Bert Campaneris

July 23, 1964: Bert Campaneris homers twice, steals a base, and shines on defense in winning debut

This article was written by Larry DeFillipo

Bert CampanerisA headache put Wally Pipp on the New York Yankees bench in June of 1925, opening the door for a young Lou Gehrig to take his position. For Kansas City Athletics shortstop Wayne Causey, it was an elbow injury that provided the opening for future star Dagoberto “Campy” Campaneris to ultimately take his.1

In the midst of their first road trip after the 1964 All-Star break, the A’s on July 22 sat in ninth place in the American League, 21½ games back of the front-running Baltimore Orioles. They’d won eight of their first 10 games under their affable but intense new manager Mel McGaha, who replaced easygoing Jimmy Dykes in mid-June, but were 10-21 since. With a pitching staff that would finish the year last in the AL in ERA, Kansas City relied on its offense to keep it in games. That offense featured sluggers Rocky Colavito and Jim Gentile and leadoff hitter Causey, whose .292 batting average was tops among A’s regulars and his .395 on-base percentage fourth in the American League.

In the eighth inning of the Athletics’ July 22 win over the Minnesota Twins, Causey, the Athletics’ shortstop in all but one of their games to that point, hyperextended his left arm in a collision at second base.2 Causey remained in the game but afterward needed the attention of the Twins’ team physician.3 Expecting Causey to be out of action for a week to 10 days, and with Dick Green, the team’s emergency backup shortstop, nursing a bruised thumb,4 the A’s promoted 22-year-old Campaneris from the Double-A Birmingham Barons to fill in at short.

Two years earlier, Campy, as he preferred to be called,5 had signed a contract with the A’s, becoming one of the last ballplayers allowed to leave Cuba following Fidel Castro’s rise to power. An ambidextrous player who’d demonstrated an ability to play any position on the diamond,6 Campaneris had worked his way up through the A’s minor-league system to become a top prospect. Labeled a “prize” by the Kansas City Times, Campaneris was a defensive wizard with speed and unexpected power for his size (5-feet-8, 156 pounds).7 By the end of June in 1964, Campaneris was leading the Southern Association in batting average, stolen bases, triples, runs scored, and hits.8

A small crowd of 5,321 was on hand on Thursday, July 23, at Metropolitan Stadium to see the Twins take on the A’s underneath a scorching-hot sun, with temperatures in the mid-90s. Kansas City had taken the first two games of the three-game series, overcoming an abbreviated start by Jose Santiago in the opener (he was yanked after allowing three runs in one-third of an inning) and coming back from a 4-1 deficit the night Causey was hurt, courtesy of a two-run ninth-inning homer by Colavito.

McGaha tabbed Cuban forkball specialist Diego Segui (7-7, 3.91 ERA) for the series finale, opposed by left-hander Jim Kaat (10-4, 3.43 ERA), who was looking to halt the Twins’ seven-game losing streak. Kaat’s last victory was a 2-1 nailbiter over the A’s in Kansas City two weeks earlier.

Kaat caught A’s leadoff batter Nelson Mathews looking at strike three to start the game, then faced the right-handed hitting Campaneris.

Campaneris’s journey to Minneapolis had been a grueling one. Notified of his call-up late the night before, he took a midnight flight from Birmingham, changing planes in Atlanta and Chicago before landing in the Twin Cities at 9 A.M.9 He’d gotten no sleep along the way, and according to teammates who translated for the Spanish-speaking Campaneris, “was too nervous to be sleepy after he reached the ball park.”10

Campaneris jumped at Kaat’s first offering, a fastball, and drove it high over the left-field wall for a home run.11 The blast made him the third player since 1901 to homer on the first pitch he faced in the major leagues, and the first since Detroit Tiger George “Sam” Vico in 1948. An ambushed Kaat walked the next batter, Colavito, but escaped further damage.

Segui surrendered a Rich Rollins single to lead off the Twins’ half of the first and walked  cleanup hitter Harmon Killebrew with two out, but recovered to fan future teammate Don Mincher and keep Minnesota off the scoreboard.

Carrying a season batting average under .150, Segui singled to lead off the Kansas City third. With one out, Campaneris faced Kaat for a second time and stroked an opposite-field single. An inning-ending groundball double play ball hit by Colavito kept the score 1-0. In the fourth, the A’s once again had runners on first and second but failed to push a run across.

Segui led off the fifth with another single and advanced to second when first baseman Mincher booted a grounder from Mathews. Campaneris grounded to third, forcing Mathews at second, then stole second to give the A’s two runners in scoring position. Kaat once again worked his way out of a jam as Colavito lined to third baseman Rollins and Gentile struck out.

After his walk to Killebrew in the opening frame, Segui retired 15 straight batters, until fellow Cuban and rookie All-Star Tony Oliva singled with two out in the sixth. A walk to the next batter, 1963 rookie sensation Jimmie Hall,12 was followed by Killebrew’s major-league-leading 34th home run of the season, to deep left field.

Staked to a two-run lead, Kaat couldn’t hold it for long. Charlie Shoemaker, filling in for regular second baseman Green, looped a singled to right leading off the seventh. After Segui bunted Shoemaker to second, Kaat retired Mathews on an infield pop fly.

Next up was Campy. With two out, Campaneris drove a low first-pitch curveball over the left-field fence for his second home run of the game, tying the score at 3-all.13 “I thought both [balls he hit for home runs] were good pitches,” Kaat offered later, “but Campaneris is stronger than I thought.”14

The score remained tied entering the bottom of the ninth, when a leadoff blooper by Hall to short left field raised hopes of a Minnesota rally. Campaneris ranged deep into the outfield to snare it, running into left fielder Ken Harrelson but holding onto the ball. After a bruised Harrelson was replaced, Segui retired the side, sending the game into extra innings.15

In the top of the 10th, Minnesota reliever Al Worthington replaced Kaat. Purchased four weeks earlier from the Triple-A San Diego Padres, Worthington had yet to allow an earned run for the Twins in 10 outings. With one out, Worthington walked Campaneris before retiring Colavito and Gentile on fly balls.

A one-out double to left in the Twins half of the 10th by yet another former Cuban, Zoilo Versailles, ended Segui’s night. McGaha brought in his workhorse, All-Star fireman John Wyatt,16 to face Johnny Goryl. Minnesota manager Sam Mele countered by sending up June acquisition Frank Kostro to pinch-hit for Goryl, who was mired in a 1-for-19 slump.17 Wyatt caught Kostro looking at strike three, then intentionally walked Bob Allison, pinch-hitting for Worthington.18 Avoiding Minnesota’s All-Star first baseman proved a sound strategy as Wyatt induced an inning-ending grounder from Rollins.

Southpaw Gerry Arrigo took the mound for Minnesota in the 11th. He struck out leadoff batter George Alusik, Harrelson’s replacement in left field, bringing up catcher Doc Edwards. Hitless in four previous at-bats against Arrigo, including striking out in a tight situation two days earlier, Edwards triumphed this time. He clubbed a low and inside Arrigo fastball to deep left field for his first home run of the year, giving Kansas City the lead.

“I was glad I got my first [homer] on the road,” said a jubilant Edwards. “I’d have been embarrassed at home to see it on that Fan-O-Gram [scoreboard]. “‘Edwards’ first homer of season.’”19

The heart of the Twins’ batting order proved unable to push a run across in the bottom of the inning against Wyatt. A one-out walk to Hall brought Killebrew to the plate as the winning run, but Wyatt retired him on a force out. Minnesota’s last hope, Mincher, flied out to Mathews in center, giving Wyatt his fifth win of the season against Minnesota, all in relief.20

Afterward Wyatt told reporters he’d have preferred a different outcome. “I would rather Diego Segui get the win and I get the save. As a professional reliever, saves are more important. I want nine more – that would be 25.”21

Campaneris was overjoyed. “I was so happy thinking to myself as I rounded the bases in the first inning,” he said through bilingual Cuban teammate Orlando Peña. “Then when I hit another homer on the first pitch in the seventh inning to tie the score, I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m even happier.’”22 Hearing he was just the second major leaguer in the modern era to hit two home runs in a debut, equaled only by Bob Nieman of the St. Louis Browns in 1951, Campaneris broke into a huge grin.

McGaha was all smiles as well. “I’ll say one thing, he did it all,” McGaha said, adding, “I’ve never seen a player break in with a day that was even close to that.”23

Asked if Campy would be going to bed after getting back to Kansas City, reserve Manny Jimenez playfully shook his head no. “If he hit[s] like that we[’ll] keep him awake all the time.”24 To the contrary, the tired young Cuban with the brightest of futures had earned himself the sweetest of dreams.25



This article was fact-checked by Thomas Merrick and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Rick Schabowski’s SABR biography of Bert Campaneris, Lyle Spatz’s SABR biography of Wally Pipp, and the author’s SABR biography of Mel McGaha. The,, and websites also provided pertinent material, including box scores listed at the links below:



1 After his debut, the A’s shuttled Campaneris between shortstop and left field for the next year before giving him the shortstop job for good in late June 1965. Relegated to being a utility player, Causey was traded away, to the Chicago White Sox, in May of 1966.

2 Causey collided with Twins hulking first baseman Bob Allison during a stolen-base attempt. “Causey Will Be Out for Week to 10 Days,” Kansas City Star, July 23, 1964: 42.

3 “Causey May Be Out,” Kansas City Times, July 23, 1964: 9C.

4 Former utility infielder George Williams, the only Athletic other than Causey to play shortstop to that point of the season, was a Rule 5 draft selection returned to the St. Louis Cardinals during the All-Star break. That left regular second baseman Green, who’d played six games at shortstop in 1963, as Causey’s emergency backup. Joe McGuff, “Ailing A’s Ready to Go,” Kansas City Times, July 28, 1964: 10; Joe McGuff, “Campaneris Hits High C in K.C. Bow,” The Sporting News, August 8, 1964: 19.

5 “As Translated, It Seems Easy,” Kansas City Times, July 24, 1964: 1.

6 Strictly a shortstop with Birmingham in 1964, the year before he’d caught 11 games for the Barons, and in 1962 was primarily an outfielder with the Class D Daytona Beach Islanders and Class A Binghamton Triplets. On August 24, 1962, Campaneris played all nine positions in an Islanders game; a feat he repeated while a member of the A’s, on September 8, 1965. Jim Selman, “Tarpons Kayoed in Flag Race,” Tampa Tribune, August 25, 1962: 1-C.

7 Campaneris demonstrated that power by homering to dead center field at Birmingham’s Rickwood Park, a feat last matched by six-time American League home-run king Harmon Killebrew several years earlier. Associated Press, “A’s Have Prize in Birmingham,” Kansas City Times, July 1, 1964: 14.

8 “A’s Have Prize in Birmingham.”

9 Causey’s injury came in a night game, giving Campaneris little time to get on his way to Minnesota. Joe McGuff, “Rookie’s Bat Spurs A’s,” Kansas City Times, July 24, 1964: 16.

10 “Campaneris Hits High C in K.C. Bow.”

11 Tom Briere, “Twins Sputter to 8th Setback,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 24, 1964: 19.

12 Hall’s 33 home runs in 1963 broke Ted Williams’s AL record for the most home runs by a first-year player. Norm King, Jimmie Hall SABR biography,

13 “Rookie’s Bat Spurs A’s.”

14 Campaneris was the third batter to homer off Kaat twice in a game. Elston Howard connected for a pair on May 4, 1963, as did Lou Clinton on August 12 of that same year. “Twins Sputter to 8th Setback.”

15 mistakenly identifies Harrelson as being replaced before the start of the ninth inning. “Rookie’s Bat Spurs A’s.”

16 Wyatt pitched one inning in the 1964 midsummer classic, allowing home runs to National League starters Billy Williams and Ken Boyer.

17 Kostro had come to the Twins from the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate Hawaii Islanders on June 11 as part of a five-player, three-team trade.

18 Allison, out of the starting lineup for the first time since Memorial Day, had been given the day off by Mele in hopes of shaking him out of a batting slide that had brought his batting average down 16 points (from .336 to .320) since the All-Star break, two weeks earlier.

19 “Twins Sputter to 8th Setback.”

20 Based on the author’s research, Wyatt became the sixth major leaguer in the modern era to earn five or more wins in relief over the same team in one season. The last to do so before Wyatt was the Cincinnati Reds’ Hersh Freeman, who defeated the New York Giants five times in 1956. Only Johnny Murphy of the New York Yankees had previously garnered more victories in relief again one team in a season, with six against the 1943 Boston Red Sox. Wyatt earned more lifetime victories over Minnesota (10) than he did against any other team.

21 Wyatt fell shy of his goal, collecting 20 unofficial saves in 1964, but did pitch in a major-league-record 81 games. Saves didn’t become an official major-league statistic until 1969. “Wyatt 5-0 vs. Twins,” Minneapolis Star, July 24, 1964: 20.

22 “Happiest Rookie? K.C.’s Campaneris,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 24, 1964: 20.

23 “As Translated, It Seems Easy.”

24 “As Translated, It Seems Easy.”

25 The aftermath of Campaneris’s historic debut was decidedly more nightmarish for the Twins. Hoping to “cure the ills they contracted playing tail end clubs [by losing three of four to the last-place Washington Senators and getting swept by ninth-place Kansas City in an abominable 1-9 homestand],” Mele put his team through a full hour of batting practice immediately after their afternoon loss; with the temperature reaching 97 degrees at 4 P.M. on what was the hottest day that summer. Max Nichols, “‘Lucky’ Twins Get Leaders Now,” Minneapolis Star, July 24, 1964: 20; “Summer 1964 Weather History in Minneapolis,” weatherspark website,, accessed April 16, 2023.

Additional Stats

Kansas City A’s 4
Minnesota Twins 3
11 innings

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN


Box Score + PBP:

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