Jim Manning’s career as a big-league pitcher lasted only 17 days from first game to last. What makes it noteworthy was Manning’s age at the time. He was 18 years and 268 days old when he first took the mound for Minnesota on April 15, 1962. Sixty years later, he remained the youngest player in Twins history, and the only 18-year-old.
Manning entered spring training 1962 with the slimmest of résumés. After signing with the Twins for $20,000 fresh from high school,1 the Michigan native pitched in 12 games for Wytheville of the short-season Class D Appalachian League in 1961.2 Dividing his time between starting and relief, he went 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA. Others playing at Wytheville that season included future Hall of Famer Tony Oliva, who hit .410 in 64 games, and future Twins infielder and manager Frank Quilici.
The Twins undertook something of a youth movement in 1962, their second season in Minnesota after relocating from Washington, with The Sporting News commenting on the team’s “incubator infield” of 23-year-old third baseman Rich Rollins, 22-year-old second baseman Bernie Allen,3 and 22-year-old shortstop Zoilo Versalles.4 Joe Bonikowski, a 21-year-old pitcher, made the team with a strong spring training, as did a relative graybeard, 25-year-old rookie Lee Stange.5 (Starting pitcher Jim Kaat was 23 but was no newcomer, beginning his fourth season with the franchise.)
Manning, who passed up a sports scholarship to the University of Minnesota to sign with the Twins,6 also pitched his way onto the team. He secured another niche in Twins history when he was issued jersey number 42, becoming the first Twin to wear that number.7 The members of the Twins’ pitching staff had an average age of 26.7 years, tied for youngest in the American League and a full year below the league average.8
The Twins met the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, April 15, in their second home game of the season. Only 7,205 fans showed on a 41-degree day.9 The Angels had won two of three previous games – including a 12-5 thumping of Minnesota the day before – giving them an early share of first place in their second season in the American League. The Twins’ 2-2 mark tied them for fourth.
Over the course of the season, Los Angeles and Minnesota played each other 18 times. The Angels won six of nine games at Metropolitan Stadium, while Minnesota won six of nine games played at Chavez Ravine10 in Los Angeles.
Twins starter Jack Kralick had made one previous appearance in 1962, working six innings and taking a loss against the Kansas City Athletics on Opening Day, April 10. (He pitched a no-hitter against the A’s on August 26.) Angels starter Eli Grba also started his team’s first game of the season, on April 10. He pitched five innings and left without a decision in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Each team put a runner on base in each of the first three innings but couldn’t score. Only one runner made it into scoring position: Angels shortstop Joe Koppe doubled with one out in the first. Grba established a pattern of getting the Twins to hit the ball on the ground, with the Angels’ infield turning four double plays over the course of the game.11
The Angels, who had pounded the Twins the previous day, resumed their assault in the fourth. First baseman Steve Bilko, beginning his final season in the majors, led off with his first home run of 1962. Left fielder Leon Wagner followed with a single, and third baseman Eddie Yost doubled Wagner home. After two strikeouts, pitcher Grba singled to left field to score Yost, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.
Most of the same players caused trouble for the Twins in the fifth inning. Koppe singled to center. One out later, Bilko belted another home run, into the left-field bleachers, chasing Kralick in favor of reliever Ted Sadowski. Wagner welcomed Sadowski with the inning’s second round-tripper, this time into a snowbank beyond the right-center-field fence, pushing the lead to 6-0. Sadowski – whose brother, Ed, was on the Angels’ roster but did not play – also yielded a single before escaping the inning.12
Twins manager Sam Mele, facing a deep deficit, summoned Manning to work the sixth inning. The teenager retired Grba on a fly ball to center and right fielder Albie Pearson on a grounder to short. The pesky Koppe singled, but Manning struck out center fielder Lee Thomas.
In the seventh, Manning retired his first two hitters, then gave up singles to Yost and Buck Rodgers. Second baseman Marlan Coughtry, playing his first game as an Angel after 15 appearances with the 1960 Boston Red Sox, grounded out to end Manning’s first major-league jam.
In the eighth, Manning issued a leadoff walk to Grba. (Grba, incidentally, had continued to hand baserunners to the Twins each inning but never allowed them to get very far.) Manning struck out Pearson, then retired Koppe and Thomas on fly balls to complete his major-league debut.
With Manning’s slot in the batting order due to start the eighth, Mele tapped pinch-hitter Don Mincher, who singled and moved to second on a passed ball. Again, the Twins could not push him across the plate.
After Stange pitched a perfect ninth, the Twins finally mustered some offense in their last turn at bat. A single and a one-out error by Coughtry, who dropped a “perfect” double-play throw from Koppe,13 put two men on base. Rollins clocked his third home run in five games to make the score 6-3 and deny Grba his first big-league shutout.14
Another member of the Twins’ kiddie corps, 23-year-old George Banks, made his major-league debut as a pinch-hitter for Stange. But age and guile beat youth, as veteran righty reliever Tom Morgan retired Banks and center fielder Lenny Green on six pitches15 to nail down the 6-3 victory and earn a save.16 The game ended in precisely three hours. Mele praised Manning’s performance, noting: “He keeps his pitches down, changes speeds and has shown remarkable poise for his age.”17 The Los Angeles Times reported that Manning “shows real promise.”18
Manning’s subsequent games failed to deliver on this promise. Two days later against the White Sox, Manning entered in relief and yielded a bases-clearing double in an 8-0 loss. Two days after that, he worked one-third of an inning and gave up one hit but four unearned runs in another lopsided loss.19 He started on April 28 against Cleveland and was knocked out in the third inning, giving up seven hits and six runs. His final outing went somewhat better, as he gave up two hits in a shutout inning against Baltimore on May 2.
The Twins, required to trim their roster from 28 players to 25 on May 9, sent Manning and his 5.14 ERA to Class A Charlotte. Before the season, pitching coach Gordon Maltzberger said the teenage hurler “should be someplace where he can work,”20 and presumably the Twins wanted him to pitch regularly in the minors. Manning spent the rest of the season at Charlotte, going 7-11 with a 4.98 ERA in 23 games, including 20 starts. The season brought him a small windfall, as his former big-league teammates voted him a $300 share of the money the Twins received for finishing second, five games behind the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees.21
Despite being treated for a blood condition in the 1962-63 offseason,22 Manning performed well in spring training in 1963. He was, however, a last-minute cut when Mele decided to keep reliever Fred Lasher instead.23 He never pitched in the major leagues again and was out of pro baseball by his 24th birthday after appearing in four more seasons at the Class A and Double-A levels.24
News reports from the time do not detail what happened. An item from July 1963 noted that he was pitching ineffectively,25 and a 1965 story indicated that the 21-year-old had “retrogressed from a once-bright prospect to a mop-up man.”26 A 1970 story on pitcher Dick Pole, who followed Manning from Trout Creek, Michigan, to the majors, said Manning’s career had been “sidelined by illness.”27
While Manning remained the youngest player in Twins history as of spring 2022, he wasn’t even the youngest player in the AL in 1962. Seventeen-year-old Ed Kirkpatrick appeared in three games for the Angels in September.28
Manning also is not the youngest player in franchise history if the Twins’ previous existence as the Washington Senators from 1901 to 1960 is considered. Three 17-year-olds played for the Senators – outfielder Merito Acosta in 1913-14, Yost in 1944, and second baseman Harmon Killebrew in 1954.29 The Senators also employed several 18-year-olds who were younger than Manning at the time of their debuts, including pitchers Jack Bentley and Harry Harper in 1913, pitcher Jim Brillheart in 1922, and pitcher Armando Roche in 1945.
This story was fact-checked by Gary Belleville and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the specific sources cited in the Notes, the author used the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for general player, team and season data and the box scores for this game.
1 Arno Goethel, “Frosh Firemen Douse Flames, Bail Out Shaky Twin Starters,” The Sporting News, April 25, 1962: 18.
2 Manning appeared in 17 games for Wytheville but pitched in only 12. Baseball-Reference does not list him as playing any games at other positions, so his other five appearances may have come as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. The April 1962 news story “‘U’ Wanted Twins’ Manning,” cited below, has Manning playing shortstop for Wytheville. It’s also possible that he appeared at that position and Baseball-Reference’s fielding records for the Wytheville team are incomplete.
3 Interestingly, Rollins and Allen shared an April 16 birthdate. The day after the game described in this story, Rollins turned 24 and Allen 23.
6 Tom Briere, “‘U’ Wanted Twins’ Manning,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 4, 1962: 18.
7 According to Baseball-Reference, no Twin was issued jersey number 42 in 1961, the team’s first season. Two players for the Washington Senators, the Twins’ predecessor franchise, had worn the number – Al Kozar and Cass Michaels. After Manning, the number was subsequently issued to three other Twins – Jack O’Connor, Butch Huskey, and Michael Jackson. Jersey number 42 is now retired across the major leagues in honor of Jackie Robinson.
8 The Twins tied with the Kansas City Athletics for the title of the AL’s youngest pitching staff.
9 According to Goethel, the Twins’ scheduled April 13 opener was delayed a day by a six-inch snowfall, and the team had to use flamethrowers and a helicopter to clear the field in time to play in frigid conditions the next day.
10 “Chavez Ravine” was the Angels’ preferred name for the ballpark known to the rest of the baseball world as Dodger Stadium. The Angels used the ballpark as tenants of the Dodgers from 1962 through 1965.
11 Lew Ferguson (Associated Press), “Rollins Continues on Way to Winning Permanent Berth,” St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times, April 16, 1962: 20.
12 Braven Dyer, “Bilko Belts Angels to Top,” Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1962: III, 1.
14 Rollins appeared in both All-Star Games in 1962 and placed eighth in Most Valuable Player voting. Grba never threw a major-league shutout in 75 starts.
15 Ross Newhan, “First-Place Angels Debut Against K-C,” Long Beach (California) Press-Telegram, April 16, 1962: C1.
16 The major leagues did not officially recognize saves as a statistic until 1969, so Morgan would not have been aware of this accomplishment in April 1962.
19 Entering with two on and nobody out in the top of the first, Manning got his first hitter to fly out. Two infield errors, a single, and a hit batsman followed. Manning was then yanked in favor of Georges Maranda, who surrendered a grand slam.
20 “Twins Hurlers Ready after Shutout String,” Minneapolis Star, April 6, 1962: 1D.
21 Clifford Kachline, “Yanks, Giants Divvy Record Pie,” The Sporting News, November 3, 1962: 1.
22 Associated Press, “Twins Have Hopes for Rookie Manning,” Winona (Minnesota) Daily News, March 11, 1963: 10. The condition reportedly caused Manning’s body to produce too much blood, which made him dizzy.
23 Sid Hartman, “Twins’ Weak Hitting Has Mele Concerned,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1963: 26.
24 Manning compiled a lifetime 30-47 record and a 3.95 ERA in the minor leagues. He pitched in 172 minor-league games, including 71 starts, and pitched 21 complete games and three shutouts.
25 Sid Hartman, “Allison: Hits, Not Homers, Important,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 17, 1963: 20.
26 John Wiebusch, “Charlotte Rich in Pitching,” Minneapolis Tribune, July 25, 1965: 3S.
27 “Pole Has Fine Pitching Start,” Ironwood (Michigan) Daily Globe, January 5, 1970: 14.
28 Manning wouldn’t have been the youngest player in the 1962 National League either, as 17-year-old Ed Kranepool – younger than Kirkpatrick by exactly one month – played a handful of games with the New York Mets.
29 Acosta, 17 years and 17 days old at the time of his debut, was the youngest of the 17-year-olds. Killebrew later became a starter as a third baseman, outfielder, first baseman, and designated hitter over the course of his Hall of Fame career, but made the only fielding appearances of his rookie season at second base.