Ron Gardenhire Retires, Twins Legacy Lives On
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsNews broke on Sunday that Ron Gardenhire was retiring, effective immediately. The former Twins manager had been Detroit’s skipper for the last three seasons. He’s had a losing record in every season for the Tigers as they have been in full rebuild mode. Initially, his plan was to retire at the conclusion of the 2020 season, but a case of food poisoning and underlying health conditions pushed him into an early exit.
In a press release, Gardenhire said, ““This is a bittersweet day for myself and my family. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the countless players and coaches that I’ve had the honor of working alongside for the last 16 seasons as manager. I’d also like to thank the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins for giving me the privilege of leading their clubhouses. While I’m stepping away from managing, I’ll be watching this group of Tigers closely in the next few years. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and a lot coming through the farm system. Tigers fans are going to enjoy the exciting times on the horizon.”
Gardy’s Twins tenure started back in 1986 in his final year as a professional player. He played 117 games for the club’s Triple-A affiliate and hit .272/.347/.380 with 26 extra-base hits and a 70 to 45 strike out to walk ratio. He must have impressed the Twins, because he retired following the season and immediately started coaching in the Twins system.
He quickly made his mark in his first three years as a minor league manager. He led teams in the Midwest League (Class A) and Southern League (Class AA) to one second place and two first place finishes. From there, he was promoted to being a coach on the big-league squad and he served as a coach for over the next decade (1991-2001). When Tom Kelly retired, Gardy took over with a flurry.
In his first season as manager, he would lead the Twins to the AL Central crown and all the way to the ALCS before eventually losing to the eventual World Series champions, the Anaheim Angels. The Twins have yet to win a playoff series since that run, but Gardenhire’s impact was far from over.
Minnesota would complete a three-peat of AL Central titles in 2004 before winning the title again in 2006. The club lost to the White Sox in Game 163 to end the 2008 season before coming back and winning a Game 163 against the Tigers to close out the Metrodome one year later. His final AL Central crown came in 2010 when he won his lone the AL Manager of the Year award.
Many great players came to stardom under Gardenhire’s watchful eye. Johan Santana went on one of the greatest pitching runs in franchise history as he won two Cy Young awards before being traded to the Mets. Joe Mauer made his debut in 2004 and played a large portion of his potential Hall of Fame career under Gardenhire. Other players like Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, Denard Span, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer would have long careers tied to Gardy’s tenure.
Gardenhire’s personality was what separated him from previous Twins managers. He was able to connect with players and fans and he brought a passion that would overflow into the game. His club record 71 ejections would attest to that fact. If Twins teams were in contention, he pulled the right strings to be able to keep them in the race. Overall, he seemed to be able to get the best out of his players and to guide young players as they entered the league.
Following the 2010 season, things went the wrong way in a hurry for Gardenhire and the Twins. For four straight seasons, the club lost over 90 games in the worst stretch of losing in franchise history. At his final Twins press conference, he said, “Sometimes people need to hear a different voice. They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I’ll be rooting just like everybody else.” His 27 years in the Twins organization were over, but he was still part of the Twins family.
Twins President Dave St. Peter said, “Baseball has always been better with Ron Gardenhire part of it. His legacy is highlighted by the hugely positive impact he made on players and staff. I will always remember his authentic connection to the fans. The Gardenhire family will always be part of the Twins family.”
Twins fans might not have agreed with every on-field decision during the Gardenhire era, but his legacy will be felt throughout Twins Territory for years to come. Congratulations on retirement to Gardenhire and his family. May he stay healthy and enjoy the years ahead.
What are some of your favorite Gardy memories? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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