The 1961 World Series matched the New York Yankees (109�53) against the Cincinnati Reds (93�61), with the Yankees winning in five games to earn their 19th championship in 39 seasons. This World Series was surrounded by Cold War political puns pitting the “Reds” against the “Yanks”. But the louder buzz concerned the “M&M” boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who spent the summer chasing the ghost of Babe Ruth and his 60 home run season of 1927. Mantle finished with 54 while Maris set the record of 61 on the last day of the season. With all the attention surrounding the home run race, the World Series proved almost anti-climactic.
The Yankees were under the leadership of first-year manager Ralph Houk, who succeeded Casey Stengel. The Yankees won the American League pennant, finishing eight games better than the Detroit Tigers. The Bronx Bombers also set a Major League record for most home runs in a season with 240. Along with Maris and Mantle, four other Yankees, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, and Johnny Blanchard, hit more than 20 home runs. The pitching staff was also solid led by Cy Young Award-winner Whitey Ford (25�4, 3.21).