SOM to Reissue 1961 Baseball in Super Advanced Format
By Glenn Guzzo
Strat-O-Matic is offering a bonus to its baseball fans in early 2013, and what a bonus it is – the long-awaited reproduction of the 1961 season in Super Advanced format.
Long one of the most popular seasons in Major League history, 1961 was one of the first seasons SOM produced in its two-sided Advanced format (with lefty-righty features) when the company began issuing classic seasons in the 1980s. Ever since that print run sold out, gamers who missed out have been asking for a reprint – or, better yet, an update with all the modern Super Advanced features, such as ballpark effects, supplemental stealing, closer ratings, clutch hitting and more.
Once SOM began updating 1970s seasons from Advanced to Super Advanced, the call for 1961 came more frequently. Now, SOM is announcing that 1961 will join 1938 as two classic-season issues when the 2012 season is also released in late winter.
The ’61 season is famous for Roger Maris’ 61 home runs, which broke Babe Ruth’s record of 60 that had stood for 34 years. In ’61, all-time favorite Mickey Mantle also smashed 54 home runs and the Maris-Mantle Yankees set the big-league record with 240 home runs.
Another first: American League expansion to Los Angeles and Washington gave the Majors more than 16 teams for the first time. Expansion brought out the best in the game’s stars, batters and pitchers. No team’s stars shined brighter than the Yankees’.
In addition to Maris and Mantle, four other Bronx Bombers belted more than 20 homers – 1B Bill Skowron (28), LF Yogi Berra (22), C Elston Howard (21) and backup C John Blanchard (21). Future Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford was an amazing 25-4, his personal best. Closer deluxe Luis Arroyo was 15-5 while saving 29 with a sparking 2.19 ERA in a year known for its offense. Starting pitchers Ralph Terry (16-3) and Bill Stafford (14-9) also excelled.
The Yankees won 109 games. It took that dominance to win the AL pennant, because Detroit achieved a franchise-best 101 wins. The Tigers had a Big Three on the mound and a fearsome trio in the middle of their batting order.
Frank Lary (23-9) had his best season. Future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning (17-11) and lefty Don Mossi (15-7, 2.96) were just as tough. Closer Terry Fox had a 1.42 ERA.
But the slugging Tigers are best remembered for Hall of Fame RF Al Kaline (.324-19-82), batting champ 1B Norm Cash (.361-41-132) and LF Rocky Colavito’s finest season (.290-45-140) in the thick of a lineup with six double-figure homer hitters.
But the slugging Tigers were not second to the Yankees in long balls. It was the expansion Los Angeles Angels, playing for one year in the bandbox Wrigley Field – home to the Home Run Derby TV series – that belted 189 home runs, nine more than the Tigers.
Five Angels cast off by other teams smacked at least 20 homers: LF Leon Wagner (28), CF Ken Hunt (25), RF Lee Thomas (24), C Earl Averill (21) and 1B Steve Bilko (20).
The rest of the AL was full of fun. Baltimore 1B Jim Gentile had a career year at .302-46-141 with .646 slugging. Minnesota 1B Harmon Killebrew had one of his best seasons at .288-46-122 with .606 slugging. Chicago SS Luis Aparicio led the Majors with 53 SB. Kanas City SS Dick Howser hit. 280, drew 92 walks and stole 37 bases. Cleveland had five men with 16-27 HR and Mudcat Grant won 15 games. Boston rookie Don Schwall won 15. Baltimore’s Steve Barber won 18.
A year before National League expansion to New York and Houston, the senior circuit had the tighter pennant race, with surprise champ Cincinnati’s 93 wins topping the Los Angeles Dodgers by four games and San Francisco by eight.
Like the Tigers, the Reds had a big three starting staff in Joey Jay (21-10), Jim O’Toole (19-9) and Bob Purkey (16-12), and a powerful lineup. Future HOF RF Frank Robinson (.323-37-124, 22 SB) and CF Vada Pinson (.343 BA, .504 slugging, 23 SB and “1” defense”) had plenty of help with a LF platoon of Wally Post and Jerry Lynch who combined for 33 HR and corner infielders Gordy Coleman and Gene Freese (26 HR each).
The Dodgers had the strong left-handed arms of Johnny Podres (18-5) and Sandy Koufax (18-13, 269 Ks in 256 IP), the speed of SS Maury Wills (35 SB) and, count ‘em, eight double-figure homer hitters.
San Francisco’s incomparable CF Willie Mays (.308-40-123, 18 SB), Milwaukee’s equally incomparable RF Hank Aaron (.327-34-120. 21 SB) and The Great One, Pittsburgh RF Roberto Clemente (.351-23-89) joined Cincinnati’s Robinson in defining the word “superstar.”
Mays led the NL’s leading offense with Orlando Cepeda (.311-46-142), who led the league in HR and RBI and Willie McCovey, plus reliever Stu Miller (15-5, 2.66). Aaron led the league’s top home-run hitting team, which also boasted Eddie Mathews (.306-32-91), Joe Adcock (.285-25-108) and Frank Thomas (25 HR). Not to mention the league’s leader in wins and ERA, HOF lefty Warren Spahn (21-13, 3.01), and 18-game winner Lew Burdette.
Fifth-place St. Louis had 3B Ken Boyer (.329-24-95) and 1B Bill White (.286-20-90). Pittsburgh’s slip from pennant winner to sixth place wasn’t the fault of 1B Dick Stuart (.301-35-117). Chicago avoided the cellar with four men who hit 23-29 HR, including three future Hall of Famers: SS Ernie Banks, LF Billy Williams and 3B Ron Santo – plus this year’s top Cub, RF George Altman (.303-27-96 with 12 triples).
In case you’re not counting, we have just ID’d 19 Hall of Fame players in their primes. Ten more played major roles on their teams. They included such emerging stars as Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski.