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‘65 Twins 7, ‘65 Dodgers 5: ...really? Jerry Zimmerman?

In which backup catchers rule the day.

Roger Maris Trying to Score
There are four pictures to choose from when searching the Getty baseball database for “Jerry Zimmerman Twins.”

I’m going to break the fourth wall a few times for this recap.

In proposing this idea, TJ emphasized the contrast between an older time in baseball and modern-day strategy, wondering what the results would be if the two met.

As I’ve gotten more acquainted with Out of the Park 21, I’ve been more aware of the strategies that won’t change if I run the game automatically - including lineup substitutions in a seven-game exhibition. While lineup order has changed (well, for the Twins, not the Dodgers), starters have not.

But in today’s game, teams universally give their catchers a break every three or so days. So even with the rest day in between Games 2 and 3, I substituted L.A.’s Jeff Torborg and Minnesota’s Jerry Zimmerman into the lineup.

While Torborg had a solid day for the Dodgers, striking two doubles while scoring one run and driving in another, Zimmerman’s three-run home run gave the Twins an early lead. Minnesota would hang on for a 7-5 victory, giving them a lead of three games to one and putting them one game away from a simulated World Series championship.

The Dodgers plated an unearned run in the first and Minnesota hadn’t yet made threatening contact off Johnny Podres with two outs in the bottom of the second. But Podres had walked Jimmie Hall and Bob Allison, and with those men on, Zimmerman cracked a fastball 383 feet over the left field wall for a three-run precursory bomba.

The 1965 season, Zimmerman’s fifth, was the first in which he hit a home run.

Over his eight-year career, Zimmerman hit three home runs.

You can’t predict simulated baseball either.

The Zimmerman dinger must have been a harbinger for Podres, who lasted just one more inning. After Tony Oliva singled and Zoilo Versalles tripled him in, Podres pitched around Killebrew and walked him. But after two aerial retirements, Allison lined the ball just inside the right field foul pole for another Earl Weaver special and a 7-1 lead.

Minnesota starter Jim Merritt would last slightly longer, his five innings just enough to earn the decision, but would not make it past his own troublesome inning. After Torborg doubled and pinch hitter Willie Crawford bunted him to third, Merritt got Maury Wills to bounce out on a trickler too short to score the catcher. But Jim Lefebvre doubled him in and Jim Gilliam sent his own present to the fans in left, cutting the lead to 7-4.

Los Angeles continued their hitting barrage (13 hits to the Twins’ six) the next inning off Mel Nelson, with four men adding to the hit column but only one runner crossing the plate thanks in part to Ron Fairly’s TOOTBLAN, caught between second and third on a Wes Parker single.

With the score still 7-5 in the top of the ninth, Al Worthington entered hoping to earn the save without any nail-biting from the fans in Metropolitan Stadium, and generally succeeded. Wills, who had misplayed a Zimmerman grounder the previous half-inning, singled on a bunt, only his third hit of the Series. After advancing to second on a Lefebvre groundout, Wills took off for third, but was gunned down by... who else?...

...John Sevcik, who had entered for Zimmerman as a defensive replacement. (So all three backup catchers got in on the fun this game.)

Gilliam would take a called third strike to end the game.

Game 5 is scheduled to be a rematch of Game 1, Jim Kaat versus Don Drysdale... but with the Dodgers one game from elimination, it’s possible Sandy Koufax will take the hill instead.

STUDS:

  • Jerry Zimmerman: 1-4, HR, 3 RBI, R
  • Bob Allison: 1-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB
  • Zoilo Versalles: 2-3, 3B, 2B, R, RBI, BB
  • Tony Oliva: 2-5, 2B, R

DUDS:

  • Mel Nelson: 1 IP, ER, 4 H
  • Don Mincher: 0-4, 2 K
  • Jerry Kindall: 0-4, 2 K

Previous games: Game 1 / Game 2 / Game 3