Revisiting October: Twins top Detroit
by, 10-12-2013 at 03:51 AM (476 Views)
Not long ago, we were forced to sell my grandmother’s house. As part of the purging process, a box filled with newspapers from the Minnesota Twins’ championship seasons in 1987 and 1991 were discovered. The newspapers, still wreaking of the stale cigarette smoke that saturated her entire dwelling, are pure gold.(1)
As the resident family baseball-phile, the archive was entrusted to me.
Without much to do with the box, other than keep it away from fire - paper’s worst enemy - the only other thing I could think about doing with them is sharing the important snippets. Today we go back to the happenings of October 12, 1987, as reported from the October 13, 1987 Star Tribune.
When closer Jeff Readon corralled the Matt Nokes comebacker and ran it towards the looming Kent Hrbek before flipping him the ball and then following his throw into his first baseman’s arms, the Twins were poised to return to baseball’s biggest stage 22 years after being beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the Twins clubhouse at Tiger Stadium, Star Tribune staff writer Doug Grow followed the team’s alcohol-soaked celebration.
Gaetti would finish the championship series 6-for-20 (.300) but have two home runs in the first game of the series(2). Those two were collected off of Detroit’s starter and big mid-season acquisition, Doyle Alexander, who cost the Tigers one John Smoltz.And now, perhaps 45 minutes after the game and after [Gary] Gaetti finally could pull himself away from the national media and rejoin his mates, he carried a huge gold cup, the trophy for being MVP. He carried it, empty, until he found [Tom] Brunansky.
“Pour,” he yelled hoarsely.
And Brunansky poured champagne in the cup. Gaetti took a drink, then handed the cup to Brunansky.
The outfielder drank deeply.
“This is yours too,” Gaetti said. They hugged.
Following the game, staff writers Mark Vancil and Dennis Brackin got Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek’s feelings on being one step away from being the best in baseball:
“We did it. I can’t believe it,” Puckett said. “Some guys play 10, 12, 20 years and never make it to the World Series. I’m going and I’ve only played three. I might not do it again, but I’m here now and I’m going to enjoy it. It’s awesome.”
“I’m a Minnesota fan, just like I’m a Minnesota player, so I can feel for the people back home,” [Hrbek] said. “I’m sure the people in Minneapolis are going to go crazy. They haven’t had something to go crazy about for a long time. To me, I feel so good for the people back home and the fans who cared about us and kept sticking with us. I always had the feeling that someday we were going to do it.”
The disbelief in a team that had squeaked out an 85-77 season - one that had gone 29-52 away from the covered stadium - and had somehow conquered the 98-win Tigers, on their turf no less, permeated everywhere. Columnist Jim Klobuchar summarized the thoughts on this ragtag bunch nicely:
Neat. Outdated fat jokes. As for Gaetti, yes, he had one of his worst offensive months of the season in September, finishing the final month with a .243/.287/.393 slash after hitting .260/.307/.505 prior to that.This is a team whose greatest star, Kirby Puckett, could be mistaken for an overweight carryout boy at the supermarket.
Its home-run-hitting first baseman, Kent Hrbek, could be the bouncer at the corner tavern. Its clutch-hitting third baseman, Gary Gaetti, spent more time worrying about being a father to his kids in the Twins’ September drive than about right-handed curveballers.
Certainly, the Twins stunned plenty of people including former sports columnist
turned radio host Dan Barreiro. This Barreiro had been incredibly incredulous that this assortment could withstand the onslaught of the favored Tigers - specifically because of the Twins’ tendency of being “domesick” when away from the home confines. Barreiro lists twenty reasons why this series victory was improbable including:
Barreiro, always the instigator, would also point out that manager Tom Kelly’s gamble to move starter Bert Blyleven up to Game 5 rather than go with Joe Niekro or Les Straker paid off. Had it backfired and the Tigers come away with a win, Kelly would have been forced to use either Niekro or Straker in Game 6 and have Frank Viola as the insurance policy in the event of Game 7, rather than just set his rotation for a more conventional Blyleven/Viola combination for the series’ last two games. The morale of the story? Tom Kelly has balls.(1) Doyle Alexander, 9-0 since going to the Tigers in September, would lose the opener.
(2) Alexander, 9-1 since going to the Tigers in Septebmer, would lose Game 5.
(4) Jack Morris, 11-0 in Minnesota, would lose Game 2.
(8) The Twins would win even though Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett hit a combined .182 (8-for-44).
(15) Dan Schatzeder would pitch 4 ⅓ innings of shutout ball.
(16) [Sparky] Anderson actually would say that he didn’t go to a left-handed pinch hitter because he knew the Twins had Schatzeder in the bullpen.(3)
Another one of Barreiro’s reasons for the improbable win was the pick-off of the Tigers’ veteran Darrell Evans at third during the sixth inning of Game 4 (the Tigers would lose 5-3). The sports page’s most tenured columnist, Sid Hartman, wrote a lot of notes(4), including one that had quoted (for some reason, I guess) legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler who defended the Tigers’ Darrell Evans’ play. Gaetti explained how the play went down to Hartman:
But what about the celebration back in the Twin Cities?“[Evans] is a guy I have looked up to for a long time, so you hate to embarrass him,” Gaetti said. “But because I like him, I have watched him a lot in the past. He has a habit of wandering off the base. So we tipped off umpire Joe Brinkman so he would be ready and knew the play was coming. There is no doubt we got him and that play might have won the game for us.”
Everyone knows that the Twins returned home from Detroit to a Metrodome that was filled to the brim with rabid fans, eager to cheer on the hometown team. Star Tribune reporters Norman Draper and Kurt Chandler documented the pandamonium. The Twins landed at the airport at 10:05 PM and were police escorted downtown to the stadium. The team’s postseason coordinator Jaime Lowe, said that they anticipate 4,000 to 6,000 people when they started planning the event - and there was even a bit of concern that there would be no one to greet them.
How wrong they were.
Prior to letting the gates open, a crush of fans descended to the gates and the raucous mob waved Homer Hankies and screamed while a Dixieland Band played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Officials allowed people in an hour earlier than expected to allow an estimated 55,000 fans stream in.
Elsewhere, at Champp’s Sports Cafe(5) in Richfield, where the venue was overflowing with fans watching the clinching game and enjoying what is assumed to be adult beverages. The interviews with patrons reveal some of the enduring Minnesota mindset that has plagued citizens of the states through the ages.When the Twins walked into the Metrodome, they were greeted by a storm of emotion. The stadium crowd was on its feet, waving handkerchiefs, cheering their lungs out.
Players wept. “Too bad we didn’t build a bigger stadium,” [Kent] Hrbek said, waving his own white handkerchief at the roof. “It almost feels like we won the World Series, the way people are acting. I don’t know what the heck they can do for an encore.”
Yup. Loserville.“The whole bar erupted - it was unbelievable,” said [Jay] Breidinger, 25, of of Richfield. “The Vikings are losers - Mondale is a loser - that’s the image. This is the time to show the country that we’re not losers.”
[Janet] Ryan, 26, of Minneapolis, said “Announcers always gave Minnesota the low end of the stick. Everyone knows now that we did it.”
What was the scene like inside the bar when the Twins got that final out in Detroit?
For the impending World Series, whose National League challenger had yet to be determined, fans lit up the Twins ticket office to get their hands on the state’s most sought after seats since 1965. Employees, however, had to inform the callers that they would need to go to Dayton’s department store in order to procure tickets.(6)Brian O’Connor, 31, manager of the bar, said “They were dancing on the tables - on the bar - on the rails - in the booth - everywhere. I moved here from New York last year - I saw the Mets go to the playoffs and the World Series, but I’ve never seen anything like this, ever. The spirit is so incredible. Nobody ever believed, but the underdogs came through. I’m a transformed Twins fan.”
This sales process is unfathomable to the younger generation. Think about it. Instead of being able to log into the team’s website from the comfort of your own home (let alone pay over the phone), you had to physically go to a building and wait in line. With other people. Germs and awkward conversation. The horror.
That night, the temperature dropped to a crisp 35-degrees as fans camped out in front of one of seven area Dayton’s locations. In play, reports Jon Jeter and Norman Draper, were tickets mainly for upper deck outfield and a few lower level locations.
$20 or $30? Twenty-six years later, SeatGeek.com says you can purchased hypothetical Detroit Tigers World Series tickets for a small fee of $300. Times have a-changed.Herb Morgenthaler, director of leased operations for Dayton Hudson Corp., said ticket purchased will be limited to four two-game sets per customer. Prices for each ticket are $20 and $30.
(1) The discovery of the box also made me realize that when I am forced out of my home or go tits-up and my kids and grandkids come to clean the clutter, no one will find any newspapers. At best? Tons of crappy DVDs which I haven’t figured out how to get rid of and the sight of which makes me furious for being so frivolous with my money. Who the hell needs to own two copies of American Pie 2?
(2) It was somewhat of an odd decision to choose Gaetti considering the numbers Brunansky had put up. Bruno matched The Rat’s home run total (2) but had driven in nine to Gaetti’s five and gone 7-for-17 (.412). Star Tribune staff writer Dennis Brackin would point to Gaetti’s intangibles, including the call for the Darrell Evans pick-off in Game 4 and acting as a sparkplug for initiating the scoring in Game 1 by homering in his first two series at-bats. Still, while he got to drink out of the same trophy, Bruno missed out on the added $25,000 bonus Gaetti received for winning the award.
(3) The left-handed Dan Schatzeder, whom the Twins had acquired in June for Tom Schwarz and Danny Clay, had been atrocious in Minnesota. In 43.2 innings, he allowed 64 hits and 37 runs. The reason why his four and a third scoreless ball was so remarkable is that in his 30 appearances for the Twins, he only had 13 clean innings. Oh, and left-handed hitters had hit .353/.405/.515 off of him in that time as well making people question why Anderson was afraid to turn to his lefty bench bats.
(4) Another one of Hartman’s notes included the Twins desire to bring back impending free agents in reliever Juan Berenguer and designated hitter Don Baylor. Hartman pointed out that Berenguer took a “$200,000” pay cut to sign with the Twins while GM Andy McPhail was quoted as wanting to pursue Baylor but admitted the team wouldn’t be able to match his $850,000 salary in 1988. In the end, the Twins re-signed Berenguer to a three-year, $1.875M contract while Baylor walked, later signing with Oakland for $495,000. Berenger pitched in 164 games during that contract and had a 3.61 ERA. Baylor would hit just .220/.332/.326 with the A’s in 92 games (he would get hit by a pitch 12 times at the plate).
(5) Ask John Bonnes about their special dipping sauce and watch his face light up like it is effin’ Christmas morning.
(6) Kids, once upon a time Macy’s was once called Dayton’s.