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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, Phillies first baseman of the 1910s, captain of the 1915 NL champions
- January 8 - Schoolboy Rowe, 50, 3-time All-Star pitcher who won 158 games, mainly with the Tigers and Phillies
- January 28 - Red Oldham, 67, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates
- January 30 - Aaron Ward, 64, second baseman on the Yankees' first championship team in 1923
- February 16 - Dazzy Vance, 69, Hall of Fame pitcher who led the NL in strikeouts seven years in a row and won the 1924 MVP award
- February 19 - Red Smith, 61, shortstop for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1920s
- March 13 - Joe Berry, 88, catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies for one game in 1902
- 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 23 - Jack Barry, 73, shortstop in the 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 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 17 - Otto Knabe, 76, Second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies for many years, and was the player-manager for the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League.
- June 18 - Eddie Gaedel, 36, 3'7" player who made one appearance for the 1951 Browns in a stunt promotion
- 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 Cubs from 1905 to 1913, winning 182 career games
- July 18 - Hod Eller, 67, pitcher for the Reds from 1917-1921, including a 1919 World Series game which saw him strike out 6 in a row
- August 3 - Tom Downey, 77, played from 1909 to 1915 for the Reds, Phillies, Cubs, and Bisons.
- September 9 - Jesse Barnes, 69, pitcher who won 152 games for the Braves, Giants and Dodgers, including a no-hitter
- September 9 - Rube Oldring, 77, outfielder who played mainly for the Athletics, including 4 pennant winners
- October 21 - Harry Gleason, 86, infielder/outfielder who played from 1901 through 1905 for the Boston Americans and St. Louis Browns
- November 27 - Bob Harmon, 74, pitcher for the Cardinals and Pirates from 1909 to 1918
- 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