Lenny Green: Original Twin


Lenny Green was the Twins' original center fielder, moving with the team from Washington and starting on opening day at Yankee Stadium when the Twins played their first game in 1961, losing, 6-0. In the Twins home opener 10 days later, Green homered as he was wont to do. Though not a power hitter -- he hit 47 times in a 12-year career -- he homered in the Twins' home openers in 1961 and 1962 and the season opener in 1963, and he homered twice for the Red Sox in their 1965 season opener. Green died last week on his 86th birthday. Green was renowned for his ability to get on base and his coverage in the outfield, if not his arm. Patrick Reusse at startribune.com "Green had range in center, and he could get on base and score a run, and he would be out there every day, so we forgave Lenny for his subpar throwing arm. Then again, it must be admitted that with original Twins’ fans still around 20 years later, it wasn’t unusual to hear this assessment of an outfielder with modest throwing ability: 'He has an arm like Lenny Green.'" Green played for six American League teams in his career, and few hitters controlled the strike zone as well. It wasn't until 1966, nearly a decade after he debuted, that he struck out more than he walked. and it often wasn't close. In 1962 Green walked 88 times (he was eighth in the AL) and fanned just 36 (he fanned just once every 17.2 at-bats, fourth-best in the AL; Nellie Fox, who never fanned more than 18 times in a season, was first at 51.8. Fox fanned 12 times in 621 at-bats in '62, which was typical). Green's timing was never as good as his discipline. He was traded by the Twins in 1964, the year before they won the AL pennant; he was released by the Red Sox after the 1966 season, the year before they won the AL pennant; and he was released by his hometown Tigers in July of 1968 after having played in just six games in the majors and 95 at Toledo, their AAA farm team. The Tigers went on to win the World Series, and voted Green a $200 share of their World Series earnings, according to Green's bio at sabr.org. It was with the Twins that Green had his best seasons. Still in Washington, the franchise traded 1958 Rookie of the Year Albie Pearson to get Green from the Orioles after Pearson started 1959 by hitting .216 and slugging .257 in 105 games. Green had yet to establish himself -- he batted .229 with 8 extra-base hits in 148 at-bats for the Orioles over three seasons -- but he did with the Senators. Green batted .294 with 43 walks, 21 steals, a .383 on-base percentage and .814 OPS in 1960, and put up similar numbers in his first two seasons in Minnesota. In 1961 he had a 24-game hitting streak -- which was a Twins record until Ken Landreaux broke it in 1979 -- on his way to a .285/374/400 season, and in '62 he hit a career-high 14 homers on his to a .271/367/402 mark. He did all that while playing center field primarily between left fielder Harmon Killebrew (-2.0 defensive WAR in '62) and right fielder Bob Allison. The '62 Twins won 91 games and finished second behind the Yankees; they were as close as 2.5 games out on Sept. 9 after the Red Sox swept New York in a doubleheader, but never got closer and finished five games back. In 1963, Green slumped to .239/315/325 and rookie centerfielder Jimmie Hall hit 33 homers, making Green expendable. He went to the Angels and then the Red Sox, by way of the Orioles, and he started for Boston in 1965 (276/361/429). He lost his starting job in 1966 with the acquisition of Don Demeter and his spot on the roster after the season with the advancement of rookie Reggie Smith. The Tigers signed him and hit .329 in Toledo until Al Kaline broke a finger and missed most of July and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Gates Brown hurt his wrist. Green played 58 games and hit .278, largely in their absence, and his playing team decreased during September. Green did double and score the game's only run on Sept. 26 in a 1-0 Mickey Lolich shutout of the Yankees which kept the fourth-place Tigers 1.5 games behind the first-place Twins with four games to play. But the Tigers split two doubleheaders with the Angels, the Red Sox beat the Twins twice and the White Sox were swept by the Senators, shut out twice. The Tigers finished second, but lost a chance to tie for first in the season's final game. Career numbers: .267 average, .351 on-base percentage, .379 slugging percentage, 788 hits, 461 runs, 253 RBIs, 368 walks, 260 strikeouts, 78 steals, 41 caught stealings, 47 homers, 138 doubles, 99 OPS+, 8.4 WAR (2.0, 2.2, 2.2 from 1960-62), .440 average (11-25) with three doubles three walks and a triple off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

Lenny Green was the Twins’ first center fielder, moving with the team from Washington and starting on opening day at Yankee Stadium when the Twins played their first game in 1961, losing, 6-0. In the Twins home opener 10 days later, Green homered as he was wont to do. Though not a power hitter — he hit 47 in a 12-year career — he homered in the Twins’ home openers in 1961 and 1962 and the season opener in 1963, and he homered twice for the Red Sox in their 1965 season opener. Green died last week on his 86th birthday. Green was renowned for his ability to get on base and his coverage in the outfield, if not his arm. Patrick Reusse at startribune.com “Green had range in center, and he could get on base and score a run, and he would be out there every day, so we forgave Lenny for his subpar throwing arm. Then again, it must be admitted that with original Twins’ fans still around 20 years later, it wasn’t unusual to hear this assessment of an outfielder with modest throwing ability: ‘He has an arm like Lenny Green.'” Green played for six American League teams in his career, and few hitters controlled the strike zone as well. It wasn’t until 1966, nearly a decade after he debuted, that he struck out more than he walked. and it often wasn’t close. In 1962 Green walked 88 times (he was eighth in the AL) and fanned just 36 (he fanned just once every 17.2 at-bats, fourth-best in the AL; Nellie Fox, who never fanned more than 18 times in a season, was first at 51.8. Fox fanned 12 times in 621 at-bats in ’62, which was typical). Green’s timing was never as good as his discipline. He was traded by the Twins in 1964, the year before they won the AL pennant; he was released by the Red Sox after the 1966 season, the year before they won the AL pennant; and he was released by his hometown Tigers in July of 1968 after having played in just six games in the majors and 95 at Toledo, their AAA farm team. The Tigers went on to win the World Series, and voted Green a $200 share of their World Series earnings, according to Green’s bio at sabr.org. It was with the Twins that Green had his best seasons. Still in Washington, the franchise traded 1958 Rookie of the Year Albie Pearson to get Green from the Orioles after Pearson started 1959 by hitting .216 and slugging .257 in 105 games. Green had yet to establish himself — he batted .229 with 8 extra-base hits in 148 at-bats for the Orioles over three seasons — but he did with the Senators. Green batted .294 with 43 walks, 21 steals, a .383 on-base percentage and .814 OPS in 1960, and put up similar numbers in his first two seasons in Minnesota. In 1961 he had a 24-game hitting streak — which was a Twins record until Ken Landreaux broke it in 1979 — on his way to a .285/374/400 season, and in ’62 he hit a career-high 14 homers on his to a .271/367/402 mark. He did all that while playing center field primarily between left fielder Harmon Killebrew (-2.0 defensive WAR in ’62) and right fielder Bob Allison. The ’62 Twins won 91 games and finished second behind the Yankees; they were as close as 2.5 games out on Sept. 9 after the Red Sox swept New York in a doubleheader, but never got closer and finished five games back. In 1963, Green slumped to .239/315/325 and rookie centerfielder Jimmie Hall hit 33 homers. Green went to the Angels and then the Red Sox, by way of the Orioles, and he started for Boston in 1965 (276/361/429). He lost his starting job in 1966 with the acquisition of Don Demeter, and he lost his spot on the roster after the season with the advancement of rookie Reggie Smith. The Tigers signed him and Green hit .329 in Toledo until Al Kaline broke a finger and missed most of July and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Gates Brown hurt his wrist. Green played 58 games and hit .278 for the parent Tigers, largely in their absence, and his playing team decreased in September when both returned. Green did double and score the game’s only run on Sept. 26 in a 1-0 Mickey Lolich shutout of the Yankees which kept the fourth-place Tigers 1.5 games behind the first-place Twins with four days left in the season. But the Tigers split two doubleheaders with the Angels, the Red Sox beat the Twins twice and the White Sox were swept by the Senators, shut out twice. The Tigers finished second, but lost a chance to tie for first in the season’s final game. Green had five plate appearances with the Tigers in 1968 before they release him; he walked once (intentionally), had one hit and didn’t strike out. Career numbers: .267 average, .351 on-base percentage, .379 slugging percentage, 788 hits, 461 runs, 253 RBIs, 368 walks, 260 strikeouts, 78 steals, 41 times caught stealing, 47 homers, 138 doubles, 99 OPS+, 8.4 WAR (2.0, 2.2, 2.2 from 1960-62, 1.9 in ’65), .440 average (11-25) with three doubles, three walks and a triple off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

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