The Yankees ended the 1950s as the dominant team in baseball, winning two World Series and another AL pennant in the last four years of the decade. They had a stacked lineup featuring Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Ernie Banks, while their rotation was headlined by Jim Bunning. Things were bright in New York. Will that continue in our simulation of history on OOTP Baseball as we enter the 1960s?
1960: 100-54, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: RF Roberto Clemente (8.1)
The Yankees ended the last decade being pretty trigger happy with manager, and that didn’t change to start the new one. Despite leading the team to one World Series championship and another AL pennant, Kennenth Helmick was let go after 1959. His bench coach, Frank Blake, was promoted in his place.
In his first year in charge, the season went down to the final day where a Yankees win over the Red Sox and an Orioles loss to the Senators gave New York an AL pennant by one game. For the fourth time in five years, their World Series opponent would be the Pirates.
Then for the second straight year, the Yankees fell at the final hurdle. Pittsburgh dominated the series, winning 4-1 and holding the Yankees to just eight runs in the five games. Clemente went down swinging, recording 12 hits and putting up a slash line of .545/.565/.727 in a losing effort. He wins AL MVP for his excellent regular season, while Yankees’ pitcher John Hanssen wins his second career Cy Young.
1961: 99-63, 2nd in AL, 1 GB, Team WAR Leader: LF Hank Aaron (10.7)
The big news is the expansion of MLB, as the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators (replacing the old Senators franchise who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins) are added to the AL. An expansion draft is held, but no major pieces for the Yankees are lost.
On the field, the script is flipped from last year as the Yankees fall one game short of the Orioles in the AL. Baltimore’s middle order combination of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris would go on to beat the Phillies in seven in the World Series, with Maris winning MVP.
After the season Aaron and Bunning bring home the major individual awards. The Yankees also make another managerial change, getting rid of Blake and promoting his bench coach Charles Warren. There was also another expansion draft as the New York Mets and Houston Colt 45s come into existence, but again, there were no major pieces lost. Meanwhile, Ted Williams retires as the all-time home run leader at 651.
1962: 79-83, 7th in AL, 27.5 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP John Hanssen (6.1)
A bunch of down years all hit at once and as a result, the Yankees drop massively. The fall sees the Yankees’ trigger-happy nature come out as they once again fire their manager. Their choice for a new one is their bench coach, Greg Jones. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. Cleveland took home the World Series, beating the Phillies.
In better news, Yankees legend Bob Feller was voted into the Hall of Fame.
1963: 73-89, 7th in AL, 39 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Milt Papas (4.8)
It appears this is now a trend as the Yankees again finish way back, despite the acquisition of former World Series rival Yogi Berra. They do get the 12th overall pick in the draft and use it on a pitcher named Jim Palmer. Former AL rival Orioles win the World Series, beating the Giants in five games.
1964: 86-76, 4th in AL, 24 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Jim Bunning (6.9)
A good season from Bunning and pretty much everyone else in the rotation moves the Yankees up in the AL, but not back fully into contention. The World Series is a repeat of the previous year with the Orioles beating the Giants again.
Meanwhile, all-time strikeout record holder and Yankee legend Gene Jones is elected to the Hall of Fame.
1965: 87-75, 4th in AL, 6 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP John Buzhardt (8.5)
The Yankees stick around in the pennant race late into the season despite still finishing fourth and winning just one more game than the year before. In the postseason, the Dodgers and pitcher Whitey Ford won the crown, beating the White Sox in seven games. The newcomer Mets take a young outfielder named Reggie Jackson in the draft following the season.
1966: 77-85, 6th in AL, 22 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Jim Bunning (5.6)
Ernie Banks has been an excellent player for many years, but he appears past it. Add a good, but not incredible seasons from other stars, and it ends with the Yankees falling back to the pack in the AL. The Tigers knock the Dodgers off the perch, beating them in the Fall Classic.
1967: 68-94, 9th in AL, 34 GB, Team WAR Leader: 1B Mike Epstein (5.6)
The Yankees dropped to nearly the bottom of the AL with their offense putting up the fewest runs in the league. They do get a high draft pick out of the season and use it on left fielder George Foster. As that door opens, another closes as Ernie Banks announces his retirement. He finishes his career as an eight-time All-Star and was World Series MVP in 1958.
The Phillies, including young hitter Graig Nettles, beat the White Sox in five to take the World Series.
1968: 89-73, 4th in AL, 5 GB, Team WAR Leader: RF Roberto Clemente (9.9)
An otherworldly season by Clemente keeps the Yankees in the race until the penultimate week of the season, but they end up fourth in a four-team battle. In the offseason, they add prospect Mickey Rivers via the draft. Several picks before that, the Angels take a catcher named Thurman Munson second overall.
In the World Series, the Cardinals, led by star pitcher Bob Gibson, take the crown, beating the Tigers in seven games. Four expansion teams are announced in the offseason, with each league being split into two divisions. The Yankees don’t lose any big names in the ensuing expansion draft.
1969: 92-71, 2nd in AL East, 1 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Dock Ellis (7.3)
The Yankees took the first ever AL East race to a 163rd game, but they were shut out by Juan Marichal and the Tigers. Young pitcher Dock Ellis gives hope for the future with his 2.41 ERA.
In the first year of expanded playoffs, the Tigers take home the World Series, beating the Reds.
Considering the roster they had going into the decade, it’s hard to see the 60s as anything but a disappointment for the virtual Yankees.