The Tale of How a 1st Place Club Platooned Its All-Star Center Fielder
Image courtesy of Daniel MickCan you imagine a world where your favorite team finished the season in first place in their league? Not only first place, but made their way to the World Series? Then imagine that season boasted a ton of accolades to include sending six players to participate in the All-Star Game.
Sounds pretty good until I share the strange fact that only five of those six All-Stars would play in the World Series. And not because of injury. Instead it was because all the information put in front of the manager pointed to a platoon in center field that sat more than played the All-Star at the position being the best route to winning a championship.
By now many of you long-time Minnesota Twins fans know where this is going. In 1965, the Twins had on their roster center fielder Jimmie Hall who had just turned in a spectacular season for a player who only a few seasons ago almost didn’t survive spring cuts. As the Twins made their way to 102 wins, Hall hit .285/.347/.464, with a .820 OPS, 25 doubles, and 20 home runs.
While the left-handed hitting Hall did lots of great things for the Twins throughout that ‘65 season, a glaring weakness in his game was coming to light. He struggled against left-handed pitching. His slash line dropped to .240/.272/.333 and he only hit one of those 20 home runs from that side of the plate in ‘65. And the season prior was worse, as he hit .190/.242/.281 with a single home run again when facing southpaws.
With the Dodgers bringing not only left-hander Sandy Koufax but also Claude Osteen to their World Series rotation, manager Sam Mele decided he couldn’t continue to just run Hall out there to struggle. Instead of the All-Star Hall, the Twins would platoon him with utility man Joe Nossek.
Nossek had seen action in 87 games that season. He hit a light .218/.250/.306 with two home runs. He saw most of his action in the outfield in ‘65 but also lined up for nine games at third. Later in his career he would also try out second base which was a testament to defense being his top attribute as a player with his bat always trailing as a question mark.
What Nossek had going is he batted from the right side of the plate. Still, the decision to platoon, was a head-scratcher, as Nossek only batted .228/.262/.325 against lefties in ‘65. This may simply point to how much the Twins had begun to lose faith in Hall’s ability to have much if any success against the Dodger’s duo of lefties.
Really, there were no hitters with success against lefties who could handle center field defensively. Since no one could both hit and field with a lefty on the mound, it looks like Mele went with the most well regarded defender of the group to hopefully get a plus out of the position on that side of the ball. That is how Nossek got the nod in five of the seven World Series games in 1965.
While we like happy endings, by now you know this isn’t one of those. Along with the rest of the Twins lineup, Nossek did not hit well, slashing a unique .200/.200/.200. While as a headline this platoon sounds strange, I believe if we were covering the 1965 Twins in our current era of baseball many of us would stand in favor of Mele’s decision. It just joins the lineup of the ways in which the 1965 World Series didn’t go the Twins way.
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