The Twins Almanac for Jan 28–Feb 3
Happy 55th Birthday, Gary Mielke
It’s the birthday of former Rangers reliever Gary Mielke, born in St. James, MN in 1963. The sidearmer made three appearances with the Rangers in 1987, and another 76 between 1989 and ‘90.
David Greisen contributed a thorough entry on Mielke to the SABR BioProject (click here). I’ll paraphrase.
Gary went to school in St. James through eighth grade, after which the Mielkes moved to North Mankato, and Gary enrolled in Mankato West High School. He earned three letters in baseball at West, and was All-State his senior season (1981). He was also a starting forward on the basketball team his junior and senior seasons.
Despite his success in high school, he received zero scholarship offers. He wound up attending local Division II Mankato State, and even there he didn’t make varsity until the middle of his sophomore season (1983).
Greisen’s SABR BioProject entry includes a badass anecdote from Mielke’s junior season. He was hit by a liner in Grand Forks, breaking his nose and fracturing his cheekbone. Nonetheless, he made his next scheduled start five days later vs. the rival Gophers, earning a suspenseful complete-game 3-2 win.
He was sensational his senior season, not allowing a single run in North Central Conference play, and putting together a 27-inning scoreless streak overall.
The Rangers selected Mielke in the 26th round of the 1985 draft. He made his major league debut on August 19, 1987 at age 24, starting the top of the seventh with the Royals beating the Rangers 10-6 in Texas. The first batter he faced, Frank White, homered. Mielke went on to induce ground outs from the next four Royals hitters.
Three of Mielke’s favorite major league memories are being on hand for Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout in 1989, and his sixth no-hitter and 300th win in 1990. Mielke was such a Ryan fan, in fact, that his son, born three days after Gary’s first major league win, is named Tyler Ryan Mielke. The Mielkes later had a daughter, Chelsea.
Gary threw his final major league pitch on September 30, 1990, inducing an inning-ending double play from Mark McGwire.
Gary Mielke still lives in North Mankato. He has even done some umpiring there over the years. He was inducted into the Minnesota State Mavericks Hall of Fame in 1999.
January 28, 1985
Met Stadium Demolished
Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Twins and Vikings from 1961 to 1981, is demolished. The stadium originally opened in 1956 as the home of the Minneapolis Millers. The final game at Met Stadium was played on December 20, 1981, a 10-6 Vikings loss vs. Kansas City. The game time temperature was 10 degrees with a -8 windchill.
Twins official scorer and prolific baseball historian Stew Thornley wrote about Met Stadium for the 2015 book A Pennant for the Twin Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins. The book is available on Amazon, but you can read Thornley’s article on the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) website (here).
January 29, 2016
Hunter and Gordon Elected to Twins Hall of Fame
Twins President Dave St. Peter announces that Torii Hunter and John Gordon will be the 27th and 28th members of the Twins Hall of Fame.
Gordon spent 25 years in the Twins radio broadcast booth, originally joining Herb Carneal in 1987, and retiring at the end of the 2011 season.
Torii Hunter spent 12 of his 19 major league seasons with the Twins, originally coming up in August 1997 at age 22. While in a Twins uniform Hunter won seven of his nine career Gold Gloves, made two of his five All-Star appearances, and hit 214 of his 353 home runs (sixth-most in Twins history). Hunter’s three grand slams in 2007 tied the team’s single-season record (Bob Allison '61, Rod Carew '76, Kent Hrbek '85, Kirby Puckett '92). Hrbek and Hunter, incidentally, both hit their third on August 15. Don Mattingly set the MLB record with six grand slams in 1987.
Happy 31st Birthday, Caleb Thielbar
It’s the birthday of 2005 Randolph High School graduate and former Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar, born in 1987. Both of Caleb’s parents lettered in baseball at Randolph HS. His mom, Janet (Johnston), was the Rockets’ starting shortstop in 1976. His dad Calvin was the assistant coach of that team.
In addition to baseball, Caleb Thielbar excelled in basketball at Randolph HS. He was the second-leading scorer in school history, and number one in three-pointers and free-throw percentage at the time of his graduation.
He went on to pitch four season at South Dakota State University, and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 draft. He was released by Milwaukee in December 2010. He pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 2011, striking out 62 batters in just 49 ⅔ innings (43 appearances). On August 18 he became the first-ever Saints player signed by the Minnesota Twins.
Thielbar rose rapidly through the Twins system, and made his major league debut on May 5, 2013 at age 26, beginning a historically successful rookie season. He did not allow a run in his first 17 big league appearances. He earned his first win on June 1, pitching a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with the Twins trailing the Mariners 4-2. The Twins mounted a comeback in the bottom of the inning, culminating in Joe Mauer scoring from first on a Ryan Doumit walk-off triple.
Thielbar finally allowed his first run on July 8, giving up a solo homer to Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist. He finished the season 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.826 WHIP over 48 appearances (46 innings pitched).
He appeared in 54 ballgames in 2014, posting a 3.40 ERA. He appeared in just 6 games in 2015 before being claimed off waivers by the Padres on August 8. He has not pitched in the majors since.
Thielbar returned to the St. Paul Saints in 2016, going 5-2 with a 2.39 ERA over 64 innings (42 appearances). He went 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 0.761 WHIP in 22.1 innings (17 appearances) with the Saints in 2017. His contract was purchased by the Detroit Tigers on January 23, 2018.
Patrick Reusse wrote a great article about Thielbar prior to his rookie season with the Twins (here).
Happy 50th Birthday, Scott Erickson
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher Scott Erickson, born in Long Beach, CA in 1968. The Twins drafted Erickson out of Arizona State in the fourth round of the 1989 draft. It was the fourth time he had been drafted.
Erickson made it to the majors midway through the 1990 season, finishing strong with a 5-0 record in September. He went 12-2 with a 1.39 ERA in the first half off the 1991 season, and was named starting pitcher of the All-Star Game. Erickson, however, was unable to pitch due to injury, so manager Tony LaRussa handed the ball to fellow Twin Jack Morris in his stead. Morris wore black socks and his pants low in the style of Erickson. Erickson wound up going 20-8 for the ‘91 World Series Champion Twins, tying for the major league lead in wins and finishing second to Roger Clemens for the American League Cy Young Award.
After a solid ‘92 season, Erickson lost a major league-worst 19 games in 1993. ‘94 was arguably an even worse season for Erickson, though he did no-hit the Brewers at the Metrodome on April 27th. He rebounded after being traded to the Orioles during the ‘95 season, and would ultimately prove to be one of the more durable pitchers of the ‘90s, pitching an American League-leading 251.1 innings in 1998, and winning 73 games between 1995 and ’99.
February 2, 2008
Twins Trade Santana
The Twins do the prudent thing and trade 2004 and 2006 Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitchers, all of whom were duds. Gomez showed sparks but never lived up to his potential in Minnesota, though he did score one of the most exciting runs in team history on October 6, 2009. Less than a month later he was traded to Milwaukee for former and future All-Star J.J. Hardy. Gomez, for his part, would go on to consecutive All-Star seasons for Milwaukee in 2013 and ‘14.
After three very good seasons in New York, Santana missed all of the 2011 season. He went 6-9 in 21 starts in 2012, pitching his final major league game on August 17, 2012 at age 33.
The Twins announced that Santana had been elected to the team Hall of Fame on January 19, 2018.
February 2, 1996
Coldest Day in State History
The state record low temperature of -60 is recorded near the town of Tower. I was on a sixth-grade class field trip, staying in pretty rustic cabins just a few miles away at the Laurentian Environmental Center in Britt.
Former Pioneer Press sportswriter Jim Caple got married that day in Eagan! Don’t feel too bad for the couple, though; it was only -32 in the Twin Cities, a full two degrees warmer than the metro record of -34 set in January 1936.
Caple wrote for the Pioneer Press from June 1989 to February 2000.
The temperature in Tower on February 8—six days later—was 48; a swing of 108 degrees!
February 3, 1979
Twins Trade Carew
The Twins trade seven-time American League batting champ Rod Carew to the Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens, and Paul Hartzell. It had become increasingly clear that team owner Calvin Griffith had no intention of ponying up for the future Hall of Famer. And even if Griffith could have afforded him, it was unlikely that Carew would have played for Griffith again after the owner's infamous, off-the-rails ramblings at a Lion’s Club dinner in Waseca on September 28. Griffith was quoted in the Star Tribune as having said "I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here ... We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here."
Read Nick Coleman's original October 1, 1978 article (click here).
February 3, 1987
Twins Acquire Terminator
The Twins trade pitcher Neal Heaton, 1980 first-round draft pick catcher Jeff Reed, 19-year-old future major league pitcher Yorkis Perez, and career minor league pitcher Afredo Cardwood to the Expos for backup catcher Tom Nieto and 1985 and ‘86 All-Star closer Jeff Reardon. Reardon would save 31 regular season games for the ‘87 Twins, plus three postseason games, including Game 7 of the World Series. Reardon surpassed Rollie Fingers as major league baseball’s all-time saves leader in 1992 with his 342nd save. His 367 career saves currently rank 10th all-time. Stupid Jonathan Papelbon passed him in 2016. Joe Nathan is eighth on the list with 377. Heaton, for his part, won a career-high 13 games for the Expos in 1987.
The Twins career save leaders are Nathan (260), Rick Aguilera (254), Glen Perkins (120), Eddie Guardado (116), Ron Davis (108), and Reardon (104).
Bonus Thome Tidbits
Here is some Jim Thome trivia on the occasion of his first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame last week. These are just the nuggets that turn up in my Twins Almanac spreadsheet. Contribute your own Thome trivia in the comments below.
Jim Thome hit .314 with 218 hits, 61 home runs, and 156 RBI in 196 career games vs. the Twins. That’s his highest average vs. any team he played at least 30 games against, second-most home runs (66 vs. Detroit), and the most hits and RBI he had against any team.
He hit .321 with 28 home runs at the Metrodome, the most he hit at any visiting ballpark.
He hit .365 with 11 home runs in 19 games vs. the Twins in 2002. An astonishing seven of those home runs came off Rick Reed. He hit two homers off Reed in 2001, for a total of nine, the most he hit against any pitcher. Next on the list is Roger Clemens (8), and Justin Verlander (7). He hit six off several pitchers, including Eric Milton.
The Twins set a club record for margin of victory, beating Cleveland 23-2 on June 4, 2002. Cleveland’s two runs came on solo home runs by Jim Thome in the fourth and seventh innings off none other than Rick Reed. Reed only allowed three hits and no walks in seven innings pitched, improving to 6-2 on the season. He would end up leading the team with a 15-7 record.
Thome homered in seven straight games for Cleveland in 2002. The Twins record is five games: Harmon Killebrew (twice in 1970), Marty Cordova (1995, in just his 23rd MLB game), and Brian Dozier (2016). The major league record is eight (Dale Long 1956, Mattingly ‘87, and Griffey Jr. ‘93).
Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the eleventh inning in Kansas City on May 2, 1964. Eight teams in major league history have hit four consecutive home runs, most recently the Nationals on July 27, 2017. The last American League team to do so was the White Sox in 2008 when Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and Juan Uribe went back-to-back-to-back-to-back.
Twins five-hitter Bob Allison struck out five times in five at-bats on September 2, 1965, still tied for the major league record in a nine-inning game. Jim Thome tied that record on April 9, 2000. Thome had 20 four-strikeout games, third most in major league history behind Reggie Jackson (23), and Ryan Howard (27). I suspect that includes extra-inning games, but I’m not sure.
Who remembers Game 163? No, not that one; the year before that, when the White Sox beat the Twins 1-0 on September 30, 2008. Chicago’s only run came on a Jim Thome solo home run off Nick Blackburn leading off the seventh. That game was in Chicago by virtue of a coin flip, despite the Twins having the better head-to-head record. Major League Baseball changed the rule, and the very next season the Twins hosted the Tigers in a Game 163 for the ages.
Fun Fact: The Twins also played 163 games in 1962. Camilo Pascual pitched a three-hit shutout to become the first 20-game winner in Twins history.
Thome had already hit 564 home runs when signed with the Twins on January 26, 2010 at age 39.
Thome had the first walk-off hit in Target Field history on August 17, 2010. Obviously it was a home run.
It was the first of a three-game series vs. the Chicago White Sox, over whom the Twins held a three-game lead in the Central Division. With the Twins trailing 5-6 in the bottom of the tenth, Delmon Young led off with a single off Matt Thornton. Thome then deposited the All-Star closer’s 1-0 offering, a belt-high fastball, onto the plaza.
It was Thome's 12th career walk-off homer, tying Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson for the major league record. He broke that record on June 24, 2012 while playing for the Phillies.
September 4, 2010 was a day Greg Gagne will never forget. He was inducted as the 22nd member of the team Hall of Fame before a game between the first-place Twins and Rangers. Carl Pavano picked up his 16th win in the 12-4 Twins victory. Matt Tolbert had two triples (very Gagne-esque) and drove in five runs, while Thome hit a pair of homers, passing Mark McGwire for ninth on the all-time list.
Just two days later—Labor Day—Thome hit a memorable blast off the flagpole, eventually estimated at 480 feet.
On July 17, 2011, Thome hit a staggering three-run 490-foot bomb, still the longest ever hit at Target Field. His 596th career home run helped the Twins to a 4-3 win over Kansas City.
Thome hit his 599th and 600th home runs in Detroit on August 15, 2011. Pay attention to this, kids: both were to the opposite field.
The Twins sold Thome’s contract to Cleveland 10 days later. In total he hit 37 home runs in a Twins uniform.
Thome, whose final season was 2012, officially retired on August 2, 2014 with 612 home runs, eighth-most in major league history.
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