The trade was costly. The Twins shipped lefthanded power bats Jimmie Hall and Don Mincher to California. They were key players in the 1965 run to the American League pennant, but the Twins disappointed in ’66, spurring frustrated owner Calvin Griffith to move players that offseason.
Camilo Pascual had been the No. 1 starter since the franchise move in 1961, but wasn’t the same following surgery for a serious shoulder injury during the 1965 race. Acquiring Chance gave the Twins three pitchers—including Jim Kaat and Mudcat Grant—with 20-win seasons in the last three years. And Griffith wasn’t done yet.
The following day, he dealt Pascual, who had spent 13 big league seasons with the organization, including some of the worst in its history in Washington. Griffith sent Pascual back to Washington—to the expansion Senators—along with second baseman Bernie Allen in exchange for elite reliever Ron Kline.
Griffith had dealt cornerstones from the 1965 AL champions, but got a quick payoff when Chance won 20 games in 1967, leading the pitching staff during one of the most dramatic four-team pennant races in AL history. The White Sox, Tigers, Red Sox and Twins were still in the mix on the final weekend, and only Chicago had been eliminated by the final day, when Boston and Minnesota went head-to-head with the pennant on the line.
For Chance, the trade to Minnesota took him out of the Los Angeles limelight. With the Angels, he and playboy-teammate Bo Belinsky caroused after games, partying with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Occasionally they found trouble, which spurred the question: who was a bad influence on whom?
The Angels pointed the finger at Belinsky and traded him in 1964, and two years later Chance was sent to Minnesota, where he befriended another free spirit, 22-year-old Dave Boswell, who was looking to secure regular work in his third season with the Twins.
Boswell was master of the head-scratching malaprop. With an ability to mimic various animal and insect sounds, he once had a team bus driver searching under the seats for a cricket. The confident, quirky righthander with an offbeat take on nearly everything was one of the characters of the game.
Chance and Boswell were frequent targets of Twins reliever Al Worthington, a deeply religious man who encouraged both pitchers to attend his Sunday morning prayer meetings. Chance always politely declined, but when Worthington told him that Baltimore Colts football star Mike Curtis would be a guest speaker at the next meeting, he said he would attend if he woke up in time.
Worthington made sure of that, wrote longtime sportswriter Jeff Miller in his account of the 1967 season, “Down to the Wire.” The Twins reliever offered to provide a wakeup call, so Chance was there, as Miller tells it:
“Chance arrived and saw Boswell, each silently responding with looks that said, ‘What are you doing here?’ During the meeting, Worthington asked everyone to bow his head. He then noted that everyone in the group had sinned, and those who needed help should raise their hands. After the meeting ended, Boswell came straight over to Chance and shook his hand. Chance was puzzled, and Boswell explained: ‘Those hypocrites. When the guy asked if anybody there needed help, I peeked. Dean, you were the only guy in the room that had his hand raised.’”
From the start in 1967, Chance was brilliant on the mound, dominating and winning consistently while his team struggled to play .500 ball over the first two months. Without Chance, the Twins might have fallen too far back to contend in a wild second half.
Chance was on his game on a rainy night at the Met on August 6, pitching against the Red Sox. The 6-foot-3 righthander worked five perfect innings before the game was called with the Twins in front 2-0. When the game was called with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Chance called his no-hit effort a “cheapie,” but he allowed only two hard-hit balls—a liner off the bat of Boston catcher Elston Howard to Oliva in right and a long drive by losing pitcher Jim Lonborg, which backed Bob Allison to the warning track in left.
“I had good stuff, particularly my curveball,” Chance said after the game, “but who can honestly tell whether you’ve got no-hit stuff or not?”
No-hit stuff or not, Chance’s five perfect innings were the closest he had come to a no-no since throwing a one-hitter at the Met in September 1962 as an Angels rookie. He held the Twins hitless into the eighth inning before Zoilo Versalles ended his bid with an infield single.
Chance’s next no-hit bid came soon. On August 25, less than three weeks later, Chance turned the trick in Cleveland, pitching 50 miles from his home in Wooster, Ohio.
An historic performance seemed unlikely early on. Chance walked the first two batters he faced—Lee Maye and Vic Davalillo—and wild-pitched Maye home before the first inning was over. He walked five in the 2-1 victory. Cleveland starter Sonny Siebert balked home the eventual winning run in the sixth inning. Despite the walks he allowed, Chance was a little more certain about his stuff on that night.
“I thought I had no-hit stuff,” Chance admitted in the clubhouse after the game.
Jerry Zimmerman, his catcher for both no-hit outings, said Chance was wild with both his fastball and curveball in the opening frame, but otherwise flashed the no-hit stuff that the catcher said he had seen nearly every time his battery mate took the mound.
On that night, Zimmerman said the righthander “was just wild enough to be effective.. . The ball was really moving.” Nearly 50 years later, Chance joked about the oddity of his outing: “I threw a no-hitter and gave up a run. And the damn run was earned, of all things. Hard to believe!”
Sadly, Chance, age 74, passed away in October, two months after his induction into the Angels Hall of Fame at Angels Stadium. He was an engaging and entertaining interview subject, and for the Twins, he was a key contributor in 1967.
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of that manic 1967 pennant race, which I’ve chronicled in an upcoming book that I’m calling “The Glory Years of the Minnesota Twins.” My New Year’s resolution is to share the highlights of that season in 2017.