After Ted Williams retired, and before Carl Yastrzemski rose to prominence, the Boston Red Sox were not very good. They lost often during the early 1960s and finally hit bottom with 100 losses in 1965, including to the Twins, who pushed them around in 17 of 18 meetings that season. That’s right: the Twins were 17-1 against the Sox in the Twins’ AL pennant-winning season of ’65.
And a three-game series in early August of that year was no exception as the Twins outscored Boston 26-7 over that span, winning 9-3, 9-4 and 8-0.
In Game 1, the Twins scored nine runs on 13 hits. Don Mincher, filling in at fist base for an injured Harmon Killebrew, went 3-for-4 at the plate, and both Bob Allison and Zoilo Versalles, who would win the AL MVP award that season, homered. Rookie lefty Jim Merritt went six innings for the win.
Blade-like and standing six-foot-two, Merritt was one of the last players cut during spring training, according to “Cool of the Evening,” a book about the 1965 Twins. He showed remarkable poise, a nice repertoire of pitches, and an exceptional move on his pickoff throw to first base. It was a technique he had taught himself, and after just a few starts in Minnesota both scouts and opposing players decided Merritt’s pickoff move was second only to that of New York’s Whitey Ford.
In Game 2, the Twins again scored nine runs, getting four doubles and two home runs out of the lineup. Versalles and Mincher homered, and pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant improved to 14-3. He also hit a double to support his own cause.
In the final game, Tony Oliva had four hits, including a double, and Allison and Mincher both tripled to pace the Twins. Pitcher Jim Perry did the rest, tossing a complete game, two-hit shutout.
The Red Sox ended 1965 at 62-100, bad enough for ninth place in the American League. The Twins did just the opposite and finished at 102-60, good enough to win the league by seven games. The Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series and lost in seven games.
-Before we get real baseball again, I’ve been enjoying ESPN Classic, a channel devoted to showing old sporting events, including World Series games from the 1970s and 1980s — at least this week, anyway. Among the games: Game 5 of the 1979 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Pitcher Jim Rooker, who got the start for the Bucs in Game 5, was spelled in relief by longtime Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven. Blyleven had spent his entire career with the Twins until he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1976. They later sent him to the Pirates where he pitched for three seasons, including the “We are family” Bucs of 1979. Blyleven looked good in relief, pitching four scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, one walk and struck out three to earn the win and improve to 2-0 in the series.
Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, “Cool of the Evening” by Jim Thielman.