Saturday, July 31, 2010

PTWSW #58: The 1961 New York Yankees

Manager: Ralph Houk
Record: 109-53
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owners: Dan Topping & Del Webb
GM: Roy Hamey
Coaches: Frankie Crosetti, Jim Hegan, Wally Moses, Johnny Sain, Earl Torgeson

Future Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle

All-Stars: Luis Arroyo, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bill Skowron

Team Leaders, Batting

BA:
Mickey Mantle, .317
OBP: Mickey Mantle, .448
SLG: Mickey Mantle, .687 (AL leader)
OPS: Mickey Mantle, 1.135
2B: Tony Kubek, 38
3B: Tony Kubek, Mickey Mantle, 6
HR: Roger Maris, 61 (AL leader)
RBI: Roger Maris, 141 (AL leader)
BB: Mickey Mantle, 126 (AL leader)
SB: Mickey Mantle, 12

Team Leaders, Pitching

W:
Whitey Ford, 25 (AL leader)
SO: Whitey Ford, 209
ERA: Bill Stafford, 2.68
IP: Whitey Ford, 283 (AL leader)
CG: Whitey Ford, 11
SHO: Whitey Ford, Bill Stafford, 3
K/BB: Whitey Ford, 2.27
SV: Luis Arroyo, 29 (AL leader)

Tidbits

Oldest Player: Earl Torgeson (b. January 1, 1924)

Youngest Player: Al Downing (b. June 28, 1941)

First to Leave Us: Duke Maas (d. December 7, 1976)

Last Survivor: Half are still living as of September 30, 2015.

First in Majors: Yogi Berra (debut September 22, 1946)

Last in Majors: Al Downing (final game July 13, 1977)

First to Play For the Franchise: Yogi Berra (September 22, 1946)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Al Downing (September 30, 1969)

Pre-union Team: The 1958 Kansas City Athletics, with seven: Bob Cerv, Bud Daley, Joe DeMaestri, Hector Lopez, Duke Maas, Roger Maris and Ralph Terry.

Reunion Team: The 1962 Athletics (Art Ditmar, Deron Johnson and Danny McDevitt) and 1966 Athletics (Rollie Sheldon, Bill Stafford, Ralph Terry). Even though Topping & Webb's crony Arnold Johnson had died in 1960, the new Charles O. Finley ownership still had a thing for former Yankees.

Accomplishments

Roger Maris, AL MVP
Whitey Ford, Cy Young Award
Roger Maris, 61 home runs, new Major League record
Luis Arroyo, 29 saves, new Major League record
Bobby Richardson, AL Second Base Gold Glove
240 home runs, new Major League record

Season Summary

The Yankees fully expected to beat the Pirates in the 1960 World Series. After all, they were the Yankees, and winning World Series was their business. When the Pirates downed them in seven games the organization realized it was due for a change. Manager Casey Stengel was fired after 12 seasons on the job, and longtime GM George Weiss resigned. Replacing them were coach Ralph Houk and assistant GM Roy Hamey, respectively. Houk's managerial style differed from Stengel's in that he preferred a set lineup, batting order and pitching rotation, and the most notable result was ace pitcher Whitey Ford making a career-high 39 starts, accumulating 25 wins.

Before the season even began there were some rumblings that Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60 might be in danger. Thanks to the American League's first-ever expansion, the 1961 season featured two new teams, eight new games on the schedule and a weaker talent level. What conditions could be more conducive to mark-busting? The favorite to accomplish it was Mickey Mantle, and when he got off to a hot start the rumblings grew louder. After a slow start in April, Mantle's teammate Roger Maris caught up with him by June, turning their seasons into a full-blown battle to better the Babe. The "M & M Boys" were still neck-and-neck in early September when an injury slowed Mantle, leaving Maris on his own to chase Ruth. Maris was able to tie and surpass the record, hitting #61 on the final day of the season. Unfortunately, because he didn't break it before game #154, Maris' total carried an asterisk in the record books for the next 30 years.

With a 109-53 record one might assume that the Yankees completely dominated. In fact, they didn't reach first place for good until July 25, and they didn't begin to pull away until an early-September 13-game winning streak. Besides Mantle and Maris there were four other Yankees who reached the 20-homer mark, which allowed them to set a new Major League team record with 240 homers. They led the league in slugging average thanks to all the gopher balls, but they were only slightly above average in the other two slash stats. Still, their team OPS+ was best among AL offenses. With a great defense behind them and better-than-average strikeout and walk rates, the Yankee pitching staff posted an ERA+ of 109, third-best in the loop.

The World Series matched the Yanks up with the Cincinnati Reds, a team that had outperformed its Pythagorean record by ten games to win the pennant. The Yankees won Game 1 behind a shutout from Whitey Ford and two solo homers. The Reds then came right back to tie the Series in Game 2, gaining the lead when Elio Chacon made a heads-up dash for home on Elston Howard's passed ball. Yankee homers were once again the story in Game 3, as the pinstripers won with late-inning solo shots from Johnny Blanchard and Roger Maris. Ford and Jim Coates combined for another shutout in Game 4, and the Yankees closed their season out with a 13-5 laugher in Game 5.

Acknowledgements:

Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

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