On October 26, Calvin Griffith, president of the Washington Senators, made the historic decision to move his club to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, thereby giving birth to the "Minnesota Twins," named after the two Upper Midwest cities. The Griffith organization had operated the team in our nation's capital ever since the immortal Clark Griffith took over as manager of the club in 1912. The team moved to Minnesota sporting such names as Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Camilo Pascual and Jim Lemon.
After just one season of operations in Minnesota, the Twins jumped from a 7th-place finish in 1961, to a strong 2nd-place in 1962. A couple of rookies made it big in that 1961 season, Jim Kaat and Zoilo Versalles, and they joined with 1962 first-year men Bernie Allen and Rich Rollins to spark the Twins to their strong finish in that second season. In addition, a couple of off-season trades negotiated by Mr. Griffith helped to vault the team to within five games of the New York Yankees - acquiring first baseman Vic Power and pitcher Dick Stigman from Cleveland for hurler Pedro Ramos, and swapping outfielder Dan Dobbek to Cincinnati for catcher Jerry Zimmerman.
In 1963, the Twins dropped back a notch to third, but the nucleus had already been assembled to assure the club, even though they slipped further to sixth in 1964, of being a dominant factor in American League affairs for years to come. Additions to the 1963 roster included Jimmie Hall, who came fresh out of the Twins' farm system to slug 33 home runs in his rookie season, and Jim Perry, obtained from Cleveland in a trade for lefty Jack Kralick.
The 1964 club featured the phenomenal rise of outfielder Tony Oliva to major league stardom. Oliva, who would become the only player to win big league batting titles in his first two seasons, led the American League with a .323 mark that year, in addition to belting 32 home runs and driving home 94 runs. Another bright spot in the team's rather dismal 6th-place finish was Harmon Killebrew, who paced the league with 49 homers, his fourth consecutive season of 45-or-more home runs.
1965 was a year to behold, the culmination of 32 years of effort by Mr. Griffith and his organization, since they'd last won a flag in Washington in 1933. The team started fast in the spring and didn't let up until they clinched the pennant on September 26, in Washington, when Kaat stopped the Senators in a 2-1 decision. Their eventual winning margin was a full seven games over the Chicago White Sox.
An unheralded swap with Cincinnati in December of 1964...pitcher Gerry Arrigo for infielder Cesar Tovar...began to pay big dividends for the Twins in 1966, when Tovar came into his own as one of the most exciting and versatile players in baseball. Although the Twins started slowly from the starting gate that year, they played the best ball in the Majors from July 4th on, to finish a strong second to Baltimore's World Champions, and the rookie Tovar was right in the middle of things all the way, teaming with 25-game winner Kaat to spark the Twins in the stretch drive.
Three other newcomers played important roles in the Twins' near-miss 1967 season. Pitcher Dean Chance, acquired in a trade with the California Angels, recorded the fifth 20-victory season ever turned in by a Twin hurler. Second-year player Ted Uhlaender came into his own as a Major League hitter, augmenting his already established value as an outstanding center fielder. And the 1967 campaign marked the rookie season of Rod Carew, the agile Panamanian who would, during the next decade, establish himself as peerless at hitting a baseball. In this his initial big league season, Carew not only made the All-Star team, but paced Twins' hitters virtually the entire season.
The 1968 season was an extremely disappointing one for the Twins. Lack of a dependable shortstop, and an All-Star game injury to Killebrew, which sidelined him for almost the balance of the season, were the primary reasons.
Catcher John Roseboro and pitchers Bob Miller and Ron Perranoski became vital parts of the Twins' 1969 pennant machine. But, probably the most significant player developments were the additions of shortstop Leo Cardenas, obtained from Cincinnati in a swap for Merritt, and the emergence of fancy-fielding first baseman Rich Reese into one of the league's top hitters. And combined with the MVP season of Killebrew (49 home runs and 140 RBI) and Carew's league-leading .332 average, the material was right for a pennant race.
Shortly after the 1968 season, the Twins named fiery Billy Martin to succeed Cal Ermer at the manager's helm, Martin thereby becoming the fourth skipper in Twins history. Under Martin, the Twins played an inspired brand of ball in 1969, battling it out with the Oakland A's until just after Labor Day, when they knocked the A's for a five-out-of-six loop which all but wrapped up the first American League West Division championship.
It was the Twins and the Baltimore Orioles who met in the American League Championship Series. The first two games were held in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, and the Birds managed to escape with a pair of well-pitched, extra-inning victories. These two disappointing losses seemed to take the starch out of the Twins, as not even the presence of Met Stadium could stave off defeat in the third and final game of the series.