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Numbers | 240

October 7, 2012

1961 | The “M&M Boys,” Maris and Mantle (Sports Illustrated)

During the 1961 season, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were seemingly trading long balls for six months, the Yankees hit 240 home runs.  240.  At that time no other Yankee team had ever hit 200 home runs, the closest one being the 1960 team that hit 193.  The next closest team to the Yankees during the 1961 season was the Los Angeles Angels with 189.  240 home runs is a staggering number, considering that it took 37 years for another Yankee team to breach the 200 home run mark when the 1998 team rounded the bases 207 times.  It took 43 years for a team to finally eclipse the ’61 club’s milestone when the 2004 squad hit 242.  The 2009 Championship team broke the record again with 244, and the 2012 club claimed the record with 245, but still the 1961 squad ranks 4th all time, only 5 home runs behind the modern home run juggernaut.  This is incredible for 3 reasons:

1.  The “Steroid Era”

It is incredible that the 1961 home run total stands up so well in this “steroid era” when seemingly every year a high profile star is tarnished when his name is linked to a dubious trainer or a failed drug test.  From 1903-1999 Yankee teams eclipsed 200 home runs twice (1961 and 1998).  From 2000-2009 Yankee teams hit 200 home runs 9 times (2000-2007, 2009).  In a time when a single player can hit 73 home runs, the ghosts of Yankee past still stand tall.

2.  Stadium Dimensions

Another thing to keep in mind is that the dimensions of Yankee Stadium were vastly different 51 years ago:

Field | Old Stadium/New Stadium

  • Left Field | 301/318
  • Left-Center Field | 457/399
  • Center Field | 461/408
  • Right-Center Field | 407/385
  • Right Field | 296/314

The short right field porch in the old Yankee Stadium certainly suited the left-handed Maris, and Mantle when he was batting lefty, but with the way balls have carried out to right in the new Yankee Stadium it’s almost a scratch.  The other power alleys in 1961 all had prodigious distances, which is why the outfield at the old Stadium was known as “Death Valley.”  Long balls went there to die.  I’m sure on more than one occasion the Mick got a hold of one that would have been 10 rows up in the bleachers in 2012, but instead fell for a double or was caught by an opposing outfielder.

3.  The Designated Hitter

The DH was not added to the American League until 1973, which means that Whitey Ford, Bill Stafford, Ralph Terry and Rollie Sheldon had to step into the batter’s box whenever they pitched.  Take into consideration Hideki Matsui’s DH stats from the 2009 season: 62 R | 125 H | 28 HR | 90 RBI | .274 BA

The Yankees pitchers from 1961: 0 home runs in 441 at bats.  The Yankees pitchers from 2009: 0 home runs in 24 at bats.  The Yankees pitchers from 2012: 0 home runs in 21 at bats.  If we subtract the pitching at bats from all 3 squads, the 2009 Yankees were afforded 518 more at bats and the 2012 Yankees were given 385 more at bats than their 1961 counterparts, yet were able to muster just 4 and 5 more home runs, respectively.

In this era of the long ball, when stadiums are smaller, bats are bigger, strike zones are smaller, and balls carry better, the 1961 team still stands as one of the deepest and most powerful teams in Yankee and Major League history.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2012 8:35 AM

    Love Billy Crystal’s movie about the race in 1961.

    • DGH permalink
      October 8, 2012 9:03 AM

      Such a great film. It makes you appreciate even more what Maris was able to do in spite of all the criticism.

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