On Slaying Stupid Dynasties
In front of packed stadiums, the Twins won the first two games. However, the Yankees won the third game, and the fourth game was a tight affair, tied 4-4 going into the ninth. That last inning, it turned out, made the “Phil Cuzzi foul ball” call seem legitimate.
In the top of the frame, the Yankees had runners on first and third base with two outs but failed to score when their batter hit a soft ground ball up the first base line. The Twins pitcher wasn’t able to field it cleanly, but that was because the Yankees batter interfered with him while running to first base. So the batter was out, and the runner from third that had crossed home plate didn’t count.
Or did it? Yankees manager Johnny Keane came out and disputed the call, telling the umpire that he thought the Twins pitcher fielded the ball and tried to tag the Yankees batter, but then dropped it. If that’s the case, the runner would be safe and the run that crossed the plate on the play would count.
Any Yankee detractor can see how this is going to end: the umpires reversed the call. Twins manager Sam Mele charged out of the dugout, but his team was told to retake the field even as he told the umpires the rest of the game would be played under protest. The Twins got the last out, but the damage had been done and the extremely agitated crowd knew it. Didn’t the Yankees get breaks like this all the time?
However, the ’65 Twins had proved their resiliency throughout the year. Rich Rollins coaxed a walk, but it was sandwiched between two outs. Still, that gave Killebrew a chance to bat. He worked a full count before Yankees reliever Pete Mikkelsen challenged him with a fastball.
In his book about the 1965 Twins, Cool Of The Evening, author Jim Thielman describes what happened next:
“The ball jetted towards the stands, almost as if Killebrew had lit a short fuse on a Fourth of July pop bottle rocket. It was not the typical “Killebrew Fly” that featured a majestic parabolic arch. The ball was still rising when it crashed into the left-field pavilion.
Had this happened? Had Killbrew hit a two-out, two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch to beat the Yankees heading into the All-Star Break? Was this team going to the World Series? The crowd erupted, screaming, applauding and stamping its feet on the stands, as had become the custom when the Met Stadium regulars wanted to display their appreciation enthusiastically. The cantilevered triple deck behind home plate shook from the thunderous pounding.”
That home run was recognized as the biggest home run in Twins history until Kirby Puckett’s walkoff shot in 1991’s Game 6. The Twins did go on to the World Series that year, though they lost to the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax in seven games.
The Yankees not only did not with the pennant, but they finished with a losing record for the first time since 1925 – the same year the Washington Senators (the Twins predecessors) won their only World Series. And the Yankees would not make the playoffs again for the next eleven years.
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