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Monday, November 17, 2003
Battey played for '65 AL champs
MINNEAPOLIS -- Earl Battey, an All-Star for the Minnesota Twins who was one of baseball's best catchers during the 1960s, died at 68.
He died of cancer Saturday in his hometown of Ocala, Fla., the Twins said Monday.
Battey played on the Twins' 1965 American League championship team, batting .297 and finishing in the top 10 of the league's MVP voting.
On the 1965 team, which won 102 games and lost the World Series in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Battey was the anchor behind the plate in a lineup loaded with big names.
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Bob Allison were the big hitters. Zoilo Versalles was the shortstop and MVP, and Battey handled a staff that featured Mudcat Grant, Jim Kaat and Camilio Pascual.
"Earl Battey was one of the finest catchers I have ever seen," Killebrew said. "I don't think we realized how great he was until a little after our game.
"He was not a very fast guy, as people will tell you, but he made up for it with a great arm and knowledge of how to handle pitchers, particularly young pitchers."
Battey played 13 seasons in the majors, including his last seven with the Twins. He broke in with the Chicago White Sox in 1955 and joined Washington in 1960 before going to Minnesota.
He was an All-Star in 1962, 1963, 1965 and 1966 and retired in 1967. Battey was chosen as the catcher on the Twins' all-time 40th anniversary team in 2000.
Oliva said there was more to Battey than baseball. During Oliva's rookie season, Battey took him under his wing. Battey knew enough Spanish to communicate with Oliva, who knew virtually no English when he joined the team.
"He spoke Spanish and I didn't speak any English," Oliva said. "He was a veteran, I was a rookie. I was like his little brother."
Battey continued this mentor-player relationship even after he retired. Oliva said Battey called young catcher A.J. Pierzynski several times last season to discuss the catcher's technique.
He is survived by his wife, Sonia, and five children.
The funeral is Saturday in Ocala, Fla.
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