Shutting ’em Out in Game 7: Apex

Zoilo Versalles

Zoilo Versalles

 

The 1965 Minnesota Twins were on the verge of winning the first World Series in Minnesota history. The team, which just a few years ago were the Washington Senators, had never taken an American League pennant since moving to Minneapolis. The last time the team tasted postseason was 1933, when they’d lost to the Giants. The only time they’d ever won it all was 1924. So for the team this was new territory. They were home to play game seven against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Standing in their way was Sandy Koufax.

The Twins lineup for 14 October had Don Mincher at first, Frank Quilici at second, MVP Zoilo Versalles at short, and Hall of Fame third baseman Harmon Killebrew. The outfield was Cuban refugee Tony Oliva in right, Joe Nossek in center, and Bobby Allison in left. Earl Battey was catching 18 game winner Jim Kaat. Al Worthington and Jim Perry (Gaylord’s brother) were available in the bullpen. Killebrew, Mincher, and Allison all contributed 20 or more homers to the team with Versalles slugging 19. Oliva was two-time batting champion and led the AL in hits. Despite a couple of exceptions (Quilici and Nossek both hit less than .220) it was a reasonably formidable lineup.

And it had to face the most formidable pitcher in 1965 baseball. Koufax was 26-8 with a National League leading ERA, eight shutouts, and a record-setting 382 strikeouts. He was also coming off a perfect game in September. Unfortunately for the Dodgers he was also pitching on two day’s rest, rather than his normal rest. He had around him a team that was dead last in the NL in home runs. They were also in the bottom half of the league in average, slugging, OBP, OPS, doubles, triples, and hits. They did lead the NL in stolen bases and didn’t strike out a lot. The lineup for game seven saw Wes Parker at first, Dick Tracewski at second, Maury Wills at short, with utility man Jim Gilliam at third. If you’ve been following this series of posts, you’ll remember Gilliam was critical in game seven of 1955. The outfield was Lou Johnson, Willie Davis, and Ron Fairly from left around to right, and John Roseboro did the catching.

The Dodgers put a man on in the first, but failed to score. In the bottom of the first, Koufax got out of the inning by striking out two after having walked two. In the second he struck out two more, then gave up his first hit in the third, a single to Versalles. Then he struck out two more to end any threat. In the top of the fourth, Lou Johnson led off with a home run. Fairly followed with a double, then came home on a Parker single. That took Kaat out of the game and brought in Worthington who got out of the inning without further damage.

The score was still 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, when Quilici doubled (Koufax’s second hit allowed), and pinch hitter Rich Rollins walked.  A pair of grounders got him out of it. The Dodgers had a couple more scoring chances but failed to touch home. Koufax pitched well into the bottom of the ninth. Oliva led off the inning with a groundout, then Killebrew singled. Koufax proceeded to strike out both Battey and Allison to end the game and the Series. On two days rest, Koufax had pitched a three hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. He’d also allowed three walks, but only one after the first inning. He was named World Series MVP (for the second time–1963).

For both teams the 1965 World Series was an apex. The Twins managed to win a couple of more division titles after divisional play began in 1969 but didn’t get back to the World Series until 1987. They won that one and the one in 1991. In both cases they won all four home games and lost all three road games. For their history the Twins are 0-9 on the road and 11-1 at home. Game seven of 1965 is the only home loss by a Twins World Series team.

For the Dodgers it was also an ending. They won a pennant in 1966, but lost the Series to Baltimore. They won a couple of more pennants later, but didn’t notch another World Series championship until 1981. They’ve won once since (1988).

It was also the apex for Koufax. Over the years the 1965 Series has become his defining moment, and game seven his defining game. Other games, like his perfecto or his 15 strikeouts in game one of the 1963 World Series, are somewhat well-known, but it is the seventh game of 1965, along with his Yom Kippur stand (also in the 1965 World Series) that have become his trademark moments. He had one more great year in 1966 then retired. He made the Hall of Fame on his first try.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Shutting ’em Out in Game 7: Apex”

  1. wkkortas Says:

    One of my favorite baseball stories, courtesy of James’ Historical Abstract concerns Versalles during one of his first Spring Trainings with the Senators. He told Cookie Lavagetto, his manager at the time, that he had to leave camp briefly so he could redeem a set of clothers he’s pawned. What he didn’t make crystal clear was that the pawn shop was in Havana.

  2. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Is Koufax your favorite player of all-time, V? I know that you’re a Dodger fan from back before they left Brooklyn, and you have Koufax on your “gravatar” or whatever they call it.

    I guess he would’ve been mine, too. I missed him by a few years. Never got to see the greatest Jewish pitcher in history, let alone arguably the greatest pitcher in history pitch. Being that I’m Jewish, that would have been a big deal to me. I was only six years old when he pitched his last game.

    A very appropriate post, too, being that Yom Kippur starts at sundown, too.

    Speaking of Jim Kaat, I can’t figure out why he’s not in the Hall of Fame yet.

    Glen

    • verdun2 Says:

      First I held the post for today just to do it on Yom Kippur. Thanks for noticing.
      When I grew up I was first a Jackie Robinson fan, then with his retirement I gravitated to Duke Snider. As he fell of the charts, I moved to Koufax. That got me to adulthood and beyond the hero stage of being a fan. I guess if I had to pick one, Snider would be my choice as my all-time favorite (as my granddad would have chosen Stan Musial but would have gone on and on about Dean and Hornsby, etc). As for the gravatar, I thought it was a better picture than any of the Snider shots I considered.
      v

  3. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    If you haven’t already, V, you ought to do write a post on how you were in Cardinals and Browns territory, but chose the Brooklyn Dodgers as your favorite team. I, for one, would be interested in knowing, and it would make an interesting story. I could have sworn that you already did that some time in the last two years since I started reading your blog, but I’m not sure.

    If you already wrote about that, could you tell me which date it was on? I think it’s an interesting subject.

    Also, did you and your granddad have any qualms about you being a Brooklyn Dodger fan, when he was a big Cardinals fan? I can just imagine the converstations that my father and his dad got into in the Bronx about the Dodgers and the Yankees. My grandfather grew up in Brownsville, so naturally he was a big Dodger fan. When my Grandpa got married to Grandma, who was from East Harlem (Giants territory, I bet, but probably also Yankee territory), they settled in the Bronx, just a mile or so west of Yankee Stadium. Well, peer pressure from neighborhood friends naturally dictated that my father would be a Yankee fan, not to mention the fact that rooting for the Yankees was so darn easy!!! So my father was a Yankee fan, my grandfather was a BIG Dodger fan, and as for Grandma, I doubt she cared less about EITHER of the teams! (I doubt she was even a Giants fan, either.) I wish I could have heard the conversations that my Bronx-reared father had with his Brooklyn-reared father! And being that my father told me that just about the only thing that Grandpa really talked to him about was baseball, they must have had some doozies, as my grandfather, until the day that he died, hated the Yankees more than he hated ANYTHING!!!

    So I’m just wondering about this in your family, as far as you breaking off from tradition and being a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Also, did any of your relatives or friends growing up root for the Browns?

    Unlike you, my grandfather dropped the Dodgers like they were poison when they moved to Los Angeles, and that’s to be expected, being that he was loyal to his native Brooklyn.

    My grandfather did nothing but hate the Yankees and love my grandmother for the five years before the Mets came along, and he rooted against the Dodgers, but I’m sure not nearly as hard as he rooted against the Yankees.

    Glen

  4. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Also, were you able to listen or watch the Dodgers often? Were you able to get WHN or WMGM (actually, WHN and WHN were the same station; they just changed the call letters to WMGM at some point, and years later, changed them back to WHN), or WOR or whatever New York City station was carrying the Dodger games at the time? If so, it probably would have been at night. That’s when there was the “skip” and you could receive radio stations from all over the place. I used to “DX when I was a kid; I don’t know what the initials “DX” stand for, but what it means is having the hobby of listening to far-away radio stations that are way out of normal range.

    Incidentally, back in my DXing days as a kid, I once or twice got WKY in Oklahoma City! That was very far! I also got WBAP (which carried the Texas Rangers) fairly easily, as well as WOAI in San Antonio, which carried the Spurs going back to their ABA days.

    The farthest station I ever got was KSL in Salt Lake City.

    Glen

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