Strib columnist Patrick Reusse recently wrote about Frank Quilici, a former player, manager and broadcaster for the Twins, who died earlier this month. I learned a lot about Quilici, but I also learned this: When the Washington Senators became the Twins in 1961, the first game in the first year of the franchise was played against the New York Yankees.
On April 11, 1961, the Twins headed to New York to play the Yankees before only 14,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, according to the box score of this game, which can be found on Baseball-Reference.com.
The Yankees, as they always seem to be, were loaded: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Bobby Richardson were in the lineup that day, while future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, took the mound. The Twins countered with Zoilo Versalles, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison. On the mound for the Twins: Pedro Ramos.
Ramos, who put in some lean years with the Senators, would pitch a complete game, allowing only three hits with one walk and five strikeouts, including Mantle twice.
Meanwhile, the Twins banged out nine hits and finally chased Ford from the game after scoring six runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. Allison homered off the Chairman of the Board and Earl Battey had an extra-base hit. The final was 6-0, Twins.
Here’s how the rest of the 1961 season unfolded for the Yankees and Twins:
-The Yankees lost Game 1 of the 1961 season, but they ultimately steamrolled the American League with 109 wins and won the World Series in five games over the Cincinnati Reds.
-Pitcher Ford would go on to win the Cy Young award that year with a record of 25-4 and a 3.21 ERA.
-The Twins finished the season with a record of 70-90, including a 4-14 record versus the Yanks.
-Ramos finished the season at 11-20, but had an ERA of 3.95, pitched nine complete games, three shutouts and had two saves. His career numbers: 117-160 and a 4.08 ERA over 15 seasons. Pitching for the Senators in the 1950s didn’t help. He lost 16 or more games every season from 1957 to 1961.
-Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961 and broke Babe Ruth’s single-season record for home runs.
-Killebrew had a good year, too. He hit 46 home runs, drove in 122, walked more than 100 times and hit .288.
-The Twins lost again Saturday night to the Milwaukee Brewers and storm clouds are starting to form. The Twins are now 18-23 and tied for second place in the incredibly weak American League Central with Ron Gardenhire’s Detroit Tigers. The Twins have one more game with the Brewers on Sunday, then guess who comes to town? Gardy and those Tigers.