Just 59 short years ago, the 1962 Twins went 91-71 in their second season in Minnesota.
Harmon Killebrew blasted 48 home runs and Jim Kaat and Camilo Pascual combined for a 3.23 ERA in over 520 innings. Bob Allison had a career year, hitting .266/.370/.511 with an OPS that was 31% above MLB average. Only one team in the AL (guess who) scored more runs per game than the Twins (4.9).
Back in those days, the second best record out of 10 American League teams kept you out of the postseason. The Yankees represented the AL in the World Series with 96 wins, a prolific offense, and the MVP, a 30-year-old Mickey Mantle.
The Yankees went on to beat the Giants in the Fall Classic in seven games.
Hope was not lost in Minnesota. The Twins were here, winning 21 more games than they did in the inaugural 1961 season.
Allison, Killebrew, Pascual and Kaat returned, along with Earl Battey, Rich Rollins and a promising rookie outfielder, Jimmie Hall. Expectations were undoubtedly high after a breakout 1962 season.
The outstanding '62 offense looked like a shell early in 1963. Killebrew was hampered by a knee injury and played in just 12 of the team’s first 30 games. He was hitting .133 with a .462 OPS when the Twins fell to 11-20 on May 15.
After an All-Star campaign in 1962, Rollins was nowhere to be found. He hit just .217/.270/.304 over the team’s first 31 games. Hall was even worse with an average well below the Mendoza Line (.176). Battey’s average dropped from .280 to .230 as a heap of formerly impact hitters showed little signs of life.
The Twins were in dead last in the American League standings and hitting .214/.280/.325 as a team.
From May 1 until the 15, the Twins lost 10 of their 12 games. To this day, only five of 61 teams in Twins history have lost more than the ‘63 Twins through that point in the season.
1963 was shaping up to be a massive step back … until it wasn’t.
After a 4-3 loss to the Yankees in the Bronx dropped the Twins nine games below .500 in mid-May, they ripped off 12 wins over their final 14 games of the month, outscoring their opponents 89-42.
Killebrew bounced back from a treacherous start to hit .321 with a 1.147 OPS and 21 extra-base hits in June. Allison posted a 1.013 OPS while Battey slugged .505. Pascual made four starts totaling 24 innings and allowed just two runs (0.75 ERA). Hall hit .322/.410/.632 with six doubles, five homers and three triples. The offense averaged over five runs per game after averaging barely over four during their first 45 games.
Killebrew went on to hit 45 homers, Allison 35, Hall 33 and Battey 26. Rollins finished the season with an excellent .307/.359/.444 slash line. Hall was the Rookie of the Year and had a freshman season topped in Twins history by only Tony Oliva one year later. The Twins finished with the best offense (4.8 runs per game) and the third best record in the AL (91-70). It was a turnaround that, just by looking at the numbers, seemed out of reach.
Let’s hope for similar magic in 2021.