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by Harold Friend
Rich Mahn started to follow his Minnesota Twins when they moved from Washington to the Twin Cities. He attended opening day against the defending American League champion Yankees in 1965, It was a game he will never forget. When he left the ballpark, he was quite pleased.
One of the Most Bizarre Games
"I never saw anything like it." Those were the words of new Yankees' manager Johnny Keane, who had spent 35 years in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization. Neither had I.
In one of the most bizarre games ever played by two contending teams, the Minnesota Twins beat the New York Yankees, 5-4 in 11 innings. What a great game for those of us who rooted against the Yankees.
Airlift Jim Kaat by Helicopter
It was a windy day, with temperatures in the low 40s. The Twins had to airlift starting pitcher Jim Kaat by helicopter across the flooding Minnesota river. Kaat, Dick Stigman, Rich Rollins and Bill Bethea were picked up at a schoolyard in Burnsville and dropped off in the Municipal Stadium parking lot just before the game.
Weather in Minneapolis had been extreme, and more of the same was expected. Twins' management postponed the game against the Yankees scheduled for the next day until July 10.
A Run Without a Hit
Kaat retired the Yankees in order in the first. Yankees' starter Jim Bouton gave up a run in the bottom of first without yielding a hit. He walked Jerry Kindall and Rich Rollins. The runners moved up on a wild pitch, and scored on a Tony Oliva ground out.
I was feeling good. Kaat was a solid lefty, and left handers usually gave the Yankees trouble. Scoring without getting a hit was a bonus.
We scored again in the second, this time with the help of errors by first baseman Joe Pepitone and center fielder Tom Tresh. The great Yankees' defense was failing them. Pepitone was supposed to be a great defensive first baseman, but he was inconsistent and his concentration wasn't always on the field. Tresh was a shortstop who was playing center field because Mickey Mantle's skills were deteriorating rapidly.
More "Presents" From the Yankees
In the fourth, Harmon Killebrew singled and took second on another wild pitch by Bouton. Bob Allison walked. Slow-footed catcher Jerry Zimmerman hit a ground ball to shortstop Tony Kubek, whose throw to second base pulled Bobby Richardson off the bag. Jim Kaat singled to center. Tresh slipped in the mud as Killebrew and Allison scored. Zimmerman took third on Tresh's error. It was 4-0, Twins.
Elston Howard led off the Yankees' fifth with a home run and the Yankees touched Kaat for a pair of runs in the seventh to cut the deficit to one run. Then came the bizarre ninth.
Mickey Mantle singled to center with one out. Art Lopez went in to run for him. Cesar Tovar made a great play to rob Elston Howard of a hit, moving Lopez to second, bringing up Joe Pepitone. Joe hit a high pop fly to third base, but nothing can be taken for granted, in baseball as in life. Tovar dropped the ball as Lopez, running all the way, scored the tying run.
I and most of the 15,387 other fans had seen this before. We beat the Yankees, but it was pretty tough to beat the Yankees and their luck. We were getting ready for a loss that never came because these were the new Yankees.
The Twins Beat Pete Ramos
We beat former Washington friend, Pete Ramos in the 11th inning. Bob Allison led off the inning with a fly ball to left fielder Art Lopez, who misplayed the ball into the three base error. It was the Yankees' fifth error of the game.
Johnny Keane had Ramos walk Rich Reese and Sandy Valdespino to load the bases with no outs. Ramos, as Mel Allen would say if he had not been fired, reached back for a little extra. He retired Zoilo Versailles, who would win the MVP award that season, on a short fly to left field that Lopez handled, and then struck out Jerry Kindall.
Just when it appeared that the Yankees would escape for the twelfth inning, Cesar Tovar, whose error sent the game into extra innings, hit a low line drive to center field. Tom Tresh dived for the ball, trapped it, rolled over, and held up the ball as the winning run scored.
"The Worst Performance
After the game, Elston Howard made quite a statement. "I never saw a worse performance in all my years with the Yankees." Johnny Keane was stunned, as he murmured to no one in particular, "Terrible, terrible. I never saw anything like it in my 35 years in baseball."
No Longer a Good Team
The game was a portent of things to come. The Yankees were not a good team. For the first time since 1925, the Yankees would lose more games than they won. Remarkably, Mel Stottlemyre won 20 games. Whitey Ford, despite being hampered by circulation problems in his pitching arm, managed 17 wins, but Jim Bouton dropped off from 18 wins in 1964 to only four in 1965.
The Yankees' dynasty was over, at least until Mr. Steinbrenner made one of the greatest investments in the history of American finance. The 1965 Yankees finished sixth, 25 games behind the American League Champion Twins.
By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. (1965, April 13). Yanks Make 5 Errors and Lose Opener to Twins, 5-4, in 11 Innings :BASES-FILLED HIT BY TOVAR DECIDES 4 Players Taken to Park by Helicopter to Avert Flood -- Today's Game Is Off. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 44. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 97193366).
By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. (1965, April 14). GAME WITH TWINS SHAKES YANKEES :Keane, Howard Agree That Team Played Terribly. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 47. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 101538011).