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Collected wisdom: Newly crowned 1961 RBI king Jim Gentile, an ex-Orioles player and current Edmond resident

Former Orioles slugger Jim Gentile's career received increased attention in the last month when a records change gave him a share of the 1961 American League RBI crown.
Interviewed by Ryan Aber, Staff Writer, raber@opubco.com Modified: August 14, 2010 at 8:19 pm •  Published: August 14, 2010
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Jim Gentile

Former major leaguer

Age: 76

Residence: Edmond

Former Orioles slugger Jim Gentile's career received increased attention in the last month when a records change gave him a share of the 1961 American League RBI crown. Gentile turned in a monster season that year, hitting 46 home runs and driving in 141 runs. His season, though, was overshadowed by the home run race that year between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

Gentile recently returned to Baltimore, where the team honored him and presented him with a $5,000 check after a report came out that then-Orioles GM Lee MacPhail said he would've paid Gentile that much more money had he won the RBI crown that year.

I've always said everybody has a career year. I just believe every once in awhile it happens, and 1961 was mine. I know six guys had over 40 home runs, Maris had 61, Mantle had 54, (Harmon) Killebrew had 46. A lot of people said it was about the extension of the new clubs and not having the pitching depth. Nobody hit in the 30s that year though. If the pitching was that bad, why didn't a lot of other guys hit that many home runs? You look at the six guys that did it (Maris, Mantle, Killebrew, Gentile, Rocky Colavito and Norm Cash), we're all home run hitters.

I know my season that year gets overlooked sometimes but that's understandable. It was a great season for all of us. What a story in New York that year, with Maris and Mantle, two Yankees going after Babe Ruth's record. I was just playing my game.

I was stuck with the Dodgers for awhile. Back then, if you had options and they didn't want to sell you, they could just keep optioning you down. I had 208 home runs in the minor leagues before I got up. I started in A ball and hit 34 my first year. In 1955, I was in the Southern League and hit 28 and led the league in RBIs. There just wasn't room for me in Brooklyn. I just couldn't figure out why.

In 1960, I was sold to Baltimore on the condition of a 30-day look. If I didn't make it, I went back to the Dodger organization with $25,000. We had five of them over at first base. (Orioles manager Paul) Richards was looking for power. We played the games switching off, and I just didn't do anything. It got down to the last day and Sparky Anderson called me. He was going to manage Toronto in the International League and wanted to know if I wanted to play there. I told him if I was going to play one more year, I was going to try to go to Japan.

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