The Twins began the decade of the 1980s in really bad shape. The 1981 strike may have kept them from being one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1982 Twins lost 102 games. However, that team was developing a strong core of young players, taking their lumps, who would be World Series champions just five years later.
While our look at the hitters of the decade shows that there was some good offense, the pitching staffs were generally quite "offensive." With the exception of Frank Viola, it's clear why the Twins struggled at finding quality starting pitchers. Bert Blyleven came back in the mid-80s and helped the team toward that 1987 championship.
Who would the player of the decade be for the Twins? Kirby Puckett? Kent Hrbek? Maybe Frank Viola?
Which players were underrated? Which players were your favorites, whether they were great players or not.
To help talk about the 1980s Twins, we are joined by friend of Twins Daily's Howard Sinker. Howard is the digital man behind the startribune.com sports pages online. In September of 1984, he was the Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune. It was a job that he held until August of 1987. He saw some bad baseball. He saw some very good baseball. He interacted with some of your favorite players from that 1980s.
You can follow Howard on Twitter at @afansview. And be sure to check out his great work at StarTribune.com as well.
Enjoy, and discuss!
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Episode 1: Get to know Niko Guardado (Actor and son of Eddie Guardado)
Episode 2: Get to know Pat Dean, Brent Rooker
Episode 3: Get to know Royce Lewis, AJ Achter
Episode 4: Get to know Devin Smeltzer
Episode 5: Get to know Jaylin Davis, Tyler Wells
Episode 6: Get to know: Travis Blankenhorn, LaMonte Wade
Episode 7: Get to know: Matt Wallner (and Ten Minutes with Tyler Wells)
Episode 8: Get to know: Caleb Hamilton, Austin Schulfer, Nick Anderson
Episode 9: Get to know: Andy Young, Billy Boyer (and Ten Minutes with Tyler)
Episode 10: Get to know: Wesley Wright (Twins Pro Scout)
Episode 11: Get to know: John Manuel(Twins Pro Scout)
Episode 12: Get to know: Marshall Kelner(Mighty Mussels broadcaster)
Episode 13: Get to know: Dick Bremer (Twins broadcaster, author)
Episode 14: Get to know: Anthony Slama (former Twins pitcher, entrepreneur)
Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
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- Apr 24 2020 12:03 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Some of the Twins teams in the early '80s were really bad. However, it was a time for some development, and one of the players developed turned into one of the bettter pitchers in team history. There is no question that Frank Viola was the team's top pitcher of the 1980s, and he helped lead the 1987 Twins to a World Series title before the end of the decade.
However, there is a big drop-off after Viola, and after reading today's article, you probably won't be surprised that the Twins had questions regarding a third starter even on a World Series team. Question marks in the pitching staff may have been an understatement in the early '80s.
So, read my all-decade pitchers below and then discuss the pitchers. Did I leave someone out? What surprised you?
Don't forget that on Thursday night, I'll be posting another podcast in which I talk about the Twins decade with a beat reporter who covered the team during the decade. It's a ton of fun and I really think you'll enjoy it... In fact, the writer actually convinced me to make one change in the bullpen below, the first time that has happened during this series.
SP - Frank Viola (1982-1989)
260 games, 259 starts, 112-93 with 3.86 ERA in 1,772 2/3 innings. 1,214 K. 521 BB.
Viola was the Twins second -round pick in 1981 out of St. Johns. Just over a year later, he made his debut for the Twins. In the early years, he was working innings for a struggling team, but as he got better, the Twins got better. He won 18 games in both 1984 and 1985. He won 17 games and posted a 2.90 ERA in 1987. That season ended with him named the MVP of the World Series. In 1988, he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was his lone All-Star appearance with the Twins. He was traded to the Mets during the 1989 season. He pitched more than twice as many innings as any other pitcher for the Twins during the decade.
SP - Bert Blyleven (1985-1988)
120 games, 120 starts, 50-48 with 4.22 ERA in 860 innings. 633 K. 236 BB.
Blyleven was easily the Twins top pitcher during the decade of the 1970s. He was traded to Texas, won a World Series with the 1979 Pirates, and pitched for Cleveland. He was traded back to the Twins in the middle of the 1985 season. While he was no longer the same pitcher as in his first stint with the Twins, he still provided solid pitching and innings for the Twins. He posted a 4.01 ERA in both 1986 and 1987. He was the second reliable starter on the 1987 World Series team as well.
SP - Allan Anderson (1986-1989)
88 games, 75 starts, 37-35 with 3.72 ERA in 495 2/3 innings. 206 K. 130 BB.
Anderson was the Twins second-round pick in 1982 out of high school in Ohio. He moved up the ladder and debuted in June of 1986. He pitched in 21 games that summer and then another four games in 1987. In 1988, he made 30 starts and went 16-9 with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. The following season, he made 33 starts and went 17-10 with a 3.80 ERA. During those seasons, he struck out just 3.7 and 3.2 batters, respectively, per nine innings. However, he also had elite control and command which made him good for a couple of seasons.
SP - Albert Williams (1980-1984)
120 games, 97 starts, 35-38 with 4.24 ERA in 642 2/3 innings. 262 K. 227 BB.
The back story of Albert Williams, whether it is true or embellished, is fascinating, but the right-hander from Nicaragua had a couple of mediocre seasons for the Twins during the decade. That qualifies him as a Top 5 starter of the decade. He spent parts of five seasons with the Twins, mostly as a starter. In the three seasons in which he threw 150 or more innings, he had ERA+ of 97, 101 and 103. In those seasons, his strikeout rate dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 to 3.2. In 1984, it was just 2.9, and he was let go.
SP - Mike Smithson (1984-1987)
128 games, 126 starts, 47-48 with 4.46 ERA in 816 innings. 438 K. 227 BB.
Smithson came to the Twins with John Butcher from the Rangers after the 1983 season for Gary Ward. He made a good first impression when he won 15 games and posted a 3.68 ERA in 252 innings over 36 starts in 1984. He won 15 games again in 1985, though his ERA rose to 4.34 (exactly league average) in 257 innings. He went 13-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 1986, and he was 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in 1987 before losing his job and being left off of the Twins postseason roster. Oh, and his 438 strikeouts for the Twins was third-highest among Twins starters in the decade.
RP - Doug Corbett (1980-1982)
137 games, 0 starts, 10-14 with 43 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 246 innings. 164 K. 86 BB.
Corbett made his MLB debut at the beginning of the 1980 season as a 27-year-old for the Twins. He posted a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings in 73 games. He went 8-6 with 23 saves. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, he went 2-6 with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA in a league-leading 54 games and 87 2/3 innings. No truth to any rumors that his right arm sent a thank you note to those involved in the strike. After just ten games in 1982, the Twins traded him to the Angels in a deal that brought Tom Brunansky.
RP - Juan Berenguer (1987-1989)
160 games, 7 starts, 25-8 with 9 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 318 innings. 302 K. 155 BB.
When Berenguer came to the Twins as a free agent in 1987, he had already pitched in parts of nine MLB seasons. While he hadn’t been a great starter, Tom Kelly used him a lot in his four seasons with the Twins. In 1987, he went 8-1 with four saves in 47 games and 112 innings. He worked over 100 innings all four years. Unlike most pitchers of the decade, Berenguer actually had a fastball that reached up to 93 or even 94 mph. He averaged just shy of a strikeout per inning during his time with the Twins. That is now just below league average, but at that time, it was very strong. Berenguer became a popular Twins player thanks to the Berenguer Boogie, along with very strong pitching.
RP - Jeff Reardon (1987-1989)
191 games, 0 starts, 15-16 with 104 saves and a 3.70 ERA in 226 1/3 innings. 185 K. 55 BB.
Reardon came to the Twins before the 1987 season. He had been an All-Star in 1985 and 1986. His biggest attribute to Twins fans was that he was not Ron Davis. However, he got off to a slow start early in his Twins career. After that, however, he became quite reliable. Despite an 8-8 record and 31 saves, his 1987 ERA was just 4.48. However, he received both MVP and Cy Young Award votes. His 104 saves was second in the organization during the decade. In 1988 ,he posted a 2.47 ERA in 74 innings and was an All-Star.
RP - Ron Davis (1982-1986)
286 games, 0 starts, 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA in 381 1/3 innings. 349 K. 185 BB.
After a couple of great years in the Yankees bullpen, Davis came to the Twins before the 1982 season with Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley. Goose Gossage was the Yankees closer, so Davis would get an opportunity in that role with the Twns that he did not get with the Yankees. While Davis has unfortunately become almost a punch line for Twins fans, and at times he really did struggle mightily, most of the time he did get the job done. He finished the games he came into 87% of the time. It isn’t impressive relative to today’s closers, but when he was going two or more innings most times, it was good. That said, when he was dealt to the Cubs in 1986, it was understandably welcomed.
RP - Keith Atherton (1986-1988)
155 games, 0 starts, 19-18 with 15 saves and a 3.91 ERA in 235 innings. 153 K. 87 BB.
After three-plus seasons in Oakland, Atherton came to the Twins in a May 1986 trade and became a generally reliable relief option for the Twins for the next three seasons. He was the #3 most used reliever in 1987 behind Berenguer and Reardon. As we saw at the back end of the starting group, Atherton was simply solid for three seasons with the Twins and that put him in my top five.
What do you think?
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD)
- Apr 23 2020 07:57 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Given the opportunity, Dan Rohlfing decided to return to the Minnesota Twins organization on a minor league contract. Recently, he took time to answer several questions for Twins Daily readers about a variety of prospects. Let’s get started.
Seth Stohs (SS): Earlier this month, you announced on Twitter that you are returning to the Twins. Tell us what went into your decision to sign with the Twins. What were some of the factors that led to that choice?
Dan Rohlfing (DR):Opportunity is the number one factor I look at. I just want a chance to play and prove myself. This year, with the teams I was talking to, the Twins were the best fit. Bonus points for it being a familiar place!
SS: You’ve been a free agent the last couple of years and signed with two different organizations. Have you enjoyed the free agency process at all, or is is more stressful?
DR: Free agency starts as exciting. Then can turn stressful pretty quickly if it doesn't go your way. Wondering who will call or the thought of a fresh start somewhere is always exciting. The first couple years went smooth, and I signed back with the Twins pretty quickly. But, then there are years like last year where the catchers market was saturated and the phone wasn't ringing. I didn't sign with the Dbacks until Feb 8th. So to say I was stressed may be an understatement.
SS: After all those years in the Twins organization, you’ve had a year in the Mets and Diamondbacks systems. Without getting into anymore detail than you’re comfortable, were there (significant) differences between the organizations from your perspective?
DR: There wasn't anything too crazy that I can remember. Baseball-wise, it's all the same game. The main difference I noticed is just how teams place emphasis in different areas.
SS: What did it mean to you to put on the red, white and blue chest protector and represent Team USA in the WSBC Premier 12 tournament a year ago in Japan? What was that experience like for you?
DR: Playing for Team USA was always a dream of mine and that was the most fun I've ever had playing ball. That uniform had a special feel to it the second I put it on, different than any other uniform I've ever worn. We had such an awesome group of guys that all came together and truly played for the name on the front. Even though Park and Team Korea took the gold, we walked away with silver, and I wouldn't trade that experience of playing for Team USA for anything.
SS: I have to ask… How was your Wally Backman experience? (Secondly, did you work with Frank Viola as well in 2015 in Las Vegas?)
DR: Ha ha! What a staff! That was fun. I loved playing for Wally and working with Frank! Wally is a guy you wanted to play hard for. He still remembers how tough it is to play this game, and because of that the way he interacts with his players is special and he was the type of guy you wanted to win for. You knew he always had your back and clearly has no problem tearing into an umpire for you. If you need a refresher just check out his YouTube videos. Ha ha!.
SS: You spent eight years moving gradually up the Twins system. You had a lot of teammates in those years, and there were several that you played with a lot. For instance, you played with James Beresford about five of those years. Were you excited to see him get his month in the big leagues in 2016?
DR: So many great guys! I think Jimmy and I may actually be legal brothers now. Between time at the field and living together in about 7 different apartments and houses we definitely got close. That was the happiest I've been for someone to get 'the call'. The only one that would top it was if I received that call myself.
SS: Having seen that, and with the time you’ve spent in AAA over the years, does it change your opinion at all on what it would mean to you to get an opportunity in the big leagues, even if just for a week?
DR: I'll take one day at this point. Ha ha! Baseball has been my life and my dream since I can remember. To be able to say "I made it" would make every single sacrifice I've made worth it.
SS: You’ve spent some time in the Dominican Winter League. What do you get out of the Winter League experience?
DR: Each year I've had a little different motive. The first year was for the experience and getting more reps in against quality competition to make myself better. The other year I was a free agent so it helped get more exposure. Also the money is nice so that's always a plus of going down.
SS: What is it that you most enjoy about catching?
DR: I love the action. It's a crazy position where you impact the game on so many different levels. My favorite part has to be working with pitchers and game-calling. It gets you involved in every pitch, and it becomes a game within a game. Using my knowledge of what the pitcher has against each different hitter is a true chess match.
SS: As more catcher statistics such as pitch framing have become more prevalent, what are your thoughts on them? In your experience, are they used by coaches at various levels in any way?
DR: I love them. I'm not exactly sure how I measure up on them, but I'd be willing to bet I could guess pretty close to where I am. Being a catcher first/hitter second type of guy I love seeing guys finally getting credit and getting paid their worth for what they do behind the dish
SS: Are you looking forward to getting back to Ft. Myers and spring training in that Twins uniform again?
DR: I am. Fort Myers has become kind of a second home to me and a town I really enjoy. Leaving the Twins was a sad day for me, so to get another opportunity with them is something I hope to take advantage of. I'm excited to see what this year has in store.
Thank you to Dan Rohlfing for taking time to thoughtfully respond to these questions. Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the comments down below.
- Jan 13 2017 05:36 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players.
But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career.
Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise.
The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease.
When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses.
But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team.
But it wouldn’t be his Twins team.
- Oct 23 2018 07:51 AM
- by John Bonnes
April 17, 2009Playing the LA Angels at the Metrodome, the Twins trailed 4-9 going into the bottom of the 8th. They scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Mike Redmond and Denard Span. After Brendan Harris struck out looking for the second out, the Angels, still leading by 2, intentionally walked Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who had already gone 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and was a HR shy the cycle. Kubel hit the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins’ 7-run 8th inning rally. Joe Nathan retired the Angels in order in the top of the 9th for the save and an 11-9 Twins win.
Kubel Completes Cycle with Game-Winning Grand Slam
April 17, 2014The Twins and the Blue Jays played two cold ones on April 17th after having been snowed out the previous night. The Twins won game 1 by a score of 7-0. The gametime temperature of 31 degrees was a record for a Twins home game. The temperature was up to 42 for the start of game 2. The Twins trailed 3-5 going into the bottom of the 8th when they would score 4 runs before their first hit, and ultimately score 6 runs on just 1 hit. Blue Jays pitcher, Steve Delebar, walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning.Eduardo Nunez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt. In retrospect the sacrifice was completely unnecessary, as Sergio Santos (replacing Delebar) and J.A. Happ combined to walk the next five Twins batters. Three runs scored on Santos wild pitches, and a fourth run scored when Happ walked Chris Colabello with the bases loaded. Finally, after having already scored 4 runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a 2-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally recorded the final two outs of the inning. Glen Perkins sat down the Jays in order in the 9th, securing a 9-5 Twins victory.
The Twins 8-Walk 8th Inning
(aka, Minnesota’s 6-Run, 1-Hit Inning)
April 19th4/19 is the birthday of Frank Viola (born in 1960 in East Meadow, NY) and Joe Mauer (born in 1983 in St. Paul).
The Twins drafted Frank Viola in the 2nd round in 1981 out of St. John’s University (Queens, NY). Viola was the MVP of the 1987 World Series, and was an All-Star and Cy Young Award-winner the following season when he won a Major League-leading 24 games. On July 31st, 1989, the Twins traded Viola to the New York Mets for pitchers Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage. As a Met, Viola was an NL All-Star in 1990 and ‘91, finishing 3rd in NL Cy Young balloting in 1990. Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame with Carl Pohlad in 2005.
Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus, Joe Mauer, was the #1 overall draft choice in 2001. Mauer made his Major League debut on Opening Day, 2004, at age 20. He went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. Mauer was on second in the bottom of the 11th with 2 out when Shannon Stewart hit a 3-run walk-off homer, giving the Twins a 7-4 win over Cleveland. The Twins went on to win the AL Central in Mauer’s rookie season before losing to the Yankees in the Divisional round.
Joe Mauer has won three American League batting championships (2006, ‘08 and ‘09). No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was Cincinnati’s Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Mauer was the 2009 American League MVP, hitting a career-high .365, and collecting career-highs in hits (191), home runs (28), and RBI (96). He is a 6x All-Star.
April 19, 1961A crowd of 3,000 fans gathered at the airport to welcome home the 5-1 Twins, two days before their inaugural home opener.
April 19, 1988After the Yankees’ Rickey Henderson led off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro was called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and to third. Henderson scored on a Don Mattingly double. Henderson came up again in the 2nd inning, this time hitting a 2-RBI single to left. Niekro was promptly called for his 3rd balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. After giving up a 2-run home run to Mike Pagliarulo to make it 7-0 Yankees in the 2nd, Niekro was replaced by Juan Berenguer. Berenguer, Keith Atherton and Jeff Reardon did not allow a run the rest of the game. Trailing 3-7 in the bottom of the 9th, the Twins scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky beforeHrbek lined out to first, ending the game with the tying runner, Mark Davidson, stranded on third.
Niekro Called for 3 Balks
The 5-1 Twins played their first ever home game, taking on the expansion Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The teams were tied 3-3 when the Senators scored 2 off of Ray Moore in the top of the 9th to win 5-3. Only 24,606 fans attended the game, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees.
April 21, 1961
Inaugural Home Opener
April 21, 1985The Twins had lost 9 in a row, falling to 2-9 on the season, entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Twins pitcher John Butcher hurled a remarkable complete game shutout. Butcher allowed 3 hits, but faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. He threw just 81 pitches and the game was over in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in both Twins runs in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game Twins winning streak.
John Butcher 1hr 55min Complete Game Shutout
April 21, 2007In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla stole second base for the Twins' 19th consecutive successful steal attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught stealing in the 8th to end the streak. With a 7-5 lead in Kansas City, Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th, with all three outs coming on called third strikes.
Twins Start Season with 19 Consecutive Stolen Bases
April 21, 2012First-year Twin, Josh Willingham, led off the top of the 9th in Tampa Bay with a line drive single to center, extending his season-opening hit streak to 15 games. Willingham would score on a Ryan Doumit sac fly, but the Twins lost 4-1. Willingham’s streak was the longest to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett’s 1994 streak for the longest by a Twin to begin a season.
Willingham Begins Twins Career with 15-Game Hit Streak
April 22, 1961In game 2 of their first ever home series, the Twins and expansion Senators played to a 4-4 tie through nine. In the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded and one away, Zoilo Versalles gave the Twins their first ever walk-off win, driving in Earl Battey with a sacrifice fly to center. The freshly minted Twins improved to 6-2 on the season.
Twins 1st Walk-Off Win
April 22, 1980Geoff Zahn pitched a complete game for an 8-1 Twins win in the 1980 home opener. The gametime temperature was a balmy 89 degrees outside the Metrodome. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson and Roy Smalley each hit home runs in the game.
April 22, 1988Bert Blyleven gave up 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 hit batters in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-6 loss to Cleveland at the Metrodome. Four of those runs came on a Cory Snyder grand slam. Later in the game, Joe Carter also hit a grand slam off of Keith Atherton. To add insult to injury, after the game the Twins traded Tom Brunanskyto the Cardinals in exchange for clubhouse cancer, Tom Herr.
Twins’ Day Goes from Bad to Worse
April 23, 1961In the final game of the Twins' first ever home series, Jack Kralick pitched a complete game, 4-hit shutout in a 1-0 Twins win versus the expansion Senators. Kralick's bat provided the Twins' only run, driving inBilly Gardner with a 5th inning single. The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season.
April 23, 1980Ken Landreaux begins a 31-game hitting streak by breaking up Angel pitcher Bruce Kison's no-hitter with a one out double in the 9th. California holds on to win 17-0.
For the history of the Minnesota Twins, told one day at a time, like The Twins Almanac on Facebook, and follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter.
For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook, and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.
- Apr 17 2016 05:50 AM
- by Matt Johnson
March 5, 2006, was a Sunday. I was at my house surfing the internet. Early in the afternoon, news came out the Kirby Puckett had suffered a stroke. It was a shock, one of those moments where your heart misses a beat. But all along I kept thinking, “Well, it’s Kirby Puckett. He’s going to be OK. He's got to be OK.”
It wasn’t long before the tone of the reports shifted and the outlook didn’t look very good. We heard that Dan Gladden and others were traveling to Arizona.
I went to work that Monday morning with a heavy heart. As soon as I got to the office, I printed off a picture of Kirby Puckett and taped it up on the overhead bin in my cubicle. Under it, another print-out had the words “Get Well, Kirby!”
If I recall, Puckett passed away that morning. I read the news. The “Get Well Kirby” was replaced with “RIP, Kirby! The Greatest!”
I had been blogging for about three years already at that time so people around the office knew that I was a baseball fan and a Twins fan. Before noon, I had dozens of people come to my desk and feel the need to talk about, to ask me if I had heard. I answered their questions. But it hurt.
I had to leave. I just had to get out of the office. I left the office and went home. I just wanted to be alone. I don’t remember if I shed tears, but I do remember just sitting in a chair, numb. I remember asking myself how many 30-year-olds in Minnesota were feeling the same way I was. That was a rough day.
When you’re young and you play baseball, you have to have a favorite player and a favorite team. Being from Minnesota, of course my favorite team was the Minnesota Twins. Favorite player? Well, everyone had TBS at that time, and I watched quite a few Braves games. For some reason, I never really liked the Cubs, but I loved the Braves. Claudell Washington was my first favorite player.
But I was a Twins fan. My parents would take us to the Metrodome a time or two a year. We’d get there for batting practice and try to get some autographs. The Twins were on TV much less at that time, and living in the outstate, it was even more rare. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Twins games were on Midwest Sports Center (and later Fox Sports North) and we could get a large majority of the games.
In 1984, I was eight years old. Kirby Puckett was called up to the Twins. He had four hits in his big league debut. I was immediately a fan. Was it because he was short and stocky, like eight-year-old me? Maybe. Was it that he was really fast and the Twins really needed a center fielder badly? I guess, but probably not likely. Was it because he had such a cool name? I think there is a lot of truth in that one.
I had been collecting baseball cards since 1982 and had already learned what the numbers on the back meant and could do a lot of the math in my head. By 1984, I was reading box scores in the newspaper most every day. And now I had a name that I could look for first in the paper.
Puckett CF 5 1 2 1
When I did watch him more, I just enjoyed it. He swung at pretty much everything. The pitch could be six inches off the plate, and he would swing, and usually end up getting a hit. He played so hard, and he looked like he was having a blast.
I remember getting ready for school one day in 1985, Puckett’s second season. It was late April. Puckett did not hit a home run during his rookie season. On April 22, 1985, Puckett hit his first home run. I believe it was after my bedtime. The next morning, I remember sitting on the living room couch, struggling to tie my shoes. My mom came into the room and said, “Seth, did you hear? Kirby Puckett his his first home run last night!”
I was so excited, but that’s what it is like for a kid’s favorite player. You remember the minutiae like sitting on the couch and looking at your mom when she walks into the room. Mom walked into the room where I was getting ready for school hundreds of times in my youth. That morning is the only one that I remember vividly. That’s what it is when you have a sports hero.
A few years later, I was playing summer baseball on a team where we got real uniforms. What number did I request? 34, of course. While I wasn’t always able to get that number, I tried. When I moved up to varsity basketball as a junior, something strange happened. Home jerseys were odd numbers, and road jerseys were even numbers. My home jersey number was 55. My varsity baseball number had been five, and my high school football number became 55, so I was happy with 55. Because of that, I probably should have gone with uniform 54 on the road in basketball. No, I went with 34.
It’s awesome when the player that you idolized as an eight-year-old becomes a great player too. That doesn’t hurt. And, Puckett was a great, great player. Think about it. As a rookie he hit .292 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. The next year, he hit .288.
And then he took off. From 1986 through 1995, he was an all-star all ten years. He won six Gold Gloves in center field and made so many of those leaping catches over the eight-foot wall. He won six Silver Slugger awards. He finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting seven times, finishing second in 1992 and third in 1987 and 1988. Five times he had over 200 hits and led the league four times.
Sure, he didn’t like walking, but advanced stats sure showed him to be great. After those first two seasons, his OPS+ never dipped below 119.
Because of his physique, people would often talk about how he wouldn't age well on the field. His final two seasons were 1994 and 1995. They were his age 34 and 35 seasons. He posted OPS of .902 and .894, the third and fifth best seasons of his career.
Kirby Puckett joined a strong core of young players when he came up, and that core helped the Twins to the 1987 championship. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, and Tim Laudner were all with the Twins already when Puckett joined them.
That 1987 team was special. They were a group of guys who seemed to really gel together as a team, and build into a champion. Twins fans felt it. Twins fans even today recall that team and those players with special fondness.
Brunansky was traded early in 1988. Viola won the 1988 Cy Young but in 1989 he was traded. Gary Gaetti left via free agency. However, Puckett and Hrbek were still around. So were Dan Gladden, Al Newman and Gene Larkin. They were now joined by the likes of Knoblauch, Scott Erickson and Rule 5 pick Shane Mack. Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera came to the Twins in the Viola trade. The Twins brought in Jack Morris, Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo via free agency.
That team was also very special. In 1990, the Twins had the worst record in the American League. In 1991, the Twins faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The Braves had finished last in the National League in 1990. The two teams produced what many call the greatest World Series of all time.
Kirby Puckett played a big role in each of those World Championships. He had those shining moments that fans just can’t forget. He was fortunate that his teammates helped get the team to the position where Puckett could come up big. Consider the following:
- 1987 ALCS vs Detroit - He went 1-13 in the first three games of the series before going 4-11 with a homer in the final two games.
- 1987 World Series - Through game five, Puckett was just 4-20 (.200). Then in Game 6, he went 4-4. Then he went 2-4 with a double in Game 7.
- 1991 ALCS vs Toronto - He was 1-7 in the first two games. In games three through five, he went 8-14 with a double and two home runs.
- 1991 World Series - Through the first five games, Puckett went 3-18 (.167). And we all remember Game 6. He had The Catch, and then he had the “We’ll see you tomorrow night” walk-off home run to send it to Game 7.
In 1987, I was in 7th grade. I remember after Game 5 thinking that the Twins were down 3-2, but they were good at home. I had hope, but it was tough. I remember Game 7. My family was watching the game upstairs on our main TV. I was down in the unfinished basement, watching on a fuzzy, snowy, black-and-white TV. By myself. I couldn’t stand to be around people. It was just too exciting.
In 1991, I was a junior in high school. I mean, I remember it much, much more. I remember that feeling in my heart during Game 6. I remember the intensity of Game 7. Jack Morris was tremendous, but so was John Smoltz. Do you remember the 3-2-3 double play? Ron Gant and Kent Hrbek. Chuck Knoblauch deeking Lonnie Smith to save a run. Gene Larkin singling to deep right. Dan Gladden running home from third. Ron Gardenhire running around third base as if he were an airplane. Jack Morris summoning Gladden to and the simultaneous jump of that pile as Gladden hopped on home plate.
Things ended unfortunately for Puckett. He was hit by a running Dennis Martinez pitch very late in that 1995 season. His jaw was broken and his season was over. Although that incident is not the reason, it would prove to be the final at-bat of his career.
It ended his season. He came to spring training in 1996, and he was just crushing the ball. Paul Molitor had signed with the team, and Chuck Knoblauch was one of the game’s best players at that time. There was a lot of excitement. However, on March 28th, right before the start of the season, Puckett woke up unable to see out of his right eye. Soon, he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Four surgeries later and nothing more could be done. Puckett announced his retirement.
At this point, I was in college. It was another moment where my eyes just might have contained some sweat. Watching the press conference and seeing tears flowing from Knoblauch and Molitor’s eyes was hard.
Five years later, he was on the Hall of Fame ballot. In my mind, he was an easy choice to be a Hall of Famer, but until it is official you just never know. In the end, Puckett easily made it in the first ballot.
Immediately I made calls to my dad and my brother. We had a trip to plan. Along with a high school friend and his dad, we went to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction weekend in 2001. Being there was an amazing experience. The Museum is a bucket list thing for all baseball fans. I’m sure many of you were there too. Based on the number of fans who came from Minnesota I know some of you did.
Following Puckett’s Hall of Fame induction, things got bad for Puckett. News came out about his personal life that was too terrible to be ignored. There were accusations of domestic abuse. Puckett was shown to be unfaithful to his wife publicly, even though it was clear that Twins media appeared to have some knowledge of it.
More and more information came out, and then there was the Frank Deford article in Sports Illustrated. The cover showed Puckett as a player and also at his current state and had the title, “The Secret Life of Kirby Puckett.”
It was through that even, again in 2001, that I would never place an athlete or anyone else on a pedestal the way that I had done with Puckett. To this day, I 100% respect any athlete’s ability to play the game, but it’s hard to know what’s really going on behind closed doors. It was an important lesson for me, and it should be for others as well.
Respect the player. Respect the way he plays the game and the success that he experiences. Notice and appreciate the work that the players do off the field and in the community. And just leave it at that.
Imagine how Puckett might be judged now had Twitter been around at that time.
Kirby Puckett was my hero. Getting one of his baseball cards was always a good feeling. Watching him play the game for 12 years in a Twins uniform. If you are anywhere near my age I’m guessing the Kirby Puckett holds a special place in your heart to this day.
Ten years ago today Puckett’s life came to an end. It was a day of great sadness, and a lot of soul searching. Here I am, ten year later, and thinking about Kirby Puckett still brings back great memories. He wasn’t a perfect player, but he was an all-time great. He was a Hall of Famer. He did a lot in the community. He always played hard, and he always had the big smile on his face. He had some big moments, and he led our favorite team to two World Series championships.
- Mar 06 2016 12:39 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Who will be the next Brian Dozier? Bert Blyleven? Justin Morneau? LaTroy Hawkins or Brad Radke?
1981 – Frank Viola – LHP – St. John’s University – WAR 47.4
Viola was up with the Twins by 1982 and went on to win 176 games in his long career. He was the World Series MVP in 1987 for the Twins. He also won the 1988 American League Cy Young.
Honorable Mention: Butch Wynegar (1974 - WAR 26.3), Scott Baker (2003), Tim Teufel (1980), Jesse Crain (2002), Jacque Jones (1996). Bill Swift (1983), Del Unser (1965), Allan Anderson (1982).
Current: Ryan Eades (2013), Mason Melotakis (2012), JT Chargois (2012), Madison Boer (2011), Niko Goodrum (2010).
Last year: Nick Burdi
1969 – Bert Blyleven – RHP – High School in California – WAR 95.3
Blyleven was drafted by the Twins and debuted as a 19-year-old in 1970. He went on to win 287 games with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. After years of falling short, Blyleven went into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is going to make you an organization’s top selection for a round most times.
Honorable Mention: Steve Garvey (1966-Did Not Sign), Justin Morneau (1999), AJ Pierzynski (1994), Denny Neagle (1989), John Castino (1976)
Current: Stuart Turner (2013), Adam Brett Walker (2012), Corey Williams (2011), Pat Dean (2010), Brian Duensing (2005)
Last Year: Michael Cederoth
1965 – Graig Nettles – 3B – San Diego State University – WAR 68.0
Of his 68 WAR, just one WAR came with the Twins. Following the 1969 season, he was traded with Dean Chance and others to Cleveland for Luis Tiant. He went on to become one of the best third baseman of his era.
Honorable Mention: Scott Erickson (1989)
Current: Danny Ortiz (2008), Eddie Rosario (2010), Matt Summers (2011), Zack Jones (2012), Stephen Gonsalves (2013)
Last Year: Sam Clay
1967 – Dave Goltz – RHP – Rothsay (MN) High School – WAR – 23.2
A local product, Dave Goltz signed and spent five years in the minor leagues before debuting in 1972. He was with the Twins through the 1979 before going to California to play for the Dodgers and then the Angels. He had double-digit wins each season from 1974 through 1979 including a 20-win season in 1977.
Honorable Mention: Doug Mientkiewicz (1995)
Current: Aaron Slegers (2013), Tyler Duffey (2012)
Last Year: Jake Reed
2002 – Pat Neshek – RHP – Butler University – WAR 7.3
The Minnesota native debuted with his hometown team in 2006 and was in the final vote for an All-Star pick in 2007, though he lost out. He was a dominant force in the bullpen until he had some elbow problems and eventually missed time due to Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, the Twins let him go and he spent time with San Diego before doing well in Oakland and then becoming an All-Star in 2014 with the Cardinals. He turned that into a big contract with the Astros this year.
Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1973)
Current: BJ Hermsen (2008), Chris Herrmann (2009), Logan Darnell (2010), Dereck Rodriguez (2011), Brain Navarreto (2013)
Last Year: John Curtiss
1991 – LaTroy Hawkins – RHP – High School in Gary, Indiana – WAR 17.2
“The Hawk” came up as a starter way back when and struggled. Then he became the closer. And he struggled. Then Rick Anderson moved him to the set up man job and his career took off. In fact, at age 42, he is still playing. Only 13 pitchers in big league history have pitched in more games than Hawkins. There is a chance that he could end the year (and his career) in the Top 10 all-time.
Honorable Mention: Mark Guthrie (1987)
Current: Steven Gruver (2011), Jorge Fernandez (2012), Brian Gilbert (2013),
Last Year: Andro Cutura
1991 – Brad Radke – RHP – High School in Tampa, FL – WAR 45.5
One round after drafting Hawkins, the Twins selected Radke out of high school. He flew through the Twins minor league system and debuted as a 22-year-old in 1995. He was “Real-As-Radke” early in his career, but he got into the national spotlight in 1997 when he won 20 games. He was a stalwart in the Twins rotation from 1995 through 2006 and won 148 major league games. Following his career, he was named to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention: Rick Burleson (1969), Brian Dozier (2009), Adam Lind (2002)
Current: Jason Wheeler (2011)
Last Year: Keaton Steele
1981 – Steve Lombardozzi – SS – University of Florida – WAR 4.4
“Lombo” was a surprise contributor as the second baseman for the Twins during their World Series championship in 1987. He didn’t hit for average, but he and Greg Gagne combined to play very good defense up the middle. Before the 1989 season, he was traded to Houston but only played another 19 games before retiring. His son has spent a lot of time in the big leagues the last three years.
Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1977), Tony Fossas (1978)
Current: Mitch Garver (2013)
Last Year: Max Murphy
1966 – Steve Braun – SS – High School in New Jersey – WAR 17.6
Braun spent six seasons (1971-1976) with the Twins, playing in at least 115 games each year. He played mostly third base, though he spent time in the outfield as well. He played for four other organizations through the 1985 season, though he was primarily a part-time player and pinch hitter much of the remainder of his career.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Reboulet (1986), Marty Cordova (1989)
Current: Brett Lee (2011), DJ Baxendale (2012), CK Irby (2013)
Last Year: Randy LeBlanc
So, as you can see, there aren’t a ton of success stories as the rounds go on, but you just never know which players are going to take off and become valuable regulars in the big leagues. Today, the Twins will draft their third round pick through their 10th round picks. Who will be the next Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola or Brad Radke? Who will be the next Brian Dozier or Craig Nettles?
- Jun 09 2015 10:07 AM
- by Seth Stohs