Below are more highlights of the 1961 baseball season, including the batting accomplishments of Norm Cash, who had a once-in-a-lifetime year, and Frank Robinson's 1961 National League MVP win.
Brooks Robinson Can't Help 1961 O's
Brooks Robinson was the infield fulcrum on a team that in 1961 was a preseason favorite to win the American League pennant (he hit .287 that season). When it grew evident in September that Baltimore was out of the race, manager Paul Richards was replaced by Lum Harris. A fine pilot, Richards did not manage again in the majors until 1976.
Frank Robinson Slugs Way to 1961 National League MVP
Frank Robinson led the National League in one category in 1961 -- slugging, with a .611 average -- yet ran away with the award for Most Valuable Player. The emergence of Gordy Coleman allowed Reds skipper Fred Hutchinson to move Robinson from first base back to his normal post in right field; consequently, Cincy vaulted from sixth place in 1960 to a pennant in 1961, its first flag since 1940.
Norm Cash Boasts Best BA of '60s
The extraordinary 1961 season of Norm Cash was overshadowed by the home run feats of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, but historians are now beginning to recognize its true significance. That year, Cash had the highest batting average (.361) of any player during the 1960s and the highest on-base percentage (.488) since 1957. Cash went on to club 377 home runs in his 17-year career yet, oddly, never came within 75 points of his .361 mark. In 1962, his average plummeted to .243. The 118-point fall-off is the worst ever by a batting champion.
Willie Mays Thrills 1961 Giants Fans
Willie Mays ranked high in every major slugging department in 1961. He topped the National League with 129 runs scored, came in second with 40 home runs, and placed third with 334 total bases, 123 RBI, and 81 walks. Oddly, never once in his 22-year career did Mays lead the National League in RBI.
Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson Rev Up 1961 Reds
Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson were the offensive leaders for the Reds in 1961. Pinson posted a .343 average that season, leading the National League with 208 hits. Robinson led the circuit with a .611 slugging average that year, with 37 homers and 124 RBI.
Lew Burdette Wins 18
Lew Burdette was a master at never working any harder than he had to. Given one run, he'd pitch a shutout. Given nine runs, he'd win 9-6. The end result was that he always finished among the leaders in runs surrendered. In 1956, however, with his team in a down-to-the-wire flag race, he led the National League with a 2.71 ERA. In 1961, he led the league in innings (272) and went 18-11.
Chairman Goes 25-4
By the early 1960s, Whitey Ford had acquired the nickname "The Chairman of the Board." It was somewhat misleading. Ford and Mickey Mantle were probably the Yankees' two leading free spirits in that era. On the field, though, Ford was all business; his 25-4 record in 1961 was the best performance by a Yankees pitcher prior to 1978. Ford paced the American League in wins, win pct. (.862), starts (39), and innings pitched (283).
To find highlights of key events and details from the 1961 season, continue to the next page.