Year In Review : 1961 National League

O

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 Bahía 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.

I n 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.

I n 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".

A round 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.

"When I'm not hitting, I don't hit nobody. But, when I'm hitting, I hit anybody." - Willie Mays
1961 National League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

Milwaukee

93

Batting Average

Pittsburgh

.351

Doubles

Milwaukee

39

Hits

Cincinnati

208

Home Runs

San Francisco

46

On Base Percentage

Los Angeles

.438

RBI

San Francisco

142

Runs

San Francisco

129

Slugging Average

Cincinnati

.611

Stolen Bases

Los Angeles

35

Total Bases

Milwaukee

358

Triples

Chicago

12

1961 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Milwaukee

21

ERA

Milwaukee

3.02

Games

Philadelphia

65

Saves

Pittsburgh

17

San Francisco

Shutouts

Cincinnati

4

Milwaukee

Strikeouts

Los Angeles

269

Winning Percentage

Los Angeles

.783

Wins

Cincinnati

25

Milwaukee

1961 National League

Team Standings

Cincinnati Reds

93 61 .604 0

Los Angeles Dodgers

89 65 .578 4

San Francisco Giants

85 69 .552 8

Milwaukee Braves

83 71 .539 10

St. Louis Cardinals

80 74 .519 13

Pittsburgh Pirates

75 79 .487 18

Chicago Cubs

64 90 .416 29

Philadelphia Phillies

47 107 .305 46

1961 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

Los Angeles

596

Batting Average

Pittsburgh

.273

Doubles

Cincinnati

247

Hits

Pittsburgh

1,448

Home Runs

Milwaukee

188

On Base Percentage

Los Angeles

.340

Runs

San Francisco

773

Slugging Average

San Francisco

.423

Stolen Bases

Los Angeles

86

Triples

Pittsburgh

57

1961 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Milwaukee

57

ERA

St. Louis

3.74

Fewest Hits Allowed

Cincinnati

1,300

Fewest Home Runs Allowed

Pittsburgh

121

Fewest Walks Allowed

Pittsburgh

400

Saves

Cincinnati

40

Shutouts

Cincinnati

12

Strikeouts

Los Angeles

1,105



On April 28, 1961, Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves threw a 1-0 no-hitter versus the San Francisco Giants. Did you know that Spahn had turned forty on the April 23, 1961, making him the second oldest pitcher in Major League history to toss a gem?

On April 30, 1961 , Joey Amalfitano's baseball bat joined a truly elite club when it was literally borrowed by Willie Mays who proceeded to slam four home runs during one game with his teammate's bat.

On June 10, 1961, Sandy "The Scatter Arm" Koufax reportedly got his control this season and the New York Times even published an article that stated he "has zeroed in on home plate." Koufax continued to respond throughout the season and appeared in his first All-Star Game, lead the league in strikeouts, and began a reign of dominance that lasted until his retirment in 1966.

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