February 26, 1933
Johnny Blanchard Born in Minneapolis
It’s the birthdate of probably the most famous backup catcher in baseball history, Johnny Blanchard, born 85 years ago in the Mini Apple. Blanchard attended Minneapolis’s De LaSalle and Central High Schools, playing football, basketball, and baseball. He played one game for the New York Yankees late in the 1955 season, and would not play in the majors again until 1958, making a career of backing up Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. He would appear in five World Series as a Yankee. The highlight of his career came in the 1961 World Series when he hit .400 with 2 HRs as the Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds in five games. Blanchard would earn his second ring in 1962.
Blanchard tied a major league record by homering in four consecutive at-bats in 1961. Of course in true “Suber Sub” fashion, those four consecutive at-bats came over a six-day span. Blanchard hit a game-winning two-out pinch-hit grand slam at Fenway Park on July 21, 1961. He hit another pinch-hit homer the next day, and then sat out the next three games. He made a rare start on July 26 vs. the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium, homering in his first two at-bats and flying out to the wall in his third.
Johnny Blanchard died of a heart attack at North Memorial in Robbinsdale on March 25, 2009. He was 76 years old.
Read George Rekela’s SABR BioProject entry on Johnny Blanchard: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/92bd6f31
Happy 59th Birthday to Bob Hegman
It’s the birthday of 1976 Sauk Rapids-Rice graduate Bob Hegman, born in Springfield, Minnesota in 1958. Hegman was drafted by Kansas City in the 15th round of the 1980 amateur draft. He played half an inning for the 1985 World Series Champion Royals, entering as a defensive replacement in the top of the ninth of a 10-3 win at home vs. Chicago on August 8, 1985.
1956 NL All-Star Rip Repulski also attended Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.
Happy 33rd Birthday to Denard Span
It’s the birthday of 2002 Twins first-round draft choice Denard Span, born in Tampa, FL in 1984.
Span went 4-for-4 with a walk, tying a modern (since 1900) major league record with three triples at Target Field on June 29, 2010. Span drove in five and scored two runs in the 11-4 win over Detroit.
March 1, 2014
Miguel Sano to Undergo Tommy John Surgery
Acting GM Rob Antony announces that Twins top prospect Miguel Sano will undergo Tommy John surgery. Sano would miss the entire 2014 season, but would be back in 2015, making the jump from Double-A Chattanooga to the majors on July 2. Sano would hit 18 HRs in just 80 major league games during his rookie season.
Happy 66th Birthday to Mike Johnson
It’s the birthday of 1969 Faribault High School graduate and former San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Johnson, born in Slayton, Minnesota in 1951. Johnson was signed by Cincinnati Reds scout Bill Clark out of his annual tryout camp at Bell Field in Faribault.
Johnson lost his major league debut with the San Diego Padres on July 25, 1974. He walked Atlanta’s Darrell Evans to lead off the bottom of the tenth. Evans was bunted over (thoughts, Parker Hageman?) and scored on Rowland Office’s walk-off single. Tom House (throwing guru to the stars, including Nolan Ryan and Tom Brady) earned the win for Atlanta.
Walks were an issue for Johnson during his brief major league career. He pitched 21.1 innings over 18 relief appearances, issuing 15 walks and striking out 15. He also allowed 29 hits in those 21.1 innings. He finished with an 0-2 record and 4.64 ERA.
Johnson returned to Faribault following his pro career, playing for the Lakers townball team.
Happy 55th Birthday to Terry Steinbach
It’s the birthday of 1980 New Ulm High School graduate, former Golden Gopher and 3x American League All-Star Terry Steinbach.
Here’s a fun story: the Gophers moved hotshot Edina third baseman Greg Olson to catcher to make room for up-and-coming New Ulm third baseman Terry Steinbach. Steinbach was later converted to catcher by the Oakland A’s to make room for third baseman Mark McGwire. McGwire, of course, ultimately wound up at first base while Olson and Steinbach each developed into All-Star major league catchers.
Steinbach homered in his first major league at-bat on September 12, 1986. He would also homer in his first All-Star at-bat.
After being maligned by the press as an unworthy All-Star starter in ‘88, Steinbach hit a solo home run and a sacrifice fly to lead the American League to a 2–1 victory and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The AL only used two catchers in the game, the other being Park Center graduate Tim Laudner. Steinbach was also an All-Star in ‘89 and ‘93.
Steinbach hit an Opening Day grand slam when I was in fourth grade (1994). I know this because Mel Allen told me so on This Week in Baseball.
Altogether Steinbach would play 14 seasons in the majors, including his final three in Minnesota (1997-’99).
Steinbach coached the Wayzata High School baseball team from 2008-2012. The Twins hired him as bench coach for the 2013 season, succeeding Steve Liddle. He was not retained when Paul Molitor took over as manager in 2015.
Happy 34th Birthday to Glen Perkins
It’s the birthday of 2001 Stillwater Area High School graduate, University of Minnesota alumnus and current Minnesota Twin Glen Perkins. born in St. Paul in 1983.
After redshirting in 2002, Perkins played for the Gophers in 2003 and 2004, going 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA, 13 complete games, two shutouts and 230 strikeouts in 216.1 innings. Perkins set a new Gophers single-season strikeout record in ‘03 with 117 in 105.1 innings. He gave his own record a run for it’s money in 2004 with 113 strikeouts in 111.1 innings. Those innings pitched, incidentally, were the second and fifth most in school history. Perkins was named the 2004 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year.
The Twins drafted Perkins in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2004 draft. He made his major league debut in September 2006, the same season as fellow-Gopher Jack Hannahan. He made the American League All-Star team in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15, saving 30+ games each of those three seasons.
Perkins currently ranks third on the Twins’ all-time saves list, a position in which he’ll likely remain. His 120 saves are 134 shy of second-place Rick Aguilera. Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado is actually only 4 saves behind Perkins, but at this early juncture it remains unclear whether or not the Twins will have to resort to calling Everyday Eddie up to active duty this season.
Happy 81st Birthday to Bob “Rocky” Johnson
It’s the birthday of 1954 Edina-Morningside grad and 11-year major league middle infielder Bob “Rocky” Johnson, born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1936. Johnson’s father had grown up in the Twin Cities and the family returned to Minneapolis in December of 1947.
Johnson, who signed with Detroit out of high school, was a career .272 hitting over 874 games with eight major league teams over his 11-year major league career. Johnson made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1960, and went on to play for the Senators, Orioles, Mets, Reds, Braves, Cardinals and back to the Athletics, now in Oakland. He played 71 regular season games for the eventual 1966 World Series Champion Orioles.
Over his career Johnson earned a reputation as a proficient pinch-hitter. He strung together six consecutive pinch-hits in 1964, an American League record that he owned for 17 years until Bill Stein bested it in 1981.
Johnson, who lives in St. Paul these days, was inducted into the Edina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
Read the prolific Stew Thornley’s SABR BioProject essay on Bob “Rocky” Johnson: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/5b8d84d0
(There's no connection between "Rocky" Johnson and Blaine High School grad Dan Johnson, by the way. That's just the picture I had handy.)
Happy 37th Birthday to Gopher Great Jack Hannahan
It’s the birthday of Cretin-Derham Hall grad, Gopher great and eight-year major leaguer Jack Hannahan, born in Minneapolis in 1980.
Hannahan was the 2001 Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits, runs scored, home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage. The Tigers snatched him up in the 3rd round of the ‘01 draft. He made it to the Show in 2006, going 0-for-9 in three games. Hannahan stuck around in the majors until 2014, playing 614 games for the Tigers, Athletics, Mariners, the Cleveland ballclub, and the Reds. He played in South Korea in 2015 where he got a good up-close look at Byung-ho Park.