[As seen on Zone Coverage]
Recently, I had the chance to talk with Clyde “the Guide” Doepner, the Curator for the Minnesota Twins. Don’t know what a “curator” is? Think about getting paid to collect, display, and maintain Twins memorabilia for thousands of fans to enjoy at Target Field. Yes. Somebody gets paid to do that! Per his request, Clyde asked that I make this as little about him as possible and as much about the Twins as possible, but I want to provide you with a little background before jumping into our conversation.
“I was brought up to say thank you.”
In August of 1966 he was hired on as a first year teacher and varsity head baseball coach. In the spring of that same year, Cal Griffith (Twins’ owner) had sent out free season tickets to all head varsity baseball coaches, but the previous coach didn’t get them before he left and so they sat unused all summer. When he saw these in his mailbox, he decided to go down to the Met, find Cal’s office, and thank him for the tickets. Back in 1966 it was that easy. When he went to thank him, Cal noted that he was the only person to thank him for the tickets and brought him “down the hall, to the left, to the right, and to the Griffith seats”, as Clyde would say. Cal invited him to sit in those seats anytime he came to a game rather than “sitting out in the thankless seats with those ‘hecklin’ son of a guns’”, and a relationship was forged. It got the point that Clyde could sit anywhere he wanted when he came to a game and he became good friends with the Griffith family.
“We’re not paying those son of a guns…”
When the Twins made the move from the Met to the Dome, the sports commission was going to start charging the Griffith family for storage space. As Clyde tells it, “[Cal] being too frugal, too cheap to do that said ‘we’re not paying those son of a guns’ and he told his brothers ‘throw everything’. [Clyde] went out [to the dumpster] and collected about 3,000 items, and so Clyde “the Collector” was born and he debuted all the memorabilia at the first Twins fest in 1988. No matter how he got any artifact he considers all artifacts as “a part of the Twins”. If you’re interested to see a lot of the memorabilia then I suggest you check out this book.
Being part of the Twins organization since 1966, Clyde is an endless book of stories which will be the focus of the rest of the article.
“No Clyde, I’m all done, this is it.”
At the end of the 2015 season before he made a public announcement Torii Hunter gave Clyde his glove. Clyde’s response was “I don’t want it, because you’re coming back next year” knowing that he only signed a one-year deal, but that the Twins would likely offer him another contract. Torii said, “No Clyde, I’m all done, this is it.” So a few days later, Hunter made it official and announced that he was retiring from Major League Baseball.
“I was thinking of my Mom.”
When Jim Thome hit his 600th home run at Comerica Park, Clyde made sure to get all the bases. He gave third base to Thome, second base to the Twins Community Fund for auction, and first base was kept for the Twins. Why did Thome get third base? Clyde thought “well, once you touched third base you couldn’t screw up the home run”. And why did the Twins get first? When Thome was asked what he was thinking about when he knew it was done and running down to first he said “My mother, she had died the year before”. This struck a chord with Clyde as he also recently lost his mother. On the base he signed: “On the way to this base, I was thinking of my Mom”.
“Only Halsey could turn a sport coat into a Blazer”
Halsey Hall was a sports reporter for the Twin Cities and announcer for the Twins for many years. He was actually the first broadcaster to coin the phrase “Holy Cow”, although most fans credit Harry Caray. He was described as having a “grizzly voice, because he smoked two cigars during every game”. Hall of Famer, Herb Carneal would say that “Halsey liked good cigars, but unfortunately that’s not the kind he smoked”. So the story goes that during one game, Halsey’s cigar ash fell into a wastebasket full of paper and started it on fire. He then blurted out, over the air, “oh my god, I’m on fire!” The fire ended up burning his hand, sport coat, and pants and there was a delay in the game until the fire was put out. Former Twins Catcher Jerry Zimmerman said “Only Halsey could turn a sport coat into a blazer”. Halsey was gifted a big red ashtray, and you bet that same ashtray is on display in the Target Field press box.
“Isn’t that the way it goes?”
Tom Kelly has each ball from the last out of the game that clinched the division in 1987, the game that clinched the pennant in 1987, and the game that clinched the world series in 1987. As Clyde puts it, “When Kent Hrbek heard about that he said ‘isn’t that the way it goes, Clyde? I caught all three of them, Tom took them, and you give him credit’”.
- Clyde is one of the only curators in MLB. Recently, the Atlanta Braves added a curator when they built their new stadium.
- Target field has 38 display cases that he is responsible for filling and maintaining the memorabilia. He does all of this himself.
- Jim Thome kept a champagne cork and lighter in his locker. Before eye black was a thing, players would burn part of the cork and put it under their eyes.
- He was good friends with Harmon Killebrew. In fact, he was in charge of his appraising six to seven thousand items for his estate.
- Tom Kelley donated his entire collection to the Twins.
Last but most importantly, Clyde wanted to thank the Twins organization. He would say that “the ‘Twins way’ isn’t just what happens on the field, but what happens in the clubhouse and what goes on in the community”. Clyde’s parting words to the reader would be “you should always say thank you. Not for some ulterior motive, but because it’s the right thing to do”. After all, if he hadn’t said thank you then many of the artifacts we have come to love around Target Field might be in a dumpster somewhere.
This guy was has an endless amount of stories. If it is at all possible, he would be a great "get" for an upcoming Twins Daily event. Give him the mic and let him talk for as long as he wants.