The Franchise 1969

1969 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Billy Martin 1st Season (1st with Minnesota 97-65)
97 W 65 L 790 RS 618 RA 1st AL West 9.0 GA (Oakland 88-74)
4.88 RPG (AL = 4.09) 3.24 ERA (AL = 3.62)
.708 DER (8th AL)

All Stars (4) Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, John Roseboro

Franchise (1901-1969) 5003-5530-109; 11-18 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1969) 789-666-5; 3-7 Post Season; 3-4 WS

With Billy Martin managing the Twins looked like a different team from the Ermer-led squads of the previous years. Martin preached aggressiveness, particularly on the basepaths. That attitude, combined with career seasons by a few players and the addition of Leo Cardenas at shortstop, a position that had been a weakness for the Twins since 1965, added up to an AL West Division championship.

The Twins’ season was somewhat tarnished by the way it ended. Minnesota was swept by the Orioles in the first ALCS and were outscored 16-5.

While Martin’s fiery personality and take-charge attitude were a welcome change among many Twins observers, he wore out his welcome with Calvin Griffith very quickly. The owner announced on October 13 that Martin’s time with the club had come to an end due to the manager’s tendency to “completely ignore” team policies.

Though not specifically sited by Griffith, and incident earlier in the season probably had a lot to do with the decision to let the popular manager go. On August 9 Martin had gotten into a physical fight with one of his players, pitcher Dave Boswell. Martin and Boswell continued to spar through the newspapers for the next few weeks before Griffith, much like a father separating two young brothers, put the speculation to end with a statement that the matter was closed.

Roster/Stats
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1969

C John Roseboro .263/.333/.321 3 HR -0.1 BFW 10 WS 23 FRAR 2.6 WARP3
After a rough season in 1968, Calvin Griffith wanted Roseboro to take a pay cut. The 36-year-old veteran held out until early March. One day, seemingly out of the blue, he simply walked into the Twins’ Orlando office with a signed copy of the contract, a $12,000 pay cut from the previous season, left it with Howard Fox and walked into the clubhouse to put his uniform on. Roseboro’s numbers seemed to improve, though it was pretty much in line with the new offensive environment in major league baseball. Though his line went from .216/.300/.311 a year earlier, his adjusted OPS+ was identical (81) for both seasons. Roseboro was released by the club after the season due to his “large” salary ($48,000 in 1969). He signed as a free agent with Washington serving as a back up before retiring after the 1970 season.

1B Rich Reese .322/.362/.513 16 HR 0.7 BFW 17 WS 7 FRAR 4.4 WARP3
Since Reese made his debut in the majors in 1964 he was considered primarily a “glove man.” That changed in 1969 when he turned in a monster offensive season. At age 27 Reese set offensive marks that he had never seen before, nor would he see again. On August 3, his pinch-hit grand slam off of Dave McNally in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Twins a 4-1 lead and handed the Orioles’ ace his first loss of the season.

2B Rod Carew .332/.386/.467 8 HR 2.5 BFW 21 WS 24 FRAR 6.8 WARP3
In the spring, Carew worked with manager Billy Martin on a play in which the 23-year-old would steal home. He tried successfully in two attempts during spring training, and stole home for the first time in his career on April 9. In the third inning of a May 18 game, Carew stole three bases in the same inning, including another steal of home. His steal of home on June 16 was his sixth successful attempt in six tries. A month later, he stole home for the seventh time which, at the time, was considered tied for Pete Reiser’s major league record (though it was since discovered that Ty Cobb stole home eight times in 1912). Carew should have had his eighth swipe of home on September 26, but the umpire erroneously called him out. Interestingly, Carew only stole 19 bases total in 1969 (he was caught eight times).

SS Leo Cardenas .280/.353/.388 10 HR 4.9 BFW 23 WS 60 FRAR 9.1 WARP3
The Twins, who tried six different short stops the year before, finally got their guy in a trade with Cincinnati. Griffith sent pitcher Jim Merritt to the Reds in exchange for the 30-year-old Cuban. Cardenas was quickly dubbed the best short stop in Minnesota since fellow Cuban Zoilo Versalles. Cardenas, who was known primarily for his glove work, also had one of his better offensive seasons in his first year as a Twin. Still, when people talked about Leo, they were usually talking about his defense. He was credited as the main reason the Twins had a much better team defense than they had the year before, particularly when it came to turning the double play. In 1968, the Twins were dead last in AL double plays with 117. The improved to second in the league with 177 in 1969 – a fact most on the team attributed to Cardenas’ presence. Cardenas finished 12th in the AL MVP voting after the season.

3B Harmon Killebrew .276/.427/.584 49 HR 4.6 BFW 34 WS 1 FRAR 9.4 WARP3
Early on in his signature season, Harmon Killebrew his his 400th career home run. He was the 14th player in major league history to reach that mark. At that point in his career, Killebrew was hitting a home run once in every 13.25 at-bats. With that career milestone in his rearview mirror, Killer went on to have his best season. He posted career highs in most offensive categories, including matching his previous high of 49 home runs set in 1964. Killebrew also set a career mark in a more unlikely category: the stolen base. The man TSN described as “fire-hydrant shaped” set a career mark with eight steals in 1969, five more than his previous mark of three set in 1959. Eight stolen bases is even more remarkable considering that Killebrew only stole once successfully between 1963 and 1968. At the end of the season, Killebrew beat out Boog Powell to win his only career MVP award.

LF Bob Allison .228/.333/.418 8 HR -0.4 BFW 5 WS 1 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
LF Graig Nettles .222/.319/.373 7 HR -0.4 BFW 5 WS 4 FRAR 0.9 WARP3
Allison and Nettles, on different ends of their respective careers, basically platooned in left field for the Twins. Nettles had a small amount of major league experience with the Twins, while Allison was just a year away from retirement. Neither would play much for the Twins following the 1969 season. Nettles was traded to Cleveland after the season. He stayed there for two years before going on to fame in New York. Allison played sparingly in 1970 before retiring following the season. Allison spent his entire 13-year-career with the franchise. His career numbers: .255/.358/.471 256 HR 127 OPS+ 55.3 WARP3.

CF Ted Uhlaender .273/.328/.356 8 HR -2.2 BFW 14 WS -2 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
OF Cesar Tovar .288/.342/.415 11 HR 1.3 BFW 19 WS 22 FRAR 5.7 WARP3
Tovar was a super utlity man once again in 1969, though most of his playing time came in center field in a platoon role with Uhlaender. In 1969 Tovar broke up prospective no-hitters in games where he had the only hit for the Twins twice. On both occasions, he did it against Orioles’ pitcher. The first came on May 15 against Dave McNally, the second on August 10 against Mike Cuellar. Uhlaender found out he was traded to Cleveland when a reporter called him for his reaction. He didn’t hold back, saying that it was just like the Twins not to call him but he was happy to leave since Martin was on his way out as well.

RF Tony Oliva .309/.355/.496 24 HR 2.2 BFW 25 WS 26 FRAR 7.7 WARP3
As part of a June 29 doubleheader against Kansas City, Oliva collected eight consecutive hits. His three singles in the last three at-bats of game one were followed by a 5-for-5 outing in the second game. 1969 was a typical very good season for Oliva, who said that he could hit more home runs if he wanted to, but that would cause his batting average to be “about .220.”

SP Jim Perry 20-6 2.82 ERA 1.19 WHIP 2.6 PW 20 WS 7.9 WARP3
Coming into the season, Jim Perry had the highest winning percentage on the Twins’ active roster. Despite his success, he had been relegated to bullpen duty, making only occasional starts when injuries forced the manager’s hand. Billy Martin is often given credit for finally giving Jim Perry the opportunity to be a regular starting pitcher. The reality is that injuries forced Perry into the rotation in 1969. Martin had him set to take over the closer role from Al Worthington before the season started. The injury bug hit the Twins rotation early and often, with Boswell, Kaat, and Chance all missing time early in the season. Perry came out of the bullpen for much of the month of April. He finally became a regular starter at the end of May. The only real difference between his numbers in 1969 and those of the previous five years was that he had more innings pitched (and more opportunities to win games).

SP Dave Boswell 20-12 3.23 ERA 1.23 WHIP 1.5 PW 16 WS 6.4 WARP3
Dave Boswell is the other pitcher who won 20 games for the first time in his career in 1969. Prior to the season, it looked as though Boswell was headed for another injury-filled campaign. While cleaning fish, he cut the little finger on his pitching hand, severing two of the tendons. Boswell’s finger was stiff most of the season, but he was able to last almost the entire season, save a small problem with blisters that emerged in May. His career highlight probably came in the first ALCS, when in Game 2 he pitched 10 innings of shut out baseball only to lose in the 11th. Boswell’s 1969 season, however, is probably best remembered for his scuffle with Billy Martin on August 7. Boswell had a horrible year with the Twins in 1970 and was out of baseball by 1971.

SP Jim Kaat 14-13 3.49 ERA 1.35 WHIP 0.7 PW 13 WS 4.4 WARP3
Kaat pitched the 1969 season with what he and doctors thought was calcium deposits on his upper right thigh. The pain was so great that Kaat started to get a shot of painkillers before every start. At the end of the season it was discovered during surgery that in fact Kaat had a piece of his bone lodged in the muscle. The injury is often given as the reason for Kaat’s “down” year. Based on his 14-13 record, Kaat was the only Twins pitcher to receive a pay cut after the 1969 season. Kaat took it in stride “You can look at the record a number of ways, but with the salary they pay me, they expect me to win more than 14 games.”

SP Dean Chance 5-4 2.95 ERA 1.26 WHIP 0.2 PW 5 WS 1.6 WARP3
Chance missed a large chunk of the season due to a sore arm. He pitched well when he got a chance, but only started 15 games. After the season he was traded to his home town team, the Cleveland Indians, in the deal that brought Luis Tiant and Stan Williams to the Twins. The former Cy Young Award winner bounced around between teams until he was released by the Tigers in October of 1971.

SP/RP Tom Hall 8-7 3.70 ERA 1.27 WHIP 0.3 PW 8 WS 2.9 WARP3
21-year-old Hall logged some valuable innings out of the bullpen, but maybe more importantly was able to fill in for starting pitchers who went down with injuries far too often for the Twins. Hall is listed at 6′ tall and 155 pounds, but was considered one of the hardest throwers in baseball.

RP/SP Bob Miller 5-5 3.02 ERA 1.26 WHIP 0.6 PW 8 WS 3.0 WARP3
The 30-year-old’s second season with the Twins was his last. Miller was traded to Cleveland in the same deal that sent Chance, Uhlaender, and Nettles to Ohio.

RP/SP DIck Woodson 7-5 3.67 ERA 1.30 WHIP 0.0 PW 6 WS 2.4 WARP3
Woodson had impressed Billy Martin a year earlier when he was pitching for him in Denver towards the end of the 1968 season. Martin insisted that “Woody” be a part of the team’s 25-man roster out of spring training. The rookie pitched well in relief for the Twins, and even served as a spot-starter on a few occasions. In a game against the A’s on April 24, Woodson ruffled some Oakland feathers when he brushed back Reggie Jackson on two occasions. Jackson had two homers in the game off of starter Dave Boswell, and took exception to the rookie’s inside pitches, touching off a brawl between the two teams. Woodson denied that he was throwing at Jackson intentionally

RP Ron Perranoski 9-10 2.11 ERA 1.15 WHIP 4.3 PW 20 WS 8.4 WARP3
Perranoski set a new Twins record for games pitched with 75. It helped that he was having his best season since he tore up the National League with the Dodgers in 1963, but the main factor in his workload was the new manager. Cal Ermer did not like using his left-handed reliever against right-handed batters, so Perranoski’s outings tended to be shorter under Ermer. Martin used Perranoski as his ace out of the bullpen, so Ron had more opportunities to pitch in 1969.

RP Al Worthington 4-1 4.57 ERA 1.40 WHIP -0.5 PW 3 WS 1.2 WARP3
Worthington retired after the 1968 season but, with a little coaxing from former teammates, came out of retirement in early June to help the under-manned Twins out of the bullpen. Worthington retired for good after the season. In six seasons with the Twins the relief ace posted a 2.62 ERA (133 ERA+), 88 saves, and 24.7 WARP3.

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