The 1961 New York Yankees were arguably among the best teams of all time. It is a team and a year that centered around the race to break Babe Ruth's long standing single season home run record of 60. Team mates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chased the record throughout the club's 162 game schedule. A late season injury slowed Mantle who finished with 54 blasts but Maris broke the Babe's record with 61 round trippers.
While the focus was on the ( M+M Boys ), Mantle and Maris, the Yankee squad won the American League pennant and then defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. It was redemption time for the Yankees after their 1960 World Series loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the loss to the Pirates, long time manager Casey Stengel was gone. He was replaced by Ralph Houk and in his rookie managerial season he returned the Yankees to the pinnacle of Major League baseball.
There is no doubting the fact that Mantle and Maris were the cornerstones of this great club. Still there were several other players who made significant contributions. First baseman Bill " Moose " Skowron supplied more power with 28 homers. Catcher Elston Howard had a tremendous season with 21 home runs, 77 RBI's and a lofty . 348 batting average. Yogi Berra was getting more and more time in the outfield and less behind the plate but he had a solid year with 22 balls over the fence. Utility outfielder, catcher and pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard added 21 to the team's home run total.
Shortstop Tony Kubek, second baseman Bobby Richardson and third baseman Clete Boyer did not make major offensive contributions but they more then made up for it with their sparkling defensive play. The starting pitching rotation was anchored by Whitey Ford ( 25-4 ) and Ralph Terry ( 16-3 ). The two together were an astounding 41-7 !
Then there was relief pitcher Luis Arroyo. Born in Puerto Rico in 1927, " Yoyo " broke into the big leagues with the Cardinals in 1955 at the age of 28. From there Luis went to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati before arriving in New York in 1960. Arroyo had a decent year out of the Yankee bullpen going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA and seven saves. Then came 1961...That year Luis put together one of the finest seasons by any relief pitcher of that era. Arroyo appeared in 65 games and worked 119 innings. He fanned 87 batters and finished with a stingy 2.19 ERA. Most impressive though was his 15-5 won-lost record to go along with his 29 recorded saves. It was a truly marvelous performance.Believe it or not Arroyo only played two more seasons with the Yankees with minimal success before he left the Majors. Still when everyone talks about the great " 61 " Yankees with Mantle, Maris, Howard, Berra, Ford and Terry, remind them of the feats of the unheralded Luis " Yoyo " Arroyo.
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