Former Twins 1B Don Mincher passes away

Don Mincher (courtesy of the Minnesota Twins)

Donald Ray Mincher a former Minnesota Twin and baseball lifer in every sense of the word passed away yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama after a lengthy illness at the age of 73. Mincher was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent prior to the 1956 season and in the process passed up a football scholarship to the University of Alabama and started his pro career by playing for the Duluth-Superior White Sox in the class C Northern League as he started climbing the minor league ladder towards a big league career. Mincher who threw right-handed was a slugging left-handed hitting first baseman who stood 6’3″, weighed about 205. Before Don could put on a White Sox uniform in a big league game, he along with catcher Earl Battey and $150,000 were sent to the Washington Senators for 1B Roy Sievers in April of 1960. Don Mincher made his big league debut on April 18, 1960 at Griffith Stadium in a 10-1 Senators win over the Boston Red Sox. Mincher became one of the “original” Minnesota Twins when owner Calvin Griffith moved the Washington Senators to Minnesota after the 1960 season. Mincher went on to play for the Twins through the 1966 season playing in 617 games and hitting 92 home runs while hitting .244. Mincher was good enough to have been a regular on many other teams but with the power hitting Twins of the 60’s, Mincher could not crack the everyday starting line-up. Although not a regular, Mincher was never-the-less a feared slugger as his league leading 15 intentional bases on balls during the Twins pennant winning 1965 season will attest. Don played in all seven games of the 1965 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers hitting only .130 in 25 plate appearances but he did hit a home run in-game 1 off of HOF and Dodger great Don Drysdale. In the seventh inning of a game against the Kansas City Athletics at Metropolitan Stadium on June 9, 1966, Mincher was one of five Minnesota players to hit home runs (the others were Rich Rollins, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, and Zoilo Versalles). This still stands as the major league record of homers in an inning. Three of the home runs were hit off starter A’s starter and future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, the other two off of reliever Paul Lindblad. After the 1966 season the Twins traded Mincher, outfielder Jimmie Hall and pitcher Pete Cimino to the California Angels for pitcher Dean Chance and a PTBNL that turned out to be infielder Jackie Hernandez. Mincher ended up making the American League All-Star team in his first season as an Angel and played in California for two years before the Seattle Pilots drafted him in the second round of the 1968 expansion draft. Don again made the All-Star team in 1969 as a Pilot and finished that season hitting 25 home runs and he also stole 10 bases that season at the age of 31. In January on 1970, the Pilots had turned into the Milwaukee Brewers and the Brew Crew traded Mincher to the Oakland A’s where he hit a career high 27 home runs. In 1971 Mincher was traded to the Washington Senators  who became the Texas Rangers in 1972. The Rangers then traded Mincher back to the Oakland A’s where Don played the final 47 games of his big league career. Mincher appeared in the 1972 ALCS and the Oakland A’s 1972 World Series earning his championship ring.

When you look at Mincher’s 13 year big league career you will find that he hit 200 home runs (with five 20+ home runs seasons) and hit .249 and had a .798 OBP in 4,725 plate appearances. Don Mincher is the only player to play for both the original Washington Senators and the expansion Washington Senators, as well as both teams that they moved to become, the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers. Additionally, he played for a third team, the Seattle Pilots, in its first and final season before relocating to a new city (but was traded before playing a game for the Milwaukee Brewers).

Don Mincher as President of the Southern League

After his playing days, Mincher returned to his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama and managed a sporting goods store for about a decade before becoming General Manager of the Huntsville Stars in 1984. He then led a group that owned the club from 1994 to 2001. In 2000, he became President of the Southern League, a position he held until retiring in late 2011 due to health issues, at which point the league named him President-Emerius.

Mincher was elected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. Though he never played for the team, the Huntsville Stars retired his number 5 in an on-field ceremony on June 6, 2008. In 2010, he was presented with the “King of Baseball” award, the highest honor bestowed by Minor League Baseball.

Mincher is survived by his wife Pat, son Mark, daughters Lori Lumpkin and Donna Hopper and six grandchildren. Funeral services are pending. We at Twins Trivia want to extend our heart-felt condolences to Don Mincher’s family, friends and fans.

Updates as of March 6

I asked Mincher’s teammate and long-time friend pitcher Jim Kaat for his memories of Don and here is what Jim had to say: “Minch” or “Mule” as we called him was a great teammate….when we needed a big hit and he was at the plate our cry from the dugout was ”Kick Mule!!”  we had a great relationship…one of the few 1st basemen that could play deep and well off the line when I pitched and trust that I would get to 1st to cover the base…he prevented a lot of would be hits off me by doing that. He and Jerry Zimmerman were close buddies and roommates, they could usually come up with some good pranks…[i.e. the day after I gave up back to back to back hr's in Baltimore they hung a 45 rpm record of the 5th Dimension's "up up and away" in my locker] I knew immediately it was them…..Don had a great sense of humor, developed into a real good power hitter after they quit telling him to pull everything. He and Pat had a great 50 plus years together. I really enjoyed his company on and off the field.. He had a great life as a player and later a club owner and president of the southern league…. Time marches on..as I look at the box score of game 2 of the ’65 series on my office wall I am reminded of that. Don is the 11th player out of 22 that played in that game that have passed on….. Thanks for the memories “Mule”!!

Kitty

 

Here is a very nice note that I received from Lori Webb (VP – Operations) of the Southern League.

I was first introduced to Don Mincher when I was hired to work at the Southern League office in Marietta, GA in September 1994. At that time, he was owner and General Manager of the Huntsville Stars. When former president Arnold Fielkow resigned in early 2000, Don became Interim President and served in that capacity until he was elected president in October of that year. While Don chose to work out of his home office in Huntsville, I managed the league office from Marietta. We spoke on the phone almost every day until last September when he entered the hospital for surgery.

During the last 12 years we worked together, Don and I forged a strong and mutually respectful working relationship, and we also considered each other friends. Don was always willing to share his knowledge of the game and taught me a lot about baseball. He was “old school” in that respect, and it was always fun to be in his company when other former players were around – to hear their stories, the friendly ribbing back and forth, and to just be in the presence of a former Major Leaguer who had such a love for the game of baseball and such a respect for the sport that turned into a lifelong career for him and his family. I especially remember Don introducing me to his old roommate, Harmon Killebrew, when we attended the annual Rickwood Classic game in Birmingham a couple years ago. I sat and listened as these two old friends reminisced about “the good old days” and you could tell these two guys were cut from the same cloth. Perhaps they will meet up again now in heaven where they will both certainly reside for eternity.

What I will remember most about Don is that he was a family man first and last, and was a true Southern gentleman. He was my boss, but he was also my mentor and friend. I will miss him so much, but will always cherish the advice he gave me and I am so happy I was able to be associated with this very humble, decent, gentle, fair man for so many years. He had a lot of good friends not only in baseball, but in his beloved hometown of Huntsville, AL, as well.

Everyone that met Don Mincher considered him their friend. His dry wit, thoughtful consideration of matters big and small, and his genuine personna will be very greatly missed. It is certainly the end of an era in the Southern League with his passing, but we are all richer for having known him.

Thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts about Don with you.

Lori M. Webb
VP – Operations
Southern League

 

David Laurila interview with Don Mincher that ran in Baseball Prospectus in January 2011. The interview is split in two part and well worth your time.  Part 1  Part 2

Comments in the Huntsville Times about Don Mincher

Los Angeles Times Don Mincher Obit

Huntsville Times Obit

UPDATE on March 8

Don Mincher was a winner with a great love for life. He worked hard to become a great all-around player and he worked very hard on his defense. The fact that Harmon Killebrew also played 1st base kept Don from being an everyday player with the Twins. Don proved that by becoming an All-Star player when he was traded to other teams. But what I really loved about big Don was his attitude and personality. I was a rookie in 1965 and he played a big part in helping me on defense to position myself according to whom we were playing against. He made it fun.

When we won the American League championship, it was three days later and he (Mincher) approached manager Sam Mele. He said, Sam, could you answer a question I’ve wondered about? Sure Mule, what’s the question. Minch said, when you win a championship, when do you stop celebrating? It broke Mele up and he responded by saying, you’d better be ready for the World Series, or you’ll find out. Minch hit the first home run against the Dodgers in the Series. We’ll miss him as a friend and a great teammate. “Save a place for us up there Mule”

Frank Quilici

 

 

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One Response to Former Twins 1B Don Mincher passes away

  1. Rick Beaver says:

    Don Mincher was my favorite big league player when I was a kid. At age 10 I mailed him a 1965 Topps baseball card and asked for his autograph. In a few days a nice letter came from him, handwritten, with the card autographed. I still have it!

    I was able to find an email address for him around 2005 and sent him an email. I told him about my son playing baseball (he was #5 also, like Don), and that I appreciated him autographing that baseball card many years ago. He sent me a return email and wished me and my son the best. What a great guy. It made me cry when I heard he passed away. I wish I could have met him in person. The world could use a lot more Don Minchers in it!!!!

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