The Twins Almanac for February 11–17
February 11, 1985
Hrbek Cashes In
The Twins sign 1978 Bloomington Kennedy High School grad Kent Hrbek to a new five-year, $6 million contract, making Hrbie the first player in team history scheduled to make a million dollars a year. I say "scheduled" because Hrbie's annual salary wouldn't actually exceed $1 million until the 1986 season, and the Twins traded for Bert Blyleven, making well over $1 million a year, during the 1985 season.
Hrbek celebrated by going ice fishing outside his Lake Minnetonka home.
Hrbek was coming off of what would be the best season of his career in 1984, hitting .311 with 27 home runs and 107 RBI. He finished runner-up in American League MVP balloting to Detroit closer Willie Hernandez, who also won the AL Cy Young Award. Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry came in third in MVP balloting and second in Cy Young balloting. Quisenberry finished second or third in Cy Young balloting four straight seasons from 1982 to 1985.
Next time you see Hrbie, ask him how he feels about pitchers receiving MVP votes.
Happy 62nd Birthday, Brian Denman
It’s the birthday of 1974 Richfield High School graduate and University of Minnesota alumnus Brian Denman, born in Minneapolis in 1956.
Denman was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1978 January secondary phase. The 6'4" right-handed pitcher was a hot prospect in the Red Sox organization, winning 30 games in his first two minor league seasons, and 51 between 1978 and ‘82. Denman made his major league debut on August 2, 1982 at age 26, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings to earn the win in Oakland. 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral grad Tom Burgmeier earned the four-inning save. (Noticing these cool little connections makes Baseball Reference game logs some of the best reading there is)
Denman made nine starts during his only big league season, going 3-4 with a 4.78 ERA, only striking out nine in 49 innings of work.
He only lasted 2/3 of an inning in his second-to-last start, giving up six runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk against the Yankees at Fenway. He was again relieved by Burgmeier.
Denman made one heckuva recovery, pitching a six-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on October 2, his final major league start.
He played two more seasons in the Red Sox organization, and 1985–'86 with the Tigers' triple-A Nashville Sounds.
In addition to being an all-time great baseball player at Richfield, Denman was a standout member of the Spartans’ 1972 state champion and '73 and '74 state runner-up basketball teams. These days Denman makes his home in Buffalo, NY.
Happy 33rd Birthday, Cole De Vries
It’s the birthday of 2003 Eden Prairie graduate, University of Minnesota alumnus, and former Twins pitcher Cole De Vries, born in St. Louis Park in 1985.
De Vries played three seasons for the Gophers before signing with the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2006. He made his major league debut on May 24, 2012 at age 27, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk over five innings in an 11-8 loss to the White Sox in Chicago. It was a rude welcome to the big leagues as A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios each took him deep. Mauer and Morneau homered for the Twins, for what it's worth.
De Vries made 17 appearances (16 starts) in 2012, compiling a 5-5 record with a 4.11 ERA. He earned the win in his second and third big league starts, but did not win again for almost two months before winning his final three starts of the season.
De Vries made it back to the majors in September 2013, struggling through two relief appearances and two starts, giving up 18 runs on 22 hits over 15 innings. He pitched in Venezuela that winter, with similar results.
The retired pitcher still lives in Eden Prairie, and works in commercial real estate.
Happy 75th Birthday, Don Arlich
It’s the birthday of 1961 St. Paul North graduate and former Houston Astros pitcher Don Arlich, born in Wayne, Michigan in 1943.
Arlich went 15-0 for the 1961 State Champion North High Polars, a team that also featured Twins curator Clyde Doepner.
Arlich signed with Houston out of high school. He made his major league debut on October 2, 1965 at age 22, starting the second-to-last game of the season versus the St. Louis Cardinals at the Astrodome. He held the Cardinals to two runs on five hits and a walk over six innings, and was in line for the win before St. Louis rallied against the Houston bullpen.
Arlich made it back to the majors in July 1966, making seven relief appearances, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on eleven hits and four walks over four innings pitched.
He stuck it out in the minors until 1969, playing his final two and a half seasons in the Braves’ organization.
February 16, 1897
Birthdate of Paul Castner
It's the birthdate of St. Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights) graduate, World War I veteran, Notre Dame legend, and former White Sox pitcher Paul Castner, born 121 years ago in St. Paul.
According to biographer Bill Lamb, baseball was Castner's third-best sport after football and hockey. He played fullback at Notre Dame under legendary coach Knute Rockne, blocking for the Gipper.
He made six relief appearances for the 1923 White Sox, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on 14 hits and five walks over 10 innings pitched. He never struck out a major league batter.
Read Bill Lamb's thorough and fascinating SABR BioProject essay on Castner (click here).
February 16, 1973
Twins Announce Thompson’s Leukemia Diagnosis
The Twins announce that 27-year-old infielder Danny Thompson has been diagnosed with chronic granulocytic leukemia. Doctors say that the disease is in an early stage, and should not affect Thompson for about five years.
The Twins drafted Thompson out of Oklahoma State in 1968 in the first round of the June Secondary Phase. He made his major league debut on June 25, 1970 at age 23 and never went back down to the farm. He played in 630 games over seven seasons with the Twins.
Thompson was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith in 1976. Griffith refused to give the infielder a fair price, insisting that no other team would even offer a contract to someone with cancer. So on June 1, 1976 he was packaged with Bert Blyleven and shipped to Texas in exchange for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, and pitchers Bill Singer, and Jim Gideon. Thompson struggled in Texas.
He passed away at the Mayo Clinic on December 10, 1976, just 69 days after playing his final major league game. He played in 98 games between Minnesota and Texas in the final year of his life. He was just 29 years old.
Happy 39th Birthday, Josh Willingham
It's the birthday of former Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, born in Florence, AL in 1979.
The Twins signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract on December 15, 2011. It was the richest free agent deal in team history at the time according to SABR member John Swol's awesome site, TwinsTrivia.com. Willingham led off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to center on April 21, 2012 in St. Petersburg, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games. It was the longest streak to begin a Twins career, and tied with Kirby Puckett's 1994 streak for the longest to begin a season in team history.
Willingham had a career year in 2012, hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, and winning a Silver Slugger Award alongside fellow AL outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton.
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