Don Mincher, player with both incarnations of Washington Senators, dies at 73

Dick Darcey/The Washington Post - Don Mincher hits for the Senators during his rookie, 1960. He moved to Minnesota with the team in 1961 when it became the Twins but played for a new version of the Senators in 1971, a year before they became the Texas Rangers.

Don Mincher, who was one of the few players to appear with both incarnations of the old Washington Senators, and who later became a minor-league baseball executive, died March 4 at his home in Huntsville, Ala. He was 73.

The Huntsville Times reported his death, but the cause was not disclosed.

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Mr. Mincher, who had a 13-year career as a first baseman, made his big-league debut in 1960, the final season the original Senators were in Washington before owner Calvin Griffith moved the franchise to Minnesota.

With the Minnesota Twins, the 6-foot-3 Mr. Mincher developed into a powerful left-handed-hitting slugger in an era dominated by pitching. In 1965, he hit 22 home runs for a Twins team that won the American League pennant.

Mr. Mincher was named to the all-star team in 1967, when he played with the Los Angeles Angels, and again in 1969, when he played for the Seattle Pilots during the team’s only year of existence. He is the answer to a trivia question by being the only all-star in Pilots history. The franchise became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

One of Mr. Mincher’s teammates with the Pilots was pitcher Jim Bouton. In 1970, Bouton (with writer Leonard Schecter) published “Ball Four,” an inside-the-clubhouse account of baseball that was considered scandalous at the time. Mr. Mincher reportedly disliked some of Bouton’s revelations and his occasionally acidic portraits of players and coaches.

Before the 1970 season, Mr. Mincher was traded to the Oakland A’s, for whom he hit a career-high 27 home runs. Early the next season, he returned to Washington to play for the second version of the Senators, who began as an expansion team in 1961.

On Aug. 31, 1971, Mr. Mincher became the final Senator to hit a grand-slam home run. At the end of the season, owner Bob Short moved the franchise to Texas, where the Senators became known as the Texas Rangers.

Mr. Mincher’s final moment of glory came in the 1972 World Series, when he was playing for Oakland. In the fourth game of the series against the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Mincher came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with the A’s trailing, 2-1.

He stroked a single to tie the game, and the A’s went on to win, 3-2. It was Mr. Mincher’s final time at bat in the major leagues. Oakland later won the World Series in seven games.

Donald Ray Mincher was born June 24, 1938, in Huntsville. He was first signed by the Chicago White Sox before coming to Washington in a trade in 1960, when the Senators sent slugger Roy Sievers to the White Sox.

After his playing career, in which he hit exactly 200 home runs, Mr. Mincher returned to his native town, where he ran a sporting goods store and announced baseball games. In 1985, he became president and general manager of the Huntsville Stars minor-league baseball franchise. He was part of a group that bought the club in 1994 to keep it in Huntsville.

“Don was bigger than life in this town,” Huntsville Stars general manager Buck Rogers told MiLB.com, the Web site of minor-league baseball. “If you wanted to make a movie about the prototypical local hero, then he’d be the guy.”

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Patsy Ann Payne Mincher; three children; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

From 2001 to October 2011, Mr. Mincher served as president of the Southern League, a Class AA minor league with 10 teams throughout the South. In 2010, he was honored with the minor league’s King of Baseball award.

 
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