When we look back on previous Most Valuable Player Award winners over the years, we see a lot of well-known names: Hall of Famers and other stars who had long and prosperous careers. Other times, we see players that aren’t as well known, who may have had one or two good seasons in a career that otherwise wasn’t as noteworthy.
That shouldn’t take away from what those latter players accomplished during their brief run of success, however. And for former Minnesota Twins player Zoilo Versalles, we cannot forget what he accomplished as he helped to lead the Twins to the American League pennant and a trip to the World Series in 1965.
Minnesota Twins: Zoilo Versalles is the forgotten MVP
Versalles was born in La Habana, Cuba on December 18, 1939. The shortstop signed as an amateur free agent with the Washington Senators (who would later become the Minnesota Twins) prior to the 1958 season, and he made his major league debut on August 1, 1959.
Back then, it was a stereotype around the game that Latino shortstops had a good glove but a light bat, but Versalles helped to break that mold. To say that his monster 1965 season came out of completely nowhere is a bit of a misconception. He did place in MVP voting in 1962 for the Twins, and he was an All-Star and a Gold Glove Award winner in 1963 while hitting 31 doubles and leading the American League with 13 triples.
In 1964, Versalles again led the league in triples (10) while hitting 33 doubles and 20 home runs. 1965, however, was his breakthrough year, as he led the league in runs (126), doubles (45), triples (11), and total bases (308). He also was reliable that year, leading the league in plate appearances and at-bats. He was again and All-Star and won another Gold Glove Award.
For his efforts, Versalles won the AL MVP Award, getting 19 out of 20 first-place votes and besting teammate Tony Oliva. Over the next two years, however, Versalles didn’t come close to matching that success, batting just .200 over 160 games with the Twins in 1967. The Twins traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1967 season.
Versalles would play for the Dodgers, Indians, Senators, and Braves for the remainder of his career, which ended in 1971. He died in 1995. Even though he didn’t do a whole lot after his brilliant 1965 campaign, let’s still remember Zoilo Versalles for all that he accomplished in a Minnesota Twins uniform.