Unexpected heroes advance Yanks in Bracket 2

May 21st, 2020

The 1961 Yankees are synonymous with the exploits of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, but as those boys of summer returned to the diamond for their first-round digital showdown, it was Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard who swung the hottest bats in a four-game sweep of the '79 California Angels.

A productive catching tandem on that 1961 squad, Blanchard and Howard combined to bat .333 (11-for-33) with four homers, six RBIs and 28 total bases in the series, with manager Ralph Houk taking advantage of a designated hitter rule that didn’t exist in that era. Mantle batted .421 (8-for-19) with a homer and four RBIs, while Maris was held to one double in 21 at-bats (.048).

Next up for the 1961 Yankees will be the '31 Homestead Grays of the Negro American League, who edged the '85 Toronto Blue Jays in five games. There is more pinstriped action elsewhere in the bracket, as the '98 Yankees are set to battle the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays. Those results are scheduled to be posted on Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

The simulated competition, featuring many of the greatest teams in baseball history, is being produced by Out of the Park Baseball 21, MLB‘s most realistic strategy game (PC and Mac).

Game 1: Yankees 5, Angels 2
The Yankees pounced early in Anaheim, posting a four-run second inning against California starter Dave Frost. Mantle hit a leadoff homer and Clete Boyer laced a two-run single, then he scored on a wild pitch. Howard later added a run-scoring single to support starter Whitey Ford, who held the Halos to two runs and five hits over five innings. Don Baylor and Brian Downing had RBIs for the Angels, but Hal Reniff, Tex Clevenger and Luis Arroyo combined for four innings of scoreless one-hit relief.

Game 2: Yankees 6, Angels 2
The Bombers had their work cut out for them against fireballer Nolan Ryan, limited to one run (a Bobby Richardson RBI single) through five frames. California’s Dan Ford tied the game with a fifth-inning RBI single off starter Bill Stafford, but the Yanks reclaimed the lead in the sixth on Moose Skowron’s sacrifice fly. Ryan struck out nine, but Maris added a run-scoring hit in the seventh and Blanchard cracked a three-run homer in the eighth off Dave LaRoche that helped to put the game away.

Game 3: Yankees 4, Angels 1
With the series shifting to The Bronx, the Yankees erased an early deficit as Skowron slugged a second-inning solo homer, then Maris and Berra notched run-scoring hits in the third inning off starter Jim Barr. That was enough support for the Yanks’ Ralph Terry, who turned in a terrific effort, scattering four hits and striking out seven over eight innings without a walk. Howard mashed a sixth-inning solo homer and Arroyo worked the ninth for his second save of the series.

Game 4: Yankees 8, Angels 2
Howard launched a second-inning grand slam and Blanchard ripped a three-run double in the third inning as the Yankees secured the sweep in convincing fashion, sending Frank Tanana to an early exit. Berra added a run-scoring hit in the fourth, providing a healthy cushion for starter Rollie Sheldon, who limited the Angels to two runs and six hits over six innings. Jim Coates and Bud Daley finished up for a Yanks bullpen that permitted only one earned run in 11 2/3 innings (0.77 ERA) over the series.