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'65 World Series

As most of us are missing “real” baseball just about this time of the winter and counting the days until Spring Training, I highly recommend searching up the 1965 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Dodgers to help cut the edge until teams report to their springtime tune-up sites.

Recently I took a deep dive and watched this series, game by game. I enjoyed every minute of each game, as it also made me reflect back to a different era completely, and see the game has indeed changed over time, yet still largely remained the same. Besides being able to see some of the all-time greats of the game, such as Drysdale, Koufax, Wills, and Killebrew, it also provided me with a great appreciation for guys who I had never seen play before, The ‘65 Series had it all.

First of all, the Series had some great names! Sure, trying to spell and pronounce Dodger rookie Jim Lefebvre’s name was a challenge, but there was also Zoilo Versailles scooping up balls at shortstop for the Twins, Camilo Pascual taking the mound, Sandy Valdespino, and even Earl Battey catching. Who were THESE guys? Sweet Dodgers players like Lou Johnson in the outfield and Wes Parker at first base showed me just how important the lesser known players were to the success of that ‘65 squad.

Then there was Vin Scully and Ray Scott, representing their teams wonderfully, and providing outstanding play-by-play. Many of the terms that I heard Vin say so many times as a kid growing up, he said during the broadcast of all seven games. Also, watching the “new” replay technology provided by NBC made me loathe the 97 angles and replays we see today. You want stats and camera angles? Not in this Series, my friends. There was a scrawl across the bottom of the screen relaying any important player information, and there might have been 3 camera angles for the whole game. So primitive, yet strangely missed.

Promoting TV shows in “vibrant color” was a new option, yet seeing fans smoking in the stands, ladies wearing dresses, and the fellas looking straight out of “The Blues Brothers” also brought back a certain nostalgia that only some people can appreciate, myself included.

Bases secured by straps, umpires with outside chest protectors, and players staying quiet if they thought the blue made a wrong call. They played the games in the daylight of the afternoon. TV ratings weren’t the priority. The pace was so different than today’s game. Two hours and change, and call it a ballgame. People had things to do. There was still a bit of daylight left. No pregame musical performances. No elbow guards. No face protection or even walk up songs. Bating gloves and batting helmets were relatively new, and most hitters called time out when they got on base and took off their helmet, gave it to the base coach, and relied on the old soft cap. This was fantastic!

The Dodgers began the Series in Minneapolis, and manager Walter Alston and most Dodger fans had to feel confident knowing that “The Big 2,” Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were on the hill for the first two games.

In Game 1, Don Drysdale faced Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and got chased from the game early as the Twins upset the apple cart and took a 1-0 Series lead. Game 2 was played after a long, overnight rain. It was Minnesota after all. Rolling field flamethrowers and even a helicopter was used to get the field dry and in game shape. Koufax going in Game 2 seemed to give Dodger fans the hope of returning home tied at one game apiece. In a battle of left-handers, Koufax got chased early and Jim Kaat went the distance beating the Dodgers, giving the Twins a two-game lead as they headed back to Los Angeles.

Game 3 was a crucial game for the Dodgers, as their two big guns failed to even give them a split of two games in Minnesota. As the afternoon sun drenched the field at Chavez Ravine this Saturday, Claude Osteen had the task of pitching to save the series, and keep the Boys in Blue from going down three games in the blink of an eye. Osteen faced Camilo Pascual and pitched a gem in front of over 50,000 fans, tossing a complete game shutout, and only allowing five hits, giving the Dodgers their first win of the Series.

The next day for Game 4, fans were treated to a Game 1 rematch between Drysdale and Mudcat Grant. This time, the big California kid was back in his groove, striking out eleven, and beating the Twins handily 7-2, and keeping the Dodgers hot at home. Game 5 presented yet another early series rematch, with Koufax facing Kaat again. Koufax went the distance at home, giving up four hits and striking out ten while shutting out the Twins 7-0. Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam led the Dodgers offensive attack, and they took a 3 games to 2 lead as the Series now headed back to Minneapolis.

As Game 6 started, it was easy to see that the Twins were motivated to stay in the series as Mudcat Grant pitched solidly on two days rest, hit a home run, and beat the Dodgers 5-1, which evened the series at 3 games apiece. The ‘65 season was going to come down to just one game. The big question would be; Which pitcher would start the finale? Drysdale on normal rest, or Koufax with two.

Dodgers skipper Walt Alston made the decision to start Koufax and keep Drysdale ready in case he needed the big right hander in relief. Koufax had difficulty throwing his curveball for strikes consistently, and really gave up on it in the late innings, strictly relying on his fastball to shut out the Twins on just three hits in one of the best pitching performances in World Series history, and claim the World Series title for Los Angeles. Lou Johnson and Ron Fairly came up big offensively for the Dodgers throughout the series. For his efforts, Koufax was named series MVP.

Without a doubt, this is a World Series that is worthy of watching. Not only is it amazing to watch each game, but even more amazing to watch guys making plays and doing things on the field when I really remember them growing up as Dodger legends as a kid. To see them in their prime was just a baseball treat, and gave me a great appreciation for the accomplishments they achieved as a team, rather than only hearing about them in stories using past tense vernacular and “remember whens.” Whether you’re a Dodgers fan or not, this series checks all the boxes for true baseball fans who are anticipating the day when baseball soon returns and pitchers and catchers report for 2023’s version of Spring Training.

Submitted by Jason Beck, @bourbon_and_baseball on Instagram

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