The Twins Almanac for March 4–10
Happy 82nd Birthday, Bob “Rocky” Johnson
It’s the birthday of 1954 Edina-Morningside grad and 11-year major league middle infielder Bob “Rocky” Johnson, born in Omaha in 1936. Johnson’s father had grown up in the Twin Cities and the family returned to Minneapolis in December 1947.
Johnson, who signed with the Detroit Tigers out of high school, made his major league debut with the Kansas City Athletics on April 19, 1960 at age 24, drawing a walk as a pinch-hitter.
In total, he played 874 major league games over parts of 11 seasons with the Kansas City Athletics, Senators, Orioles, Mets, Reds, Braves, Cardinals, and Oakland A's, hitting .272 with 628 hits and 44 home runs. He played 71 regular season games for the eventual 1966 World Series Champion Orioles.
He singled off Jack Kralick in his first two major league at-bats in Minnesota on July 25, 1961. He played 75 games against the Twins overall, hitting .283 with five home runs, including two each off Jim Kaat and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate Dick Stigman.
Johnson earned a reputation as a proficient pinch-hitter over the course of his career. He strung together six consecutive pinch-hits in 1964, an American League record he owned for 17 years before Bill Stein broke it in 1981.
Johnson, who lives in St. Paul these days, was inducted into the Edina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
Stew Thornley wrote about Johnson for the Halsey Hall SABR book Minnesotans in Baseball (click here).
Happy 38th Birthday, Jack Hannahan
It’s the birthday of 1998 Cretin-Derham Hall grad, Golden Gophers all-time great, and eight-year major leaguer Jack Hannahan, born in Minneapolis in 1980.
Hannahan was the 2001 Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits, runs scored, home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage.
The Tigers selected Hannahan in the third round of the 2001 draft. He made his major league debut in Kansas City on May 25, 2006 at age 26, going 0-for-6 in a 13-8 Tigers win. At least he didn't strike out.
In total, he played 614 games over parts of eight seasons with the Tigers, Athletics, Mariners, Cleveland, and the Reds, hitting .231 with 29 home runs.
One of those home runs came on June 8, 2011 with two out in the bottom of the ninth off Twins closer Matt Capps, tying the game 2-2. Ben Revere drove in Drew Butera in the tenth to salvage the win for Minnesota.
Hannahan played with the LG Twins in Seoul, South Korea in 2015.
Happy 61st Birthday, Jerry Ujdur
It's the birthday 1975 Hermantown High School graduate, and University of Minnesota all-time great Jerry Ujdur, born in Duluth in 1957.
Ujdur made the Hermantown varsity team as an eighth grader. In 1975 he met Dick Siebert halfway in Hinckley to audition for the legendary Gophers coach. He would win 27 games as a Gopher, second only to 1972 Minnetonka High School grad Steve Comer's 30.
Ujdur made his major league debut in Detroit on August 17, 1980 at age 23, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk over 2.1 innings in relief of Mark Fidrych in a 9-3 Rangers win. Fergie Jenkins earned the victory for Texas.
He made his first major league start three days later in Milwaukee, holding the Brewers to three runs (two earned) on eight hits, a walk, and a strikeout over six innings pitched to earn his first win. 1974 Cretin High School graduate and former Golden Gophers teammate Paul Molitor had three infield groundouts versus Ujdur.
He made 53 major league appearances (40 starts) over parts of five seasons with Detroit (1980–'83) and Cleveland (1984), going 12-16 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.953 WHIP. He best season by far was 1982, when he went 10-10 with seven complete games, a 3.69 ERA and 1.230 WHIP. 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris won 17 for Detroit that season, for a total of 27 wins from Minnesota natives.
Though he only pitched in 53 major league games, Ujdur had some pretty impressive numbers against several Hall of Fame hitters. Eddie Murray went 0-for-11 with two walks versus Ujdur, Carlton Fisk went 0-for-10 with a walk, Molitor went 2-for-14 with a walk, and 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson each went 1-for-9 with two walks.
March 5, 2006
Puckett Suffers Stroke
Twins legend Kirby Puckett suffers a massive stroke at the home he shares with his fiancé in Scottsdale, AZ. Old friend Ron Washington, in camp with the Athletics nearby, was one of the first at his bedside. Ken Griffey Jr. also rushed to his side, while former teammates including Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek made their ways to Arizona.
Puckett faced personal struggles following the abrupt end to his career. "That's what really hurt him bad, when he was forced out of the game," Hrbek told the Associated Press. "I don't know if he ever recovered from it."
One of those personal struggles was his weight, which had visibly spiralled out of control. "We would tell him. But he enjoyed life. He enjoyed the size he was. That's who he was," Jacque Jones told ESPN from Cubs camp in Mesa, AZ. "You can't do anything about it until he decides to change. Hopefully, he'll pull through this, and it'll be like a call for him to change some things in his life.”
March 6, 1973
Hisle Becomes First DH in MLB History
In an exhibition game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, Larry Hisle becomes the first Designated Hitter in major league history. Back on January 11, American League owners had voted 8-4 in favor of adopting the DH, and in this game Hisle made them look like geniuses, hitting two home runs and driving in seven. The Yankees’ Ron Blomberg was the first DH to bat in a regular season game.
The Twins’ Tony Oliva hit the first regular season home run by a DH on April 6 (Opening Day) off Oakland's Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley spearheaded the effort to adopt the DH.
March 6, 2006
Puckett Passes Away
A day after suffering a massive stroke, Kirby Puckett passes away at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. After unsuccessful emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, friends and family were notified that the end was near. Many people rushed to be with Kirby in his final hours, including former teammates Ron Washington, Shane Mack, and Kent Hrbek. Another friend who rushed to the hospital and was reportedly at his bedside when he passed was Ken Griffey Jr.
"There's certain people that you owe it to, for the things they've done for you, no matter where you are," Griffey told the Los Angeles Times. "He was that important to my family. It was for the things he said to me, not for the way he played."
Kirby Puckett was just 45 years old, the second-youngest person to pass away after having already been enshrined in Cooperstown. Lou Gehrig was just 37.
March 7, 2013
Hicks Has Himself a Day
Coming into Spring Training it was unclear whether or not 2008 first-round draft choice Aaron Hicks had a legitimate chance of making the Opening Day roster. He made a strong case for himself on this day, going 4-for-5 with three home runs, six RBI, and a stolen base versus the Phillies in Clearwater. He would indeed make his major league debut on Opening Day, batting leadoff and playing center field.
Happy 61st Birthday, John Butcher
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher John Butcher, born in Glendale, CA in 1957.
The Twins acquired Butcher along with pitcher Mike Smithson and minor league catcher Sam Sorce from Texas in exchange for Gary Ward on December 7, 1983.
Butcher pitched a remarkable one hour and 55 minute complete-game shutout on April 21, 1985.
The Twins were on a nine-game losing streak, falling to 2-9 on the season entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Butcher hurled the 81-pitch gem, allowing three hits, but facing just 28 batters. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in the Twins' only two runs. It was the beginning of a 10-game winning streak.
Speaking of efficient pitcher performances, Carlos Silva needed just 74 pitches to beat the Brewers at the Metrodome on May 20, 2005, allowing just five hits including a solo home run. That game, however, lingered on for 2 hours and 27 minutes as the Twins put up seven runs, with Nick Punto going 4-for-4 with an RBI and run scored.
Happy 57th Birthday, Mark Salas
It’s the birthday of former Twins catcher Mark Salas, born Montabello, CA in 1961.
The Twins acquired Salas from the Cardinals in the December ‘84 Rule 5 Draft, and traded him to the Yankees for knuckleballer Joe Niekro on June 6, 1987.
Today Salas is the White Sox bullpen catcher. Yes, really.
Happy 55th Birthday, Terry Mulholland
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher Terry Mulholland, born in Uniontown, PA in 1963.
Kirby Puckett homered off Mulholland in the 1993 All-Star Game en route to being named the game's Most Valuable Player.
The Twins purchased Mulholland's contract from Seattle on April 2, 2004 at age 41. He pitched in 39 games in 2004, starting 15, including an 8-4 win in Arizona on July 3 to become the third pitcher in major league history to beat all 30 teams. He made 49 relief appearances for the Twins in 2005.
Bartolo Colón beat the Diamondbacks at Target Field on August 20, 2017 to become the 18th pitcher to record a win against all 30 teams.
Francisco Liriano will join the club with a win against the Marlins, and Ervin Santana will join with a win against the Brewers. The Brewers come to Target Field May 18-20, and the Twins travel to Milwaukee July 2-4.
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