Dedicated to the Reliving the Past of the Greatest Baseball Franchise Ever
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With the differences between these two teams, it was almost like the World Series was a formality. The Yankees took care of the Reds 4-1 and there really wasn’t much doubt who the better team was. Game two involved a two hit shutout by Whitey Ford and while the Reds tied it up in Game 2, some of that almost had to do with the three errors the Reds made as much as it was the Reds just beating the Yankees.
Game three was at close and the Yankees had to come back from one run deficits on two different occasions. Game four involved a combined shutout between Whitey Ford and Jim Coates. Ford pitched the first five and the Coates was probably even better with four innings of shutout relief.
Game five was a blowout. The Yankees scored five in the first and then never looked back. The Reds actually gave them a little bit of a scare when they scored three in the third but the Yankees got the scoring going again and finished out the series.
Roger Maris never could get on track. He hit just .105 in the series but his home run in the top of the ninth in game three proved to be the game winner.
Keep in mind, 1961 was the first season teams went 162 games. With that, 109 was still an impressive number and the Yankees won three straight to close out the game to win. They finished eight games ahead of a tough luck Tigers team that won 101 games that year.
Mickey Mantle led the team with a 1.135 OPS. Most of his extra base hits were home runs but he also hit .317 and had 126 walks. In another year, he would have picked up a fourth MVP. That went to Roger Maris though, who finished with 61 home runs 141 RBIs on the season. Elston Howard was the third best hitter with a .936 OPS and Bill Skowron was third best in home runs with 28.
Whitey Ford finished 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA with 209 strikeouts in 283 innings. Bill Stafford (team best 2.68 ERA) and Ralph Terry (16-3, 3.15 ERA) also had nice seasons. Luis Arroyo was the primary reliver. He pitched in 65 games, finished 54, had 29 saves and he threw 119 innings. What was impressive about Arroyo was that he really only had that one good season. He also finished 15-5 and he only had 40 wins in his career. He did make the All Star game as a rookie in 1955 but his finishing numbers weren’t that great.
The Yankees would go on to face the Reds. We’ll cover the World Series next time. It would have been great to have had Yankees playoff tickets that year though.
The 1961 Yankees went 22-9 in the month of August. They had a slightly better percentage in September but that was the most total wins they had for the month in an entire season. At the beginning of August, they were up by a game and a half. At the end of August, despite that great record, the Yankees sat just a game and a half ahead of the second place Detroit Tigers because they went 22-9 as well.
August was when we began to see Roger Maris begin to wear down. His OPS for the month was below 1.000 for the first time at .945 and he hit just .243. He did hit eleven home runs though and that put him at 51 on the season. He hit number 50 on August 22 against Angels hurler Ken McBride. Mickey Mantle continued to rake as well although he began to fall behing Maris in the home run race in August. He finished the month with nine home runs and a .306 average and that put him at 48 on the season.
On August 15, Whitey Ford finally lost a decision. That ended his winning at fourteen. He won his 20th on August 10th and at month’s end, he sat an impressive 22-3.
September would be when the Yankees finally pulled away but that’s for another month. Plus you had the exciting march toward 60 home runs by Roger Maris. It was truly a historic month for the Yankees.
After switching spots with the Tigers on and off throughout July, the Yankees took over first place for good on July 25. It’s hard to believe this team got better throughout the year but they finished the month with a 20-9 record. Despite a pair of losses to the Orioles in their final doubleheader, the Yankees sat with a game and a half lead. It was only the second time in the month that they lost back to back games.
Roger Maris had his best month of the season. He belted 13 home runs but he hit .330 with a .403 OBP and a .755 slugging. His 35 hits that month were the best of the season. He didn’t hit a home run in the final five games of the month but he had back to back games where he hit a pair of home runs in each of those two games prior to the drought. Not to be outdone, Mickey Mantle also had his best month of the season with a 1.362 OPS. His fourteen home runs put him at 38 on the season.
On the pitching side, Whitey Ford continued his run. He went 5-0 in July with a 3.43 ERA and he extended his winning streak to 13 games. He actually got rocked on July 21 and he gave up seven runs in less then five innings but the Yankees scored eight and he salvaged a no-decision. He also gave up a run in three innings in the first All Star Game then he had the night off in the second one.
It’s hard to believe that 20-9 was the third best month for the Yankees at least on a winning percentage basis but that’s how good this team finished. Man it would have been cool to have Yankees tickets in these final two months of the season to see Roger Maris make history.
After a couple of mediocre months, the Yankees broke out in June and finished with a 22-10 record. It wasn’t their best month of the season, but it was the month that kept them in the mix. They still had taken over first place but they sat just two games back of the first place Tigers. Of course after June they finished with an incredible 64-26 record (that’s .711).
Roger Maris had his best month home run wise. He belted 15 in June and he drove in 35 runs. Just as impressive, he finished the month with 18 walks and nine strikeouts. He went into the July with 27 home runs. Mickey Mantle continued to rake and he had 25 long balls. Eleven of those came in June and that was his second best home run total of the season.
Whitey Ford won all eight of his starts in June. His ERA was oddly consistent had he started the month with a 3.24 mark and finished with a 3.10. The eight straight wins are really what caught my eye.
Man it would have been great to have Yankees Tickets back around this time. What a season.
I know 14-12 isn’t horrible, but playing above .500 ball for a team that eventually won 109 games is interesting. That was the 1961 Yankees record in the month of May and when you put it together with their okay April, they sat 23-17. That was good for third place in the American League behind the first place Tigers and the second place Indians.
After a horrible April, Roger Maris began to heat up. He belted 11 home runs in the month of May to put him at 12 on the season. His 1.032 OPS was solid but to put in perspective, this was Maris’ third best month OPS wise. One thing that was interesting was Maris’ batting average on balls in play. His season total was just .209 and in May it was .194.
Mickey Mantle continued to rake. He had just seven home runs but he hit .313 and had an OPS of 1.069 for the month. Mantle was the exact opposite and he had a batting average on balls in play of .310.
Whitey Ford continued to pitch well. He went 3-1 in May and while his strikeout numbers weren’t great, he had a 3.27 ERA and a .587 OPS against. He lost his last start of the month on May 29 but he then went on to win 14 straight.
June was also when the Yankees began to heat up so stay tuned.
The Yankees split their two game set with the Senators on the final day of April to finish the month 9-5. Not anything to write home about for a team that won 109 games but they had a three game losing streak in there. They did finish strong with four wins in their last five games and they sat just a game behind the first place Tigers.
April was a slow month for Roger Maris. He hit just one home run in those 14 games and that wasn’t until April 26. He finished the month hitting just .204 and a .614 OPS. Mantle on the other hand, came out of the gate like gangbusters. In the fourth game for the Yankees, he hit a pair of home runs and drove in five and then he has his second multi-homer game on April 26. He finished the month with seven home runs and a 1.208 OPS.
Even Whitey Ford got off to a rocky start. He lost his first start with a rough outing against the Twins, then pitched back to back complete games. Then on April 26, he was shelled for ten runs (six earned) in a game that saw the hitting pick him up in a 13-11 win over the Tigers. He finished strong though with a solid start against the Senators. Overall, he finished 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA.
Man it would have been great to have had Yankees tickets back then. To see a team like this with such history behind it would have been very cool.
The home opener for the 1961 Yankees was April 11 so be sure to check back to this site on that day. Just in looking at the schedule, it’s interesting that the Yankees had three doubleheaders in the month of April. You don’t see that much anymore. Just a quick note, the 1961 Yankees started out a mediocre 16-14. At that point, they were in fourth place and were five games back of the first place Tigers. After that point, they went 93-39 (that’s .705). Talk about a run.
Does anyone know how much Yankees tickets cost back in 1961. I’m always curious.
The 1961 had it’s share of mashers but the pitching staff was just as good. Overall, the Yankees finished second in the AL in ERA (3.46) and were in the top half of just about every pitching category. Whitey Ford was the ace and the Hall of Famer had one of his best seasons that year. He won the Cy Young and he led the league in wins (25) and innings pitched (283) and he had a career high 209 strikeouts.
After that, Ford had a solid supporting cast but no real standouts. Bill Stafford pitched 195 innings and he led the rotation with a solid 2.68 ERA. Ralph Terry went 16-3 over 188 1/3 innings and even Jim Coates, who pitched mostly out of the pen gave the team 141 1/3 quality innings. The Yankees even employed a closer with Luis Arroyo finishing 54 games. He led the league that year with 29 saves and his 15 wins were sixth best in the American League. The next closest AL pitcher in saves was Hoyt Wilhelm with 18.
After 1923, Yankees fans weren’t too used to World Series droughts but that’s what they had to go through in the last 1950s into 1960. The Yankees won in 1958, went to the World Series and lost to the Pirates in 1960 so heading into 1961, they hadn’t won in three years. Not a long drought, but the last time they had a longer drought was leading into the 1947 season when they hadn’t won (or played in) a World Series since 1943.
Roger Maris won the MVP in 1960 and while nobody would see his 61 home run season coming, he hit a respectable 39 home runs and the led the AL in RBIs with 112. Ironically, he finished 1960 with an OPS+ of 161 and in his historic 1961 season, it was only 167. A good season, but it goes to show you how much offense was up that year.
Yogi Berra was near the end of his career and he was used primarily as an outfielder. Even he hit 22 home runs 119 games Mickey Mantle was coming off another outstanding season but he finished second in the MVP voting just behind Maris. Throw in Moose Skowron and Elston Howard and you had some nice mashers on this team.
Next time, we’ll take a look at the pitching heading into the season.
I had grand ambitions for this site and while I finished the 1977 Yankees, that’s about all I was able to accomplish after a few fits and restarts. Still, I’m excited about getting things going and what a better way to kick of the restart of the site with the 1961 Yankees diary.
Talk about a ton of stories. You had the M&M boys and Roger Maris’ eventual 61 home runs. You also had the great pennant race with the Tigers who also won 100 games. I’m hopeful to put together a few bios leading into the season but I don’t want to make any promises.
There were plenty of choices here. Both 1941 and 1951 were World Series teams and 1921, while that ended up in a loss to the Giants, was the Yankees first World Series. For now I’m going to stick with one though because I’ve gotten into trouble about overcomitting in the past.
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