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1961 Deluxe Past Season with transaction and lineups available now!

1961:  Baseball and the New Frontier

by Steve Ehresman

In 1961, America shook off the 1950s and embraced the future with great vigor.  On January 20, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States.  In the freezing cold, Kennedy, hatless and youthful, addressed the nation and the world, proclaiming that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”  In the coming months, Kennedy steered our nation into the future, promising to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.  In May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space-- NASA’s baby steps that would ultimately lead to Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Even in the traditional world of Major League Baseball, change was in the air.  In 1961, the American League expanded from eight to ten teams, adding a franchise in California and creating a new team in Washington, D. C., while relocating the original Senators to Minnesota.  As a result, the Junior Circuit adopted a 162-game schedule, replacing the traditional 154-game schedule.   

As fans know, no sport is more connected to its history than Major League Baseball.  Each generation of players is measured against its predecessors, some of whom had become legends, whose records were regarded as inviolate.

No legend was bigger than Babe Ruth.

No record was more sacrosanct than the Babe’s 60 homers in 1927.

Until 1961 . . .

Not only was the Babe’s record challenged, but it was challenged in the Babe’s own house, Yankee Stadium, by two New York Yankee sluggers.  Mickey Mantle (54 HR, 128 RBI, 126 BB, .317) and MVP Roger Maris (61 HR, 142 RBI) not only tore the cover off the ball, they tore the cover off history, chasing the Babe all summer, until Maris caught him on the final day of the regular season, sending a Tracy Stallard fastball over the right field wall of Yankee Stadium and putting home run 61 into the record books.  Despite Ford Frick’s protestations that Maris needed to break the Babe’s record in 154 games, rather than in 162 games, 61 home runs remains in the books as an example of athletic grace under pressure.

Through the summer, Mantle and Maris’s home run duel established the 1961 Yankees as one of the greatest teams of all-time.  Led not only by the M&M Boys, but also by hard-hitting catcher Elston Howard (21 HR, .348), slugging first sacker Moose Skowron (28 HRI), and left fielder Yogi Berra (22 HR), the Pinstripes compiled an impressive 109-53 record, while scoring 827 runs and slamming 240 homers.  Oh yeah . . .  the Yanks also featured the Cy Young Award winner, Whitey Ford (39 GS, 11 CG, 283 IP, 25-4, 209 K, 3.21).  Supporting Ford were Ralph Terry (31 G, 27 GS, 9 CG, 188 IP, 16-3, 3.16) and closer Luis Arroyo (65 G, 119 IP, 15-5, 29 SV, 2.19).   

Amid all the hubbub in Gotham, did anyone notice that the second-place Detroit Tigers were really good?  Although they fell short to the juggernaut Yanks, the Bengals finished with a 101-61 record and clobbered 180 home runs.  Any other year, those numbers might have been overwhelming.  With sluggers Rocky Colavito (45 HR, 140 RBI, 113 BB), Norm Cash (41 HR, 132 RBI, 124 BB, .361), and Al Kaline (19, 82 RBI, .324) leading the attack, the Tigers plated 841 runs, outscoring the indomitable Bronx Bombers.  On the mound, Frank Lary (36 GS, 22 CG, 275.1 IP, 23-9, 3.24) was a good match for the Yankees’ Whitey Ford.  Jim Bunning (38 G, 37 GS, 12 CG, 268 IP, 17-11, 3.19) and Don Mossi (35 G, 34 GS, 12 CG, 240 IP, 15-7, 2.96) rounded out an excellent pitching staff.  Without a doubt, the 1961 Detroit Tigers were one of the greatest second-place teams in baseball history.       

The entire American League bristled with impressive offensive performances, as Jim Gentile of Baltimore (46 HR, 141 RBI, .302), Harmon Killebrew (46 HR, 122 RBI) and Bob Allison (29 HR, 105 RBI) of Minnesota, Al Smith (28 HRI) and Roy Sievers (27 HRI) of Chicago, Leon Wagner (28 HR) and Ken Hunt (25 HR) of Los Angeles, and Willie Kirkland (27 HRI) and Woodie Held (23 HR) of Cleveland were among the heavy hitters who supplied enough fire-power for the American League launch 1,534 balls into outer space in the summer of 1961.

On the mound, Dick Donovan of the expansion Washington Senators led the American League in earned run average (2.40), and Camilo Pascual of the Minnesota Twins, once the original Washington Senators, paced the Junior Circuit in strikeouts (221 K).   

The National League, despite playing a 154-game schedule, posted numbers as impressive as any in the Junior Circuit.  The pennant-winning Cincinnati Reds, years before the Big Red Machine, featured the hitting prowess of MVP Frank Robinson (37 HR, 124 RBI ,.323), Vada Pinson (16 HR, 87 RBI, .343), and Gordy Coleman (26 HR, 87 RBI) and the strong pitching of Joey Jay (34 GS, 14 CG, 247.1 IP, 21-10, 3.53), Jim O’Toole (39 G, 35 GS, 11 CG, 252.2, 21-10), and Bob Purkey (36 G, 34 GS, 13 CG, 246 IP, 18-12, 3.73) to compile a 93-61 record.         

The Los Angeles Dodgers relied on a superb four-man rotation to claim second place.  Sandy Koufax, emerging as a bona fide star, paced the Dodgers staff (42 G, 35 GS, 15 CG, 255.2 IP, 18-13, 269 K, 3.52).  He was ably supported by Don Drysdale (40 G, 37 GS, 10 CG, 244 IP, 13-10, 3.69), Johnny Podres (32 G, 29 GS, 6 CG, 182.2 IP, 18-5, 3.74), and Stan Williams (41 G, 35 GS, 6 CG, 235.1 IP, 15-12, 3.90).  A star from the 1959 World Champions, Wally Moon led the Bums’ offense with 17 homers, 89 RBI, and a .328 batting average.           

Roberto Clemente of the defending World Series Champion Pittsburg Pirates batted .351, while socking 23 homers and driving in 89 runs.  He was ably supported by slugging first baseman Dick “Doctor Strangeglove” Stuart (35 HR, 117 RBI, .301).  Perennial stars Orlando Cepeda (46 HR, 142 RBI, .311) and Willie Mays (40 HR, 123 RBI, .308) of the San Francisco Giants, and Hank Aaron (34 HR, 120 RBI, .327), Eddie Mathews (32 HR, 91 RBI, .306) and Joe Adcock (35 HR, 108 RBI) of the Milwaukee Braves did their part to help the Senior Circuit crush 1196 home runs.

Few pitchers in the Senior circuit rivaled the excellence of earned run average leader Warren Spahn in 1961 (38 G, 34 GS, 21 CG, 262.2 IP, 21-13, 3.01), as he celebrated his fortieth birthday on April 23 of the 1961 season.  

Establishing their bona fides in the major leagues, two fly-chasers, Carl Yastrzemski (31 2B, 11 HR, 80 RBI) of the Boston Red Sox and National League Rookie of the Year Billy Williams (25 HR, 86 RBI) of the Chicago Cubs held out the promise of future greatness for their fans.        

The 1961 season launched the beginning of a decade many consider a Golden Age.  Although tradition was respected, even celebrated, innovation was embraced.  The National League would catch up to the American League, expanding in 1962 to add the New York Metropolitans and the Houston Colt 45’s.  Before the end of the decade, both franchises would make history—one with a World Series championship, the other with the opening of a multi-purpose domed stadium.   In the final season of the 1960s, baseball would expand again, adding four new teams and instituting divisional play.  The 1961 season marked the beginning of a decade in which baseball reached for the moon, enduring through turbulence and tragedy and creating the game we know today.

As the years pass and the summer of 1961 recedes into memory and—finally-- into the pages of history, take a moment to celebrate those long-ago heroes and to remember an America that looked toward a New Frontier with youthful confidence and innocence that was all too quickly lost.                        


The 1961 Deluxe Past Season database contains everything you need to play games using teams and players from the 1961 season -- a full set of ratings and statistics for every player who appeared in the big leagues that year, plus team rosters, manager profiles, ballpark ratings and league schedules. Statistics include official batting, pitching and fielding totals with left/right splits for all batters and pitchers.

Also included is a complete set of real-life player transactions -- trades, disabled list moves, promotions, demotions, suspensions, and more -- plus the actual starting lineups for every regular season game played.

If you are a registered owner of the 1961 Classic Past Season, you are eligible for upgrade pricing for this item. Send an email to dmb_info@imaginesports.com to request your discount promotion code.

Note: This season database is a companion product for the Diamond Mind Baseball version 11 game. To use this database, you must also have Diamond Mind Baseball version 11. The game software provides you with all of the tools you need to play simulated games, make roster moves, produce dozens of statistical reports, generate league schedules, and more.