1961 marked a number of ends and beginnings. Casey Stengel was forced out as Yankees manager, and Ralph Houk took over. It didn't seem to matter, as the Yankees won the pennant and World Series under Houk. It was also an expansion year, as the AL added franchises in Washington, with the old Senators moving to Minneapolis and becoming the Minnesota Twins, and a west coast entry was added with the Los Angeles Angels. With some weak sisters to beat up on, the Yankees won 109 games, but the Detroit Tigers were surprise contenders and tallied 101 wins. Baltimore was a strong third, but Chicago was the only other team in the newly 10-team league over .500. Cleveland finished fifth, followed by a Ted Williams-less Boston, Minnesota, LA, and Kansas City and Washington tied for last at 100 losses. Jackie Jensen, who had retired from the Red Sox the previous year due in large part to a fear of flying, returned this year, but jumped the club for 8 days in April. After all, the schedule now included west coast trips.
It was also a crazy year in the stats, as Roger Maris belted 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth's long-standing single season record. Maris also led the league in RBI with 142, just ahead of Jim Gentile's 141 and Rocky Colavito's 140. Norm Cash led the league in batting (with a .361 average) and OPS, in what was by far his best season and a large reason for the Detroit surprise. Mantle and Maris tied for the lead in runs with 132, and Luis Aparicio led the league in steals with 53. Al Kaline had 41 doubles and was second in the league with a .324 average, and Jake Wood had 14 triples.
Whitey Ford won 25 games in his first year in a normal rotation, while Frank Lary won 23. Dick Donovan led the league in ERA with a 2.40 mark, followed by Bill Stafford at 2.68. Camilo Pascual led in strikeouts with 221, followed by Ford at 209. Luis Arroyo led in saves with 29, well ahead of Hoyt Wilhelm's 18. Ford led the league with 283 innings, while Lary had 22 complete games. Pascual and Steve Barber each pitched 8 shutouts.
Win Shares leaderboard:
Players; Mickey Mantle (New York) 48, Norm Cash (Detroit) 42, Roger Maris (New York) 36, Rocky Colavito (Detroit) 33, Jim Gentile (Baltimore) 32, Al Kaline (Detroit) and Elston Howard (New York) 29, Harmon Killebrew (Minnesota) 27, John Romano (Cleveland) 25, Jim Landis and Roy Sievers (Chicago) and Norm Siebern (Kansas City) 23, Jackie Brandt (Baltimore), Tito Francona (Cleveland) and Woodie Held (Detroit) and Tony Kubek (New York) 21.
Pitchers; Luis Arroyo (New York) 23, Frank Lary (Detroit) and Whitey Ford (New York) 22, Don Mossi (Detroit) 20, Steve Barber (Baltimore) and Jim Bunning (Detroit) 19, Juan Pizarro (Chicago) 18, Bill Monbouquette (Boston), Ken McBride (Los Angeles), Jack Kralick and Camilo Pascual (Minnesota) and Bill Stafford (New York) 17.
WARP3 leaders, position players: Cash 11.3, Mantle 10.4, Kaline 8.7, Gentile 8.0, Colavito and Howard 7.3, Romano 6.3, Maris 5.8, Jimmy Piersall (Cleveland) 5.5, Earl Battey (Minnesota) 5.3, Francona 5.0, Killebrew 4.8, Kubek 4.7.
WARP3 leaders, pitchers: Pascual 7.2, McBride and Kralick 6.3, Dick Donovan (Washington) 6.2, Pizarro 5.7, Jim Archer (Kansas City) 5.6, Bennie Daniels (Washington) 5.5, Eli Grba (Los Angeles) 5.4, Monbouquette and Pedro Ramos (Minnesota) 5.2, Lary 4.8, Tom Morgan (Los Angeles) 4.7, Stafford 4.5, Don Schwall (Boston) 4.4, Arroyo 4.3.
WAR leaders, position players (fWAR): Mantle 11.1, Cash 10.8, Colavito 8.8, Gentile 8.6, Kaline 8.4, Maris 7.9, Killebrew 7.0, Piersall 5.6, Romano 5.5, Landis, Robinson, and Sievers 4.9, Held 4.7. Pitchers (bWAR): Kralick 5.5, Pascual 5.0, McBride 4.7, Lary and Pizarro 4.1, Donovan and Monbouquette 4.0, Hoeft 3.9, Archer, Bunning, and Mossi 3.7.
MVP (top 11):
Place Name Team 1st place Votes
1 Roger Maris NYY 7 202
2 Mickey Mantle NYY 6 198
3 Jim Gentile BAL 5 157
4 Norm Cash DET 1 151
5 Whitey Ford NYY 0 102
6 Luis Arroyo NYY 1 95
7 Frank Lary DET 0 53
8 Rocky Colavito DET 0 51
9 Al Kaline DET 0 35
10 Elston Howard NYY 0 30
11 Harmon Killebrew MIN 0 29
A wildly split vote between the two Yankees and the two career years.
Cy Young was one vote for the two leagues:
1 Whitey Ford NYY 9 9
2 Warren Spahn MLN 6 6
3 Frank Lary DET 2 2
1 Don Schwall BOS 7 7
2 Dick Howser KCA 6 6
3 Floyd Robinson CHW 2 2
3 Chuck Schilling BOS 2 2
3 Lee Thomas TOT 2 2
6 Jake Wood DET 1 1
Top Player: Mickey Mantle. It was the Mick's last true great year, and he deserves the trophy. He was easily the best player in the league, again, although Cash was spectacular. Sometimes it's lonely at the top, but the Yankees got a lot of mileage out of it.
#1 Mickey Mantle, #2 Norm Cash, #3 Roger Maris, #4 Jim Gentile, #5 Rocky Colavito, #6 Al Kaline.
Top pitcher: No real great pitcher in the AL this year. I'm gonna go for the "pod people" year of Luis Arroyo. It was way over his head, and even though he was a reliever he was the best pitcher in the league. Amazing work.
#1 Luis Arroyo, #2 Frank Lary, #3 Camilo Pascual, #4 Whitey Ford, #5 Juan Pizarro.
Top rookie: Another weak field. Put me down for Dick Howser. He was better than Don Schwall, and about even with Floyd Robinson.
Top manager: I'll say Bob Scheffing, for taking over Detroit and guiding them to 2nd place. It was an exciting year in Detroit, while the Yankees' success was expected.