agent with the Twins as a 22-year-old in 1961. Oliva was signed out of his home in Cuba by scout Joe Cambria. His impact in professional baseball was immediate, starting his career by batting .410 in the Appalachian league, the best batting average in professional baseball that season. It wasn’t particularly surprising to the organization that Oliva hit for average in his first full season. What was entirely unexpected was that he hit 32 home runs, a number that would remain his career high. Oliva won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1964 and finished fourth in AL MVP voting. In his first full season, he led the league in hitting, runs scored (109), doubles (43), and total bases (374). There was some controversy in the middle of the season when several pitches found their way near Oliva’s head, though opposing managers insisted it was because of his tendency to stride into the ball rather than opposing pitchers intentionally throwing at the rookie who was flirting with .400 at the time. Sam Mele began keeping a list of the pitchers that knocked Oliva down, very publicly threatening retaliation towards them and any other who might throw at the rookie phenom. At Griffith’s order, Oliva began wearing an ear flap on his batting helmet similar to the one that Earl Battey had been wearing after he was beaned a few years earlier.
SP Camilo Pascual 15-12 3.30 ERA 1.28 WHIP 0.9 PW 14 WS 4.7 WARP3
Like many Twins, Pascual got off to a slow start and it seemed as though his famous curveball had lost some of its zip through the first month of the season. It was back on May 15, however, when Pascual shut out the Red Sox at Fenway in what he claimed was his best performance at the hitter’s park. It was the first of six consecutive victories, and from that day forward Pascual was up to his old ways. After the season, the contract that Griffith sent to Pascual called for a pay cut of at least $9,500 due to Pascual’s step back in the win-loss department. Pascual claimed, correctly, that he had pitched very well and was the victim of timely errors in the field and a general case of bad luck. TSN cited seven instances in which errors directly cost Pascual a win while also noting that on three occasions he left the game in the later innings with a lead only to have the game lost by the bullpen. Griffith, as stingy as ever, cited an uptick in walks allowed (98 in 1964 to 81 in 1963) as more evidence that Pascual deserved a pay cut. Though Pascual finally signed for his 1964 salary after holding out for the first couple of weeks of spring training in 1965, it is not difficult to imagine that the ordeal with Griffith had begun to wear on the star pitcher.
SP Jim Kaat 17-11 3.22 ERA 1.20 WHIP 1.8 PW 15 WS 6.4 WARP3
After a sub-par 1963, Kaat perfected the slider and regained the form that had made him such a tough lefty two years prior. Along with the new pitch, Kaat found a way to motivate the bullpen to hold his leads in 1964. He offered Al Worthington a steak dinner for each time he saved a Kaat win. It turned out to be a good investment for Kaat, whose improvement earned him a salary raise for 1964. As was the usual, Griffith didn’t part with his money without a fight, and Kaat ended up holding out side by side with teammate Camilo Pascual in order to get his raise.
SP Dick Stigman 6-15 4.03 ERA 1.21 WHIP -1.2 PW 5 WS 1.9 WARP3
While other players worked through slow starts, Dick Stigman did not have such luck. At the end of May, Stigman sat at 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA. From June 1 on, Stigman improved, but was never able to completely turn it around. The organization thought so highly of Stigman, however, that his 1964 performance earned him only a “token” pay cut and a job in the starting rotation out of spring training in 1965.
SP Mudcat Grant 11-9 2.82 ERA 1.19 WHIP 1.0 PW 10 WS 3.2 WARP3
Jim “Mudcat” Grant came to the Twins in a mid-June trade that sent Lee Stange and seldom used George Banks to Cleveland. Though Grant was struggling in the early months with the Indians, he had righted the ship by the time he joined Minnesota, and became the fourth starter that the team needed. Grant, who was known as much for his entertaining personality as his performance on the field, was immediately a fan and media favorite in Minnesota. The Twins organization was just happy that they didn’t have to face Grant on the opposing mound anymore. In Grant’s career against the Twins/Senators, he had 22-6 record with a 2.79 ERA.
SP/RP Gerry Arrigo 7-4 3.84 ERA 1.35 WHIP -0.1 PW 5 WS 2.4 WARP3
23-year-old Gerry Arrigo had been a part of the Twins organization since the first year draft following the 1960 season. He was taken from the White Sox by Calvin Griffith in one of the first official roster moves following the announcement that the Senators would be moving west. 1964 was the only season in which Arrigo got regular playing time for the Twins. He pitched well as a spot starter and reliever, actually turning in one of the team’s best pitched games of the year on June 26. At season’s end, Arrigo was dealt to Cincinnati in exchange for Cesar Tovar.
RP Al Worthington 5-6 1.37 ERA 1.04 WHIP 2.9 PW 11 WS 4.9 WARP3
For the second straight season the Twins had one of the best relievers in baseball. This time the honor went to Al Worthington, a 35-year-old veteran of eight seasons. Worthington appeared to be washed up when the Twins purchased him from Cincinnati in June, but he proved to be anything but turning in great numbers in just over half a season’s work with the Twins. Worthington was familiar with Minnesota, having spent a good deal of his minor league career with the Minneapolis Millers in the middle 1950’s. Worthington’s transformation was immediate. He did not allow his first earned run in a Twins uniform until August 12, a streak of 37.1 innings pitched in which opposing batters only hit .157/.210/.187 off of the new closer.
RP Jim Perry 6-3 3.44 ERA 1.29 WHIP 0.3 PW 5 WS 2.2 WARP3
After starting for the majority of his first season with the Twins, Jim Perry was moved to the bullpen full time in 1964. While Perry performed well enough in long relief to be dubbed by TSN as the Twins’ most surprising pitcher of the first half, he wasn’t able to crack the starting rotation.
RP Bill Pleis 4-1 3.91 ERA 1.46 WHIP 0.0 PW 3 WS 1.4 WARP3
Pleis continued to be a reliable left-handed option out of the bullpen.
RP Johnny Klippstein 0-4 1.97 ERA 1.40 WHIP 0.8 PW 4 WS 2.2 WARP3
Klippstein, like Worthington, was a veteran reliever that the Twins purchased in mid-season. Klippstein had some good seasons sprinkled into his 15-year-career up to 1964, but few thought that he would have much left at the age of 36. Also like Worthington, Klippstein proved that he had some good innings left in him. In totality, his performance in 1964 was the best of his career, though he would better that the following year.
1964 World Series
The Yankees fell in the World Series for the second straight season, this time in seven games at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Series represented a rare changing of the guard in the American League. It turned out to be the last time the Yankees would be a part of the Fall Classic for more than decade. Bob Gibson won both Games 5 & 7 of the series.