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1961 in Baseball
The following are the baseball events of the year 1961 throughout the world.
Headline event of the year
Major League Baseball
Awards and honors
MLB statistical leaders
Major league baseball final standings
American League final standings
National League final standings
- February 7 - Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Jensen makes a return to the major leagues by signing a $40,000 contract. Jensen had retired in 1960 due to a fear of flying. Jensen will hit .263 with 13 home runs in 1961.
- April 10 -- In the traditional "Presidential Opener" in Washington, D.C., the Chicago White Sox defeat the Washington Senators, 4-3, with John F. Kennedy throwing out the first pitch before a crowd of 26,725. The Senators are an expansion team created expressly to replace the preceding team of the same name that moved to Minneapolis-Saint Paul over the winter. The 1961 season is the first of the expansion era, and this Presidential Opener is the last in the history of Griffith Stadium, Washington's venerable baseball park.
- April 11
- At Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox rookie Carl Yastrzemski gets a hit off Ray Herbert of the Kansas City Athletics. It is the first of 3,318 hits that Yastrzemski will amass over an illustrious 23-year career.
- The Los Angeles Angels play the first game in franchise history, defeating the Baltimore Orioles team, 7-2. For the Angels, Ted Kluszewski hits two home runs while Eli Grba pitches a complete game.
- At Yankee Stadium, the Minnesota Twins shut out the New York Yankees, 6-0, in their first game since their move from Washington, D.C. Pedro Ramos is the winning pitcher, helping himself with a two-run single while allowing just three singles in beating Yankees starter, Whitey Ford.
- Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts ties Grover Cleveland Alexander's National League record with a 12th-straight Opening Day start, but Philadelphia loses 6-2 to Don Drysdale and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Roberts is now 5-6 on Opening Day.
- April 21 - The Minnesota Twins play their very first home game in franchise history, losing to the Washington Senators 5-3.
- April 22 - The Boston Red Sox snap a 13-game losing streak in Chicago's Comiskey Park by edging the Chicago White Sox 7-6 on Pumpsie Green's 11th-inning home run.
- April 27 - The Los Angeles Angels drew a crowd of 11,931 for their home opener against the Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field. Ty Cobb, in his last appearance at a ball park, throws out the ceremonial first pitch. Minnesota starter Camilo Pascual spoils the opener by winning, 4-2, sending the Angels to their eighth loss in nine games.
- April 30 - San Francisco Giants slugger Willie Mays became the ninth player to hit four home runs in a single game as the Giants beat the Milwaukee Braves, 14-4, at Milwaukee's County Stadium.
- May 8 - New York's expansion National League club announces that the team nickname will be "Mets," a natural shortening of the corporate name ("New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, Inc.")
- May 9 - The Baltimore Orioles' Jim Gentile hits a grand slam in both the first and second innings in a game against the Minnesota Twins, and finishes with nine RBI in the game.
- May 31 - Boston Red Sox outfielder Carroll Hardy pinch-hits for rookie Carl Yastrzemski. On September 20, 1960, Hardy pinch hit for Ted Williams, making him the only player to go in for both future Hall of Famers. Hardy also hit his first major league home run pinch-hitting for Roger Maris when both were at Cleveland (May 18, 1958).
- July 4
- Willie Mays hits his 300th career home run off pitcher Jack Curtis, leading the San Francisco Giants to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
- In the first game of an Independence Day double-header at Metropolitan Stadium, Minnesota Twins pinch-hitter Julio Bécquer hits the first recorded ever four-pitcher walk-off grand slam in Major League Baseball history. Chicago White Sox starter Billy Pierce, up 4-2 in the ninth inning en route to a complete game, allows a single to Bob Allison. As a result, Pierce is relieved by Russ Kemmerer, who allows other single to Earl Battey. Frank Baumann then is brought in and he walks Lenny Green to load the bases. Afterwards, White Sox manager Al López summons Warren Hacker from the bullpen while Twins manager Sam Mele counters with Bécquer, who puts the ball over the right field fence for the walk-off homer and a 6-4 victory.
- In the second game of the double-header, Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew hits a three-run home run, which will be the only inside-the-park home run of the 573 homers he will hit in his distinguished career.
- July 11 - Strong winds at Candlestick Park dominate the first All-Star Game of the season. A capacity crowd sees pitcher Stu Miller blown off the mound in the ninth inning resulting in balk being called, and it enables the American League to forge a 3-3 tie before losing 5-4 in 10 innings.
- July 17 - Commissioner Ford Frick decrees that Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a 154-game schedule in 1927 "cannot be broken unless some batter hits 61 or more within his club's first 154 games." Two days later, Frick, an old friend of Ruth, announces that should Ruth's record be beaten after 154 games, the record will carry an asterisk. When asked about the ruling, Roger Maris replies, "A season is a season."
- July 31 - At Fenway Park, the second All-Star Game of the year ends in a 1-1 tie as heavy rain halted play. It is the first tie in All-Star history.
- November 16 - The New York Mets logo, designed by sports cartoonist Ray Gatto, is unveiled. The insignia, which is round with orange stitching, represents a baseball. A bridge in the foreground symbolizes that the Mets, in bringing back the National League to New York, represent all five boroughs. The skyline in the background includes a church spire, symbolic of Brooklyn, the Williamsburg Savings Bank, the Woolworth Building, the Empire State Building and the United Nations Building. The Mets' colors are Dodger blue and Giant orange, symbolic of the return of National League baseball to New York after the Dodgers and Giants moved to California.
- November 22 - Frank Robinson becomes the first Cincinnati Reds player in 21 years to win the National League MVP Award, taking 219 of 224 possible votes.
- November 26 - The Professional Baseball Rules Committee votes 8-1 against legalizing the spitball. Only National League supervisor of umpires Cal Hubbard votes in favor.
- November 27 - The Chicago White Sox again trade Chicago fan-favorite Minnie Miñoso, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for OF/1B Joe Cunningham.
- November 30 - Chicago Cubs outfielder Billy Williams, who hit .278 with 25 home runs and 86 RBI, is selected as the National League Rookie of the Year. Catcher Joe Torre of the Milwaukee Braves (.278, 10, 42) and Cubs pitcher Jack Curtis (10 wins, 4.89 ERA) also receive consideration for the honor.
- December 2 - MLB clubs vote to curb bonuses. All first-year players not on major rosters, except one minor leaguer, can be drafted by any other club for $8,000. Clubs are expected to be unwilling to pay large bonuses for players who will be subject to a draft for just $8,000.
- January 5 - Fred Luderus, 75, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman of the 1910s, captain of the 1915 NL champions
- January 8 - Schoolboy Rowe, 50, three-time All-Star pitcher who won 158 games, mainly with the Detroit Tigers (1933-1942) and Philadelphia Phillies (1943 and 1946-1949); member of Detroit's 1935 World Series champions
- January 17 - Bud Tinning, 54, pitcher who worked in 99 games for the 1932-1934 Chicago Cubs and 1935 St. Louis Cardinals; led National League in winning percentage in 1933 (.684)
- January 26 - George Hogreiver, 91, outfielder in 123 games for the 1896 Cincinnati Reds and the 1901 Milwaukee Brewers
- January 28 - Red Oldham, 67, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates who worked in 176 games over seven seasons between 1914 and 1926; member of 1925 World Series champion Pirates
- January 30 - Aaron Ward, 64, second baseman on the New York Yankees' first championship team in 1923; played in 1,059 games for the Yankees (1917-1926), Chicago White Sox (1927) and Cleveland Indians (1928)
- February 2 - Red Holt, 66, first baseman in 25 games for the 1925 Philadelphia Athletics
- February 3 - Dana Fillingim, 67, pitcher who appeared in 200 MLB games between 1915 and 1925, 187 of them for the Boston Braves
- February 4 - Parke Carroll, 56, former newspaper sports editor who became a baseball executive; business manager of the Kansas City Athletics from 1955 to 1958 and general manager in 1959 and 1960
- February 15 - Joe Bean, 86, shortstop who played 50 games for the 1902 New York Giants
- February 16 - Dazzy Vance, 69, Hall of Fame pitcher who led the National League in strikeouts seven years in a row, captured 197 MLB victories (190 for Brooklyn) and won the 1924 MVP award
- February 17 - Doc Johnston, 73, first baseman in 1,056 games over 11 seasons between 1909 and 1922 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Naps and Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics
- February 19 - Epp Sell, 63, pitcher who appeared in 12 games for the 1922-1923 St. Louis Cardinals
- February 19 - Red Smith, 61, shortstop who played 20 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925
- February 20 - Otto "Oom Paul" Krueger, 84, shortstop and third baseman in 507 games between 1899 and 1905 for Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, all of the National League
- February 23 - Davey Crockett, 85, first baseman who played 28 games for the 1901 Detroit Tigers
- March 13 - Joe Berry, 88, catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies for one game in 1902
- March 28 - Powel Crosley Jr., 74, industrialist, inventor and entrepreneur; owner of the Cincinnati Reds from 1934 until his death
- March 28 - Jim Hackett, 83, first baseman and pitcher who played in 105 games for the 1902-1903 St. Louis Cardinals
- April 8 - Fred Brickell, 54, outfielder who appeared in 501 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies between 1926 and 1933; father of Fritz Brickell
- April 10 - Branch Rickey Jr., 47, vice president and farm system director of the Pirates since 1951; former farm director and assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers; son of the Hall of Fame baseball executive
- April 15 - Nick Cullop, 73, pitcher for the Cleveland Naps, New York Yankees and St. Louis Browns, who also won 22 games for the 1915 Kansas City Packers in the outlaw Federal League
- April 15 - Jess Doyle, 63, pitcher in 55 big-league games between 1925 and 1931, all but one of them for the Detroit Tigers
- April 15 - Cy Falkenberg, 81, pitcher who won 130 games over a 12-season career in the American, National and Federal leagues between 1903 and 1917, including 23 for the 1913 Cleveland Naps
- April 23 - Jack Barry, 73, shortstop of the Philadelphia Athletics' "$100,000 infield", coach since 1921 at Holy Cross, where he won the 1952 College World Series and posted the highest career winning percentage (.806) in collegiate history
- April 27 - Frank Gibson, 70, catcher and first baseman in 471 games for the 1913 Detroit Tigers and the 1921-1927 Boston Braves
- April 28 - Tommy Connolly, 90, Hall of Fame umpire from 1898 to 1931 who worked the first American League game ever, as well as the first contests at Comiskey Park, Shibe Park, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium
- May 8 - Weldon Wyckoff, 70, Philadelphia Athletics right-hander who pitched for the 1913 World Series champions, the 1914 American League champions, and the 1915 A's, who fell all the way into the AL basement with a 43-109 record; Wyckoff went 10-22 for that team; he also appeared briefly for 1916 Athletics and 1916-1918 Boston Red Sox
- May 13 - Al Humphrey, 75, outfielder in eight games for the 1911 Brooklyn Dodgers
- May 13 - Binky Jones, 61, shortstop who played in ten games for the 1924 Brooklyn Robins
- May 17 - Otto Knabe, 76, second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1907-1913; also played briefly for Pittsburgh and Chicago of the National League; player-manager for the Baltimore Terrapins of the "outlaw" Federal League
- May 17 - Barney Slaughter, 76, pitcher in eight games for the 1910 Phillies
- May 21 - Ben Koehler, 84, outfielder and native of Germany who appeared in 208 games for the 1905-1906 St. Louis Browns
- May 22 - Mike Regan, 73, pitcher who appeared in 55 games for the Cincinnati Reds between 1917 and 1919
- June 4 - Iron Davis, 71, pitcher in 36 games for the New York Highlanders and Boston Braves between 1912 and 1915; threw a no-hit, no-run game against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 9, 1914, the first no-hitter at two-year-old Fenway Park, the Braves' occasional home field that season
- June 5 - Syd Smith, 77, catcher who appeared in 146 games between 1908 and 1915 for the Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Naps and Pittsburgh Pirates
- June 11 - Frank Woodward, 67, pitcher in 42 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox between 1918 and 1923
- June 18 - Eddie Gaedel, 36, 3 ft 7 in (1.09 m) player who, as part of a Bill Veeck stunt promotion, made one official MLB appearance as a pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns on August 19, 1951
- June 21 - Al "Big Dutch" Bergman, 71, second baseman who appeared in eight games for 1916 Cleveland Indians
- July 3 - Bill Finneran, 83, umpire in National League (1911-1912 and 1923) and Federal League (1915)
- July 16 - Mike Mitchell, 81, outfielder who played 1,124 games for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators between 1907 and 1914
- July 17 - Ty Cobb, 74, Hall of Fame center fielder widely recognized during his lifetime as the greatest player in the sport's history, and holder of more records than any other player, including highest lifetime batting average (.367) and most career hits (4,191), runs (2,245), steals (892), games (3,033) and at bats (11,429)
- July 17 - Ed Reulbach, 78, pitcher who starred for the Chicago Cubs from 1905 to 1913, winning 182 career games
- July 18 - Hod Eller, 67, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds from 1917-1921, including a 1919 World Series game which saw him strike out 6 in a row
- July 23 - John Grim, 93, catcher, second baseman and first baseman who played in 708 MLB games in the National League and American Association between 1888 and 1899
- July 25 - Carlton Molesworth, 85, pitcher in only four games for Washington of the National League in 1895 who went on to a long career as a minor-league manager and scout
- July 31 - Bud Weiser, 70, outfielder in 41 games for 1915-1916 Philadelphia Phillies
- August 2 - Harry Gardner, 74, pitcher in 14 games for the 1911-1912 Pittsburgh Pirates
- August 2 - Walter Morris, 81, shortstop in 23 games for the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals, later a longtime minor-league manager and executive who helped to organize 12 different leagues
- August 3 - Tom Downey, 77, played from 1909 to 1915 for the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and the Buffalo Bisons (Federal League)
- August 12 - Harry Colliflower, 92, pitcher and outfielder for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders who spent one year, 1910, as an American League umpire
- August 18 - John Leary, 70, shortstop in 219 games for the 1914-1915 St. Louis Browns
- August 29 - Bill Schwartz, 77, first baseman in 24 games for the 1904 Cleveland Naps
- September 9 - Jesse Barnes, 69, pitcher who won 152 games for the Boston Braves, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers between 1915 and 1927, including a no-hitter on May 7, 1922, against the Philadelphia Phillies
- September 9 - Rube Oldring, 77, outfielder who played mainly for the Philadelphia Athletics, including four pennant winners (1910, 1911, 1913, 1914)
- September 23 - Ted Jourdan, 66, first baseman who played in 75 games for the Chicago White Sox (1916-1918 and 1920)
- October 4 - Roy Golden, 73, pitcher who twirled in 37 games for the 1910-1911 St. Louis Cardinals
- October 17 - Harry Felix, 86, pitcher in ten games for the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies in 1901 and 1902
- October 21 - Harry Gleason, 86, infielder/outfielder who played from 1901 through 1905 for the Boston Americans and St. Louis Browns
- November 1 - Tom Hughes, 77, pitcher for the New York Highlanders (1906-1907 and 1909-1910) and Boston Braves (1914-1918); threw a no-hit, no-run game against Pittsburgh on June 16, 1916
- November 3 - Freddie Maguire, 62, second baseman who played in 618 games for New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and Boston Braves over six seasons between 1922 and 1931
- November 6 - Roy Hartzell, 80, outfielder, third baseman and shortstop who appeared in 1,290 games for the St. Louis Browns and New York Highlanders/Yankees between 1906 and 1916
- November 17 - Benny Kauff, 71, "the Ty Cobb of the Feds," outfielder who won back-to-back batting (.370 and .342) and stolen base (75 and 55) titles in the 1914-1915 Federal League, then considered an "outlaw" circuit but now recognized as a major league; also played for New York Highlanders of the American League and New York Giants of the National; banned from baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis after he was tried and found innocent on charges of car theft in 1920
- November 23 - Nick Carter, 82, pitcher in 14 games for the 1908 Philadelphia Athletics
- November 27 - Bob Harmon, 74, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1909 to 1918; won 23 games for 1911 Cardinals
- November 28 - Earl Moore, 84, pitcher who won 163 games between 1901 and 1914 in the American, National and Federal leagues; posted a 20-8 won-lost mark for the 1903 Cleveland Naps, and led the American League in ERA (1.74); also won 22 games for the 1910 Philadelphia Phillies
- December 5 - Judge Emil Fuchs, 83, cash-strapped owner of the Boston Braves from 1922 to July 31, 1935; managed the Braves himself to a last-place 56-98 record in 1929; one of his final acts as owner was the ill-fated 1935 purchase of Babe Ruth, who batted only .181 with six home runs in 28 games, and retired on May 30
- December 8 - Lou Koupal, 62, pitcher who worked in 101 games over six seasons between 1925 and 1937 for four big-league clubs
- December 15 - Dummy Hoy, 99, center fielder who scored over 100 runs nine times, and the game's most accomplished deaf player; he threw out the first ball of the 1961 World Series' third game on October 7
- December 17 - Ping Bodie, 74, outfielder in 1,050 games for the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees between 1911 and 1921; one of first Italian-Americans to play in the major leagues
- December 25 - Don Savage, 42, third baseman who played in 105 games for the 1944-1945 Yankees