Friday, March 16, 2012

Remembering Don Mincher

During the late 1950s and early 1960s there were many utility players in the American League that would have been perfect Designated Hitters.  They were good at hitting a baseball, but had fielding liabilities that kept them on the bench accept for pinch hitting situations.  But the American League did not put the Designated Hitter Rule into place until 1974, after the careers of these players were over.  Don Mincher was one those players.  Mincher died this past March 4, 2012, he was 73 years old.

Initially signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1956, Mincher was a part of the successful effort to be competitive by the lowly Washington Senators in 1960.  He was acquired from White Sox that April, but Senators’ fans did not get to see much of him.  The team moved to Minneapolis after the season and became the Minnesota Twins.

By 1964, the Twins were a contending team with a power hitting line up of future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, Earl Battey, and 1964 newcomer Tony Oliva; all capable of hitting the ball a long way.  When Don Mincher played first base in place of Killebrew, opposing pitchers did not get much of a break.  Mincher was also a home run threat.

After the Twins hit six home runs against my hometown Kansas City A’s on May 2 that year; my friends and I decided to go see this power show on display the next day.   The A’s won both games of the doubleheader, but what I remember most was the rocket shot home run Mincher hit the second game.  

When Killebrew missed a part of the next season, 1965, due to injury; Mincher stepped in and helped the Twins win the pennant.  He hit 22 home runs and drove in 65 runs.  He also hit a home run in the Twins’ Game 1 World Series win.

Leaving the Twins after 1966, Mincher became an All Star at first base for the California Angels in 1967 and the Seattle Pilots in 1969.  His last season was 1972, the year before the Designated Hitter Rule was initiated.  Mincher would have been the ideal Designated Hitter.  He hit 200 career home runs as basically a reserve player.   I believe he would have been a nightmare for opposing pitchers as a DH.

Who else do you think would have been a good DH from Mincher’s era?  What about Gates Brown or Dick Stuart?   

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