Year In Review : 1961 American League

Off the field...

A new American based humanitarian organization called the "Peace Corps" was started at the insistence President John F. Kennedy. The program encouraged young people, most just out of college, to volunteer a year of their time to work as teachers, health care providers or other advisors for poor nations in Africa, Asia and South America.

The United States government pledged to increase its military presence to aid South Vietnam in the fight against the Viet Cong rebels. Although not "officially engaged" in a formal state of war, the new agreement provided increased funding for the Vietnamese army and more U.S. advisors in the field.

An unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of Cuban premier Fidel Castro by United States-backed rebels took place in April. An invasion force consisting of approximately 1,500 Cuban exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, landed at the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the south coast hoping to find support from the local population. Within hours, most were wiped out by Castro's own troops or taken prisoner for ransom. Acting President John F. Kennedy took full responsibility for the disaster, even though the plans had been put in place during the Eisenhower administration.

In the American League...

New York's newly crowned single-season home run champion* Roger Maris beat out Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle by 4 votes for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

On September 15, the New York Yankees also broke the all-time home run record (for a team) with 223 round-trippers. The combined franchise mark had been previously held by the 1947 New York Giants and the 1956 Cincinnati Reds.

Baltimore Orioles slugger Jim Gentile tied Ernie Banks' Major League record for most grand slams in a season after hitting his 5th off of the Chicago White Sox' Don Larsen.

In the National League...

On September 15, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax set down 10 Milwaukee Braves bringing his season total to 243 — a National League record for left-handed pitchers. The New York Giants' Rube Marquard had held the National League lefty record previously after fanning 237 in 1911.

The San Francisco Giants set a new precedent for Major League salaries after signing Willie Mays to an $85,000 contract — the highest in their history and the most paid to any player in 1961.

The National League's newest franchise was officially christened as the "Mets" after New York fans were asked to vote on a list of finalists submitted by mail. Other names selected for the ballot included the "Burros", "Skyliners", "Rebels" and "Skyscrapers".

Around the League...

Political tensions between the United States and Cuba initially prevented all Cuban players, including Minnie Minoso of the Chicago White Sox and Camilo Pascual and Pedro Ramos of the Minnesota Twins, from returning to the U.S. for the 1961 season. After several negotiations, a high-ranking foreign ministry official finally permitted their unconditional return.

"The M&M Boys" (Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) became THE single most important story in the 1961 season as both New York Yankee teammates raced to beat Babe Ruth's single-season homerun record of sixty. After going head-to-head for several months, Mantle fell out of the race due to a serious hip infection that required hospitalization. Maris pressed on and finally topped "The Bambino" during the final game of the season with number 61* off Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox. Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Maris' record would be recorded with an asterisk in the books, making it a separate and distinctive record due to the new one-hundred sixty-two game schedule. Years later, acting Commissioner Fay Vincent reversed the ruling, "removing the asterisk" and recognizing Maris as an official record-breaker.

In response to the rash of home runs around the league, both American League President Joe Cronin and National League President Warren Giles agreed to order tests to determine if the "1961 baseball" was "livelier" than those of past seasons. The investigation conducted by technologists at Foster D. Snell Inc. concluded that the ball was slightly larger and several ounces lighter than the one used by Babe Ruth in the 1920's.

After 9 innings, the season's second All-Star Game was called at a 1-1 tie due to heavy rain at Boston's Fenway Park.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"I really believe that the sixty-one homers was the greatest feat in baseball history." - Mickey Mantle

1961 American League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
NewYork
126
Batting Average
Detroit
.361
Doubles
Detroit
41
Hits
Detroit
193
Home Runs
NewYork
61
On Base Percentage
Detroit
.488
RBI
Baltimore
141
NewYork
Runs
NewYork
132
Slugging Average
NewYork
.687
Stolen Bases
Chicago
53
Total Bases
NewYork
366
Triples
Detroit
14

1961 American League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
Detroit
22
ERA
Washington
2.40
Games
New York
65
Saves
New York
29
Shutouts
Baltimore
8
Minnesota
Strikeouts
Minnesota
221
Winning Percentage
New York
.862
Wins
New York
25

1961 American League

Team Standings

New York Yankees 109 53 .673 0
Detroit Tigers 101 61 .623 8
Baltimore Orioles 95 67 .586 14
Chicago White Sox 86 76 .531 23
Cleveland Indians 78 83 .484 30½
Boston Red Sox 76 86 .469 33
Minnesota Twins 70 90 .438 38
Los Angeles Angels 70 91 .435 39
Washington Senators 61 100 .379 47½
Kansas City Athletics 61 100 .379 47½

1961 American League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
Los Angeles
681
Batting Average
Detroit
.266
Doubles
Cleveland
257
Hits
Cleveland
1,493
Home Runs
New York
240
On Base Percentage
Detroit
.349
Runs
Detroit
841
Slugging Average
New York
.442
Stolen Bases
Chicago
100
Triples
Detroit
53

1961 American League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
Detroit
62
ERA
Baltimore
3.22
Fewest Hits Allowed
Baltimore
1,226
Fewest Home Runs Allowed
Baltimore
109
Fewest Walks Allowed
Detroit
469
Saves
New York
39
Shutouts
Baltimore
21
Strikeouts
Los Angeles
973
baseball almanac flat baseball

baseball almanac fast facts

Did you know that sixty-first home run ball hit by Roger Maris on October 1st in Yankee Stadium landed in Box 163D, Section 33? The historic ball was retrieved by Sal Durante who won a trip to Sacramento, a trip to Seattle World's Fair, and received $5,000 for the ball.

Norm Cash of the Detroit Tigers led the American League with nineteen intentional bases on balls. Johnny Blanchard , Mickey Mantle , and Bill Skowron led the New York Yankees with nine each. Roger Maris , who batted after Mantle, led the league in runs scored, runs batted in, home runs, and total bases yet he did not receive a single intentional pass during 1961.

On July 17, 1961, former Tiger superstar Ty Cobb died in Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Mickey Cochrane , Nap Rucker , and Ray Schalk were the only former Major League players to attend his funeral.

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