1965 Twins vs. 2009 Twins

Published 8:35 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

When long-time Twins’ fans think of the World Series of 1965, it doesn’t seem that long ago. But it was when you look at what else happened that year.

The two U.S. Senators from Minnesota were Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy. President Lyndon Johnson declared for the Great Society, the Watts riot occurred, Winston Churchill died and Malcolm X was assassinated. “The Sound of Music” premiered and the first U.S. combat troops landed in Vietnam. The original skateboard championship was held. Some of these happenings seem just like yesterday and others seem a long time ago. One more thing of importance occurred, the Minnesota Twins went to their first World Series.

The 1965 Twins and the 2009 Twins belong to a different time. But one of the beauties of baseball is that due to its lack of change, distant years can be compared. The present day Twins are far from a carbon copy of their predecessor. As mentioned last week, the 1965 team was a typical American League team of little speed, heavy hitting and very good pitching. The 2009 team is a prototypical National League outfit, based on speed, defense and hopefully, pitching.

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The ‘65 team had only one speedster in Zoilo Versalles while our current edition has four in Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto. Last year’s Twins would hit behind the base runner and occasionally bunt a runner over to third base. The ‘65s would have been drummed out of the American League if they had committed such an act. During the Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire era the Twins rely on manufacturing runs.

The star of the 1965 team was Harmon Killebrew for one reason only, he was a slugger. Killebrew was no Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and no gazelle in the outfield. In fact, I remember going to Metropolitan Stadium when the Killer played left field. He had worn a patch in the grass where he stood every inning. The rest of the team followed his lead and there was little talk of advancing the runner and hitting to the opposite field. They were built on the Yankee pattern. And why not, the Yankees were for many years the best team in the Majors. The ‘65 team hit 150 home runs, the 2008 team, but 111.

If you had to pick a leader for the 2009 team and the star, I think Joe Mauer is your man. The team is patterned after Mauer and the speedsters. Get on base, advance the runners and score runs. Which system is the best? The 1965 team scored 774 runs, the 2008 829.

The ‘65 team had excellent established starters. The 2009 team has Joe Nathan as their only established premier pitcher. The starting pitching has a great deal of potential and may become the best staff in the Central Division, but they aren’t there yet.

The 1965 staff had an ERA of 3.14 which compares very favorably with the 2008 staff’s 4.18.

While runs scored last year by our present Twins exceeded the ‘65 team, runs allowed were 745 compared to 600 by the ‘65 team. Based on the pitching staff, if the two teams were to meet head-to-head in a World Series, I’d have to give the edge to the team of Grant, Kaat, etc. However our 2009 Twins have the potential to exceed the ‘65s if their pitching comes through, for although the team of 1965 went to the World Series, they did not win it.