Forty Years Ago

November 18, 2009 – The 1968 Minnesota Twins finished with a 79-83 record under manager Cal Ermer and finished a disappointing seventh in the ten team American League, a full 24 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers and owner Calvin Griffith decided he had seen enough even though stars like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Jim Kaat had suffered injuries that caused them to miss numerous games. On October 11th he fired manager Cal Ermer and hired the brash Billy Martin who had been managing the Twins AAA team in Denver to skipper the 1969 Minnesota Twins. 1969 would be an exciting season for Minnesota, they had a young new manager and would begin play in the newly formed Western Division of the American League along with the Oakland A’s, the California Angels, the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox, and the Seattle Pilots. 1969 brought two new teams to the American League, the Kansas City Royals who were replacing the A’s who had packed their bags and moved to Oakland under owner Charlie Finley and the Seattle Pilots who it turns out would only stay in Seattle for one season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers.

The Twins 1969 season got off to a rough start for Billy’s boys when they lost their first two games of the season on the road to the expansion Royals, both losses coming in extra innings. They moved on to California and lost their next two games by scores of 5-3 and 4-3 and found themselves in the basement of the Western Division. But Martin got his team on the straight and narrow and the team ripped off 7 wins in a row and took over 1st place. They finished the month of April 13-7 and were sitting on top of the division. From April 26th through July 3rd the team was either first or second in the standings. Oakland came to town on the 4th of July week-end and the Twins whipped Charlie Finley’s boys 3 straight and outscored the A’s 30 to 11 and took over first place, a spot they would keep for the rest of the season. The Twins finished the season with a 97-65 record, 9 games ahead of the second place Oakland A’s. Although Martin had the team running (4th in stolen bases), the team finished first in the league in hits, runs, doubles, total bases, and batting average. The Twins pitching wasn’t too shabby either as Jim Perry and Dave Boswell each finished with 20 wins and threw 250+ innings and Ron Perranoski was great out of the bullpen pitching 119+ innings in 75 games finishing 52 of them and getting credit for 31 saves.

The Twins would go on to lose their first league championship series to the Baltimore Orioles in a 3 game sweep but that is a whole different story that we will talk about in the future. Just a week after losing the final game of the championship series, Billy Martin is fired by owner Calvin Griffith and Bill Rigney was named the Twins new manager. Roy Blount Jr. of Sports Illustrated did a nice story on Billy Martin and the Twins in the July 21, 1969 issue and you can read that story by clicking on the SI magazine cover.

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