March 12, 2006
Kirby Puckett Memorial Service
15,000 fans, family, and friends including Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew, Dan Gladden, Al Newman, Gardy, TK and more pay tribute to Kirby Puckett in a moving memorial service at the Metrodome. Mudcat Grant sang “What a Wonderful World.”
March 12, 2014
Sano Goes Under the Knife
Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek performs Tommy John surgery on 20-year-old Twins prospect Miguel Sano at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Dr. Altchek performed the same surgery on 2016 Twins First-Round Draft Choice Alex Kirilloff last Wednesday (March 8).
Happy 38th Birthday to Johan Santana
It’s the birthday of former Twins ace Johan Santana, born in Tovar, Venezuela in 1979.
Santana pitched for the Twins for eight seasons, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2004 and ‘06, the latter unanimously. In 2004 he became the first Venezuelan 20-game winner. He also set Twins records with 13 consecutive victories and 265 strikeouts that season. On August 19, 2007 Santana set a Twins single-game record with 17 strikeouts vs. Texas at home in the Dome.
Happy 61st Birthday to Butch Wynegar
It’s the birthday of 2x Twins All-Star catcher Butch Wynegar, born in York, Pennsylvania in 1956.
The 20-year-old rookie became the youngest Twin to appear in an All-Star on July 13, 1976, pinch-hitting for Luis Tiant. He drew a walk in the 7-1 American League loss. Wynegar finished second to Detroit’s Mark Fidrych in 1976 AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
The Twins traded Wynegar to the Yankees for diddly squat on May 12, 1982 as part of a string of cost-cutting measures.
Kirby Puckett Born 57 Years Ago
It’s the birthdate of Kirby Puckett, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1960. Kirby and Mr. T grew up in the same Chicago public housing project, Robert Taylor Homes. Puckett played twelve seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He was a 10-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove winner, 1988 AL Batting Champ (.339), and 1991 American League Championship Series and 1993 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. Puckett retired as the Twins' all-time leader in hits (2,304), doubles (414), total bases (3,453), at-bats (7,244) and runs (1,071). At the time of his retirement his .318 career average was the highest for a right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio.
Obviously Puckett’s name is all over the Twins record book. He is one of four players in major league history with two 6-hit games, and only one since 1935. Kirby’s 6-hit games, incidentally, came in 1987 and 1991. The ‘91 game went extra-innings. Kirby’s sixth hit came in the bottom of the eleventh, advancing Shane Mack to third. Kent Hrbek drove Mack in with a walk-off infield hit (a line drive to deep shortstop according to Baseball Reference).
His eight 4-hit games in 1988 tied Rod Carew (1977) for the Twins record. The following season he set a Twins record with 74 multi-hit games. On May 13, 1989 he set a Twins record with four doubles. In 1992 he became the fourth Twin to hit three grand slams in a season. The first three were Bob Allison (1961), Rod Carew (1976), and Kent Hrbek (1985). Torii Hunter hit three grand slams in 2007.
Kirby Puckett is one of 11 players in major league history with three 215+ hit seasons. Only four players including Kirby have had three such seasons since Stan "the Man" Musial. Puckett and Tony Oliva are two of only seven players to lead their league in hits for three consecutive seasons.
Kirby Puckett was inducted into the Hall of Fame on August 5, 2001 alongside St. Paul Central High School graduate and Golden Gopher great Dave Winfield, Bill Mazeroski, and Negro Leaguer Hilton Smith.
Happy 62nd Birthday to Mickey Hatcher
It’s the birthday of Mickey Hatcher, born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1955.
The Twins acquired Hatcher from the Dodgers along with a pair of minor leaguers for Ken Landreaux in a trade near the end of Spring Training on March 30, 1981.
On April 28, 1985 Hatcher went 4-for-5 in a 10-1 Twins win over Oakland at the Metrodome. He had gone 5-for-5 the previous day, giving him nine consecutive hits, tying Tony Oliva’s 1967 club record. Todd Walker matched the feat in 1998.
The Twins released fan-favorite Hatcher on March 31, 1987 to make room for Dan Gladden who they had acquired in a trade with the Giants for two minor league pitchers and a player to be named later, who would turn out to be Bemidji native and 2x Gophers Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year Bryan Hickerson. Hatcher was still owed $650,000 for 1987 and a $100,000 buyout clause for the ‘88 season. It was the most expensive contract the Twins had to eat up to that point.
Hatcher returned to Los Angeles where he played four more major league seasons.
Happy 73rd Birthday to Rick Renick
It’s the birthday of Rick Renick, born in London, Ohio in 1944.
Renick was the first of six Twins to homer in their first major league at-bat, doing so on July 11, 1968. It was a second-inning solo shot off of Mickey Lolich in a 5-4 Twins home win over Detroit. The five Twins to homer in their first major league at-bats since Renick are Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, Andre David, Luke Hughes, and Eddie Rosario who homered on his first major league pitch.
Renick also hit one of the twelve pinch-hit grand slams in Twins history on June 30, 1970. Rich Reese had also hit one on June 7. Reese, in fact, hit 25% of the pinch-hit grand slams in Twins history, one each in 1969, 1970 and ‘72.
Rick Renick was the third base coach for the Twins’ 1987 World Series Championship team.
March 17, 1906
Hy Vandenberg Born 111 Years Ago
It’s the birthdate of Minneapolis Roosevelt and South High Schools alumnus and major league pitcher Harold "Hy" Vandenberg, born in 1906. He made his big league debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1935 at age 29, though he wouldn't win his first game until 1940 with the New York Giants, and his second not until 1944 with the Chicago Cubs. The 6'4" right-hander, who got his professional start with the Minneapolis Millers, appeared in 90 major league games, going 15-10 with five saves during seven seasons over an 11-year period. Additionally, he pitched in at least 435 minor league games, compiling a record of 139-128.
Hy Vandenberg was born in Abilene, Kansas. When Vandenberg was four years old his father died from tuberculosis and his mother moved the surviving members of the family to Minneapolis. Vandenberg began playing professional baseball with the Minneapolis Millers right out of high school, though he does not appear in the statistical record until age 24, when, in 1930, he pitched for the Bloomington, Illinois Cubs. He bounced around minor league baseball, going back and forth between Bloomington, Minneapolis and elsewhere before finally ending up in Syracuse in 1935 where he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox. Vandenberg, however, didn't exactly think he was given a fair trial with Boston. He made only three relief appearances over a six week period, giving up 12 runs in 5 1/3 innings before heading back to Syracuse.
Vandeberg next appeared in the majors in 1937, getting one start for the New York Giants versus the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He allowed seven runs over eight innings in a 7-4 loss. He appeared in six games for Giants in '38, and two in '39, spending most of his time with the Jersey City farm club. He finally got his first major league win in 1940 in a 5-2 Giants win against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The New York Times described the five-hit complete game victory as an "elegant mound triumph."
After 1940, Vandenberg would not pitch in the majors again until 1944 when he re-emerged with the Chicago Cubs, appearing in 35 games, more than the 25 appearances he had accumulated in his previous five stints in the majors combined. He finished 1944 with a 7-4 record, two saves and a 3.63 ERA.
Vandenberg held out into the 1945 season, training at the University of Minnesota. Once he did report to the Cubs, however, he matched his success from the year before, compiling a 7-3 record and 3.49 ERA in 30 games. The Cubs played the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series. Though the Cubs lost in seven games, Vandenberg provided solid relief pitching in Games 4, 5 and 7.
Despite coming off of his two most successful seasons, the Cubs released Vandenberg during spring training in 1946. Possibly dispirited, he performed poorly in the minors with Oakland and Milwaukee. In 1947 his contract was purchased by Oklahoma City, but he chose instead to leave professional baseball and pitched for the Springfield, Minnesota team in the amateur Western Minor League.
Following his playing career, Vandenberg worked as an engineering technician for the Hennepin County Highway Administration. Hy Vandenberg died from cancer at his home in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1994. He was 88 years old.
Happy 40th Birthday to Robb Quinlan
It’s the birthday of 1995 Hill-Murray graduate and 3x Gophers MVP Robb Quinlan.
As a junior at Hill-Murray High School in 1994 Quinlan set a state record by reaching base in 86 consecutive plate appearances, attracting attention from newspapers across the country.
After high school Quinlan went to the University of Minnesota where he hit .325 as a freshman in ‘96. His batting average went up each season from there, hitting .363 as a sophomore, .408 as a junior, and .413 as a senior. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named the Gophers’ Richard "Chief" Siebert Most Valuable Player each season from 1997 to ‘99. He was the Big Ten player of the year his senior season in 1999. Quinlan graduated as the Big Ten Conference's career leader in hits and Minnesota's career leader in hits, home runs, doubles, runs scored, RBI, total bases, and at-bats. As of last check (March 2016) he was still the Big Ten single season leader in total bases (92 in '98), and Gophers career leader in RBI, doubles, hits, runs scored, total bases, and tied for the career lead with 12 triples.
The summer after his junior year Quinlan played for the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League. He hit .353 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI en route to being named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Quinlan was drafted by Angels in 10th round of 1999 Amateur Draft. Robb was a stud in 2002, his fourth professional season, being named the Angels’ Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .333 with 31 doubles, 13 triples, 20 home runs, and a league-leading 112 RBI for Triple-A Salt Lake. From May 29 to June 20 he went on a 21-game hitting streak in which he hit .440. He also had two five-hit games on the season. On May 12 he went 5-for-5 with two home runs and eight RBI vs. Edmonton. On July 28 he went 5-for-6, hitting for the cycle with two home runs and eight RBI vs. Colorado Springs. The Angels won the World Series in 2002. Quinlan, however, would not make his major league debut until July 25, 2003.
He would spend eight seasons in the majors, all with the Angels. Despite being a career .276 hitter, he never appeared in more than 86 games in a single season.
Robb’s older brother Tom was drafted in 1995. He played nine pro seasons, but had only three brief stints in the majors totalling 58 at-bats.
March 17, 1992
Twins Trade for John Smiley
Having lost 1991 World Series MVP Jack Morris to Toronto, the Twins trade former Gopher Denny Neagle, and Midre Cummings to Pittsburgh for ‘91 NL All-Star John Smiley. I was in second grade at the time and remember being very excited about the Twins picking up Smiley, whose 20 wins in 1991 matched Tom Glavine, Scott Erickson, and Marshall, MN native Bill Gullickson for the major league lead. Smiley, who had finished third in National League Cy Young balloting in 1991, was solid for the Twins in ‘92, going 16-9 with a 3.21 ERA. But after just the one season he was off to Cincinnati where he would make a second All-Star team in 1995.
Denny Neagle, meanwhile, put together a respectable thirteen-year major league career, making All-Star teams in 1995 as a Pirate, and 1997 as a Brave. He led the National League with 20 wins in 1997, and finished third in Cy Young balloting to the winner Pedro Martinez, and teammate Greg Maddux.
Nothing happened today, unless you count the birth of former major league catcher Corky Miller 41 years ago in Yucaipa, California. Corky went 0-for-12 in five games with the 2005 Twins.