Twins had a great team 50 years ago [UPDATED]Published 7:06am Monday, April 1, 2013 Updated 9:12am Monday, April 1, 2013
The 1963 Minnesota Twins finished 91-70, third in the American League behind New York and Chicago. Otter Tail County baseball fans were among the 1.4 million people who attended Twins games at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, now the site of the Mall of America. That fan base was the highest total in the American League 50 years ago.
Busloads of fans from all across Minnesota traveled to Bloomington to see the Twins, only their third season in the Upper Midwest after moving from Washington, D.C., prior to the start of the 1961 season.
In 1963 Harmon Killebrew was an outfielder, later playing first base and third base.
He made the American League all-star team as did shortstop Zoilo Versalles, outfielder Bob Allison and catcher Earl Battey.
All four Twins stars would, two years later, help Minnesota win the American League pennant and face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
In 1963 Killebrew led the team with 45 home runs and 96 runs batted in. Allison hit 35 home runs and drove in 91 runs. Pitcher Camilo Pascual won 21 games and led the American League with 202 strikeouts.
Three Twins won Gold Gloves: first baseman Vic Power won his sixth, shortstop Versalles won his first and pitcher Jim Kaat won his second.
Kaat won several more Gold Gloves in his long major league career.
The 1963 Twins team also included rural Perham (Nimrod) native Dick Stigman who won 15 games and had a very good 3.25 Earned Run Average (ERA).
It was a game pitched by Stigman when I retrieved a souvenir baseball, a foul ball from the bat of Earl Battey. Sitting next to me on the first base side was Sonny Mjelde.
Twins radio announcers were Herb Carneal, Halsey Hall and Ray Scott.
Hall was the color man. When preparing for a road trip, the flamboyant Hall’s packing list for his suitcase included one suit and tie, a few other personal items and two bottles of whiskey.
The 1963 Twins had a colorful player, relief pitcher Ray Moore, whose nickname was Old Blue. Moore, the son of a Maryland farmer who previously played for the Chicago White Sox, received a coonhound puppy as a gift from White Sox over Bill. Veeck.
The pup’s name was Young Blue and teammates started to refer to Moore as Old Blue.
The Twins were in the thick of the pennant race until the last month when ace pitcher Pascual missed a half-dozen starts due to injury.
The Minneapolis Millers minor league baseball team played at Met Stadium from 1956 to 1960. The Twins and the Minnesota Vikings then played at the Met from 1961 to 1981, before moving into the Metrodome.
In 1965, both the Major League All-Star Game and the World Series were played at Metropolitan Stadium. Not often had that taken place, since 1933 when All-Star games began.
Game seven of the 1965 World Series drew 50,596 fans to the Met, the only time a baseball crowd exceeded 50,000. Pitcher Sandy Koufax led Los Angeles to a 2-0 victory and the World Series title.
Seven years later, in 1972, Rothsay native Dave Goltz made it to the big leagues. He pitched for the Twins until 1979.
He was a 20-game winner for the Twins in 1977, the year Rod Carew batted an astounding .388 for Minnesota. That was the highest average since 1941 when Ted Williams batted .406 while playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Sam Mele, a native of New York state and a veteran of World War II, managed the Twins in 1963. Tony Oliva was in the Twins minor league system in 1963. A year later he was named American League Rookie of the Year.
Twins fans have many great memories since the team started playing here, in 1961. The season 50 years ago, in 1963, was something very special.