Forty years ago tonight, my oldest niece was conceived.
How do I know?
Well, I was an impressionable 11-year-old boy from the farm, on my first trip to the big city with my sister and her husband of almost three years. We had a two-room suite at the motel, and I was to sleep on the couch in the “living room.” At some point, I got up to pee, so I had to go through the bedroom.
Imagine my shock when I went in to the room and saw them in the same single bed, when there were clearly two beds available. “Dude,” they said in surprise. “You’ve got to knock!”
Traumatized, I stumbled into the bathroom, probably misfiring from my anxiety. When I went back to bed, I likely laid awake for hours. I’d heard of this stuff, but do you mean that people actually do that?
Sure enough, nine months to the day my first niece was born. (Aside: Do you know what you call Denise’s brother? Denephew.)
My sister and brother-in-law claim that’s not what was happening, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
But that’s not what I really remember from that weekend. You see, the big city we were visiting was Bloomington, Minn., and I’d spent that afternoon at my very first Twins game. I’d started following baseball as a kid of six or seven, and some of my earliest memories are of coming home from school every day and immediately checking the paper to see if Hank Aaron had gotten another homer on his way to chasing Babe Ruth.
I first was a Cardinals fan because of my older brother, but then Paul came on the scene to date my sister. He was the one who convinced me to follow the Twins. After all, who wants to root for Lou Brock when there is Rod Carew and Tony Oliva? It’s his fault.
So, 40 years ago today was also my first Twins game, at the old Met. Unfortunately, the Twins lost that day, 8-1, to the White Sox, prompting 40 years of dislike for the franchise that plays in the Monument to Cement called Comiskey Park. I mean U.S. Cellular. I mean Guaranteed Rate Ballpark. Really, a team playing in a stadium covered with logos a downward-pointing arrow. Seems fitting. Down with the Sox.
It was a hot and sultry day, miserable in terms of comfort and miserable in terms of how my heroes played. Geoff Zahn lasted all of 3.1 innings. The Twins hit into three double plays. Ex-Twin Eric Soderholm (a guy I’d liked, no less!) hit a homer for the Sox. Glenn Adams hit into two of the double plays and misplayed a play in the outfield, making even this impressionable kid who had been taught that is wasn’t nice to “Boo” to join in the chorus. Remember that last name, it will come in handy later.
Did I mention that it was a miserable day, even before that traumatic walk to the bedroom?
But the next day, oh the next day.
Old-timers may have picked up where this is going when I name that it was June 25, 1977, that I saw my first game at the Met, and that my second game was June 26. Let’s set the stage.
The Twins had been crummy for several years (sound familiar?), but they were playing well that year, even staying in the early-season pennant race. Unfortunately, the Saturday loss had dropped them to a virtual tie with the nasty folks from the South Side. Similarly, Carew was having his best season, but his 1 for 3 on Saturday had dropped his average a tick to .396.
But the sun rose another time, bright and sunny with the promise of a fresh start. We headed to the Met to join the many others arriving for the big day. The announced attendance that day was 46,463, a regular-season record at the time, and a figure that I think was never topped there.
My brother-in-law and I know better. At most, there were 46,461 actually at the game. Paul was a Rod Carew fan, remember, and this was Rod Carew Jersey Day. Unfortunately, the Coke-sponsored t-shirts were only for fans 14 and under, and he wanted one. So Paul bought an extra two of the cheapest seats available. We entered and got a shirt, exited, and re-entered using our “real” tickets down the right field line so that we could get a second shirt.
The crowd was rocking at the start, and would only get louder. Carew got the first of several standing ovations when he was introduced in the first, and the second when he doubled to right-center, sending Lyman Bostock to third. After a Butch Wynegar groundout and a Larry Hisle walk to load the bases, Glenn Adams (I told you to remember him) doubled to plate two off starter Steve Stone.
Carew singled in two more with the bases loaded in the second, advancing to second on an error. After a Wynegar intentional walk and a Hisle strikeout, now-friend Glenn Adams cleared the bases with a bomb to right field, sending Stone to the showers down 8-1 after just 1.2 innings. In a Twins-Sox game earlier this year, Stone referenced Adams as hitting one of just two grand slams he’d given up in his career.
Carew would get several more standing ovations during a day in which he’d go 4 for 5 with a walk, lifting his average back above .400 and ending the day at .403. He scored five times and drove in six, the last two coming on an eighth-inning homer.
Adams may have outdone him, also finishing the day 4 for 5, but with a team-record eight RBIs, a record that still stands, before exiting to thunderous applause after being pinch ran for by Disco Dan Ford in the eighth. Baseball fans are a forgiving bunch, at least sometimes, and we know that at least 25,000 folks hadn’t seen the day before.
The Twins eventually won 19-12, climbing back to a game above the Sox. Tom Johnson went 6.2 innings in relief(!) of starter Bill Butler to get the win and move his record to 9-2. The top four guys in the order – Bostock, Roy Smalley, Carew, and Wynegar – combined to go 10 for 19, with 14 runs scored, and the game set numerous other team and individual records that would last for a while. In an otherwise outstanding season, Hisle went 0 for 4 in the five hole, the only spot in the batting order that didn’t get at least one of the 18 hits. Hisle and No. 7 hitter Rich Chiles were the only spots not to score.
The Twins of course faded, eventually finishing fourth in the seven-team West, but seven games above .500. Carew last was above .400 on July 10, but ended the year at .388 and was named AL MVP.
There’s more memorable stuff from the day. Sox coach Minnie Minoso was ejected for arguing a call. And in one of the weirdest things I’ve still ever seen at a game, the contest was stopped for a time when a fan had to talked down from his perch after climbing part way up the left field foul pole.
Fast forward about 35 years. My son is even more of a baseball nerd than me and is a member of SABR, where he does things like maintain a database of all-time announcers in nationally televised games (shameless promotion: click here: http://bit.ly/SABR_MLBNetworkTVDB. On a SABR listserv the discussion turned to unusual events that have happened at games and Tony recounted the story of a game his dad went to as a kid, when the game had to stopped. A guy he’d corresponded with on numerous occasions responded, saying, “Uh, that was me,” producing a newspaper clipping to prove it. Turns out that the guy is our Stew Thornley, now the official scorer at Target Field (permission granted to tell the story). Picture is below.
Fast forward another year or two, with the required aside that I’m an ordained Mennonite minister. Stew and my son were having correspondence, when Stew said, “I see your Goshen.edu email address. Are you Mennonite?” (Goshen College is a Mennonite liberal arts college in northern Indiana.) When Tony replied in the affirmative, Stew said, “You won’t believe this, but I was baptized at Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis this past Easter. For those in the Twin Cities, Faith is where the Halsey Hall SABR chapter routinely meets under President Stew. Stew’s a great guy that I’ve had the opportunity to meet – give him a break when you disagree with a call.
So, here I am 40 years later, talking about my sister’s sex life in front of thousands (okay, hundreds), (okay, the dozen or so who have made it this far) on the Internet and babbling about the Twins every chance I get.
It’s all Paul’s fault.
Oh yeah. There’s a game today. I may need help with the lineups. I'm just boarding a plane to Atlanta for a game at SunTrust Field. That will allow me to re-check off Atlanta and be able to say that I've seen a game in all 30 current parks.
Edited by IndianaTwin, 25 June 2017 - 05:55 AM.