Stafford two-hitter, Howard HRs tame Indians

July 6, 1961 – Bill Stafford pitched a brilliant two-hitter and Elston Howard homered twice as the Yankees beat Cleveland 4-0, shutting out the Indians for the second straight night in the Bronx.

61yankees71The 22-year-old Stafford, a native of Catskill, NY, faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. Willie Kirkland doubled in the second inning and Mike de la Hoz singled in the ninth and was immediately erased when Chuck Essegian bounced into a 5-4-3 double play.

Cleveland starter Dick Stigman held the Yankees to a Roger Maris single through four innings before Howard led off the fifth with a drive into the left field seats.

Stafford made it 2-0 with a single, and Bobby Richardson’s sacrifice fly capped a three-run inning.

Howard hit another solo shot in the sixth, his sixth of the year, an opposite field drive to right.

Stafford (7-4) got the win and Stigman (2-2) took the loss. With Rollie Sheldon’s shutout the previous night, the Tribe failed to score a run in the two-game series.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


Rookie Sheldon blanks Indians 6-0; Maris HRs

July 5, 1961 – Rookie Roland Sheldon pitched a four-hit shutout and Roger Maris collected three hits, including his league-leading 32nd home run of the season, as the Yankees beat the visiting Cleveland Indians 6-0.

(Original Caption) N.Y. Yankee slugger Roger Maris (left), ably assisted by teammate pitcher Roland Sheldon, holds up shirt with number 32 on its back, indicative of the number of home runs Maris has hit thus far this season. The reason for Sheldon's zeroed fingers and far-off look is because he got his first major league shutout July 5th, by pitching the Yankees to a four-hit 6-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium here.The 24-year-old Sheldon, has won five games in a row after an 0-2 start and lowered his ERA to 2.54. Sheldon finished 15-1 in the minors last year and had a 2.88 ERA.

Maris homered in the seventh to close out the Yankees scoring. Maris is 13 games ahead of Babe Ruth, who hit his 32nd homer in the Yankees 91st game.

In the photo at right, Maris looks back on Elston Howard’s number to indicate his 32nd homer of the season, while Sheldon makes the “0” for shutout sign.

Yogi Berra gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with a single in the second inning. Singles by Maris and Mickey Mantle in the third made it 3-0 New York,

Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek each drove in a run with fourth inning singles.

Sheldon outdueled Cleveland’s Gary Bell, now 5-9 on the year.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


Bombers clip Tribe in 11, move into tie for first

June 15, 1961 – Pinch-hitter Johnny Blanchard drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the 11th and Ralph Terry went all the way for the victory as the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2.

61yankees51The win moved the Yankees (37-21) percentage points ahead of the Indians and Detroit Tigers (both 38-22) for first place in the American League.

Bob Cerv led off the 11th with a walk, stole second with two out, and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Blanchard, batting for Bobby Richardson, then singled to center to score Cerv with the winning run.

Trailing 1-0 entering the seventh, Mickey Mantle unloaded a long home run, his 19th, over the left field fence to tie the game at 1-1. Elston Howard later singled to put the Yankees on top 2-1.

With two outs in the ninth, Johnny Romano singled to center, driving in the trying run and sending the contest into extra innings.

Terry (5-0) surrendered 11 hits and fanned eight in the win, Frank Funk (3-3) was the loser in relief of Mudcat Grant.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


Perry, Indians snap Yankee win streak at four

June 13, 1961 – The Yankees began their longest road trip of the season on a sour note, dropping a 7-2 decision to Jim Perry and the Cleveland Indians.

61yankees49Roger Maris hit his 21st homer of the year, a solo shot in the sixth inning, but the Yankees did little else against Perry, the older brother of 300-game winner and future Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry.

The Indians greeted Yankee starter Jim Coates with four runs in the first. Tito Francona hit a sac fly and Willie Kirkland rapped an RBI single before catcher Johnny Romano blasted a two-run homer.

Bubba Phillips homered in the second, and Francona singled in a run for a 6-0 Cleveland advantage and the Tribe was off and running.

Perry (5-4) scattered 10 hits over 8 1/3 innings and Frank Funk got his sixth save.

Coates (6-3) took the loss. Yankee reliever Art Ditmar pitched five hitless innings in the defeat.

The Yankees will play 16 games in five cities over the next 16 days before returning to New York at the end of June.

PS – Jim Perry won 215 games in his career, and twice won 20 games, with the Twins in 1969 and 1970.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


Indians beat Yankees; Maris homers again

61yankees31

May 20, 1961 – Roger Maris homered for the third straight game, but Johnny Romano doubled in Vic Power with the winning run in the eighth inning as the Indians beat the skidding Yankees for the second day in a row, 4-3.

The Yanks have now lost four games in a row – in what would turn out to be their longest losing streak of the season — and nine of their last 12. They find themselves in fourth place with a 16-14 record, five full games behind the Detroit Tigers.

Maris, pictured above, hit his sixth home run of the year in the third inning off Gary Bell  to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

But the Tribe took a 3-1 lead in the fourth when Power hit a two-run double to deep center, then scored on a single by Woodie Held against New York starter Ralph Terry.

The Yankees came back to tie the game in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Maris and run-scoring groundout by Bill Skowron.  But Romano’s heroics gave the Indians the win.

Frank Funk (4-2) got the victory, and Bil Stafford (0-2) suffered the loss.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


Indians score 5 in 8th, whip Yankees 9-7

May 19, 1961 – The Cleveland Indians beat up on the Yankee bullpen, scoring five runs in the eighth inning to overcome a 7-4 deficit and defeat New York 9-7 at Municipal Stadium.

61yankees31Bubba Phillips and Mike de la Hoz singled leading off the eighth to start the Indians rally and Johnny Temple doubled home a run against Luis Arroyo to make the score 7-5. Chuck Essegian then greeted Tex Clevenger with a single to left, knotting the score at 7-7.

The Tribe then loaded the bases and Woodie Held was hit by a Jim Coates pitch giving Cleveland an 8- 7 lead. Former Yankee Vic Power added an insurance run when he stole home.

Roger Maris hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Yogi Berra and Hector Lopez added homers later on to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead before the Indians rallied.

In a portent of things to come, Maris homered in the second game in a row. He now has five home runs on the season,

Power and Temple had three hits apiece to fuel Cleveland’s 15-hit attack.

Bob Allen (3-0) got the win and the newly acquired Clevenger took the loss.

Box score

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!


The Mick remains hot as Yanks trim Tribe 4-3

April 27, 1961 – Art Ditmar went the distance with a six-hitter for his second win of the season as the Yankees beat the Indians 4-3 in the Bronx.

61yankees17Ditmar was coming off his finest season, when he led the Yankees with 15 wins (15-9), and finished with a 3.06 ERA.

Mickey Mantle continued his batting assault with a long triple to center field in the seventh inning, knocking in Tony Kubek to snap  3-3 tie. Mantle is now hitting .341 and leads the AL with seven homers and 17 RBIs.

Kubek contributed three hits to the cause, and the Yankee infield turned three double plays.

BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!

Box score


Playoff pressure weighs on Indians, Dodgers

As the wild card showdowns are decided and the MLB playoffs get started, the pressure is squarely on two teams – the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When the Chicago Cubs knocked off the Indians in a thrilling seven-game World Series last fall, they also passed along the stigma of baseball’s longest championship drought. The Tribe has come indiansagonizingly close several times – most notably last year and in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games. Cleveland also won the AL pennant but lost the World Series in 1954 and 1995.

You’ve got to go back the Truman administration in 1948 to find the last Indians championship squad. That year Cleveland beat the Boston Braves in six games. Do the math, that’s 69 years ago.

The Dodgers managed to win just one World Series in Brooklyn, beating the Yankees in seven games in 1955, before moving to Los Angeles in 1958. LA won five championships in its first 30 years on the West Coast, but none since. In fact, the Dodgers last made the World Series in 1988, when they knocked off the heavily-favored Oakland A’s in five games.

Many feel the Dodgers are due, having won five straight NL West titles and being crowned the best team ever by Sports Illustrated in August. Following that cover piece, the Dodgers reached a high water mark of 91-36, then proceeded to lose 16 out of 17 games, including 11 straight.

The Indians set an AL record with a 22-game winning streak in September, marking the Tribe as the team to beat in the AL.

The Dodgers wound up with the best record in baseball, 104-58, while the Indians finished second best at 102-60. Pressure’s on.


Satchel Paige: Great Early and Great Late

Sometimes records don’t even begin to tell the whole story, and stats don’t scratch the surface.

Take the case of Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, legendary Negro Leaguer, Hall of Fame pitcher and storyteller supreme.

In six seasons with the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A’s, Paige compiled a 28-31 record with a lifetime 3.29 ERA, and 288 strikeouts.

Not quite Hall of Fame caliber numbers.

But there’s so much more.

For two decades, Paige was arguably the hardest thrower, most colorful character and greatest gate attraction in the Negro Leagues. In his barnstorming days, he also pitched in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

It’s estimated that Paige pitched 2,5000 games, threw 55 no-hitters and performed before crowds in excess of 10 million.

MLB Debut at Age 42
On July 9, 1948, at the ripe old age of 42, Satchel Paige became the oldest man ever to debut in the major leagues. Six days later, he got his first major league win as the Indians beat the Philadelphia A’s, 8-5.

The Indians were battling for the American League pennant that summer, and in the heat of the race in late August, Paige authored back-to-back three-hit shutouts against the White Sox.

He finished the 1948 season with a 6-1 record and 2.48 ERA and appeared in one World Series game as Cleveland defeated the Boston Braves in six games. The Tribe hasn’t won the World Series since.

After a 4-7 record in 1949, the Indians released Paige. He was later picked up by the Browns, and Yankee manager Casey Stengel named Paige to the 1952 and 1953 American League All-Star team.

Note done yet, Paige continued to pitch into his fifties — on the barnstorm circuit and in the minor leagues.

Amazingly, in 1965 A’s owner Charles O. Finley signed Paige, then 59, to pitch one game on September 25 against the Red Sox. The ageless wonder threw three scoreless innings against a lineup that included Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro, allowing one hit and retiring the final seven batters he faced.

One can only imagine the type of records Satchel Paige — and some of the other great Negro League players — could have compiled if allowed to pitch in the majors in their primes.

Satchel Paige Master’s Maxims — A Guide to Longevity

1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.