Yankees teammates Roger Maris, left, and Mickey Mantle in 1961.

Yankees teammates Roger Maris, left, and Mickey Mantle in 1961. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even for the mighty 1961 Yankees – a team generally ranked alongside 1927 and 1998 as the franchise’s best – a 13-game winning streak was a noteworthy achievement.

So much so that we still are talking about it 60 years later, now that the 2021 team has won 13 in a row for the Yankees’ longest streak since that one.

But early that September, the string of victories and the Yankees' big lead in the American League pennant race were not the hottest topics among fans and journalists.

What most people were talking about was Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chasing Babe Ruth’s then-record 60 home runs in a season, set in 1927.

Newsday printed a daily graphic called "The Race With Ruth" that featured the three sluggers’ totals.

And when the Yankees finally lost, dropping both ends of a doubleheader to the White Sox on Sept. 14, most of the coverage centered not on that but on Mantle and Maris going homerless in the two games.

In Newsday, Stan Isaacs’ game story mentioned the end of the streak in the 17th paragraph. Most of what came before that was Mantle lamenting an 0-for-7 day and a home run total stuck at 53.

"This was just a messed-up day," he said. "It’s almost impossible for me now. I felt that today was it. I’m out of it the way I feel."

And how did he feel? "Tired. I’ll settle for five more homers."

He had to settle for one more, finishing at 54. Maris, who had 56 home runs when the winning streak ended, hit five more to surpass Ruth with 61.

Both of them hit five during the 13-game streak, which ran from Sept. 1 through 12, with the first 12 games played at Yankee Stadium.

As with the 2021 streak, there were some close calls. Five wins came by one run, seven by three or fewer.

On Sept. 3, the Tigers led 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth. Elston Howard won it with a two-out, three-run home run. But there was more postgame attention paid to the fact that Mantle tied it with his 50th before Howard’s game-winner.

On Sept. 9, the Yankees scored four in the ninth to beat Cleveland, 8-7. Details of the comeback were buried deep in The New York Times’ game story, which focused mostly on Maris hitting his 56th earlier in the game.

That story appeared adjacent to one about the pressure on Mantle and Maris as the Ruth chase carried on.

"You can’t have a private life," Mantle said. "It’s just impossible. Everywhere you go, people think they know you."

On Sept. 10, two Long Island youths, one from Islip and the other from Ronkonkoma, jumped onto the field at Yankee Stadium and went after Cleveland centerfielder Jimmy Piersall, who had had a public struggle with mental health.

Piersall, who punched one interloper and kicked the other, said later that one shouted, "We’ll get you, you nut!" Many of his teammates also went after the youths, as did Mantle, who was on second base at the time.

Those Yankees went on to win 109 games and beat the Reds in five games in the World Series.

Maris was the American League MVP, totaling 141 RBIs and 132 runs. Mantle had 128 RBIs, 131 runs, 126 walks and a .317 batting average. Howard batted .348.

Whitey Ford was 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA. Ralph Terry was 16-3 with a 3.15 ERA. Luis Arroyo was 15-5 with a 2.19 ERA and 29 saves.

After the 13-5 clincher in Cincinnati on Oct. 9, Newsday’s Steve Jacobson began his story with this: "Winning is old hat for the Yankees, even in the World Series."

He wrote that they did not even bother with champagne in the victorious clubhouse.

Eight more World Series championships have followed. But this is the first winning streak since that year of more than 11 games.