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Twins to Retire Jim Kaat’s Number


Ted Schwerzler
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In early December, it was announced that former Minnesota Twins great pitcher Jim Kaat was being inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Elected by the Golden Days Era Committee, “Kitty” was getting his due. Now the Twins have announced they’ll celebrate him too.

Becoming the ninth member in organization history to have his number retired, Kaat will join the likes of Joe Mauer, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, and Tom Kelly. Kaat was a three-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove winner. He won a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and finished with 283 career wins.

Jim Pohlad released a statement saying, “For more than sixty years, Jim Kaat has been an important part of the fabric of the Minnesota Twins organization. With ‘Kitty’s’ storied career on the field as well as his accolades in the broadcast booth and his contributions in the community in mind, the Twins family is proud to bestow our highest honor with the retirement of his jersey – number 36. We are excited to celebrate his decades-long commitment to Twins Territory, as well as his much-deserved and long-awaited induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, this coming season.”
 
Since retirement Kaat has made a home in the broadcast booth working for the Twins and other organizations around baseball. His trademark on the microphone is the ability to tell stories and take us back to the game as it was before. As someone who threw more than 4,500 innings during his career, there’s no doubt he’s seen it all. Kaat was a crafty southpaw, but that didn’t stop him from compiling over 2,400 strikeouts on the mound.
 
For the Twins, number 36 will have been worn by a total of 34 players. It was last worn in 2020 by Tyler Clippard, and since Kaat, most famously by Joe Nathan. Minnesota’s former closer is also up for induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this year, but his candidacy appears to be falling well short.
 
A pregame celebration for Kaat’s jersey retirement will take place on July 16 against the Chicago White Sox. You can bet Minnesota will plan further festivities surrounding the day.

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That’s a tough one.  Frankly, I think the Twins retire too many numbers.  Kirby and Harmon are obvious. Tony and Joe are worthy.   However, Rodney played much of his career elsewhere (like Kaat) and TK was a manager.  Kent HrBek is the most questionable choice.    Sorry to be such a negative guy here.  Don’t get me started on lowering flags to half staff too much or I’ll be a complete pariah. 

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30 minutes ago, strumdatjag said:

That’s a tough one.  Frankly, I think the Twins retire too many numbers.  Kirby and Harmon are obvious. Tony and Joe are worthy.   However, Rodney played much of his career elsewhere (like Kaat) and TK was a manager.  Kent HrBek is the most questionable choice.    Sorry to be such a negative guy here.  Don’t get me started on lowering flags to half staff too much or I’ll be a complete pariah. 

I get what you're saying, but he spent 15 years in MN.  That's more than any of the other retired numbers aside from Mauer (15) and Kelly (16).  It's not like he was here for a cup of coffee. 🙂  

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3 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

That’s a tough one.  Frankly, I think the Twins retire too many numbers.  Kirby and Harmon are obvious. Tony and Joe are worthy.   However, Rodney played much of his career elsewhere (like Kaat) and TK was a manager.  Kent HrBek is the most questionable choice.    Sorry to be such a negative guy here.  Don’t get me started on lowering flags to half staff too much or I’ll be a complete pariah. 

Wait... Rod Carew shouldn't have his number retired by the Twins? His best years and most of his hits came in a Twins uniform. He's the all-time leader in WAR for all Twins players in 60+ seasons. Jim Kaat spent like 12-13 seasons with the Twins (and a few with the Senators). 

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I always thought it would be cool if the Twins had their own Hall of Fame (like they do), put those numbers up around the stadium (they do), but did not retire the numbers. Maybe then fans could watch player X wearing #6 and patrolling the outfield at Target Field and trying to live up to the number. Nothing real against #82, but I can't relate to that number. I also think former players would like to see someone doing their number proud.

Always loved Jim Kaat and very happy for him. Joe Nathan sure did the #36 proud playing for the Twins though too.

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1 hour ago, Seth Stohs said:

Wait... Rod Carew shouldn't have his number retired by the Twins? His best years and most of his hits came in a Twins uniform. He's the all-time leader in WAR for all Twins players in 60+ seasons. Jim Kaat spent like 12-13 seasons with the Twins (and a few with the Senators). 

I struggled with Carew.   Frankly, I didn’t want to be accused of a double-standard when I used the “other teams” criteria against Kaat.  I’ll admit it’s hard not to retire Carew’s number, but it’s hard to see all the players who had their numbers retired by more than one team (I like Hank Aaron but the Brewers retired his number - really???)

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8 minutes ago, strumdatjag said:

(I like Hank Aaron but the Brewers retired his number - really???)

Aaron played his first dozen years in Milwaukee and was a beloved player for baseball fans in the Midwest, especially Wisconsin and Milwaukee. This is the obvious explanation but I get your point. The Braves may have moved to Atlanta but Milwaukee never left Aaron.

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Nothing against ANY of the number retirements. Hrbek was the local boy who did really good. Baseball Hall of Fame numbers? Sadly not close, but a strong presence for the Twins as a player and a Minnesotan. He is one of the top players in our history, as was Jim Kaat, who overshadowed ALL of his fellow pitchers in that same time frame as A MAN of the organization.

 

Others have been given legacy in the Twins Hall of Fame. Kaat is deserving of a number retiring. As is Hrbek, Carew and everyone else.

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I am in the camp that says why did it take so long.  He was a Twin for 15 years as wsnydes noted and he excelled not only as a player but an announcer on the national scene.  He was the best fielding pitcher I ever saw.  Plus, he was a great pinch hitter and runner.  He was a fantastic athlete.  Are any of you old enough to remember how Halsey Hall used to love calling him "Kitty"?  I read once that his nickname was not only because of the last name but also because he was as quick as a cat coming off the mound to make a play.

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Should Jim Kaat have his number 36 retired? Seriously? Well, consider…

  • the fact that he was an original Minnesota Twin, part of the 25 man roster when the Twins first season commenced in 1961, and would be in the Twins organization for parts of the next 12 seasons
  • that he was on the mound to pitch the complete game victory in 1965 that clinched the team’s first League pennant.
  • that he would have been the team’s first  Cy Young award winner in 1966 with a 25 wins, but the retiring Sandy Koufax was the sole pick, as only one pitcher in both league was honored back then. 
  • that his great durability and character, the huge number of innings pitched yearly, besides his well-publicized 16 Gold Glove Awards, etc, and stellar broadcasting career both locally and nationally…

…make him a beyond-worthy choice to have his uniform number retired. So, I could really care less if he pitched another 20 years in Japan or on Pluto, the guy’s got an incredible story and legacy. And he should be on the Wall.

image.gif.8caa71d4922ec846c0e0f87a8f0c888a.gif 

 

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11 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

That’s a tough one.  Frankly, I think the Twins retire too many numbers.  Kirby and Harmon are obvious. Tony and Joe are worthy.   However, Rodney played much of his career elsewhere (like Kaat) and TK was a manager.  Kent HrBek is the most questionable choice.    Sorry to be such a negative guy here.  Don’t get me started on lowering flags to half staff too much or I’ll be a complete pariah. 

Carew won SEVEN batting titles as a Twin.  I think we can let him slide.

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Why not?  I see no controversy.  Good players and good people need to be made examples.  New fans look at those numbers and wonder who they are which leads to baseball history and that is essential to the fullest pleasure the game can give.  Congratulations Kaat - like others I wonder why it took so long. 

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Let’s look at the slippery slope created by retiring Jim Kaat’s number.    Does that mean that the Twins are now expected to retire Bert Blyleven’s number?   Kaat and Bert are both borderline Hall of Fane pitchers who spent a large number of years with the Twins (often in years where they were not the number one starter), and then continued to serve the organization as a color guy on TV.  On top of that, Bert helped the Twins win a World Series.  Then what about Johan Santana, Brad Radke’ …

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Bert’s 28 is retired, judging by the illustration I see above on Twitter, so that horse has left the barn.   There is something to be said for retiring numbers of Cooperstown Hall of Famers who go in as Twins and played honorably there for a long time.   Others (like Hrbek) can be debated.   

(If you told me in mid-1976 that Bert’s number would be retired by the Twins, I would never have believed it.   It’s great that life is funny and unpredictable at times.)

Didn’t know that great fact that Kitty would have won the Cy Young in 1966 had it not been for the retiring Sandy Koufax (I didn’t become a fan until 1967).  

 

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In my humble opinion, Blyleven and Kaat were never "borderline" HOF'ers.  Had Bert pitched for the Yankees his career stats would have seen him elected YEARS ago.  Kaat, at minimum, should have had the Twins retire his number YEARS ago.  As was mentioned, in 1966 there was only one Cy Young Award winner for BOTH Leagues.  Koufax was "otherworldly" in his final big league season.  Look up the stats.  If the A.L. had named a CY Young winner as well, Kaat would have easily won.  Plus, add on SIXTEEN (16 !!!) Gold Gloves and with 283 career wins he EARNED his ticket to Cooperstown.  But yes, the TWINS should have put him in THEIR Hall of Fame YEARS ago.  What I'm NOT sure of is this:  When Joe Nathan is inducted into the Twins HOF, will we put up TWO #36's ???  

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On 1/13/2022 at 12:42 AM, dxpavelka said:
On 1/12/2022 at 1:14 PM, strumdatjag said:

 

Carew won SEVEN batting titles as a Twin.  I think we can let him slide.

And speaking of sliding, he did a lot of that too...like into the plate when he was stealing home. 7 TIMES in one season...sheesh!

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