The 1961 Major League Baseball season saw the New York Yankees defeat the Cincinnati Reds in five games in the World Series. The season is most well known for Yankee teammates Roger Maris’ and Mickey Mantle’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s prestigious 34-year-old single-season home run record of 60. Maris ultimately broke the record when he hit his 61st home run on the final day of the regular season, while Mantle was forced out of the lineup in late-September due to a hip infection and finished with 54 home runs.
In order to keep its schedule balanced, the American League season was extended by eight games. Previously, teams had played 154 games (22 games per opponent), but from 1961 AL teams would play opponents 18 times each for a total of 162 games. The National League played a 154 game schedule for the final time in 1961 before switching to 162 games when they also expanded to ten teams for the following season.
Maris' 61 home runs broke Babe Ruth's 34-year-old major league single-season record of 60, set in 1927. Maris' record would stand for 37 years until it was broken by Mark McGwire's 70 in 1998. Maris, however, still holds the American League record.
April 11 – At New York's Yankee Stadium, the Minnesota Twins, in their first game since their move from Washington, shut out the Yankees 6–0. The Twins' Pedro Ramos was the winning pitcher. Ramos had a 2-run single and allowed just 3 singles in beating the Yankee starting pitcher, Whitey Ford.
April 27 – The Los Angeles Angels draw a disappointing crowd of 11,931 for their first-ever home opener against the Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field. Ty Cobb, in his last appearance at a ball park, throws out the first ball. The Twins' Camilo Pascual spoils the opener by winning, 4–2, sending the Angels to their eighth loss in nine games.
July 11 – Strong winds at Candlestick Park dominate the first All-Star Game of the season. A capacity crowd sees Giants pitcher Stu Miller blown off the mound in the ninth inning when a balk is called, and it enables the American League to forge a 3–3 tie before losing 5–4 in 10 innings.
July 17 – Commissioner Ford Frick decrees that Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a 154-game schedule in 1927 "cannot be broken unless some batter hits 61 or more within his club's first 154 games." Two days later, Frick, an old friend of Ruth, announces that should Ruth's record be beaten after 154 games, the record will carry an asterisk. When asked about the ruling, Roger Maris replies, "A season is a season." This is also the day that one of baseball's greatest hitters passes away, Ty Cobb, aged 74.
July 31 – At Fenway Park, the second All-Star Game of the year ends in a 1–1 tie as heavy rain halted play. It is the first of two ties in All-Star history. The other would occur in 2002.
August 22 – Roger Maris becomes the first player to hit his 50th home run of the season in the month of August as the Yankees lose to the Los Angeles Angels, 4–3. Angels pitcher Ken McBride tees up the gopher ball in the sixth inning with one on.