The 1961 Major League Baseball season was played from April 10 to October 12, 1961. That season saw the New York Yankees defeat the Cincinnati Reds in five games in the World Series. The season is best known for Yankee teammates Roger Maris' and Mickey Mantle's pursuit of Babe Ruth's prestigious 34-year-old single-season home run record of 60. Maris ultimately broke the record when he hit his 61st home run on the final day of the regular season, while Mantle was forced out of the lineup in late-September due to a hip infection and finished with 54 home runs.
In response to the proposed Continental League, the American League expanded by two teams in the first MLB expansion since 1901. The original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins. The American League therefore placed a new team in Washington, also called the Senators. Also, the American League placed a team in Los Angeles called the Los Angeles Angels.
In order to keep its schedule balanced, the American League season was extended by eight games. Previously, teams had played 154 games (22 games per opponent), but from 1961 AL teams would play opponents 18 times each for a total of 162 games. The National League played a 154 game schedule for the final time in 1961 before switching to 162 games when they also expanded to ten teams for the following season.
|1961 MLB season|
|League||Major League Baseball|
|Duration||April 10 – October 12, 1961|
|Season MVP||AL: Roger Maris (NY)|
NL: Frank Robinson (CIN)
|AL champions||New York Yankees|
|AL runners-up||Detroit Tigers|
|NL champions||Cincinnati Reds|
|NL runners-up||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Champions||New York Yankees|
|Finals MVP||Whitey Ford (NY)|
AL: Whitey Ford
NL: Warren Spahn
WP: Stu Miller (1–0) LP: Hoyt Wilhelm (0–1)
AL: Harmon Killebrew (1)
NL: George Altman (1)
NL: Bob Purkey
AL: Jim Bunning
WP: None LP: None
AL: Rocky Colavito (1)
|Baltimore Orioles||Paul Richards||Replaced during the season by Lum Harris|
|Boston Red Sox||Pinky Higgins|
|Chicago White Sox||Al López|
|Cleveland Indians||Jimmy Dykes||Replaced during the season by Mel Harder|
|Detroit Tigers||Bob Scheffing|
|Kansas City Athletics||Joe Gordon||Replaced during the season by Hank Bauer|
|Los Angeles Angels||Bill Rigney||Expansion team|
|Minnesota Twins||Cookie Lavagetto||Replaced during the season by Sam Mele|
|New York Yankees||Ralph Houk||Won the World Series|
|Washington Senators||Mickey Vernon||Expansion team|
|Chicago Cubs||College of Coaches|
|Cincinnati Reds||Fred Hutchinson||Won the National League pennant|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Walter Alston|
|Milwaukee Braves||Chuck Dressen||Replaced during the season by Birdie Tebbetts|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Gene Mauch|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Danny Murtaugh|
|San Francisco Giants||Alvin Dark|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Solly Hemus||Replaced during the season by Johnny Keane|
The 1961 Baltimore Orioles season involved the Orioles finishing 3rd in the American League with a record of 95 wins and 67 losses, 14 games behind the AL and World Series champion New York Yankees. The team was managed by Paul Richards and Lum Harris, and played their home games at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.1961 Boston Red Sox season
The 1961 Boston Red Sox season was the 61st season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished sixth in the American League (AL) with a record of 76 wins and 86 losses, 33 games behind the AL and World Series champion New York Yankees.1961 Chicago Cubs season
The 1961 Chicago Cubs season was the 90th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 86th in the National League and the 46th at Wrigley Field. In the first season under their College of Coaches, the Cubs finished seventh in the National League with a record of 64–90, 29 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.1961 Chicago White Sox season
The 1961 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 61st season in the major leagues, and its 62nd season overall. They finished with a record 86–76, good enough for fourth place in the American League, 23 games behind the first-place New York Yankees. Their pitching staff surrendered 13 of Roger Maris's 61 home runs that year, the most of any team.1961 Cleveland Indians season
The 1961 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fifth in the newly expanded 10-team American League with a record of 78–83, 30½ games behind the New York Yankees. Although the 1961 season ended up being a disappointment, the Indians had a brief flurry of pennant fever early in the 1961 season. After starting 12-13, the Indians started to streak, going 22-4 over their next 26 games to reach a record of 34-17 (were 38-20 after 58 games). However the Indians cooled off afterwards and were quickly knocked out of first place, as they went 44-66 the rest of the year. For the 2nd year in a row, the Indians had held first place in June, only to slump to a losing record. This would happen again in 1962 as well (47-34 start in early July).1961 Kansas City Athletics season
The 1961 Kansas City Athletics season was a season in American baseball. In their seventh season in Kansas City, the 61st overall for the franchise, the A's finished with a record of 61–100, tying the expansion Washington Senators for ninth place, last in the newly expanded 10-team American League, 47½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees.1961 Los Angeles Angels season
The 1961 Los Angeles Angels season ended with the Angels finishing 8th in the American League with a record of 70–91, 38½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees. It was the Angels' first season in franchise history, and their only season at Wrigley Field. Gene Autry owned the franchise, which was created as a rival to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played that year at the Coliseum before moving to nearby Dodger Stadium in 1962.1961 Los Angeles Dodgers season
The 1961 Los Angeles Dodgers finished in second place in the National League with a record of 89–65, four games behind the Cincinnati Reds. 1961 was the fourth season for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. It was also the Dodgers final season of playing their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, since they moved to their new stadium the following season.1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (first game)
The first 1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Candlestick Park in San Francisco on July 11, 1961. The National League scored two runs in the bottom of the tenth inning to win 5–4. Stu Miller was the winning pitcher and Hoyt Wilhelm was charged with the loss.1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (second game)
The second 1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Fenway Park in Boston on July 31, 1961. It was the first MLB All-Star Game to end in a tie. The game in 2002 also ended in a tie.Rocky Colavito's one-out home run in the bottom of the first off National League starter Bob Purkey gave the American League a 1–0 lead, but Purkey only allowed two walks in the second before Art Mahaffey pitched a scoreless third and fourth, allowing only a leadoff walk to Mickey Mantle in the fourth. The Americans only got three more hits versus Sandy Koufax and Stu Miller.
American starter Jim Bunning pitched three perfect innings, but Don Schwall allowed a bases-loaded single to Bill White that tied the game in the sixth. All five hits the Nationals got were charged to Schwall. Camilo Pascual pitched three shutout innings before the game was called due to rain after nine innings with the score 1–1.1961 Major League Baseball expansion
The 1961 Major League Baseball expansion resulted in the formation of two new Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises in the American League (AL). A new club was started in Washington, D.C. and took the existing name of the Senators, as the previous team of the same name moved to Minneapolis–St. Paul for the start of the 1961 season and became the Minnesota Twins. The second new franchise was granted to an ownership group led by Gene Autry for a team in Los Angeles who named themselves the Angels. The two new teams each paid a fee of $2.1 million and became the 17th and 18th franchises in MLB.
The expansion was part of an initiative in response to the perceived threat of a proposed third major league, the Continental League. In 1962, the National League (NL) also added two new teams, the Houston Colt .45s (later named the Astros) and the New York Mets.1961 Major League Baseball expansion draft
The 1961 MLB Expansion Draft was held by Major League Baseball on October 10, 1961, to fill the rosters of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s. The Mets and the Colt .45s (later renamed the Astros) were the new franchises which would enter the league in the 1962 season. The pool of players out of which they could select was limited to the existing National League ballclubs.Due to the poor performance of the Mets and Colt .45s after two seasons, another draft was held for the teams. The other existing National League clubs made four players from their 40-man roster available at $30,000 apiece. Only eight players could be selected between the two clubs.1961 Milwaukee Braves season
The 1961 Milwaukee Braves season was the ninth in Milwaukee and the 91st overall season of the franchise.
The fourth-place Braves finished the season with a 83–71 (.539) record, ten games behind the National League champion Cincinnati Reds. The home attendance at County Stadium was 1,101,411, fifth in the eight-team National League. It was the Braves' lowest attendance to date in Milwaukee, and was the last season over one million.1961 Minnesota Twins season
In 1961 the Twins finished the season with a record of 70–90, good for seventh in the American League, which had expanded from 8 to 10 teams during the 1960–61 offseason. It was the franchise's first season in Minnesota after 60 seasons in Washington, D.C. The Twins played their home games at Metropolitan Stadium.1961 Pittsburgh Pirates season
The 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates fell from World Champions the previous season to sixth place in the National League, as they won 75 games and lost 79, 18 games behind NL Champion Cincinnati.1961 San Francisco Giants season
The 1961 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 79th year in Major League Baseball, their 4th year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their second at Candlestick Park. The team finished in third place in the National League with an 85-69 record, eight games behind the NL Champion Cincinnati Reds. The Giants were managed by Alvin Dark.1961 St. Louis Cardinals season
The 1961 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 80th season in St. Louis, Missouri and its 70th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 80–74 during the season and finished fifth in the National League. It was the last season before the NL went to a 162-game schedule the following season to adjust for the new ten-team league.1961 Washington Senators season
The 1961 Washington Senators season was the team's inaugural season, having been established as a replacement for the previous franchise of the same name, which relocated to the Twin Cities of Minnesota following the 1960 season, becoming the Minnesota Twins. The Senators finished in a tie for ninth place in the ten-team American League with a record of 61–100, 47½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees. It was also the team's only season at Griffith Stadium before moving its games to D.C. Stadium for the following season. The expansion team drew 597,287 fans, tenth and last in the circuit. The old Senators had drawn 743,404 fans in 1960.1961 World Series
The 1961 World Series matched the New York Yankees (109–53) against the Cincinnati Reds (93–61), with the Yankees winning in five games to earn their 19th championship in 39 seasons. This World Series was surrounded by Cold War political puns pitting the "Reds" against the "Yanks." But the louder buzz concerned the "M&M" boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who spent the summer chasing the ghost of Babe Ruth and his 60–home run season of 1927. Mantle finished with 54 while Maris set the record of 61 on the last day of the season. With all the attention surrounding the home run race, the World Series seemed almost anticlimatic.
The Yankees were under the leadership of first-year manager Ralph Houk, who succeeded Casey Stengel. The Yankees won the American League pennant, finishing eight games better than the Detroit Tigers. The Bronx Bombers also set a Major League record for most home runs in a season with 240. Along with Maris and Mantle, four other Yankees, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, and Johnny Blanchard, hit more than 20 home runs. The pitching staff was also led by Cy Young Award-winner Whitey Ford (25–4, 3.21).
The underdog Reds, skippered by Fred Hutchinson, finished four games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and boasted four 20-plus home run hitters of their own: NL MVP Frank Robinson, Gordy Coleman, Gene Freese and Wally Post. The second-base, shortstop, and catcher positions were platooned, while center fielder Vada Pinson led the league in hits with 208 and finished second in batting with a .343 average. Joey Jay (21–10, 3.53) led the staff, along with dependable Jim O'Toole and Bob Purkey.
The American League added two teams, the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators, through expansion and also increased teams' respective schedules by eight games to 162. The National League was a year away from its own expansion as the Reds and the other NL teams maintained the 154-game schedule.
The Most Valuable Player Award for the series went to lefty Whitey Ford, who won two games while throwing 14 shutout innings.
Ford left the sixth inning of Game 4 due to an injured ankle. He set the record for consecutive scoreless innings during World Series play with 32, when, during the third inning he passed the previous record holder, Babe Ruth, who had pitched 29 2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox in 1916 and 1918. Ford would extend that record to 33 2⁄3 in the 1962 World Series.
The 1961 five-game series was the shortest since 1954, when the New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in four games.
These two teams would meet again 15 years later in the 1976 World Series, which the Reds would win in a four-game sweep.
1961 MLB season by team