Zoilo Casanova Versalles y Rodríguez was born on this day 1939 in Marianao, Cuba.
He broke with the Senators (now the Twins) and became a pretty good shortstop in the early 1960’s.
His moment came in 1965 when Versalles won the AL MVP and led the Twins to the World Series against the LA Dodgers.
Zoilo was really super that year and earned every bit of the trophy, as Peter C. Bjarkman wrote:
The MVP performance by Zoilo Versalles at the decade’s midpoint ranked at the time as one of the best offensive years ever enjoyed by a major league shortstop. Tutored perhaps even more by third base coach Billy Martin than by manager Sam Mele, Versalles that summer made a hefty contribution to revolutionizing not only the popular view of Latino middle infielders but also of shortstops universally.
Coach Martin’s new protégé topped the American League in seven categories: plate appearances (728), at-bats (666), runs scored (126), doubles (45), triples (12), extra-base hits (76), and total bases (308). He also appeared (as a sixth-inning sub for starter Dick McAuliffe) in his second All-Star Game alongside five fellow Twins, on their home turf in Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium.
On top of his offensive production, Versalles also claimed his second Gold Glove, even though he posted a career-high and league-leading 39 errors. Good offense apparently masks questionable defense, though more modern fielding metrics cast a better light on his play in the field.12
Overall, Zoilo easily walked off with nearly unanimous MVP honors.
Quite a honor for the young man from Marianao, and one of the many who played in the Cuban winter league and later in the majors.
He died in 1995. In 2005, he posthumously honored by induction into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.