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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

The 1965 Yankees: A Lesson?

by Paul Semendinger

July 24, 2023

***

I know, I know... hope springs eternal.


I know... I know... anything can happen.


Anthony Rizzo is a former All-Star and he just had a great game. Giancarlo Stanton is hitting homers! And if DJ LeMahieu hits and Gleyber Torres too... And the Yankees have Harrison Bader and great youth in Anthony Volpe.


Imagine a staff with Carlos Rodon and Gerrit Cole at the top... what they could do in the playoffs! Nestor Cortes will be back soon and he'll be great. Luis Severino has turned the corner...


And just wait and see when Judge comes back!!!!


The Yankees just won three games in a row!


It's good to dream.

***

Sometimes dreaming is good.


But sometimes dreaming, or wishful thinking, makes us think the things that we dream about are real, when the reality is actually much different.


When I look at the Yankees of today, the 2023 team, I sometimes think of teams, like the 1965 Yankees, that were also full of hope, but came up short and then continued to slide backwards.


It would have been great if the Yankees leaders saw what was happening in 1965, but they didn't and the Yankees, as a result, went through a long unsuccessful period.


In 1965, the Yankees were coming off a period where they had been to the last five consecutive World Series and thirteen of the previous fifteen World Series.


It looked like the dynasty would continue on and on.


It didn't.

***

When people look back at that 1965 team, many assume that there was no hope. History has a way of making us think that the Yankees just crashed and burned - that the bottom fell out and all was lost - in an instant. That's not the way it happened. At all.


There was hope for that team. There were reasons to believe. There were actually more reasons to believe in that team than the 2023 Yankees.


The 1965 Yankees had 35 comeback wins! (The 2023 Yankees have 19, so far.)


The 1965 Yankees had 8 walk-off wins! (The 2023 Yankees have 5.)


One could look at that team, in real time, in 1965, and find reasons to hope.

***

The 2023 Yankees are currently 53-47. That's 6 games over .500.


From June 1, through August 31, the 1965 Yankees went 47-41. (Yup, 6 games over .500.)


As late as August 20, the 1965 Yankees (at 63-61) had a winning record. And, in the season before, in 1964, the Yankees went 22-6 in September.


Just as so many today are hoping on so much, the fans in 1965 had even better reasons to believe that that team was ready to make a run at another pennant.


And the players, on that 1965 team... well, they had a much more impressive squad than the 2023 Yankees, without question:


Their catcher, Elston Howard, was an eight time All-Star. He had also won the 1963 MVP and finished in third place in 1964.


Their first baseman, Joe Pepitone, was a rising talent. He was entering his third full season. He had already been an All-Star twice.


Bobby Richardson, MVP of the 1960 World Series, was also a multi-time All-Star who had also won a few Gold Gloves.


Tony Kubek, at shortstop, was the former Rookie of the Year. He was also a multi-time All-Star.


The left fielder, Mickey Mantle, was a legend. He was one of the greats in the game's history. He had last won the MVP just two seasons before, and was the runner-up the previous season.


In right field was the all-time single season home run king, Roger Maris, who had many other awards and All-Star appearances, as well as two MVPs of his own.


Tom Tresh was the centerfielder. He was the 1962 Rookie of the Year. He was also a multi-time All-Star.


On the mound, the Yankees had future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. He was a perennial All-Star, a pitcher who always earned MVP votes, and the winner of the 1961 Cy Young Award.


Young Mel Stottlemyre was coming off a tremendous rookie season where he went 9-3, 2.06 and matched wits against the Cardinals' great Bob Gibson in the World Series.


Jim Bouton was 39-20, 2.78 over the previous two seasons.


Al Downing was 26-13, 3.09 also over the previous two seasons.


***

In 1964, the Yankees had gone 99-63.


The very next year, in 1965, they went 77-85. This was the first year of the next 12 in a row where the Yankees wouldn't reach the post season.


When the bottom falls out, it sometimes falls out quickly.


***

If this were 1965, fans and experts could look at the team (most of whom would start over any of the current Yankees) and they could cite many statistics, and point out the many reasons why that team would win and compete and be great.


"They have Mantle and Ford and Maris and Howard! They're the Yankees, they always win! Look at what they did last year!!!"


But the dynasty was over.


The Yankees just didn't see it until it was too late.

20 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jul 25, 2023

I started pre-school in September 1965, so I have no memory of that season. But your point about going 22-6 at the end of '64 got me thinking. That's a .786 winning percentage. If the '65 team had played at that rate after August 20 (38 games), they'd have finished at about 93-69, .574., but that still would have left them 9 GB of Minnesota (which in reality kicked off the death spiral on August 23 taking 3 out of 4 from New York). So even if the Yanks had swept that series (which was on the road), that's still 6 GB -- it was the Twins' year regardless of how the Yankees could have closed.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to

That's a great point. Excellent research.


Please know, I'm not saying the Yankees would have won, far from it. I'm saying that there was good reasons for the team and the fans to hope. They didn't see that the end had come.


That is the parallel I see with the 2023 Yankees.


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Unknown member
Jul 24, 2023

Hi Paul, I was an eyewitness to the times you discuss, I was already going from the 'burbs to Yankee games with my Gehrig-loving Dad. I recall so much, too. Of course you know a lot about it because a very young Roy White was on the '65 Yankees. But altho it has crossed my mind that the current state of the team is like 1965, perhaps the post-Mel Hall, the Stump Merrill years might be also apt. But getting back to 1965.....I'm not disputing that the long plummet began in 1965. Or that the farm system was barren. However, I do recall that the 6th place finish in 1965 was plausibly "blamed" at the time due to prolonged inj…


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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to

GREAT POINTS!

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fastucasal
Jul 24, 2023

That's what happens when ownership isn't totally invested.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 24, 2023
Replying to

Exactly.


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yankeesblog
Jul 24, 2023

The Yankees thought their 1940s -early 1960s dynasty was going to last forever, But their stars were either breaking down or in decline or both and there wasn't much to replace them. The draft started in 1965 so the Yankees could no longer count on signing any prospect they wanted to. Other teams had gotten the jump on them in signing the top African-American and Latino talent prior to the institution of the draft, And the Yankees' were pretty terrible at drafting players in the the mid-to late sixties. With the exception of Thurman Munson (1968) only Stan Bahnsen (1965) and Rom Blomberg (1967) accumulated any significant WAR in the major leagues and Bahnsen accumulated most of his WAR with…

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jjw49
Jul 24, 2023
Replying to

History always seems to repeat itself!

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jul 24, 2023

Things have started to change with the hirings Sean Casey & Pettitte. How far and how drastically is Cashman willing to go, could really determinr if he keeps his job and decision making power.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 24, 2023
Replying to

Those are nice moves, but they aren't real moves that'll help in the short-term or long term.


I don't think Aaron Boone is a very good manager, but I could hire a staff of Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Miller Huggins, and Joe Torre with Whitey Ford, Don Mattingly, Frank Crosetti, and Yogi Berra on staff and they wouldn't be able to make this current squad a winner. There are too many, far too many, weak spots.

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