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Matt Johnson

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A week before the start of their 1987 championship season, the Twins released fan-favorite, Mickey Hatcher, and traded for the much more dynamic, Dan Gladden.

 

In exchange for the Dazzle Man and a player to be named later, the Twins sent two minor league relievers and a player to be named to the San Francisco Giants. The player to be named that Minnesota would send to San Francisco wound up being Bemidji-native, former Golden Gopher pitcher and Twins ‘86 draft pick, Bryan Hickerson.

 

One of the appeals of Gladden was his game-changing speed. One newspaper headline the morning after the deal read “Popularity Sacrificed for Steals,” a motivation confirmed by Twins executive vice president, Andy MacPhail, who said that “the reason we got him is he gives us speed. He can steal bases, he’s a good turf player.” Hatcher, who had been with the Twins since 1981 and had peaked in ‘84, was a pretty one dimensional player. Though he possessed a career .281 average, he offered very little of the speed and versatility that the Twins sought with the addition of Gladden. “He just didn’t fit in,” manager Tom Kelly said of Hatcher. “There’s no place for him to play on this team. We have better athletes. We didn’t need him as a designated hitter or a pinch hitter, either.” It was a bold decision for the Twins to pull the trigger on the Gladden-for-Hatcher switch. Hatcher was owed $650,000 for the ‘87 season, and a $100,000 buyout for ‘88. It was the most expensive contract that the Twins would eat to that point in team history.

 

The decision would, obviously, pay dividends. Though Gladden wasn’t as good in ‘87 as he had been in ‘86 — or would be in ‘88, for that matter — he was a key component in the Twins winning their first World Series in franchise history. And the trademark grit and hustle he displayed on a broken bat Astroturf double in the bottom of the 10th of Game 7 put the Twins solidly in position to win the 1991 World Series. “Tonight,” Jack Buck said of that Game 7, “it’s so apparent that this is one of the most remarkable baseball games ever played.”

 

After being released by Minnesota, Mickey Hatcher returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had played the first two seasons of his career. After playing sparingly in the 1988 regular season, he replaced the injured Kirk Gibson in the World Series, batting .368 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI as the Dodgers upset the heavily favored Oakland A’s in five games. Hatcher retired after the 1990 season. He began coaching in 1993 with the Rangers, and served as Angels hitting coach from 2000 to 2012 under Dodger teammate, Mike Scioscia. The Angels won the World Series in 2002.

 

Bryan Hickerson, the final piece in the Gladden trade, graduated from Bemidji High School in 1982. He went on to the University of Minnesota, where he won the Gophers’ “Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year” award in ‘85 and ‘86. The Twins selected Hickerson in the 7th round of the June ‘86 amateur draft. He made his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants on July 25th, 1991, entering the game in the top of the 9th with the Giants leading the Mets 8-1. Hickerson struck out the first two big league batters he faced, Kevin McReynolds and Howard Johnson, and induced a groundout from pinch-hitter, Vince Coleman. He pitched primarily in relief, but did start 29 games for the Giants between ‘93 and ‘94. After being released by the Giants, Hickerson pitched for the Cubs and Rockies in 1995 before retiring with a career 21-21 record and 4.72 ERA in 209 Major League games.

 

For stories about the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.

 

For the history of Minnesota Twins baseball, told one day at a time, follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter.

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Can't underestimate the importance of the February '87 trade for Jeff Reardon. Not only because The Terminator was a quality closer, but just from a team psyche standpoint. It had gotten to a point with Ron Davis that they just assumed they would lose it in the 9th. 

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Living in the Cities then, after years of following from the plains of ND, I was so incredibly excited that year, and really gassed at that particular trade.  Even in the dark days of 82, and the tease of 84, you could see it coming with that group of kids, and then veteran pieces added, like Gladden, Reardon, and the return of Bert- it was a great mix.  

I remember the ads posted on the Strib news boxes- pic of Kirby with a caption "How the West is Won"  I thought, walking around town, 'damn straight, here we come.'  

That was a magical year.

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Fun article Matt.

 

Gladden was absulutely a catalyst for the team that year.

Not saying for sure that they wouldn't have done it without him, but he made an impact.

 

I always appreciated the way he played the game.

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