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The Twins entered the 2003 season with high expectations. During the 2002 season, Minnesota had staved off contraction and upset the "Moneyball" Oakland A's in the ALDS. ESPN declared them "The Team That Saved Baseball," and it looked like the Twins had the pieces to contend for multiple years into the future. However, things didn't go exactly as planned at the start of the season. The first half was rough for the Twins as they sat five games under .500 at the All-Star Break. Minnesota sat 7.5 games out of first place and were in third place in the division. Twins general manager Terry Ryan had a decision to make. Should he try and bolster a line-up struggling to score runs, or should he stand pat for the third straight trade deadline? Luckily, he decided to make a move. On July 16, the Twins traded Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for lead-off hitter Shannon Stewart. His impact on the line-up was hard to ignore as he hit .322/.384/470 (.854 OPS). In the second half, the Twins went 46-23, including a 24-9 stretch in the season's final 33 games. Minnesota won the division by four games, and Stewart finished fourth in the AL MVP voting. Stewart's hot hitting carried over into the playoffs even though the Twins eventually lost to the Yankees. He went 6-for-15 (.400 BA) in four games with two doubles and a stolen base. Unfortunately, Torii Hunter was the only other Twins batter to have more than six hits in the series, and New York went on to win the AL pennant that season. Why Was the Trade So Important? This trade was unlike the Ryan regime in multiple ways. Kielty was a younger player with more team control than Stewart, and they had similar performances at that point in their careers. During his three seasons in Minnesota, Kielty had posted an .818 OPS, including a 116 OPS+. Stewart played ten years in Toronto and accumulated an .805 OPS with a 108 OPS+. At the time, it was a very un-Twins-like trade, but the results speak for themselves. Kielty was never able to duplicate his performance from his Twins tenure. He played four more big-league seasons with a 90 OPS+, and he didn't make a big-league appearance after his age-30 season. Stewart hit free agency but resigned with the Twins and hit .287/.347/.405 (.752) over the next three seasons. In three of his four seasons on the team, Minnesota won the division, with Stewart providing a veteran presence even with some injuries. This trade signaled that the front office was willing to make moves to help the organization for the short-term, even if there was the potential for adverse long-term repercussions. At the time, Ryan made it clear that this was a new direction for the club. "It's time we start shaking this ballclub up to see if we can get it going in the right direction," general manager Terry Ryan said. He helped the team move in the right direction that season, and it was a transformational moment for the organization. What do you remember about Stewart's time in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
It was the final day of the 2003 All-Star break. The defending American League Central champion Twins had limped out to a 44-49 record and were 7.5 games back in the division, sitting in third place. The front office/ownership hadn’t made any big moves the previous two seasons despite the team being competitive, so there seemed to be little reason to expect any motivation to build up the roster. There was still just as much discussion about the potential for contraction as there was contention during this time. But prior to the start of the second half, Terry Ryan struck a deal. The Twins acquired Shannon Stewart from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as the team’s leadoff hitter. July 16, 2003 ended up being a momentous turning point for not only that season, but in some ways you could argue for the entire organization/future of the Twins. Stewart hit .322/.384/470 (.854 OPS) for the Twins as the team went 46-23 in the second half. That season-ending surge also saw the team post an insane 24-9 record over its final 33 games. There was an 11-game winning streak included in that stretch. The Twins ended up charging back to win the division by four games. For his efforts, Stewart finished fourth in AL MVP voting. Things turned out about as good as could have been imagined, but that was actually somewhat of a controversial trade at the time that it happened. The player Ryan sent to Toronto had actually been performing basically as well as Stewart, was younger and had many more years of team control. At the time of the move, Bobby Kielty was hitting .252/.370/.420 (.790 OPS) for the Twins while Stewart was posting a .294/.347/.449 (.796 OPS) batting line for the Blue Jays. It was essentially a challenge trade, a very gutsy move. After accounting for a 125 wRC+ over his time with the Twins, Kielty never came even close to that production elsewhere. He posted a 92 wRC+ over 367 career games from that moment forward. Stewart ended up signing a three-year deal to remain with the Twins the following offseason. Stewart was excellent when healthy once again in 2004, helping the Twins to yet another AL Central crown. His first Opening Day in Minnesota was a memorable one, as he delivered a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Metrodome into a frenzy. Stewart’s my personal all-time favorite among Twins midseason additions. I’d love to hear your memories from that time, but I’m also interested in your own personal favorites from over the years. A certain hitter on one of the World Series champion teams certainly sticks out, if anyone else cares to share some memories from 1987. If you haven’t signed up for an account at the site yet, click here to get registered and join in on the conversation.
April 10, 1982 The Twins traded Roy Smalley and St. Cloud State alumnus, Gary Serum, to the New York Yankees for Ron Davis, Greg Gagne and Paul Boris. Ron Davis, who had been an All-Star in ‘81, was one of the game’s first setup men, combining for a potent 1-2 punch with Hall of Famer, Goose Gossage. Davis still holds the Yankees record for consecutive strikeouts in a single game with 8 on May 4, 1981. Doug Fister established a new American League record for consecutive strikeouts in a game with 9 on September 27th, 2012. The Major League record belongs to Tom Seaver, who K’ed 10 in a row on April 22nd, 1970. Ron Davis was never in all-star form in Minnesota, however. He tied a single season record with 14 blown saves in 1984, a dubious feat which no pitcher has matched since. Four pitchers had blown 14 saves in a season prior to Davis, including Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers (1976) and Bruce Sutter (‘78). Incidentally, Goose Gossage (112), Rollie Fingers (109) and Jeff Reardon (106) have the most blown saves in major league history. Gossage’s six seasons with 10 or more blown saves are most all-time, followed by Fingers and Reardon, each with four seasons of 10 or more. Ron Davis was sent to the Chicago Cubs in August of ‘86 as part of a trade that brought George Frazier to the Twins. Frazier pitched in 54 games for the ‘87 Twins. Davis never saved another game, pitching sparingly in relief for the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants through the end of the ‘88 season. Though Davis was the object of the Twins’ desire at the time, Greg Gagne would obviously emerge as the key figure in this transaction. He didn’t make his major league debut until 1983 and even then only played 12 games between the ‘83 and ‘84 seasons before becoming a fixture at shortstop for the Twins from 1985 to 1992. He was a key component of the Twins’ ‘87 and ‘91 World Series championships. The Twins had originally acquired Roy Smalley in the 1976 trade that sent Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson to the Texas Rangers. In July of ‘84, the Yankees offloaded Smalley to the White Sox in exchange for players to be named later, one of whom wound up being Doug Drabek, who, after just one season, the Yankees in turn shipped off to Pittsburgh where he would win the 1990 Cy Young Award. The White Sox traded Smalley back to Minnesota in 1985. Smalley retired after the Twins’ 1987 World Series championship season. Gary Serum was born in Fargo, went to high school in Alexandria, MN and pitched at Minnesota State Moorhead and St. Cloud State before being signed as an amateur free agent by the Twins in 1975. He played two and a half major league seasons with the Twins from ‘77 to ‘79. Despite posting a 9-1 record between AA and AAA in the Yankees organization, 1982 was Serum’s final professional season. April 11th It’s the birthday of the inimitable Bob Casey (1925-2005), Twins public address announcer for 44 years. Casey was the only PA announcer in Twins history until his death in 2005. Casey also worked for the Minneapolis Millers, the Lakers and the Vikings. April 11, 1961 The Twins played their first ever regular season game at Yankee Stadium. Harmon Killebrew collected the first hit in Twins history, leading off the 4th with a single to center. Twins pitcher Pedro Ramos and Whitey Ford were locked in a scoreless duel until Bob Allison led off the 7th with a home run, the first in Twins history. The Twins went on to win their first game 6-0 as Ramos pitched a complete game, 3-hit shutout versus the eventual 1961 World Series champs. Ramos held Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to a combined 1-for-11, with Berra singling in the 1st. Ramos did not allow a base-runner after the 5th inning. Roger Maris would establish a new single season home run record with 61 that year. The Twins would go on to a 5-1 record before playing their first home game in front of a crowd already deep in the throes of pennant fever. They would lose their first game in Bloomington, however, 3-5 to the new Senators, and finish their inaugural season 70-90, good for 7th place in the America League. April 12, 2005 The Twins beat the Tigers 5-4 on a Shannon Stewart walk-off ground rule double off Troy Percival, who had not allowed an earned run versus the Twins in over 40 innings going back to 1995. Torii Hunter drove in Jason Bartlett to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th. April 12, 2010 The Twins beat the Red Sox 5-2 in the first regular season game played at Target Field. Carl Pavano earned the win for the Twins. Jon Lester, the losing pitcher, walked Denard Span to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Orlando Hudson then collected the Twins’ first hit at Target Field. After Mauer and Morneau made the first two outs, Michael Cuddyer collected the new stadium’s first RBI, driving in Span on a single to left. Jason Kubel then drove in Hudson, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead in the 1st. Mauer hit an RBI double in the 2nd, and an RBI single in the 4th. Jason Kubel hit Target Field’s first regular season home run leading off the 7th. Jon Rauch retired Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre in order for the save. April 13, 1962 In just the second year of major league baseball in Minnesota, the scheduled home opener versus the Los Angeles Angels was cancelled due to six inches of snow. April 14, 1983 The largest April snowstorm in Minneapolis’s history forced the postponement of a game versus the California Angels. The decision to postpone the game was made the night before out of concern that the Angels would not be able to arrive in Minnesota in time. Travel concerns were a moot point, however, as damage from the storm caused the Metrodome roof to collapse about twelve hours after the decision to postpone. The spring storm dumped over 13 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. April 15, 2000 Cal Ripken, jr. became the 24th player to reach 3,000 hits in a 6-4 Orioles win at the Metrodome. Ripken entered the game sitting at 2,997, having collected 1 hit the night before in a wild 10-9 Twins win. Trailing 4-9, the Twins scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th before Eddie Guardado earned the save, retiring Ripken for the final out of the game. On this night, Ripken was 2-for-3 when he came up in the 7th in a tie game with 2 out and Albert Belle on third. Hector Carrasco was brought in from the bullpen to face the Iron Man. Catcher Matt LeCroy gave up a passed ball on Carrasco’s first pitch, allowing Belle to score the go-ahead run. Then, on the second pitch of the at-bat, Ripken stroked a line drive single to center, becoming the seventh player in major league history to collect both 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Former Twin Mike Trombley came on in the bottom of the 9th to earn the save for Baltimore. Noteworthy in retrospect is the fact that Midre Cummings pinch-hit for the number nine batter, Torii Hunter. Ripken was greeted at first after his 3,000th hit by base coach Eddie Murray, who had himself hit his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome in 1995 off of Mike Trombley as a member of the Cleveland Indians. The following season, while playing for Baltimore, Murray became just the third person in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez have since joined the club. St. Paul Central High School graduate and Golden Gophers legend, Dave Winfield, also collected his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome in 1993. 29 players have collected 3,000 hits in the 146 year history of major league baseball. Three of those reached the milestone at the Metrodome in a period of seven years. It is also noteworthy that of the 29 members of the 3,000 hit club, two (Winfield and Paul Molitor) were born in St. Paul just five years apart. April 15, 2001 In a home game versus the Chicago White Sox, Eric Milton struck out the side in the 1st, including Frank Thomas. Milton went on to strike out 8 of the first 10 batters he faced. He allowed only 2 runs over 7 innings, those coming on a 2-run Thomas homer in the 6th, one of 521 he hit in his career, tied with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 19th all-time. LaTroy Hawkins earned the save in the Twins 4-3 victory, their 6th straight, improving to 9-2 on the season. April 16, 1961 In the top of the 1st in game 1 of a doubleheader in Baltimore, Bob Allison hit the first grand slam in Twins history. Baltimore’s Chuck Estrada, who had tied for the league lead with 18 wins the previous season and who would win 15 in 1961, walked three straight to start the game before giving up a home run to the cleanup hitter, Allison. After giving up a double to Jim Lemon, Estrada was pulled, having pitched to just five batters. Relief pitcher John Papa didn’t fare much better, walking home two more Twins runs before Dick Hall, the third pitcher used by Baltimore in the 6-run 1st, came on to get the final out. Bob Allison added a 3-run home run in the 6th, giving him 7 RBIs for the game. The Twins won 10-5. In game 2, the Twins held a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th. With 1 out and the bases loaded, Baltimore crept within 1 on an RBI groundout. Then, with 2 down, runners on second and third and future-Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog pinch-hitting for future-Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, Twins pitcher Ray Moore unleashed a wild pitch, allowing Baltimore to tie the game 4-4. In the top of the 11th, Zoilo Versalles hit a 2-run home run and Chuck Stobbs slammed the door in the bottom of the inning. For the history of the Minnesota Twins, told one day at a time, like The Twins Almanac on Facebook and follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter. For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.