April 11, 2009 – The Twins played their first game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961 in front of 14,607 fans on a nice 50 degree day. The Yankees were coming off another World Series season but had lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series in 7 games due to the famous Bill Mazeroski home run. The Twins on the other hand had just moved to Minnesota from Washington where they had finished 5th in the 8 team American league.
Cookie Lavagetto’s Twins had Pedro Ramos on the mound against the Yankee ace Whitey Ford. Zoilo Versalles the Twins shortstop led off the game with a ground ball to shortstop Tony Kubek who threw to Bill “Moose” Skowron for the Twins first out. Centerfielder Lenny Green also was out on a ground out and Harmon Killebrew was walked to become the Twins first base runner. Left Fielder Jim Lemon was the clean-up hitter but he ground out to Bobby Richardson at 2B and the Twins first inning was history. In the bottom of the first, Ramos retired Richardson and Hector Lopez before Yogi Berra batting in the 3 hole, got the first hit off a Twins pitcher, a single to right field. Ramos induced Mickey Mantle to ground out to 2B and future Twins manager Billy Gardner and after one inning it was 0-0. In the second inning Lemon committed the Twins first error but the Yankees could not take advantage of it and after two innings the game remained scoreless. Both the Twins and the Yankees went 1-2-3 in the 3rd and after 3 innings the game remained scoreless. The Killer led off the 4th inning with the Twins first hit, a single to center but Ford retired the next three batters again keeping the Twins from getting on the board. In the bottom of the 4th Ramos struck out Mantle and Maris back to back before allowing a single to Skowron but Kubek flied out to Green in center to end any possibility of a Yankee score. Billy Gardner singled off Ford in the 5th but Ford retired Ramos and Versalles to end that threat. In the bottom of the 5th Whitey Ford singled off Ramos with one out but Ramos got Richardson to hit into a 5-4-3 double play from Reno Bertoia to Gardner to Killebrew and after 5 the game was still 0-0. The 6th inning was uneventful as both sides went 1-2-3 and the Twins and Yankees were locked in a pitcher’s duel in the Twins first ever game. Ford must have started to tire in the 7th because Bob Allison led off with a long homerun to left, and in the process scored the Twins first run. Earl Battey followed with a double and Bertoia walked. Lavagetto then had Gardner sacrifice bunt the runners along and Ramos, a good hitting pitcher, singled to center scoring Battey and Bertoia and the Twins had a 3-0 lead. That turned out to be the final batter that Ford faced and Ralph Terry came on for the Yankees and Versalles greeted him with a single to center before Terry got Green on a fly out. Killebrew followed with another walk but Lemon ground out for the third out. But after 6 ½, the Twins were leading the hated Yankees 3-0. Ramos retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning and after 7 the Twins were winning 3-0. Allison led off the 8th with a single of Terry, Battey hit a ground ball forcing Allison at 2B but Bertoia followed with his first homer and after 7 ½ the Twins were up 5 to nothing. Ramos again retired the Yanks 1-2-3 and after 8 the score was Minnesota 5 and New York 0. In the top of the 9th, Jim Coates came on to pitch for the Yankees and Versalles singled to left. Green popped out to Richardson. With Killebrew in the batter’s box, Versalles stole 2B and then stole 3B. Killebrew then hit a sac fly to left scoring Zoilo for the 6th and final run of the game. Dan Dobbek, who had replaced Lemon in left, was hit but a Coates pitch and proceeded to steal 2B while Allison was at bat but Bob ground out to shortstop to end the inning. In the bottom of the 9th Ramos retired Hector Lopez, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle flew out to Allison in right and the Minnesota Twins had won their first game after 2 hours and 27 minutes of play in a 6-0 shutout over the Yankees.
Pedro Ramos would go on to pitch two other shutouts in 1961 but finished the season with an 11-20 record. The Twins would finish their first season with a 70-90 record and a seventh place finish, ahead of only the Angels, A’s, and Senators. But on this magical day after 1 day of play in 1961 the Minnesota Twins were 1-0 and tied for 1st place in the American league. Click on my “Twins Box Scores” page and you can see the actual box score for this game.