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With the appearance of Joe Mauer last week on Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of another episode of a famous Twin who appeared on late ni...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Maestro At First: Trading For Vic Power, April 2, 1962

LAST UPDATED: June 26, 2017 - Originally published 4/2/13 

In-season trades are rare occurrences for the Minnesota Twins. And even rarer are those that actually impacted the fortunes positively for the home nine. For Twins fans born around and after 1987, used to low-risk / low-dollar acquisitions* that numb the mind (see "Chris Speier, 1984, Bret Boone, 2005), the in-season pickups of Shannon Stewart (2003) and Kendrys Morales (2014) stood out as the exceptions. They captured the imaginations of Twins fans in terms of their audacity and potential, even if their outcome didn't exactly live up to the hype.
*Trade, waiver, and free-agent acquisitions are thrown into the same kettle for the purposes of this post

But rarities like these haven't always been the case in Twins Territory.

The Twins in the 1960s had at their disposal an astute gaggle of bird dog scouts, and long-time employees like Director of Minor League Operations man Sherry Robertson to assist President Calvin Griffith and his merry band of nepotists and drinking cronies in upgrading the Major League roster. They did this nearly every season in those early years. Which brings us to today's subject, the first major trade in Twins history.

Vic Power was traded along with young reliever Dick Stigman to the Twins from the Cleveland Indians for right hander Pedro Ramos 53 years ago this week, on April 2, 1962. This happened as the team was winding down the '62 spring training schedule, and seemed to address the needs of both teams. At the time, parting with the talented Ramos, a fixture in the '61 starting rotation, was a significant event. He was their second starter, after staff ace Camilo Pascual, and is the trivia answer to "What Twins pitcher is credited with the first regular season win in team history?Jim Kaat was just coming into his own that season, and would win 18 games. They also had the enigmatic lefty Jack Kralick in house. In Stigman, the Twins were glad to get a promising, young arm. But the "sexy" part of this transaction was obvious...

The news piece below from the 4/3/62 Jefferson City Daily summed up the trade, besides giving a very detailed, honest set of responses from Power himself (born Victor Power Pellot). Power was the key acquisition for the Twins , and at age 33, was joining his third organization. The Twins organization, going back TEN YEARS to their Washington Senator days (Google news item link) had coveted Power as a player. In another lifetime, as a Yankee in the early 1950s, he was in line to become the first black player for that organization. But the Bronx Bombers instead tapped Elston Howard for that role, for reasons that are now obvious. Some very transparent racism can be inferred from the Yankee brass responses, in The Sporting News piece linked here, from August 19, 1953

He had a reputation for marching to the beat of his own drummer, and was not necessarily the "company man" preferred by management. He was flashy in his dress, as well as the automobiles he drove. He was glib and candid, much to the consternation of his employees. He was conspicuous for enjoying the company of white women. And, maybe worst of all, he [GASP] made putouts at first with a sweeping, one-handed stab - unorthodoxy and panache frowned upon by the baseball lords of the day. 

Each of the above infractions were decided liabilities for dark-skinned players who desired stable employment before Civil Rights legislation came into effect.

Twins Manager Sam Mele, on the other hand, stated the case for acquiring Power (to whom I devoted a "Remembering Vic Power" post some time back) in this piece:

There was a youth movement (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 4/2/62) underway at The Met. Besides now having the green-as-a-pea kids third baseman Rich Rollins and second baseman Bernie Allen on the roster to start the season, Minnesota also had the mercurial Zoilo Versalles returning at short. Manager Sam Mele went on in the article to say "Power should be a steadying influence on the kids. They won't have to worry about making perfect throws. If it's within Power's reach, he'll come up with the ball." Griffith's concerns about his infield defense were legit, as the team ranked 8th (ten team AL) in defense in 1961; in Power, he now had his "Mother Hen" to corral those youthful slings to first. 

Power himself had a little extra to add in this account, which sums up the pride and inner confidence he held for his talents:

The Brainerd Daily Dispatch revealed the Twins new mindset for what would constitute their daily lineup to begin the 1962 season. Anybody surprised at who's slotted for left field, replacing Jim Lemon? Some big, ox-strong kid, name of Harmon Killebrew:

The trade would indeed benefit the Twins in their infield defense that year, besides elevating their place in the standings. They went on to post a 91-71 record, second in the league, moving them a step closer to respectability. Power would win his fifth Gold Glove Award, and rate 21st in the 1962 MVP voting. He would also play a pivotal role in the first Twins no-hitter by Jack Kralick (story at link) on August 26 that year. 

But that was just another day at the office for Victor Pellot Power. For his part, he seemed to enjoy his time in Minnesota, judging by his comments in a Baltimore Afro-American piece from March 31, 1964.

More insight about Power and his role as a MLB trailblazer can be gleaned at this very cool Baseball Hall Of Fame article.  
As the old professional at the mic, Herb Carneal, would end his broadcasts, I also say:
"So long, everybody!"

No, please don't go there....ohhhhhhh(!)....okay...
....what man wouldn't be proud of that assertion?


Aase said...

Great post as usual. Where do you find the newspaper clippings?

Michael B said...

A trip to the suburban, subterranean vault sometimes suffices - but of late, have been using online newspaper, google, Sporting News sources. It's a great diversion, swimming the data cesspool.