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  • A Strong Start up the Middle: Lenny Green and Earl Battey

    Nate Palmer

    February is Black History Month, and over the coming weeks, Twins Daily will have a series of articles on African Americans in Minnesota Twins history. There have been award winners, All Stars, and even a couple of Hall of Famers. Today we feature two players who gave the Twins a strong start up the middle, at catcher and in center field.

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    In 1961, center fielder Lenny Green and catcher Earl Battey were part of the collection of players that made the trip from Washington D.C. to Minnesota, a transition that turned the Senators into the Twins. They did so as two of three African Americans with Ron Henry being the third who Seth Stohs wrote about earlier in our series.

    Lenny Green
    Green is certainly the lesser-known of the two players in Twins history. He came to the organization in 1959 after starting his career with Baltimore. In 1961, serving as the starting center fielder for the Twins, Green played in 156 games, hit nine home runs, and drove in 50 runs. He slashed .285/.374/.400. 

    Green played for the Twins from that inaugural 1961 season until midseason of 1964. He was the starter in center field until Jimmie Hall supplanted him during the 1963 season. That led the Twins to trade Green in the middle of the 1964 season to the Los Angeles Angels. A trade that brought back Frank Costro and Jerry Kindall. 

    Green went on to play for Baltimore (once again), Boston, and Detroit before his career ended in 1968. 1965 was his best season after leaving the Senators/Twins organization when he was the regular starting center fielder for the Red Sox. 

    Earl Battey
    If it wasn’t for some guy known for having sideburns, Battey very well would be in consideration for the title of best catcher in Twins history. He was traded to the Senators from the White Sox in 1960. At the time, the backstop was labeled as a defensive catcher. He had always seemed to have success hitting in the minors, but had not been able to get his bat to translate to the big leagues. As a member of the Twins that all changed. 

    In that inaugural season of 1961, Battey played in 133 games, hit 17 home runs, and hit for a .302 average. That batting average ranked sixth-best in the AL by season’s end. Battey also continued with his billing as a good defensive catcher by winning a gold glove in that 1961 season. 

    Before retiring at the end of the 1967 season, Battey won three gold gloves, was a five-time All-Star, and figured into the MVP voting in three different seasons. He certainly was part of a solid core of hitters that had him often overshadowed by the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Bob Allison. 

    What may have shined through even more in retirement from baseball, is that Battey was a really good person. Immediately after his career finished, he was part of a company where one of his main duties was getting free Yankees tickets in the hands of inner-city kids and then attending the game with them. He was the "answer man" for all of the children's questions. The former catcher also became a high school teacher and baseball coach in Florida. 

    Battey passed away in 2003 from cancer. It was the following season, 2004, that Battey entered into the Twins Hall of Fame. Battey is remembered as a great teammate and storyteller.  

    -- A Pennant for the Twins Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins was considered in writing this post

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    Two very good players in the first years of the Twins. Unfortunately, one of my most vivid memories of Battey is him being thrown out by the right fielder on a line-drive “single”. The outfielder was Lu Clinton, I believe. Battey was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in an era when offensive numbers weren’t as high. 

    Lenny Green led off almost every game for the Twins, but hit #2 in their very first game against the Yankees. 

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    22 hours ago, gman said:

    I watched the Twins as often as possible and caught most of their no televised games on the radio in the early 60's. Earl Battey was one of my favorite players. along with Killebrew, Oliva, Tovar & Carew. 

    Picking nits a little here, but I wouldn’t consider either Carew or Tovar part of the “early 60s” teams. Carew’s first season was ‘67 and Tovar had a “cup of coffee” in ‘65, but was a rookie in ‘66. 

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