January 18, 2016

Sam Mele, who guided Twins to 1965 World Series appearance, turns 94 this week

Sam Mele, who won 524 games as manager of the Twins from 1961 to 1967, will celebrate his 94th birthday on Thursday.


Mele’s tenure with the Twins wasn’t long, but after the Washington Senators relocated to Minnesota for the 1961 season, it also wasn’t long before the Twins showed improvement.

Under Mele, the Twins won 91 games in 1962 and 1963 before finally breaking through with 102 wins in 1965 and a World Series appearance opposite the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mele didn’t do it alone. Those Twins’ teams were loaded with talent, including Zoilo Versalles, who had 76 extra base hits in 1965 and was named the AL MVP. They also had Tony Oliva, Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew, who hit only 25 home runs in ’65 but would go on to hit 573 home runs for his career, including 40 or more in a season eight times.

On the mound in ’65, Jim “Mudcat” Grant won 21 games and Jim Kaat, 18. The rotation also featured Jim Perry and Camilo Pascual. Pascual won only nine games that season, but he had back-to-back 20-win seasons in ’62 and ’63. Perry would go on to win 20 games in 1969 and 24 in 1970, good enough to win the Cy Young award. He finished with 215 wins for his career, including 128 with the Twins.

So that’s what Mele had to work with and it got them to October and a meeting with the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax. Here’s how the series played out, according to the Society for American Baseball Research:

On paper the Twins had the edge offensively and took the first two games at home, 8-2 and 5-1, defeating the Dodgers’ duo of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. Los Angeles took three games in a row in their park, as Bob Allison, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and AL MVP Zoilo Versalles arguably underproduced; the Dodgers pitched around Killebrew; he drove in only two runs. Ron Fairly drove in six runs in the series for the Dodgers, but Mele was able to take the Twins all the way to Game Seven in Minnesota. The final blow was Lou Johnson’s solo home run off Jim Kaat, while Sandy Koufax threw a complete game, three-hit shutout.

But just winning games apparently wasn’t enough for Twins ownership because after the Twins fell to 89 wins in 1966, a slow start in 1967 got Mele fired and replaced by longtime minor league manager Cal Ermer.

Mele, who had once played for the Boston Red Sox, remained close to owner Tom Yawkey. After he lost his job with the Twins, Mele spent the next 25 years in the Red Sox organization, working mostly as a scout.

Image credit: By Bowman Gum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

January 17, 2016

A State of the Union address for Twins fans

President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address last week, reassuring Americans that the country remains in good shape, despite recent concerns about the economy and national security. The 2011 State of the Union address But this is a blog about one particular baseball team, so I ask: What’s the state of... Continue Reading »

January 11, 2016

Yes, Torii Hunter will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

After a 19-year career in the Major Leagues, including 12 seasons spent with the Twins, Torii Hunter retired at the end of last season. He’ll now have to wait five years before he appears on his first Hall of Fame ballot. Torii Hunter But once he does, I believe he will be enshrined. It won’t... Continue Reading »

January 7, 2016

Remembering Brian Harper, baseball catcher

I have a small but growing collection of Twins’ memorabilia: there’s Kirby Puckett’s rookie card, the license plate, the old pennant flag, the Brad Radke bobblehead, a Casey Fien-signed baseball, a ball with Frank Viola and Jack Morris signatures and the Johan Santana autograph. The newest addition, which I received as a Christmas gift, is... Continue Reading »

December 30, 2015

New Billy Martin biography sheds light on Martin’s time with Twins

When one thinks of Billy Martin, synonymous with the New York Yankees as a player and manager, this image doesn’t come to mind: The Martins’ Richfield neighborhood had big, old maple trees and was close to the Twins’ ballpark in Bloomington. There was a backyard for Billy Joe — Gretchen called him B.J. — and... Continue Reading »

December 21, 2015

Former MLB pitcher Philip Humber turns 33 today. Happy birthday, Phil.

Despite winning only 16 games in eight seasons, Philip Humber, who happens to turn 33 today, will be remembered for throwing the 21st perfect game in Major League history. He accomplished that feat for the Chicago White Sox on April 21, 2012, beating the Seattle Mariners 4-0. Humber threw 96 pitches over nine innings and... Continue Reading »

December 16, 2015

Thirteen years ago this month the Twins released David Ortiz

All professional sports teams have their share of bad personnel moves: paying too much for a free agent, getting stuck on the wrong end of a bad trade or letting go of a player who becomes a much improved player elsewhere. Some teams (see the Seattle Mariners) struggle with their personnel moves more than other... Continue Reading »

December 13, 2015

Michael Cuddyer says farewell to playing baseball on The Players’ Tribune

After suddenly announcing his retirement, Michael Cuddyer, a former member of the Twins for 11 seasons, explained his decision Saturday on The Players’ Tribune. It’s a nice piece called “Play Hard and Dream Big” that touches on the game, his approach to it and the path to becoming a professional and professionalism — something the... Continue Reading »

December 12, 2015

Winter Meetings come and go for Twins with no deals; team loses relief pitcher Zack Jones to Rule 5 draft; Cuddyer retires

The Winter Meetings in Nashville have come and gone for the Twins with no deals, including the decision to pass on this year’s Rule 5 draft. The team, though, left relief pitcher Zack Jones unprotected and he was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers. Jones, according to MLB.com, was ranked as the Twins’ No. 23 prospect.... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.