The Franchise 1966

1966 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Sam Mele 6th Season (6th with Minnesota 499-411-3)
89 W 73 L 663 RS 581 RA 2nd AL 9.0 GB (Baltimore 97-63)
4.09 RPG (AL = 3.89) 3.13 ERA (AL = 3.43)
.721 DER (2nd AL)

All Stars (4) Earl Battey, Jim Kaat, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva

Franchise (1901-1966) 4736-5311-107; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1966) 522-447-3; 3-4 WS

Though the Twins were healthier than they had been a year ago, the result of the 1966 season was certainly not as successful as was 1965. The team bottomed out when they sat in seventh place with a 35-43 record going into play on July 4. From that day on, the Twins were 54-30 – good enough to storm back into second place, but not nearly good enough to give the Orioles any sort of competition for the pennant.

At season’s end it was clear that Sam Mele had something to prove heading into 1967. He and Calvin Griffith had never gotten along particularly well, and the relationship was further strained at season’s end when Mele’s differences with his coaching staff forced two of them, including popular pitching coach Johnny Sain, to leave for Detroit. With players starting to grumble about Mele’s leadership, it seemed as though one of the most successful managers in franchise history was heading into the 1967 season with a short leash.

Roster/Stats
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1966

C Earl Battey .255/.337/.327 4 HR 1.4 BFW 13 WS 29 FRAR 3.9 WARP3
C Jerry Zimmerman .252/.338/.328 1 HR 0.8 BFW 5 WS 13 FRAR 1.7 WARP3
Battey had become the subject of annual trade rumors. Though nothing panned out, it was clear that even the talk of a trade stung the 31-year-old franchise catcher. 1966 was more of the same for Battey: constant battles with injury but, when healthy, one of the better hitting catchers in the league. The difference between Battey in 1966 and Battey a few years earlier was that the piling up injuries began to take their toll. He only appeared in 115 games in 1966, his lightest work load since 1959 when he was a backup with the White Sox. All of Battey’s injuries meant more playing time for back up Jerry Zimmerman, who became the regular catcher in 1967. Battey spent the off season after 1966 working hard to get his knee into shape, but the 1967 season became nothing more than one injury after another. After appearing in only 48 games, Battey called it a career, helped along by his unconditional release by the Twins. Though Battey’s career was relatively short, he is still considered the top catcher in Twins history and is a member of the Twins Hall of Fame.

Battey, Twins career 8 Seasons .277/.354/.412 91 HR 38.6 WARP3

1B Don Mincher .251/.340/.418 14 HR 0.4 BFW 14 WS 8 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
After falling off from his numbers of the previous several seasons, Mincher was traded to the California Angels. Mincher bounced around the majors from 1967 to 1972, even posting a career best season with the Angels in 1967. He finished his 13-year major league career with 200 home runs.

2B Bernie Allen .238/.299/.348 5 HR -0.6 BFW 7 WS 25 FRAR 2.8 WARP3
2B Cesar Tovar .260/.325/.335 2 HR -0.1 BFW 14 WS 31 FRAR 4.5 WARP3
After Allen got off to a rough start, he was replaced at second base by Cesar Tovar, a man who had 18 games of major league experience with the Twins in 1965. Tovar’s 74 games played at second base would be the most he would play at one position until he became the every day center fielder in 1970. The Venezuelan was the ultimate utility man. Over the span of his career he appeared in at least one game at every position.

SS Zoilo Versalles .249/.307/.346 7 HR -1.3 BFW 12 WS 25 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
The 1965 American League MVP took a major step back in 1966, probably due to injuries. Versalles struggled in the early part of the summer with a “damaged muscle” in his back below his right arm. The Sporting News compared it to the injury that forced Camilo Pascual to have surgery a year earlier. While Versalles was out, Cesar Tovar filled in quite capably. Later in the season Versalles was still struggling, forcing Mele to replace him again with Tovar. “I don’t know if Versalles is tired,” said Mele, “but he looks bad in the batter’s box.” In hopes that it might give him a boost, Calvin Griffith gave Versalles permission to play winter ball after the season.

3B Harmon Killebrew .281/.391/.538 39 HR 2.6 BFW 33 WS 12 FRAR 8.7 WARP3
3B Rich Rollins .245/.286/.390 10 HR -1.3 BFW 5 WS 8 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Killebrew’s game of musical chairs around the field continued as he played most of his defense at third base in 1966. It didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on his hitting, however. After an injury-plagued 1965 season, Killebrew appeared in every game for the Twins in 1966, the only player to do so. He also seemed to be taking a slightly different approach at the plate. 1965 was the first season in the slugger’s career in which he walked more than he struck out. He did it again in 1966, and was described in TSN as more of a “contact hitter” in 1966. Killebrew himself said that he was trying to “meet the ball” more often, and he particularly seemed to look for singles and doubles in “clutch” situations. Even with the new approach, Killebrew still managed to finish second in AL home runs and AL slugging percentage. He finished fourth in AL MVP voting behind three Orioles (Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Boog Powell).

LF Jimmie Hall .239/.302/.449 20 HR -0.2 BFW 10 WS 7 FRAR 2.3 WARP3
LF Bob Allison .220/.335/.411 8 HR 0.3 BFW 7 WS 5 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
It was a tough year for Bob Allison. He struggled in the spring enough to lose his grip on a starting job. When he finally got a chance as a regular, the struggles continued. Long a fan favorite in Minnesota, Allison began to hear the boos as he carried a sub-.200 batting average the bulk of the season. Just when he seemed to be returning to form in late July, Allison was hit by a pitch on his left hand. His hand was broken and he was unable to swing a bat for about a month. Frustrated by his performance, Allison spent the bulk of the season staying away from the media. There were some highlights for Allison, including a game-winning three-run home run on September 18 that put the Yankees in the AL cellar. Hall got a lot of playing time due to Allison’s struggles, but was traded to the Angels at the end of the season.

CF Ted Uhlaender .226/.280/.286 2 HR -1.9 BFW 7 WS 7 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
The Twins spent the first several months of the season looking for a center fielder. They tried just about everybody, including Tony Oliva. It wasn’t until late June that they finally settled on Uhlaender, the 1965 PCL batting champion. Uhlaender played well enough in the field, according to the Twins, to keep the job despite anemic offensive production.

RF Tony Oliva .307/.353/.502 25 HR 2.8 BFW 28 WS 22 FRAR 8.0 WARP3
Oliva did not win his third consecutive batting title, but he did have a season that was on par with his first two in the majors. On June 9 Oliva was one of five Twins to homer in the same inning against Kansas City.

SP Jim Kaat 25-13 2.75 ERA 1.07 WHIP 3.6 PW 26 WS 8.9 WARP3
Kaat’s spring work was limited due to a back injury, but that was not an omen for the 1966 season, which turned out to be Kaat’s career best. He simultaneously cut back on walks and added strikeouts while posting a career best WHIP. It helped that Kaat stayed healthy throughout the season – he pitched 304.7 innings, another career high. Unfortunately, Kaat’s great season might be overshadowed by the controversy in the months following the season. After a falling out between Mele and pitching coach Johnny Sain resulted in Sain’s departure to Detroit, the usually mild-mannered Kaat blasted the organization and, particularly, his manager in the papers, saying in part: “If I were in a position of general manager, I’d give Sain a ‘name-your-own-figure’ contract to handle my pitchers. (And oh yes, I’d hire a manager that could take advantage of his talents).” Kaat later backed off of his words towards Mele, but never hid his disappointment in the circumstances surrounding Sain’s departure.

SP Mudcat Grant 13-13 3.25 ERA 1.19 WHIP 1.3 PW 16 WS 5.3 WARP3
Grant missed a chunk of the spring due to a hold out, but like Kaat didn’t seem to miss a beat. The season was largely considered a huge step down from his 20-win campaign a year before, but a closer look at the numbers indicate that Grant had similar success in every category expect wins and losses.

SP Jim Perry 11-7 2.54 ERA 1.10 WHIP 2.4 PW 17 WS 6.2 WARP3
As much as Mele wanted to keep Perry in the bullpen, the 30-year-old’s performance combined with team circumstances meant that Perry got 25 starts in 1966. He pitched very well, but once again did not earn a starting job in the eyes of Mele, who used Perry out of the bullpen once again at the start of 1967.

SP Dave Boswell 12-5 3.14 ERA 1.09 WHIP 0.8 PW 12 WS 4.1 WARP3
Boswell improved on his numbers from the previous season. It can be argued that his 1966 performance plus about 100 more innings pitched would be on par with his 20-win performance of 1969. Boswell showed a flash of dominance on July 30 against Baltimore. That day he shut the Orioles out while allowing just one hit and striking out 11.

SP Camilo Pascual 8-6 4.89 ERA 1.39 WHIP -1.5 PW 2 WS 0.5 WARP3
Pascual’s last season with the Twins was probably his worst. It certainly didn’t help that he missed most of July with arm trouble. With all of the arm problems, including surgery, it seemed like a good bet that Pascual’s career as an effective major league pitcher might be over. In December he was traded with Bernie Allen to Washington in exchange for Ron Kline. Pascual was able to have a few productive seasons in Washington before bouncing around the league and finally retiring after he was released from Cleveland in June of 1971.

Pascual’s place in franchise history might be somewhat distorted by the fact that he had his prime right around the time of the franchise move to Minnesota. Since the Twins tend to ignore their pre-1961 history, Pascual’s career doesn’t look quite as impressive as it was. By all rights, he should be in the Twins HOF, and certainly is among the top pitchers during the Minnesota years. He remains in third place on the franchise strikeout list, behind only Walter Johnson and Bert Blyleven.

Pascual, WAS/MIN career: 145-141 3.66 ERA 106 ERA + 1885 K 67.7 WARP3

SP/RP Jim Merritt 7-14 3.38 ERA 1.01 WHIP 0.8 PW 9 WS 4.5 WARP3
Merritt’s performance was much better than his record indicated. On July 21 he struck out seven straight on his way to a three-hit shut out of the Senators.

RP Al Worthington 6-3 2.46 ERA 1.02 WHIP 1.8 PW 15 WS 5.1 WARP3
At the age of 37, Worthington had his busiest season to date as a Twin. Worthington proved his flexibility when a garage door accident took away his ability to throw the knuckleball in the middle of the season. He came back and was just as effective without his signature pitch as he had been with it.

RP Pete Cimino 2-5 2.92 ERA 1.28 WHIP 0.3 PW 5 WS 1.9 WARP3
RP Dwight Siebler 2-2 3.44 ERA 1.23 WHIP -0.2 PW 1 WS 0.4 WARP3
Though they both had success out of the bullpen for the Twins, neither Cimino nor Siebler stuck with the team very long.

1966 World Series
Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers allowed just two runs total in a four-game sweep of the Dodgers that included three consecutive shutouts.

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