Zoilo Versalles

Zoilo Casanova Versalles Rodriguez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsoilo βeɾˈsaʝes];[1] December 18, 1939 – June 9, 1995), nicknamed "Zorro", was a Cuban professional baseball player. He played as a shortstop in Major League Baseball, most notably for the Minnesota Twins. He was the catalyst who led the 1965 Twins to their first World Series after moving from Washington to Minnesota. The same year he also won the American League Most Valuable Player award.

Zoilo Versalles
Zoilo Versalles 1963
Versalles in 1963.
Born: December 18, 1939
Vedado, Cuba
Died: June 9, 1995 (aged 55)
Bloomington, Minnesota
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 1, 1959, for the Washington Senators
Last MLB appearance
September 28, 1971, for the Atlanta Braves
MLB statistics
Batting average.242
Home runs95
Runs batted in471
Career highlights and awards

Early career

Versalles was born in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Cuba and he had difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S., due largely to the language barrier and his fear of failure,[2] leaving him eternally homesick for his native Cuba. Versalles was signed as an amateur free agent by the Washington Senators prior to the 1958 season and was assigned to the Elmira Pioneers in the Class D New York–Penn League where he held his own and hit .292 in 124 games. The following spring, he went north with the Senators and made his major league debut on 1 August 1959. However, he was obviously overmatched and after hitting .153 with 15 strikeouts in 59 at-bats, Versalles was sent back down and spent the rest of the season with the Fox Cities Foxes in the Class B Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League, hitting .278 with 9 home runs. In 1960 Versalles split time between Washington and AAA Charleston trying to grow as a player and work through a stereotype that he was too sure of himself and was thus incapable of taking instruction.[3] Although he hit .278 at Charleston with 8 home runs, 50 RBI and 24 stolen bases, he committed 42 errors and had only a .940 fielding percentage.

Minnesota Twins

In 1961, the year the Senators moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota to become the Minnesota Twins, Versalles came to the majors to stay. Although his glove continued to be average at best, Versalles hit well enough to stay in the lineup, finishing the season with a .280 average, 7 home runs, 53 RBI and 16 stolen bases.[4] Versalles' 1961 Topps card (#21) actually listed his first name as ″Zorro″, a nickname frequently used early in his career by media, fans and even club officials. The following season, Versalles played in 160 games and despite his batting average dropping to .240, he hit 17 home runs (third most for American League shortstops behind Detroit Tiger Chico Fernandez and New York Yankee Tom Tresh who both hit 20) and 67 RBI. Versalles led the league in assists with 501 and lowered his errors from 30 to 26, and got a smattering of MVP votes (finishing 21st). In 1963, Versalles raised his batting average to .261 and led the league in triples (13) and was voted to his first All-Star team. Starting in the July 9 game, Versalles singled and was hit by a pitch in two plate appearances before being lifted for Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio.[5] Although Versalles received his first Gold Glove award in 1963, he was still erratic in the field as his five errors in a July 5 double header against the Baltimore Orioles[6][7] and season total of 30 errors attests. In 1964, Versalles had another solid season, hitting .259 with 20 home runs (second for AL shortstops behind Detroit's Dick McAuliffe), 64 RBI, and 14 stolen bases and again led the league in triples with 10.

Under the tutelage of Twins' third base coach Billy Martin,[2] Versalles put it all together during his 1965 MVP season and led the American League in plate appearances (728), at-bats (666), runs scored (126), doubles (45), triples (12), extra-base hits (76) and total bases (308), and was second in assists (487) and third in stolen bases (27). He was a near-unanimous winner of the MVP award, receiving 19 of 20 first-place votes. The remaining first-place vote went to teammate and fellow Cuban Tony Oliva. He also led the league and set career highs in both strikeouts (122) and errors (39), which underlined his career-long struggles both at the plate and in the field in these areas. Versalles was named to his second All-Star team for the July 13 game (played in his home park, Bloomington, Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium) along with five fellow Twins (first baseman Harmon Killebrew, catcher Earl Battey, pitcher Mudcat Grant and outfielders Jimmie Hall and Tony Oliva), but went hitless with a walk in two plate appearances after subbing for starter Dick McAuliffe in the sixth inning.[8] Before the World Series began, Versalles was pictured on the cover of the October 4 issue of Sports Illustrated and was featured in the article which discussed the Twins' chances against possible National League opponents.[2] In the Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Versalles started all seven games, hit .286 with his only home run and all four RBI coming in the lopsided Game 1 win,[9] but it was not enough as the Twins lost to the Dodgers four games to three.[10]

Following his MVP and World Series runner-up season, the team gave Versalles a raise to $40,000 annually.[11] His performance almost immediately declined, as he hit only .249 in 137 games with an across-the-board drop in his offensive production. Despite this, he continued to have memorable moments such as on June 9, in the seventh inning of a game against the Kansas City Athletics. Versalles was one of five Twins players to hit home runs (along with Killebrew, Don Mincher, Oliva and Rich Rollins). These five home runs still stand as a major league record for the most home runs in a single inning.[12] In July, he was treated for a hematoma in his back which put him on the disabled list for a short time, cost him playing time the following season, and led to a lifelong condition.

Decline and retirement

Following his continuing struggles at the plate, which only accented his inconsistent glove (leading the American League in errors 1965–1967), the Twins finally parted ways on November 27, 1967 when he was traded to the Dodgers along with starting pitcher Mudcat Grant for relievers Bob Miller and Ron Perranoski and veteran catcher Johnny Roseboro. After one season with the Dodgers, in which he finished fourth in league in errors and hit only .196, he was exposed to the 1968 Major League Baseball expansion draft and was the 10th selection of the San Diego Padres. He never suited up for the expansion Padres as he was sent to the Cleveland Indians on December 2 to complete an October 29 trade that sent first baseman Bill Davis to San Diego.

Improving slightly over his previous year at the plate, Versalles was hitting .226 in 72 games when on July 26, 1969, he was purchased by the new Washington Senators. With this trade, Versalles became one of only nine players to don the uniforms of both the original and expansion Senators teams, with the others being Don Mincher, Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Johnny Schaive, Roy Sievers, Hal Woodeshick, Rudy Hernández, and Héctor Maestri. Although he hit .267 in limited action with the Senators and was invited back for spring training in 1970, he was released on April 6.[4] Following a year playing in the Mexican League for Gómez Palacio, he was purchased by the Atlanta Braves on May 31, 1972 and he finished his major league career hitting .191 in 66 games. After being released by the Braves in December, he played in Japan in 1972 for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

For his career, Versalles had a batting average of .242 (.252 during his six years with the Twins) with 1,046 hits, 564 runs, 86 homers, 401 RBI, and 84 stolen bases in 1,065 games. During his five-year peak (1961–1965), Versalles led all AL shortstops with 73 home runs.

Baseball statistician/historian Bill James points out that Versalles' MVP season makes him the player with the fewest career win shares (134) to win an MVP award.[13] While it may be true that Versalles could be considered a one-year MVP flash in the pan, he led the league in multiple offensive categories and was a near-unanimous selection. He also led the league in VORP (52.4), a stat that more accurately measures a player's overall production, and WAR (7.6), which includes a player's defensive value with his offensive production. At the time, most of the talk was not about whether or not he was deserving of the MVP,[2] but whether teammate Tony Oliva should actually have been the winner. Oliva's .321 batting average and 98 RBI were much higher, his strikeouts were less than half, and his home run and stolen base totals nearly equaled Versalles. Versalles went down in history as the first Latin American player to be named most valuable player[14] and he is one of only five Twins to win the MVP (along with teammate Killebrew, Rod Carew, and more recent Twins Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau) and one of only three Twins to top the league in WAR (along with Carew and Mauer).

After baseball

Versalles returned to the Minneapolis area following his year in Japan, but found it virtually impossible to make a living, partly because he had never learned English and partly because of the lingering effects of a back injury he had suffered while running out a ground ball with the Dodgers in 1968. Holding a series of menial jobs, he lost his house to foreclosure and was eventually forced to sell his MVP trophy, his All-Star rings and his Gold Gloves. In addition to his back problems he suffered two heart attacks, underwent stomach surgery and was sustained solely by disability and Social Security payments.

He was found dead in his home in Bloomington, Minnesota on June 11, 1995. An autopsy revealed that Versalles died from arteriosclerotic heart disease or hardening of the arteries. Versalles was survived by his wife Maria, six daughters and several grandchildren.[14]

Versalles was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2006.[15]

See also


  1. ^ baseball-reference.com – Zoilo Versalles
  2. ^ a b c d Reader
  3. ^ Zoilo Versalles Minor League Statistics & History Baseball-Reference.com
  4. ^ a b Zoilo Versalles Statistics and History Baseball-Reference.com
  5. ^ July 9, 1963 All-Star Game Play-By-Play and Box Score Baseball-Reference.com
  6. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196307051.shtml
  7. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196307052.shtml
  8. ^ July 13, 1965 All-Star Game Play-By-Play and Box Score Baseball-Reference.com
  9. ^ October 6, 1965 World Series Game 1, Dodgers at Twins Baseball-Reference.com
  10. ^ 1965 World Series – Los Angeles Dodgers over Minnesota Twins (4-3) Baseball-Reference.com
  11. ^ Zoilo Versalles, 55, Shortstop Who Was Mr. Baseball in 1965 – Page 2 – New York Times
  12. ^ Retrosheet – Box score: Minnesota Twins 9, Kansas City Athletics 4. Game Played on Thursday, June 9, 1966 (N) at Metropolitan Stadium
  13. ^ James, Bill (2003-04-06). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. pp. 631–632. ISBN 0743227220.
  14. ^ a b Zoilo Versalles, 55, Shortstop Who Was Mr. Baseball in 1965 New York Times
  15. ^ Zoilo Versalles: The Forgotten MVP | Bleacher Report

External links

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.

1962 Minnesota Twins season

The 1962 Minnesota Twins improved to 91–71, finishing second in the American League, five games short of the World Champion New York Yankees. 1,433,116 fans attended Twins games, the second highest total in the American League.

1963 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1963 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 34th playing of the midsummer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 9, 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, home of the American League's Cleveland Indians. The game was won by the National League 5–3.

From 1959 to 1962, baseball experimented with a pair of All-Star Games per year. That ended with this 1963 game, which also marked the 30th anniversary of the inaugural All-Star Game played in Chicago in 1933.

1963 Minnesota Twins season

The 1963 Minnesota Twins finished 91–70, third in the American League. 1,406,652 fans attended Twins games, the highest total in the American League.

1964 Minnesota Twins season

After winning 91 games the previous two seasons, the 1964 Minnesota Twins slumped to 79–83, a disappointing tie for sixth with the Cleveland Indians in the American League, 20 games behind the AL champion New York Yankees.

1965 Major League Baseball season

In the 1965 Major League Baseball season which was contested from April 12 to October 14, 1965, the Houston Colt .45s became the Astros, as they moved from Colt Stadium to the new Astrodome, becoming the first team to play their home games indoors, rather than outdoors. It was also the final season for the Braves in Milwaukee, before relocating to Atlanta for the 1966 season. The Los Angeles Angels officially changed their name to California Angels on September 2, 1965 with only 28 games left in the season in advance of their pending 1966 move to a new stadium in Anaheim.

In the World Series, the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

1965 Minnesota Twins season

The 1965 Minnesota Twins won the 1965 American League pennant with a 102–60 record. It was the team's first pennant since moving to Minnesota, and the 102 wins was a team record.

1966 Minnesota Twins season

The 1966 Minnesota Twins finished 89–73, second in the American League. 1,259,374 fans attended Twins games, the second highest total in the American League.

1967 Minnesota Twins season

The 1967 Minnesota Twins finished 91–71, tied for second in the American League with the Detroit Tigers. The Twins had a one-game lead on the Red Sox with two games remaining in Boston, but lost both games. A total of 1,483,547 fans attended Twins games, the second highest total in the American League.

1968 Los Angeles Dodgers season

The 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers had a 76–86 record and finished in seventh place in the National League standings, 21 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. After the season, the Dodgers underwent some changes among the team management when long time general manager Buzzie Bavasi resigned to take over the expansion San Diego Padres. He was replaced by team vice-president Fresco Thompson. However, Thompson was diagnosed with cancer weeks after taking the job and died in November. Al Campanis became the new general manager for the following season.

1977 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1977 followed the system in place since 1971.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and

elected Ernie Banks.

The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider executives, managers, umpires, and earlier major league players.

It selected three people: Al López, Amos Rusie, and Joe Sewell.

The Negro Leagues Committee also met in person and selected two players, Martín Dihigo and John Henry Lloyd.

The Negro Leagues Committee also determined to disband. It had elected nine players in seven years.

Dave St. Peter

David St. Peter (born January 3, 1967 in Bismarck, North Dakota) has served as president of the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball since 2002.

St. Peter was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, and attended St. Mary's Central High School in Bismarck and the University of North Dakota. He joined the Twins organization in 1990.

Don Buschhorn

Donald Lee Buschhorn (born April 29, 1946) is a retired American Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Kansas City Athletics during the 1965 season. He is right-hander stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg).

Buschhorn spent the entire 1965 campaign — his second as a professional — on the Athletics' roster per the bonus rules of the mid-1960s. His first three appearances of that season were as a starting pitcher, and in his debut game against the eventual American League champion Minnesota Twins, Buschhorn struck out the first two big-league batters he faced: Zoilo Versalles and Rich Rollins. Versalles would be the AL Most Valuable Player for 1965. The Twins eventually reached Buschhorn for two runs, including one on a home run by Jerry Kindall, and Buschhorn was tagged with the 2–0 loss, his only MLB decision.

In 31 innings for the Athletics that season, Buschhorn yielded 36 hits and eight bases on balls, striking out nine. His professional career continued in 1966 and 1968–1969.

José Valdivielso

José Martinez de Valdivielso (born José Martinez de Valdivielso López, May 22, 1934) is a Cuban-born former professional baseball player. A shortstop, he appeared in 401 games over all or part of five seasons in Major League Baseball, between 1955 and 1961, for the Washington Senators and their later incarnation, the Minnesota Twins. The native of Matanzas threw and batted right-handed; he was listed as 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and 175 pounds (79 kg).

In 1960, the team's sixtieth and last season in Washington, Valdivielso was the Senators' most-used shortstop, starting in 92 games and playing a career-high 117 contests. But by late September he had lost his starting job to Zoilo Versalles, a 20-year-old fellow countryman; Versalles would hold down the Twins' starting shortstop job through 1967 and, as the American League's Most Valuable Player, lead the Twins to the 1965 pennant.

Valdivielso's professional career extended through the 1964 season. All told, he collected 213 hits in the Majors, with 26 doubles and eight triples to go along with his nine home runs.

Leadoff hitter

In baseball, a leadoff hitter is a batter who bats first in the lineup. It can also refer to any batter who bats first in an inning.

List of Major League Baseball annual triples leaders

In baseball, a triple is recorded when the ball is hit so that the batter is able to advance all the way to third base, scoring any runners who were already on base, with no errors by the defensive team on the play. In Major League Baseball (MLB), a player in each league is recognized for leading the league in triples. Only triples hit in a particular league count toward that league's seasonal lead.

The first triples champion in the National League was Ross Barnes; in the league's inaugural 1876 season, Barnes hit fourteen triples for the Chicago White Stockings. In 1901, the American League was established and led by two members of the Baltimore Orioles: Bill Keister and Jimmy Williams each had 21.

Minnesota Twins award winners and league leaders

This is a list of award winners and league leaders for the Minnesota Twins professional baseball team.

Pedro Ramos

Pedro Ramos Guerra (born April 28, 1935), is a Cuban former professional baseball pitcher, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Washington Senators / Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and the expansion Washington Senators, all of the American League (AL), and the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds, all of the National League (NL), over the course of a 15-year career (1955–1967; 1969–1970). Ramos was elected to the AL All-Star team in 1959. He led the league in losses four times, in 1958 (18), 1959 (19), 1960 (18), and 1961 (20). On April 11, 1961, in the Twins’ first game ever, Ramos was the winning pitcher, when the team defeated the Yankees, 6-0, at Yankee Stadium.

A starter most of his career, "Pete" Ramos became an unexpected sensation in September 1964 after being traded from the Indians to the Yankees for $75,000 and two players to be named later (after the season, the Indians received Ralph Terry and Bud Daley). In 13 appearances for the Yankees, all in relief, Ramos saved eight games and posted a 1.25 earned-run average as the Yankees barely held off the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles down the pennant stretch. In 21 innings, Ramos struck out 21 batters and walked none. Unfortunately for the Yankees, because the trade came after August 31, Ramos was not eligible to pitch in the World Series, which New York lost in seven games to the Bob Gibson-led St. Louis Cardinals.

As a Senator, in his second big-league season, Ramos surrendered one of the more memorable home runs in the career of Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle. On May 30, 1956, Mantle tore into a Ramos pitch and nearly drove it out of Yankee Stadium, hitting the facade of the top deck in right field. In their heyday, Ramos and Mantle were considered among the fastest runners in the major leagues. Mantle and Ramos raced with Ramos stumbling at the start, Mantle winning.

Ramos was one of only nine players to don the uniform of both the original and expansion Washington Senators teams, the others being Don Mincher, Camilo Pascual, Johnny Schaive, Roy Sievers, Zoilo Versalles, Hal Woodeshick, Rudy Hernández, and Héctor Maestri.

Culture and lore
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Key personnel
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Pennants (6)
Division titles (10)
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