Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
A friend phoned Bobby Richardson Saturday morning to tell him about the Giancarlo Stanton-to-the-Yankees reports, and Richardson couldn't help but think of the parallels to his own Yankee days.
Two epic sluggers in the same lineup? Sounds like the early 1960s Yankees to Richardson, who was the second baseman on those championship clubs. We'll see if Stanton and Aaron Judge can become the modern-day Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, but Richardson calls it "a good analogy."
"It's exactly what you'll see happen," the 82-year-old Richardson said in a telephone interview. "That's exactly what you'll be seeing the sportswriters write and it'll be true.
"I foresee those guys, with that power, they're not going to be thinking about bunting."
With the Yankees set to add Stanton, who led the majors with 59 home runs last season, to Judge (52 homers), they'll be only the second team in MLB history to have two players who each hit 50 longballs the previous season. The other club? The 1962 Yankees, because Maris (61) and Mantle (54) both passed the mark in 1961 when they set a record for homers by a duo with 115.
In '61, the "M&M Boys", as Mantle and Maris were known, both took aim at Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs, set in 1927. A hip abscess hindered Mantle's try, and Maris set the record despite severe scrutiny from the media and public.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted Mantle to pass Ruth.
"The Yankees were pulling for Mantle to be the one to break Babe Ruth's mark," Richardson recalled. When the injury slowed Mantle, "We went over to Maris," Richardson added.
"I do remember the chaos - Maris losing his hair. The press wasn't as organized as it is today. He was getting the same question all the time and it was driving him crazy. His only break came during the games."
Today's Yankees have another similarity to the '61 club - power behind the plate. Gary Sanchez hit 33 home runs in 2017; the '61 Yanks, who did not have the benefit of the designated hitter, boasted a brawny backstop trio.
Elston Howard (21 homers) caught 111 games and Johnny Blanchard (21 homers) caught 48. Yogi Berra (22 homers) was primarily an outfielder, but also appeared in 15 games as a catcher. Obviously, not all of their homers were hit while catching - for instance, Blanchard hit four pinch-homers that year.
At a reunion of the '61 team in Atlantic City years later, the catchers were all talking about their home run prowess while gathering for a team picture, Richardson noted. "Blanchard would be the one leading it," Richardson said, chuckling.
"We had a lot of power," Richardson added, "though I think I hit three."
Beyond his teammate's blasts, Richardson is wowed by another stat: "Not one intentional walk for Maris, because Mantle was batting behind him," Richardson said.
In 1962, the "Year After," Maris finished with 33 homers and Mantle hit 30. Richardson called it, "an unusual year."
"Mantle was injured a great part of the year and was still voted MVP," Richardson continued. "When he played, we won. It was that simple. He hit No. 30 in the last game of the season. (Tony) Kubek reminded me of that recently."
It'll be fascinating to follow what happens with Stanton and Judge in their own Year After 50 in 2018, their first season as teammates. Richardson said he watched Judge last year and his old coaching chops kicked in -- Richardson was a college coach for years after his playing career, and took the University of South Carolina to its first College World Series appearance as their coach from 1970-76.
"He was striking out so much, I know I could've persuaded him to choke up and hit the ball through the middle," Richardson said.
Would the modern player, obsessed with launch angle and exit velocity, revert to that strategy? Richardson considered the question. "No, they won't," he said. "I think he'll get the (strikeouts) under control, though."
That would help any pursuit of home run records Stanton and Judge might mount. If everything goes right and both stay healthy, could they take a shot at the M&M Boys' 115? Or perhaps another mark held by sluggers from the '61 Yanks?
Maris, Mantle and Moose Skowron (28 homers) own the record for most homers by a trio, according to STATS - 143. Maybe Sanchez joins in and the three take down that standard.
Why not? Stanton, Judge and Sanchez combined to hit 144 home runs last season.