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  1. Pitch a canoe on the currents of the Crow Wing River, and you’ll stumble across Nimrod, Minnesota, population 69. A bar, church, and campground make up the bulk of the one-horse town that was once a flourishing logging community in the World War II era. Take a few steps past the bar and the sight of four bags 90 feet apart and lush green grass will christen the eyes. Dick Stigman Field, home of the Nimrod Gnats and named after the town’s most famous son. A starting pitcher for the Twins’ infancy in Minnesota, Stigman spent seven years at the Major League level. Starting with a $200 per month contract, the tall lefty grew up in Cleveland’s organization, played two years with the parent club, and spent four years with the Twins from 1962-65. Stigman finished his career with the hallowed Boston Red Sox in 1966. Stigman’s life has run full circle; A small town boy with a deep love of America’s Pastime who had the opportunity to play for the Minnesota Twins. On his 86th birthday, Stigman couldn’t be more thankful for the road that transcended from the rural pines of northern Minnesota to baseball’s biggest stage. The Booming 50’s Despite its current quaintness, Nimrod was a bustling small town at the midpoint of the 20th century with a handful of industries painting the Wadena County town. “We had two grocery stores, two gas stations, two restaurants, a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, and a creamery,” Stigman recalled. “There was a pretty good-sized lumber mill. They used to pull logs down the river. It was a great experience. We had a community.” Young Dick spent his childhood selling grit, a popular newspaper option in rural America through the 1950s. “We sold it for five cents a copy. I think I got two cents back,” he laughed. Yet in an era when many young men were being drafted for World War II, Nimrod’s isolation provided solace for Dick and his brothers; an opportunity that sprouted a lifelong love for the game of baseball. The son of a catcher, Dick and his brothers spent hours simulating game situations and playing catch. Both Dick and his older brother were southpaws. That didn’t stop them from finding a catcher’s mitt at Montgomery and Ward to compliment each other on the mound. The mound? An old tire and some plywood. “We’d put a 2 by 4 on top of a rubber tire to pitch from and simulate situations,” Stigman said. “It wasn’t very high up, but it worked.” Barren winters didn’t stop the Stigmans from practicing their craft. The boys’ mother managed the town hall, creating a pseudo-bullpen for them over the winter months. “It was a pretty decent-sized building so we’d pitch inside the hall,” Stigman said. “We'd build a fire and take care of that if there was an event and then we'd have our baseball sessions.” Stigman's love of pitching ran deep. With no team in Minnesota during his childhood he fell in love with Cleveland because of talented pitching from the likes of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon. And with a rich list of MLB names like Williams, Lemon, and Mays to look up to, Dick’s and skill level only rose with time. “There were a couple of other guys in Nimrod that were interested in baseball, but not like we were,” he recalled. That small-town talent would expand outside the silos of Nimrod to the greater Minnesota community. Stigman pitched for Sebeka High School and began to draw looks by shutting down larger schools and towns on the mound. A tournament with strong performances against the ‘big cities’ of Aitkin and Brainerd drew the eye of Cleveland scout Marv Nutting. Impressed with the small town hurler, Nutting name-dropped Stigman to Cy Slapnika, a Cleveland scout based out of Cedar Rapids who had a stellar track record. Slapnika had signed the legendary Bob Feller to Cleveland alongside other household names like Gordy Coleman and Herb Score. Slapkina made the trek up to Minnesota to watch Stigman play Legion ball against Hawley, something that Stigman wasn’t aware of at the time. “I probably would have wet my pants if I had known that someone was watching me.” Stigman was electric, striking out 21 batters in seven innings alongside racking up a few hits himself. He even struck out Rodney Skoog, the brother of Minneapolis Lakers star Whitey Skoog who was batting in the .500 range at the time. The magic had been noticed. Slapnika drove Dick and his parents to the Greystone Hotel in Detroit Lakes to sign his first professional contract for the organization he cheered for growing up. That $200 per month contract (with an additional $200 for each month with the club) was a $50 pay raise from what Stigman was receiving at his job at the lumber mill. Was the pay raise nice? Absolutely. Yet the opportunity for Dick was priceless. “I loved baseball so much that I probably would have paid to play.” Reflecting with Grace Stigman finished his MLB career with 74 wins. His best season was his first with the Twins in 1962, finishing the year with a 12-5 record and 3.66 ERA with three saves to top it off. And while the star season in his home state was memorable, the transition to the Twins from the organization that he cut his teeth in was tough. Being in Cleveland and coming up in the farm system, it was a difficult transition, Dick recalled. “I was very apprehensive about coming to Minnesota; playing in front of people that you know, there's an added expectation.” Yet when the nerves melted, the homecoming was one of joy. “It was a pleasant surprise,” Stigman said “It was great with all the attention we got, everywhere we went people knew us. And I had a really good year so that added to it.” The innings on the ground were great; the memories, comradery, and relationships were what solidified. “Earl Battey was one of my best friends. We played cards on the plane. He was just an amazing guy," Dick recalled. "Guys like Lenny Green, Don Mincher, and Jim Kaat (were incredible). Baseball isn't all about skill, it's about chemistry. Even as big of a star that Harmon (Killebrew) and Tony Oliva were, it wasn't about them. It was about winning. And we proved that with some pretty good years.” Stigman is now 55 years removed from his MLB career. After years in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, he and his wife moved to the beaming sun of Florida. He still stays knitted to the Twins through rich admiration of the organization and participation in things like Twins Fantasy Camp. A man of deep faith and humility, Stigman looks back with a sense of appreciation and gratefulness that society can admire. Yet even he recognizes the wild ride that the uncertainty and beauty of life has graced him with. “I look back and think to myself ‘did I really do that,’ coming from where I came from,” Dick recalled. “I try not to get in front of myself, I always remember where I came from and who I am.” If you're in west-central Minnesota during the summer and happen to catch a baseball game, there is a decent chance you might see the Stigman name in the lineup.
  2. There have been plenty of great players in the history of the Minnesota Twins. From Killebrew to Buxton and many in-between, it is tough to narrow it down to the top twelve players in the history of the Twins. Tony O, as he is affectionately called, is a fan favorite that spans generations of Twins fans everywhere. People from the 1960's through the present not only know Tony Oliva, but celebrate him as being one of the best Twins of all time. It's in the Blood Oliva grew up as Pedro Oliva II and lived in Pinar del Rio with his family. His father worked harvesting tobacco, oranges, potatoes, and mangos. He also was known for the way he rolled Cuban cigars. Pedro Lopez, his father, was a former semi-pro baseball player and carved a make-shift baseball diamond for his family in their land and introduced his boys to the nation's favorite sport. Later they would form a squad and play on Sundays against other competitors from their area. Oliva grew up playing ball with whittled branches of majau trees as bats with his nine siblings and father. They only got real bats and balls when their father brought them back from Havana. They played so often; they wrapped them with tape to last longer. Even with make-shift bats and balls, it didn't take long for Oliva's talent to show. He was a fast runner, strong hitter and played on a local team at a young age because of his talent. He credits his father with helping make him the "best hitter in Pinar del Rio." The Big Move Oliva had no desire to play professional baseball in America. His goal was to play for his home country's professional team, the Cienfuegos Camaroneros. There was no doubt that Oliva loved baseball and had a natural talent. He dedicated hours to improving his swing, working on getting better. His teammate, Roberto Fernandez, played with Oliva on the Los Palacios village ball club during the winter. Fernandez played in the United States as a journeyman on the Washington Senators, soon the Minnesota Twins. Fernandez contacted Joe Cambria, a scout credited with signing 400 Cuban players for the Senators/Twins. After signing a contract for $250.00 a month, Oliva grabbed his brother Tony’s passport, which had a different name and date of birth, but it was available, convenient and with the time crunch, a quick fix. Oliva headed to America to meet up with the rest of the Twins at training camp and Pedro Oliva would be known as Antonio "Tony" Oliva from now on. Oliva and several other players got held up in Mexico and made it to camp late. Oliva finally arrived at Twins training camp in April 1961, but by the time he got there, training camp was almost over and the rosters were already set. Joe Cambria knew Tony was an asset, and that he could not go home to Cuba, so he stepped in to advocate for Oliva and was able to get him on a team in Wytheville, Virginia. The Rookie Tony Oliva went to Wytheville and played Class-D baseball for the Twins. He played in 64 of the 68 games and posted an outstanding .410 batting average. The Twins offered him a chance to play in Minneapolis with the main club because he improved his fielding. After he left Minneapolis in the fall, the Twins assigned Oliva to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1962. In Florida, Oliva got more practice and a chance to polish up on skills which earned him a spot to play a handful of games for the Twins in the majors before landing a position on the 40-man roster in 1964. Oliva had one of the best rookie seasons MLB has ever seen. It’s very well known that he had weak knees. The rookie stood in a knock-kneed, awkward stance when he was at the plate, but it didn't slow him down. That season Oliva was almost unanimously voted as the 1964 Rookie of the Year with a league-leading .323 batting average with 32 home runs and 94 RBI, along with American League highs in runs (109), hits ( 217), and doubles (43). 15-Year Career He won another batting title in 1965 when he hit .321, becoming the first player ever to win batting crowns in his first two full seasons. Oliva finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player voting that year (to teammate Zoilo Versalles), leading the Twins to the AL pennant with 16 homers, 98 RBI, and a league-best 185 hits. In 1966, Oliva led the AL in hits for the third straight year (191) while winning a Gold Glove Award for his play in right field. There was a slight dip in his career for two seasons in 1967 and 1968; his batting average dropped to .289. In 1969 Oliva rebounded with a .309 average and a league-best 197 hits in 1969, while leading the Twins to their first AL West title. He was even better in 1970, hitting .325 with 23 home runs and a career-high 107 RBI along with his fifth AL hits crown (204) en route to another second-place finish in the MVP vote. The Twins again won the AL West crown. Hall of Famer Tony Oliva finished his career with 1,907 hits, 220 home runs, 947 RBI's, and a batting average of .304. Oliva had one of the best Twins careers and one of the best MLB careers of all time. Charlotte Baseball and the Twins inducted Oliva into their Halls of Fame, but Cooperstown had not yet come calling. A glimmer of hope, in 2014, Tony Oliva was on a "second-chance" ballot for the Hall of Fame, falling one vote short. His disappointment and frustration turned to joy on December 4th, 2021, when he got the phone call to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former Twin Jim Kaat, this coming summer. His raw emotion and reaction allowed him and Minnesota Twins fans alike to share a moment that was beyond due and well deserved. Tony Oliva is one of the best Twins players of all time. Not only is he one of the best, but the most humble, kind, and caring humans on this planet. He and his family's contributions to baseball and their communities are inspiring. He came from a small town in Cuba with nothing but sticks for bats and landed in Cooperstown as one of the best players. Stay tuned for the sixth day of Twinsmas! Thank you for reading, and Go, Twins! Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here: #12 - Torii Hunter #11 - Chuck Knoblauch #10 - Jim Kaat #9 - Frank Viola #8 - Kent Hrbek #7 - Tony Oliva #6 - Coming Soon!
  3. Tony Oliva is finally a Hall of Famer, something Minnesota Twins fans have been waiting to see officially since 1982. By the time I was born, Oliva’s best chance of getting into the hall of fame was the same way he got in this last week, through the veteran’s committee vote. I was born too late to see Oliva play, let alone even coach for the Twins. However, like many Twins fans of all ages, his Baseball Hall of Fame election is a meaningful moment for us all. 2006 was the year when I really began to grasp what Major League Baseball was. Seven years old, just completing first grade the spring before, and the Minnesota Twins were fielding one of their best teams in franchise history to that point. It was either an early Friday or Saturday evening in mid-August outside the Metrodome when the Twins were hosting a pregame autograph session with one of the franchise legends, Tony Oliva. My mom rushed ourselves over into the autograph line while my sister and dad headed inside the Dome for the game. I wasn’t fully aware of what was happening at the time, only that my dad had pointed out the autograph line to us and knew it would be a good story to have my first pro athlete autograph ever be Oliva. My family and I arrived unprepared with autograph material that day, so the best thing to have Oliva sign was my kiddie sized glove that I had used for the first two seasons of t-ball. As my mom and I stood in line waiting, the clock was winding down on the time left available to get Oliva’s autograph. Then when there were only a few people left in front of us, two older boys in their teens cut in front of us to get Oliva’s autograph. Tony-O noticed this and refused to sign anything for them for doing so. Then just as he was deciding to stop signing altogether, get up, and head into the Dome to watch the game, my mom asked politely if he could sign one more just for me, as I had never received an autograph before. Oliva’s response to that was, “Okay. One more.” He became the first to sign my glove, the first of many Twins legends to do so. Following that, I rushed into the Dome with my mom to meet up with the rest of my family to share the good news and show off the autograph. Since that day, like so many other Twins fans' experiences with Tony O, they have always been positive. Whether it's been an encounter at the State Fair, TwinsFest, or passing ways in a random location throughout the Twin Cities. It’s always been good to be in Oliva’s presence. Now as I have already mentioned, I was born too late to watch any part of Tony Oliva’s career while it happened. Thanks to being a kid who grew up with the internet, it was easy to find the highlight footage compiled by MLB-affiliated websites and YouTube to understand just how talented Oliva was in his day when my dad, uncle and grandpa talked about him. Like so many other Twins fans would say, Oliva is a Top 5 Twins player of all time. (Also on my list would be two of his former teammates, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew, as well as Kirby Puckett and Joe Mauer.) Only one of these top five has not been elected to be in Cooperstown, and hopefully in two years' time, Mauer’s Hall of Fame case will get him in. When it comes to Tony Oliva’s legacy in Twins history, he will always be enshrined as one of the best both on and off the field in Twins Territory. For those of us who were born in the 70s or later, our memories of Oliva will always be that of his community engagement throughout the decades. For this Twins fan, the encounters with Oliva will be memories of a leader, a giver, and a first autograph experience that will be enshrined in my memory forever. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. I explained my process of how I chose these players in the first part of this trilogy, so if you didn’t read that, I recommend reading this so this article will make more sense. Taking all of the position player seasons over 4 WAR, I found salary data for 86 players. Using these 86 players, I compared their equivalent 2021 salaries with their season WAR’s and constructed the graph below. The names highlighted in yellow are the players who made the starting lineup As was the case in part 1, the bottom right of the graph is where you want to have your players be, signifying a lot of WAR for not a lot of 2021 money. There were some very tough decisions in constructing this lineup, but these are the position players I decided would make the best team in Twins history. Catcher: 2009 Joe Mauer - $15.69M translated salary, 7.8 WAR Because of his lackluster production despite a large contract in the latter part of his career, some Twins fans see Joe Mauer as a bust and not as one of the best players in Twins history. In reality, over the course of his career, Mauer vastly outproduced his contracts. Adding in 2018 to these totals, Mauer made just over $218M in his career but according to FanGraphs, he was worth over $307M. Mauer was so phenomenal early in his career that he completely outperformed his rookie contract and arbitration deals. It makes you wonder what he would’ve done if not for his concussion problems later in his career. Mauer’s best year was 2009. He slashed .365/.444/.587 for the second highest single-season OPS in Twins history of 1.031. Mauer also hit a career high 28 home runs, had a wRC+ of 170, walked more than he struck out, and was an above average defensive catcher in his MVP campaign. In 2009, Mauer had a salary of $10.5 million. This translates to over $15 million in 2021, meaning his contract efficiency number was 0.497. Mauer outperformed his contract not just in 2009, but over the duration of his entire career and he should be inducted in the hall of fame. First Base: 1977 Rod Carew - $10.93M translated salary, 9.7 WAR In 2021, Rod Carew would not be your stereotypical first baseman. Today, first basemen are power-hitters who strike out quite a bit, hit home runs, and don’t steal a lot of bases (see Sano, Miguel). Carew was the greatest player in Twins history and in 1977, he had the greatest season in Twins history. In Carew’s historic 1977 season, he stole 23 bases, slashed .388/.449/.570 for an OPS of 1.019, and had a 135 wRC+. He had a Twins franchise record 239 hits, his .388 average was a franchise record, and he won the MVP award. In 1977, Carew had a salary of $180,000. This translates to just shy of $11 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.888. Carew was an outstanding player, will bring some defensive quickness to first base, and would be an outstanding leadoff hitter for this dream-team. Second Base: 1995 Chuck Knoblauch - $13.44M translated salary, 6.7 WAR Even though Chuck Knoblauch isn’t Keith Olbermann's favorite player, he still had an outstanding tenure as a Twin. Knoblauch was a four-time all-star with the Twins before contract disputes led to him becoming a Yankee. In 1995, Knoblauch batted .333, had a .911 OPS, stole 46 bases, and won the American League Silver Slugger at second base. Although Knoblauch’s best season may have been a year later in 1996, he still accumulated nearly 7 WAR in 1995 on a cheaper contract. In 1995, Knoblauch had a salary of nearly $3 million. This translates to $13.4 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.499. Knoblauch was a great all-around player for the Twins and is the greatest second baseman in Twins history, so it is only right to put him here. Third Base: 2001 Corey Koskie - $606K translated salary, 6.3 WAR One player who was always undervalued for the Twins was Corey Koskie. In the early 2000’s, you could tell Koskie was a very solid player for the Twins but if you look at him in a more advanced scope, you can see that Koskie was a great player for the Twins and they did not have to pay much for him. In 2001, Koskie slashed .276/.362/.488 for an OPS of .850 and a wRC+ of 119. He led the team in slugging percentage, walks (68), RBI (103), and WAR (6.3). He was an outstanding defender at third base, racking up 1.9 defensive WAR which ranked 4th among third basemen in MLB. Combining above average offense with a stellar glove at third base makes Koskie an easy choice to be our third baseman. In 2001, Koskie had a salary of only $300K. This translates to only $606K in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 10.39, which was the highest contract efficiency number out of all of the top 100 WAR seasons in Twins history. Getting a 6 WAR player for nearly league minimum does not happen very often so we can save a lot of money while getting a lot of value out of Koskie at 3B. Plus, the man is a townball star Shortstop: 1965 Zoilo Versalles - $7.63M translated salary, 7.2 WAR When building this team of superstars, Zoilo Versalles was the most confusing player I researched. He only had 12 career WAR, and over half of it came in this MVP 1965 campaign. Versalles was the Baha Men of 1965, a one-hit wonder. Digging deeper into his MVP season, he only had a wRC+ of 116 and led the American League in strikeouts. The reason Versalles was so good in 1965 was that he was the best defensive shortstop in the league. He led all MLB shortstops with 3 defensive WAR, also the best mark for any shortstop in Twins history. Versalles’ defensive prowess coupled with his above average offensive abilities (led AL in runs, doubles, and triples) made him the best player in the AL in 1965 and the best shortstop in Twins history. In 1965, Versalles had a salary of $28K, which translates to $7.63 million in 2021. His contract efficiency number (0.944) was very good. Cristian Guzman was also in contention for this spot with an extremely cheap contract, but Versalles accumulated 2.4 more WAR than Guzman so I thought it was a worthwhile trade-off. Left Field: 1992 Shane Mack - $5.44M translated salary, 6.5 WAR One of the most overlooked Twins of all-time is World Series Champion outfielder Shane Mack. After being the Twins Rule 5 draft pick in 1989, he had a great five-year stretch with the Twins. In those five years, he slashed .309/.375/.479 (.854) while hitting 119 doubles, 67 home runs, and stealing 71 bases. His best year of that stretch was 1992, having a wRC+ of 142, hitting 31 doubles, 16 home runs, and stealing 26 bases. He also led the American League with 15 hit by pitches. In 1992, Mack had a salary of $1.075 million, which translates to $5.44 million in 2021. He posted a WAR of 6.5, so his contract efficiency number was very good at 1.195. Mack is one of the most underrated players in Twins history and was frankly one of the best outfielders in Twins history. Center Field: 1992 Kirby Puckett - $6M translated salary, 7.2 WAR Undoubtedly the most beloved figure in Twins history, Kirby Puckett is also the best outfielder in team history and delivered some unforgettable moments, like his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Kirby joins fellow ‘92 outfielder Shane Mack on the team. One of Kirby’s best seasons was 1992. He hit .329/.374/.490 (.864) while leading MLB in hits (210). He had 110 RBI, a wRC+ of 136, hit 38 doubles, 19 home runs, and had a defensive WAR of 1 while manning center field for the reigning World Champs and being a clubhouse leader. In 1992, Puck had a salary of $2.97 million, which is about $6 million today. He had a 7.1 WAR so his contract efficiency was about 1.184. Puck would be the heart and soul of this team and bring some much needed energy and leadership to the team. Right Field: 1964 Tony Oliva - $2.12M translated salary, 6.8 WAR Recent Hall of Fame inductee Tony Oliva joins the squad with his phenomenal rookie season of 1964. Oliva is one of the greatest hitters in Twins history and a Twins great, hitting .304/.353/.476 (.830) over his 15-year career with the Twins. Oliva was phenomenal in his rookie season, winning rookie of the year and finishing fourth in AL MVP voting. He had a wRC+ of 148, led the AL with a .323 batting average, 109 runs, 43 doubles, and 217 hits while posting a .916 OPS and clubbing 32 home runs. In 1964, Oliva had a salary of $7,500, which translates to $2.12 million in 2021. He accumulated 6.8 WAR, so his contract efficiency was 0.73. Oliva has always been an excellent representative of the Twins organization both on and off the field, so he is a great addition to the team. Designated Hitter: 1963 Bob Allison - $8.75M translated salary, 7.4 WAR The last hitter we have in the lineup is Bob Allison. Allison was ahead of his time. He was more of a three true outcomes hitter than most people in his time. Allison was one of the original Twins, coming from the Washington Senators. He is one of the more underrated players in Twins history and he was one of the leaders on the 1965 World Series team. Allison was a star in 1963, hitting .271/.378/.533 (.911). He led the American League in WAR (7.4), OPS, and wRC+ (150). He hit 35 home runs and was solid defensively, posting a defensive WAR of 1.1 as a right fielder. Somehow, he finished 15th in MVP voting despite leading the league in all of these categories. If they could revote today knowing what actually makes a player valuable, he would most definitely finish in the top 3. In 1963, Allison had a salary of $29,250, translating to a $8.75 million salary today. His contract efficiency was 0.846 so he would be a great bopper in a lineup full of them. Harmon Killebrew was also considered for this position but Allison edged him out in WAR and was slightly cheaper. Summary Overall, the Twins lineup would bolster some heavy hitters and some very high on-base guys, creating a high-powered offense that would wreck the league. These hitters accumulated 65.6 WAR and would be worth $70.6 million translated to 2021 salaries. Part 3 will cover the bullpen and bench, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading, and Go Twins!
  5. Tony Oliva's playing career was over in 1976, and Jim Kaat's career ended in 1983. Neither was able to garner the support needed on the BBWAA's ballots, as both were well short of the 75% required for election. For many players, this signals the end of their chances to get the call from Cooperstown. However, Oliva and Kaat have gotten a second chance through the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Era Committee elections. The Golden Days Era ballot consists of 10 candidates that the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee nominates. A 16-person committee of Hall of Famers, veteran baseball executives, and historians/media members is charged with voting on the candidates. Twelve votes are needed for a player to reach the 75% threshold required for induction. On Sunday, Oliva and Kaat finally received the call. Both were named on 12 of the 16 ballots. Each will be inducted to Cooperstown as part of the induction ceremony on July 24, 2022. Now in both in their 80s, frustration has likely followed each as they dealt with the election process in parts of nearly four decades. Another level of frustration was added back in the summer of 2020 as the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to postpone the Era Committee elections due to the COVID pandemic. Although there is still uncertainty about the pandemic, this winter was acceptable for the committee votes to occur, Oliva's playing career statistics haven't changed since 1976, but he has become so much more than the player he was on the field. His career accolades include AL Rookie of the Year, three batting titles, eight-time All-Star, led the AL in hits five times, and a Gold Glove. Oliva finished runner-up for the AL MVP in two different seasons, and he was in the top-20 in eight other campaigns. He played at a Hall of Fame level for eight years before his right knee slammed into a sprinkler head while diving for a line drive in 1971. Knee injuries plagued Oliva throughout much of his career. When the AL adopted the designated hitter role in 1973, Oliva never played in the field again during a regular-season game. During the 1976 season, he struggled to a .494 OPS in 67 games. His playing career was done, but he joined the team's coaching staff the following year. For 15-years, he spent time as a first base coach, hitting coach, and roving minor-league instructor. Oliva served as the hitting coach when the Twins won the 1987 World Series, and he was the bench coach for the 1991 World Series team. Oliva is the only individual who had an on-field role in all three of the team's World Series appearances. Off the field, Oliva became an ambassador to baseball throughout the upper Midwest. He provides Spanish-language broadcasting for the Twins. Oliva is a staple as part of the team's Twins Caravan, making trips to small towns throughout Twins Territory. He and his wife, Gordette, have lived in Minnesota for over five decades as the Olivas impacted the community. Kaat's resume also puts him among the best all-time. His longevity is something to behold and it was a large part of his Cooperstown case. During a 25-year career, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 1/3 innings. He was an original member of the Twins franchise as he came with the club when they relocated from Washington. His first 15 big-league seasons were spent in the Senator/Twins organization. He was a two-time All-Star with the Twins, and he led the AL in wins, starts, and innings pitched back in 1966. He played with five different organizations by the end of his career and averaged over 180 innings per season. His defensive prowess puts him into rarified air. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, which is tied with Brooks Robinson for second all-time. Only Greg Maddux and his 18 Gold Gloves rank ahead of Kaat on the all-time list. Congratulations to both players and their families. It was a long time coming, but the honor is well deserved. What is your favorite memory of Tony-O or Jim Kaat? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  6. Voting Process Back in the summer of 2020, the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to postpone the Era Committee elections until the winter of 2021. Although there is still uncertainty about the pandemic, these committee votes will take place this winter. Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are two players featured prominently on the Golden Days Era ballot (candidates who played between 1950-1969). The ballot consists of 10 candidates that the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee nominates. A 16-person committee of Hall of Famers, veteran baseball executives, and historians/media members is charged with voting on the candidates. Twelve votes are needed for a player to reach the 75% threshold required for induction. Back in 2014, Oliva and Kaat fell just short of election. Oliva and Dick Allen received 11 votes to fall one vote shy of induction, while Kaat ended with ten votes. The Golden Days Committee will meet on December 5, 2021, with the results being announced that night on MLB Network. The ballot includes Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minnie Miñoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, and Maury Wills. Along with Wills, Kaat and Oliva are the only other living members on this ballot. Oliva's Hall of Fame Case Since 1900, only two hitters have won a batting title in their rookie season, Tony Oliva and Ichiro Suzuki. He was able to lead the league in runs, hits, doubles, and average on the way to winning the AL Rookie of the Year. He'd go on to win the batting title again in his second season as he was in the midst of eight straight All-Star seasons. Overall, he won three batting titles, led the AL in hits five times, and took home a Gold Glove. Oliva finished runner-up for the AL MVP in two different seasons, and he was in the top-20 in eight other campaigns. In 1965, he finished behind teammate Zoilo Versalles even though Oliva's OPS was 89 points higher. Oliva had quite possibly his best professional season five years later, but he finished behind Baltimore's Boog Powell. According to Baseball-Reference, Oliva's WAR that season was nearly two points higher than Powell's. Kaat's Hall of Fame Case Kaat's longevity is something to behold as part of his Cooperstown case. During a 25-year career, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 1/3 innings. He was an original member of the Twins franchise as he came with the club when they relocated from Washington. His first 15 big-league seasons were spent in the Senator/Twins organization. He was a two-time All-Star with the Twins, and he led the AL in wins, starts, and innings pitched back in 1966. He played with five different organizations by the end of his career and averaged over 180 innings per season. His defensive prowess puts him into rarified air. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, which is tied with Brooks Robinson for second all-time. Only Greg Maddux and his 18 Gold Gloves rank ahead of Kaat on the all-time list. Do you think Kaat or Oliva finally get the Cooperstown call? 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
  7. Author Thom Henninger, editor of Baseball Digest magazine, has penned previous books about the Twins in this era. Back in 2015, he wrote the book Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend. Now, Henninger has gone back to the 1960s to look even closer at those turbulent times and Minnesota’s first truly great baseball seasons in The Pride of Minnesota: The Twins in the Turbulent 1960’s. Many current fans will recognize a familiar theme facing the Twins in the mid-1960s, “How do you dethrone the mighty Yankees?” New York was the dominant team of the era with names like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. In fact, the Yankees had won the American League 18 times in the 24 seasons from 1941-1964. However, change was in the air as age started impact New York and Minnesota was ready to pounce. Minnesota already had a strong core of players, but many players were able to have career years as the Twins fought their way to the 1965 World Series. Mudcat Grant became the first African American pitcher to win at least twenty games in the American League. Tony Oliva built off his tremendous rookie season and won his second straight AL batting title, even though it looked like a long shot. Those weren’t the only key figures during this era. Entering the 1965 season, Billy Martin was hired as third base coach, and this turned out to be a move that would impact the team for the rest of the decade. Zoilo Versalles won MVP in 1965 and Martin’s aggressive baserunning mentality helped Versalles to lead the AL in runs scored and total bases. Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers took the Series in seven games, but the Twins weren’t done making noise in the AL. Rod Carew joined the team in 1967 and lit the American League on fire. He’d win the AL Rookie of the Year award and he helped the Twins fight the Red Sox for the pennant, but Minnesota ultimately fell short. Minnesota was back in 1969 and 1970 as the club won back-to-back division titles before being eliminated both years by the powerful Baltimore Orioles. As the decade came to a close, the Twins had put themselves on the map as a powerhouse team in the American League. Henninger takes fans through all the ups and downs from each of these dramatic pennant races while also chronicling state and world events. In The Pride of Minnesota, Thom Henninger brings fans back to a by-gone era that has many connections to present day. For fans, like me, that are too young to remember, this book paints a picture of what this important era meant to the Twins and to the country as a whole. Others who lived through the era will enjoy reminiscing about the pennant races and players that helped them to fall in love with baseball. Minnesota only won one pennant during this stretch, but these memorable seasons are etched into team lore. What are your memories of the Twins from that era? 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
  8. Case for Induction Since 1900, only two hitters have won a batting title in their rookie season, Tony Oliva and Ichiro Suzuki. He was able to lead the league in runs, hits, doubles, and average on the way to winning the AL Rookie of the Year. He’d go on to win the batting title again in his second season as he was in the midst of eight straight All-Star seasons. Overall, he won three batting titles, led the AL in hits five times, and took home a Gold Glove. Oliva finished runner up for the AL MVP in two different seasons and he was in the top-20 in eight different campaigns. In 1965, he finished behind teammate Zoilo Versalles even though Oliva’s OPS was 89 points higher. Five years later, Oliva had quite possibly his best professional season, but he finished behind Baltimore’s Boog Powell. According to Baseball Reference, Oliva’s WAR that season was nearly two points higher than Powell. Case Against Induction Multiple knee injuries kept Oliva from achieving more in his career. He was forced to move designated hitter after the position was created and his injuries eventually meant he had to retire after only 15 seasons. He finished as a .304/.353/.476 hitter but fell short of some of the important cumulative stat totals as he was limited to less than 2,000 hits. JAWS, a scoring system used as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness, also doesn’t help Oliva’s campaign. Among right fielders, he ranks 34th overall, which puts him right ahead of players like Rocky Colavito and Rusty Staub. The three players directly ahead of him (Sam Rice, Harry Hooper, and Kiki Cuyler) have all been elected. There are also multiple players behind him on the list including the recently elected Harold Baines. Prediction Oliva was so close back in 2014 that it seems like he should have a very good chance to finally get the honor in 2021. Some fans started the group Vote Tony O back in 2011 to help his campaign which includes a website and social media accounts dedicated to helping Oliva’s candidacy. He might need one more big push over the next calendar year so he can be the next Twins player on the Cooperstown stage. Do you think Oliva will finally be elected in 2021? 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
  9. How would you rank… these four Twins players? (1.) Dean Chance, 2.) Nelson Cruz, 3.) Greg Gagne, 4.) Eddie Guardado) We all like lists and rankings, right? On this site, our prospect rankings often are the most heavily-discussed articles that we put together. Everyone can have their varying opinions and none are completely wrong, well, some are just more debatable. But this new e-book, The Top 60 Twins in 60 Seasons in Minnesota, should hopefully create a lot of discussion for our readers, but also for fathers and sons, husbands and wives, grandparents and grandkids. And for just $7.99. Before last month, I had never talked to “Nate Tubbs Rules.” However, for the past decade, I have eagerly awaited his updated Top 300 Twins Player rankings. Shortly after each season, it was fun to see which current players jumped furthest up the rankings. Which players fell out of the Top 300. For his rankings, “NTR” considers several factors, and they are things that we all think about probably as we think about how we might rank the players. (No, most of us wouldn’t think to actually rank them to 60, much less 300!) As he explains, these are some of the factors that go into these rankings (and by the way, you should see all the Excel spreadsheets that go into this!). “Longevity” includes how many years the player was with the Twins as well as how many plate appearances or innings pitched that player had during those years. For “Peak Value”, I looked at their stats, honors, and awards in their best seasons, as well as how they compared to their teammates. Did they lead their team in OPS or home runs or ERA for starters or WPA? If so, that got some bonus points. Postseason Heroics, Awards (Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, MVPs, Cy Youngs), Statistical achievements (batting titles, home run leaders, ERA champs, etc), Honors (All Star appearances), and Team Success. If you were the #1 starter on a division-winning champ, that gave you more “points” than the #1 starter on a cellar dweller. For each of us, we probably weigh each of those factors a little bit differently. In the handbook, you will find profiles for each of the Top 60 on his list, but you will also find the Top 300 rankings. At the very back of the book, I tried it myself. You can find my Top 60 Twins rankings there. So, let’s go back to that original question: How would you rank… these four Twins players? (1.) Dean Chance, 2.) Nelson Cruz, 3.) Greg Gagne, 4.) Eddie Guardado) Dean Chance was really good for about three seasons as a starter for the Twins. He was an All Star, threw a no-hitter, posted a 2.67 ERA over three years. Nelson Cruz has two Silver Sluggers at DH for the Twins in his two seasons, and the team won the division both years. Greg Gagne is a Twins Hall of Famer with two World Series rings. His offense wasn’t great, though most shortstops not named Ripken or Trammell did, but he was great defensively. And, he hit for some power at times. Eddie Guardado struggled as a starter and then became a solid, and frequently-used reliever before becoming an All Star closer. Leave your comments below for how you might rank those players, but as you can see, this is a fun exercise for Twins fans. And, it brings in all of the factors. Varying longevity in a Twins uniform. Varying levels of team success. Some won awards or were All Stars. Others were just really solid for several years. How do you compare starting pitchers to relievers, to power hitters and defensively-strong players? Those are the types of questions you will find yourself asking yourself and your friends over and over while reading through this book. For each of the Top 60, you will find a profile. I wrote the profiles, but “Nate Tubbs Rules” added his comments on why he ranked each player where he did. There are lists. There are rankings. And it’s just a lot of fun. We think that if you are a passionate Twins fan, you will really enjoy this book. We made it and it is only available as an e-book. We are asking for $7.99 per book. We were told we could charge more, and if you want to give more, you can, but we just want it to get in the hands of as many Twins fans as possible. The history of the organization is a lot of fun to read about and discuss. Oh, and then you can discuss who you would rank higher… Mudcat Grant or Jack Morris? Or which DH would you rank highest? Randy Bush, Nelson Cruz, Chili Davis, Jason Kubel or Paul Molitor? And why… We certainly hope that you will enjoy the book as much as Nate Tubbs Rules and I enjoyed researching and writing it! Tuesday night at 7 pm, "Nate Tubbs Rules" and I will be discussing the book and talking about the controversial rankings and answering any questions you would like to ask.
  10. A: Bob Allison (211 Home Runs) Allison is possibly one of the most underappreciated sluggers in Twins history. His first All-Star appearance and his first 30-home run campaign came in a Senators’ uniform. Even with his season’s in Washington, he ranks sixth all-time in home runs in a Twins uniform. B: Tom Brunansky (163 Home Runs) Brunansky hit 20 or more home runs for eight straight seasons from 1982-1989. He also became the Twins first Home Run Derby participant when the Twins hosted the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. In that contest, he finished two home runs behind Dave Parker and tied with some all-time greats like Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, and Jim Rice. C: Michael Cuddyer (141 Home Runs) Cuddyer will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and his home run total puts him in the top-12 in Twins history. He’d make his first All-Star appearance as a 32-year old in his final season with the Twins and he went on to win the NL batting title in 2013 with the Rockies. D: Brian Dozier (167 Home Runs) Dozier was a late bloomer when it came to Twins prospect as he wouldn’t make his big-league debut until he was 25. His first season with 30 or more home runs was 2016 when he was already 29-years old. His 42 home runs in 2016 are the most all-time in Twins history by a player not named Harmon Killebrew. E: Eduardo Escobar (63 Home Runs) Escobar is the gift that keeps on giving as the Twins seem to still be benefiting from his trade to the Diamondbacks. His best home run season came in Arizona, but he hit 21 home runs for the Twins in 2017 and he probably would have crossed that mark again in 2018 if he weren’t traded at the deadline. F: Dan Ford (57 Home Runs) This would be a lot of fun if Lew Ford ended up with the top spot, but he only hit 32 home runs as a Twin. Dan Ford played 11 seasons as a big-leaguer and broke into the AL as a 23-year old in 1975. He hit double-digit home runs in all four seasons with Minnesota. G: Gary Gaetti (201 Home Runs) A long-time fan favorite, Gaetti is one of only eight players to clock over 200 home runs with the Twins. He’d play at the big-league level until he was 41-years old in a career that spanned 20 seasons. He’d end his career with 360 long balls which is no small feat for a player that was also a strong defensive presence. H: Kent Hrbek (293 Home Runs) Bloomington’s own has his number retired by his hometown team and only one player in team history has hit more home runs. He retired at age-34, so it’s interesting to think about how many home runs he could have ended up with if he had played well into his 30s. I: None No Twins player has ever hit a home run with the last name starting with I. J: Jacque Jones (132 Home Runs) Jones ranks 13th on the Twins all-time home run list, but he is only one home run ahead of Miguel Sano. He played seven seasons in a Twins uniform and he would only accumulate 33 home runs outside of Minnesota. In 2002, he finished eight among position players in WAR when hie hit 27 home runs. K: Harmon Killebrew (475 Home Runs) The best home run hitter in Twins history and it’s not even close. No other player hit over 300 home runs for the Twins. He led the American League in home runs six different seasons, and he is one of two Twins players to hit more than 40 home runs in one season. Oh yeah, he did that seven different times. L: Tim Laudner (77 Home Runs) Laudner played all nine of his big-league seasons in Minnesota and hit double digit home runs in four different campaigns. His lone All-Star appearance came as a 30-year old when he hit .251/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 18 doubles. M: Justin Morneau (221 Home Runs) The more powerful half of the M&M duo, Morneau hit 18 or more home runs in seven consecutive seasons. Only a handful of Twins players have hit more than 30 home runs in a season which Morneau did three different times. He has the third most home runs in team history. N: Eduardo Nunez (20 Home Runs) He helped the Red Sox win the World Series, but his lone All-Star appearance cam with the 2016 Minnesota Twins. He’s never hit more than 16 home runs in one season, but his defensive versatility allowed him to play parts of 10 different seasons at the big leagues. O: Tony Oliva (220 Home Runs) Outside of Joe Mauer, Oliva might be the greatest Twins player that hasn’t been elected to the Hall of Fame. He became the first designated hitter to hit a home run while hitting 13 or more home runs in 11 different seasons. Only three players have hit more home runs for the Twins. P: Kirby Puckett (207 Home Runs) Puckett’s most famous homer came in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, but he hit plenty of other home runs in a Twins uniform. He hit double digit home runs in nine different seasons, and he hit 20 or more home runs in six different years. He ranks seventh in club history. Q: Frank Quilici (5 Home Runs) Surprisingly, his five home runs aren’t the lowest total on this list. He played parts of five different seasons with the Twins and ended his career as a .214/.281/.287 hitter. He was part of Minnesota’s first World Series team in 1965 and he played on the 1970 team that lost to Baltimore in the ALCS. R: Eddie Rosario (119 Home Runs) Rosario’s time in Minnesota might be done and if it is, he will finish his Twins tenure with the 15th most home runs in club history. As part of the 2019 Bomba Squad, he hit a career high 32 home runs. He has hit 10 or more home runs in every big-league season. S: Miguel Sano (131 Home Runs) After six seasons, Sano already ranks 14th in team history when it comes to home runs. If he hits 13 or more home runs next season, he will pass Joe Mauer and move into 11th on the Twins all-time list and he’s 22 home runs away from breaking into the top-10. T: Cesar Tovar (38 Home Runs) Tovar hit double-digit home runs in two seasons, but he was more known as a doubles hitter. He led the American League in doubles and triples back in 1970 and he had the most hits in the league during the 1970 campaign. U: Ted Uhlaender (23 Home Runs) His lone double-digit home run season came after he left the Twins organization. As a center fielder, he wasn’t known for his power, but he got on base over 30% of the time. V: Zoilo Versalles (86 Home Runs) The 1965 AL MVP led the league in runs, doubles, and triples that season. Versalles is one of three Cuban born players to take home MVP honors including Jose Abreu in 2020. He only hit double-digits in home runs in four seasons, but all those seasons were with the Twins. W: Josh Willingham (61 Home Runs) Willingham only played parts of three season with the Twins but only four Twins players have hit more than his 35 home runs in 2012. His career took a steep downturn from there as he never hit more than 14 home runs in another season. X: None No Twins player has ever hit a home run with the last name starting with X. Y: Delmon Young (47 Home Runs) Young was acquired to be the powerful right-handed bat to break-up Minnesota’s lefties (Mauer and Morneau). He hit a career high 21 home runs in 2010 before going on to have some postseason success with the Detroit Tigers when he won the 2012 ALCS MVP. Z: Jerry Zimmerman (3 Home Runs) Zimmerman play parts of seven seasons with the Twins, but he only played more than 85 games in one season. He hit one home run in each season from 1965-1967 to end up with the most home runs for the letter Z. What names stand out to you on this list? What home run from these players do you remember the most? 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
  11. Twins fans fans may have been spoiled by the team in their first decade. The second decade started out strong with 98 wins and a playoff berth in 1970. That was their lone playoff appearance of the decade. In 1971, they finished in fifth place in the division. Each other season, they finished either third or fourth in the AL West. Some of the Twins stars of the 1960s were still around and contributing early in the 1970s, though generally just a shell of themselves after 1971. Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven certainly led the way during the decade, but there were other really solid players throughout the decade. The 1976 and 1977 Twins won 85 and 84 games. The 1977 team scored 867 runs, but the pitching was not real strong. Bill Rigney began the decade as the team's manager. He was replaced by Frank Quilici midway through the 1972 season. Gene Mach took over in 1976 and remained through the decade. He managed his nephew, Roy Smalley who was voted the starting shortstop for the American League in the 1979 All-Star Game. Let's get to the lineup... and be sure to leave your thoughts on this roster, or who I missed. http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep16_Patrick_Reusse.mp3 C - Butch Wynegar (1976-1979) 577 games, .256/.344/.350 (.694) with 85 doubles, 31 homers, 250 RBI. Wynegar was the Twins second-round pick out of high school in 1974 and debuted just after he turned 20 in April of 1976. He finished second to Mark Fydrich in 1976 Rookie of the Year voting, and he was an All-Star his first two seasons. He caught between 131 and 146 games in each of his first five seasons. 1B - Harmon Killebrew (1970-1974) 634 games, .247/.373/.451 (.824) with 68 doubles, 113 homers, 391 RBI. After winning the AL MVP in 1969, Killebrew hit 41 homers and finished third in the voting in 1970. He was an All-Star in 1970 and 1971, his 10th and 11th of the year. While things went downward from there, the Twins great and future Hall of Famer was still the easy choice for this position. His 113 homers from over these five years still led the organization by 25. 2B - Rod Carew (1970-1978) 1,248 games, .345/.407/.460 (.867) with 226 doubles, 57 homers, 584 RBI. Carew was the choice in the 1960s for second base as well, but he was just getting started. Look at that, a .345 average over NINE seasons. He didn’t hit under .307 in any season, and he led the league in batting average six of those nine years. He was the AL MVP in 1977 when he hit .388/.449/.570 (1.019) with 38 doubles, 16 triples, 14 home runs and 100 RBI. He had four other Top 5 MVP seasons as well. He was an All-Star each of the 12 seasons he played with the Twins. If you’re into bWAR, his 53.7 mark is 36.5 more than anyone else in the organization during the decade. 3B - Steve Braun (1971-1976) 751 games, .284/.376/.381 (.757) with 103 doubles, 35 homers, 273 RBI. Braun was the team’s 10th-round pick in 1966 out of high school. He debuted with 128 games in 1971. He spent six seasons with the Twins. He played around the diamond, but mostly at third base the first three seasons and then in left field the next three years. He had a good, patient approach at the plate. In 1973, he hit .283 but also had a .408 on-base percentage. SS - Roy Smalley (1976-1979) 573 games, .261/.346/.388 (.734) with 96 doubles, 51 homers, 264 RBI. Smalley was the Rangers' first-round pick in 1974 from USC and debuted in 1975. On June 1, 1976, he came to the Twins as part of a package for Bert Blyleven. His best season was in 1979. He was an All-Star and received MVP votes. He led the league in games played and plate appearances. He hit 28 doubles and a career-high 24 homers. Side note - It’s inexplicable to me why Roy Smalley is not in the Twins Hall of Fame. LF - Larry Hisle (1973-1977) 662 games, .286/.354/.457 (.811) with 109 doubles, 87 homers, 409 RBI. Hisle was traded to the Twins from the Cardinals after the 1972 season and spent the next five seasons in a Twins uniform. He immediately became an impact player, hitting for average, getting on base and showing some power. He was good the first four years, but in 1977, he hit .302 with 36 doubles, 28 homer and a league-leading 119 RBI. He was an All-Star and earned MVP votes. That offseason, he left via free agency and signed with Milwaukee where he had one more really strong season. CF - Lyman Bostock (1975-1977) 379 games, .318/.366/.416 (.812) with 78 doubles, 18 homers, 179 RBI. Bostock was the Twins 26th-round pick in 1972 out of Cal State, Northridge. He debuted at the start of the 1975 season. He hit .282 in 98 games as a rookie. Then he hit .323 in 1976. In 1977, he hit .336/.389/.508 (.897) with 36 doubles, 12 triples and 14 home runs. He became a free agent and signed with the Angels. He was tragically killed in September of 1978. RF - Cesar Tovar (1970-1972) 459 games, .293/.348/.384 (.732) with 85 doubles, 13 homers, 130 RBI. Tovar continued to play all over the diamond in the early 1970s. In 1970, he led the league with 36 doubles and 13 triples. In 1971, he led the league with 204 base hits. He batted .300 in 1970 and 1971 and received MVP votes. He was traded to the Phillies after the 1972 season and played through the 1976 season. DH - Tony Oliva (1970-1976) 764 games, .299/.345/.446 (.791) with 116 doubles, 88 homers, 412 RBI. Oliva was a star for the Twins in the 1960s, and he entered the 1970s as one of the best players in the league. In 1970, he hit .325, finished second in MVP voting and led the league with 204 hits and 36 doubles. In 1971, he won his third career batting title by hitting .337. He also led the league with a .546 slugging percentage. Knee injuries cost him most of the 1972 season and lowered the trajectory of his career. He kept playing through the 1976 season. Your turn. Who would make your Twins 1970s All-Decade team? And what might that lineup look like?
  12. The Twins came to Minnesota before the 1961 season and had a really good first decade. The team won 89 or more games in six of the nine seasons. They took the Dodgers to Game 7 of the 1965 World Series. They had some batting championship, Pitchers of the Year, lots of home runs and gave Twins baseball fans some great excitement. http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep15_Dave_Mona.mp3 You may know Dave Mona from his great work at WCCO, hosting The Sports Huddle with Sid and Dave. But as you'll hear in this episode, he remains busy, working throughout the community. He has long been a huge supporter of all Minnesota sports. He worked at Met Stadium in the 1950s, when the Minneapolis Millers played there. He ended up at the Minneapolis Tribune and he was the Twins beat writer during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. In this episode, we discussed the top Twins hitters and pitchers of the 1960s. Mr. Mona has so many great stories from covering the team and from remaining in the sports media since then. He's got great stories of Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Ron Perranoski and most of the All-Decade team. And there are great stories regarding Billy Martin, and Reggie Jackson, and others. This was one of the most enjoyable conversations I have had,and I really believe you will enjoy the conversation. There were so many great Twins players in the 1960s, and Dave Mona tells some great stories! Please listen and discuss and comment below. http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep15_Dave_Mona.mp3 You can subscribe to the Get to Know 'Em podcast on iTunes. or follow Libsyn for new episodes here as well. Please leave ratings or feedback. And did you know that you can listen to the Get To Know 'Em podcast by asking Alexa to "Listen to the Get To Know 'Em Podcast." PAST EPISODES Episode 1: Get to know Niko Guardado (Actor and son of Eddie Guardado) Episode 2: Get to know Pat Dean, Brent Rooker Episode 3: Get to know Royce Lewis, AJ Achter Episode 4: Get to know Devin Smeltzer Episode 5: Get to know Jaylin Davis, Tyler Wells Episode 6: Get to know: Travis Blankenhorn, LaMonte Wade Episode 7: Get to know: Matt Wallner (and Ten Minutes with Tyler Wells) Episode 8: Get to know: Caleb Hamilton, Austin Schulfer, Nick Anderson Episode 9: Get to know: Andy Young, Billy Boyer (and Ten Minutes with Tyler) Episode 10: Get to know: Wesley Wright (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 11: Get to know: John Manuel (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 12: Get to know: Marshall Kelner (Mighty Mussels broadcaster) Episode 13: Get to know: Dick Bremer (Twins broadcaster, author) Episode 14: Get to know: Anthony Slama (former Twins pitcher, entrepreneur) Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.
  13. As you know, the Twins came to Minnesota from Washington DC where they were known as the Senators. In 1961, they won just 70 games. Then they won 91 games each of the next two seasons. 1964 was disappointing as the team finished just below .500. In 1965, the Twins made it all the way to the World Series where they lost in seven games to the Dodgers. They won at least 89 games the next two seasons but then fell below .500 again in 1968. In 1969, under Billy Martin, they won 97 games. The 1960s was the Twins first decade in Minnesota. As you look through the top hitters below, you might want to ask yourself if the 1960s Twins All-Decade team might just be the best of the six decades. Share your thoughts. Who did I miss? Who would you name the player of the decade? THE HITTERS C - Earl Battey (1961-1967) 853 games, .278/.356/.409 (.765) with 115 doubles, 76 homers, 350 RBI. Battey spent parts of five seasons with the White Sox but came to the Senators in 1960. That season, he won his first Gold Glove Award. In his seven seasons in a Twins uniform, he was an All-Star in four seasons. He won two more Gold Gloves. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting twice. 1B - Harmon Killebrew - 1961-1969 1,305 games, .266/.388/.547 (.935) with 164 doubles, 362 homers, 933 RBI. When the Twins came to Minnesota, he had already spent parts of seven seasons with the Senators.In the ‘60s, he was an All-Star all but one year. His 362 homers were best in the organization by over 150 homers. He hit 39 or more homers in seven of the seasons and led the American League five times. He won the 1969 MVP award and finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting five times. 2B - Rod Carew - 1967-1969 387 games, .299/.346/.408 (.754) with 79 doubles, 17 homers, 149 RBI. Carew didn’t debut until 1967, but he made an immediate impact. He played in all three All-Star games. He was the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year. He led the league with a .332 batting average in 1969. It was just the beginning for the future Hall of Famer whom the American League batting championship is now named after. 3B - Rich Rollins - 1961-1968 888 games, .272/.333/.398 (.727) with 117 doubles, 71 homers, 369 RBI. Rollins was an All-Star (twice). He finished eighth in MVP voting. He had at least 40 extra-base hits each year from 1962 through 1964. As the decade advanced, he became more of a part-time, platoon player. SS - Zoilo Versalles - 1961-1967 1,065 games, .252/.299/.387 (.686) with 188 doubles, 86 homers, 401 RBI. Versalles had played parts of two seasons with the Senators. He became a regular in 1961. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 1963. In 1965, he was an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, and the American League MVP. That season, he led the league in doubles (45) and triples (12). It was the third straight year he led the league in triples. LF - Bob Allison - 1961-1969 1,189 games, .255/.361/.482 (.843) with 162 doubles, 210 homers, 635 RBI. Allison debuted with the Senators in 1958 and was an All-Star and the AL Rookie of the Year in 1959. He was a starter throughout the 1960s. He was an All-Star in 1963 and 1964, his two best seasons. He hit over 30 homers twice and over 20 homers seven seasons in the decade. His .911 OPS led the American League. He was a leader of the 1965 World Series team and his catch is still one of the great highlights in World Series history. CF - Jimmie Hall - 1963-1966 573 games, .269/.334/.481 (.815) with 73 doubles, 98 homers, 288 RBI. Hall debuted as a 25 year old in 1963 and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He hit .260 with a career-high 33 homers. He was an All-Star in 1964 and 1965. A left-handed hitter, he started just two of the seven World Series games in 1965 because he didn’t play in the games started by Sandy Koufax or Claude Osteen. He hit 20 or more homers in all four of his Twins seasons before he was traded to California after the 1966 season. RF - Tony Oliva - 1962-1969 912 games, .308/.359/.500 (.859) with 213 doubles, 132 homers, 535 RBI. Oliva played in 16 games between 1962 and 1963. In 1964, he hit .323 and was the AL Rookie of the Year. He won batting titles his first two seasons. He was an All-Star in 1964 and for each season through the rest of the decade. He twice finished runner up in AL MVP voting, including to Versalles in 1965. He led the league in Hits four times during the decade and in Doubles four times. His 213 doubles was tops in the organization. DH - Cesar Tovar - 1965-1969 631 games, .271/.329/.371 (.700) with 108 doubles, 25 homers, 189 RBI. Obviously there wasn’t a designated hitter in the 1960s, but we are going to have one… because, well, why not? With the hitters in this lineup, Tovar likely wouldn’t be the regular DH in actual games. He would play all over the diamond with different guys DHing each game. Tovar debuted in 1965. In 1966, he became a regular. In 1967, he led the league with 164 games played (and plate appearances and at-bats). He received MVP votes each season from 1967 through 1971. What an impressive group of players, led by several Hall of Famers, Twins Hall of Famers and Baseball Hall of Famers. Check back tomorrow for the Twins Pitchers of the Decade of the 1960s.
  14. First World Series Run Since the club moved to Minnesota, the 1965 squad was the lone team to win over 100 games. With a 102-60 record (.630 W-L%), the team also has the highest winning percentage of any Twins team. During the 2019 campaign, the Twins have a .692 W-L%. It seems unlikely for the club to continue on that pace but it seems like they could get to 103 wins. Minnesota’s line-up that season featured greats like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Olivia, Bob Allison, and Earl Battey. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles would be named the AL MVP. The rotation consisted of some strong arms as well. Mudcast Grant, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry all had sub-3.30 ERAs, while Kaat and Grant combined to pitch over 534 innings. The Twins ran into the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax in the World Series, which stopped the club from being a champion. Still the 1965 team, might be one of the best teams from top to bottom. Baltimore Blues Teams Two of Minnesota’s best team contenders also fell short of their World Series goal. Both the 1969 and 1970 squads were able to qualify for the ALCS. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles made quick work of the Twins in both years. Jim Perry was in quite the two-year stretch for being in his age-33 and age-34 seasons. He led the team in WAR in 1969 but he was actually awarded the AL Cy Young in 1970. In these two seasons, he combined to have a 44-18 record with a 2.93 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He averaged 270 innings pitched and along with 160 strikeouts per season. Tony Oliva’s best professional season was in 1970. He 7.0 WAR led the team. He also led the American League in hits and doubles. Killebrew was also in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. Between the two seasons, he hit 90 home runs. Killebrew would take home the 1969 MVP. Oliva would finish second in the MVP voting one year later. World Series Wins Minnesota’s first World Series winning club didn’t exactly have a stellar regular season. The 1987 Twins finished the regular season at 85-77, which was two games better than the Royals. If the Twins were in the AL East that year, their record would have placed them fifth. The Tigers had trounced through the AL East that year with a 98-64 record, but the Twins were able to dispose of them in five games. Minnesota had to go to seven games against the Cardinals, but they won every game in the Metrodome to clinch the title. Frank Viola was the MVP and a poor regular season record was long forgotten. Minnesota’s second World Series winning club managed a better regular season than the first. They finished the year at 95-67, which was the best record in the American League. Do you know who lead the team in WAR that year? According to Baseball Reference, Kevin Tapani, Shane Mack, and Scott Erickson were the team’s top three players. For many, the 1991 World Series is considered the best Fall Classic of all-time. There were three extra-inning games including both games six and seven. Five of the seven games were decided by one run or less. All Twins fans know how this one ended. Puckett ended Game 6 and Morris dominated in Game 7. Metrodome Era Minnesota won the division five times from 2002-2009 with Ron Gardenhire at the helm. The 2002 club was deemed “The Team that Saved Baseball.” While that club shocked many by making the ALCS, the 2006 club might have been the best club in the Metrodome era. On the mound, Minnesota had the best one-two punch in the game. Johan Santana was in a stretch of being the best pitcher in the game. To join him, a young Francisco Liriano was showing he had the stuff to be among the league’s best. Liriano tried to pitch through pain in August but by November he was scheduled for Tommy John surgery. It’s hard to imagine any team that would have been able to beat Santana and Liriano multiple times in a seven-game series. Not to mention, Joe Nathan was anchoring the backend of a solid bullpen. At the plate, Joe Mauer was putting it all together at the big-league level. He won his first batting title, his first Silver Slugger, and he was an All-Star for the first time. Justin Morneau would be named the American League MVP as he beat out the likes of Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Frank Thomas. For many, Liriano’s injury cost the Twins a shot at World Series title. How good is the current team? Is it better than the 2006 squad? Is it better than the World Series clubs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  15. April 15, 1947 Robinson Breaks Color Barrier Jackie Robinson breaks major league baseball's longstanding color barrier, starting at first base and batting second for the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. St. Paul Central and Hamline alumnus Howie Schultz replaced Robinson at first in the top of the ninth. Schultz had played for the Dodgers since 1943. After it became abundantly clear that Robinson had first base under control, the Dodgers sold Schultz's contract to the Phillies on May 10. Schultz played in the major until 1948. Later, he was a member of the 1951–'52 NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers. Vikings legend Bud Grant had played off the bench for the Lakers the previous two seasons, winning a championship in 1949–'50. Grant was a heckuva baseball player, too. April 15, 1979 Twelve Twins Get Hits Twelve different Twins get a hit (20 total), 11 score a run, and 10 collect an RBI in a 18-6 win in Seattle. Minnesota native Jerry Koosman enjoyed the run support, as he himself gave up six runs on 12 hits and a walk, earning a complete-game victory, improving to 2-0 on the season. April 15, 1998 Eisenreich’s Last Home Run Playing for the Florida Marlins, 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate and St. Cloud State Hall of Famer Jim Eisenreich hits his final major league home run, a two-run game-winner off Curt Schilling, driving in current Brewers manager Craig Counsell. April 15, 2000 Ripken Gets 3,000th Cal Ripken Jr. becomes 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 one hit the night before in a wild 10-9 Twins win. Trailing 4-9, the Twins had scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Eddie Guardado secured the save, retiring Ripken for the final out of the game. On this night, Ripken had already gone 2-for-3 when he came up in the seventh with the game tied, two out, and Albert Belle on third. The Twins brought in Hector Carrasco 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. Ripken stroked Carrasco's second pitch for a line-drive single to center, becoming just the seventh player in major league history to collect both 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Former Twin Mike Trombley earned the save for Baltimore. Noteworthy in retrospect is the fact that Midre Cummings pinch-hit for the number nine batter Torii Hunter. After his milestone hit, Ripken was greeted by base coach Eddie Murray, who had himself collected his 3,000th hit off Mike Trombley at the Metrodome in 1995. The following season, 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. 1969 St. Paul Central graduate and Golden Gophers all-time great Dave Winfield collected his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome in 1993. Twenty-nine 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 Milton Ks Eight of First 10 Hosting the White Sox, Eric Milton gets off to a hot start, striking out the side including Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Milton goes on to strike out eight of the first 10 batters he faces. Milton completed seven innings, holding the White Sox to just two runs on a Thomas homer in the sixth, 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 sixth straight, improving to 9-2 on the season. April 15, 2017 Santana Pitches One-Hit Shutout Ervin Santana one-hits the White Sox on a Saturday afternoon at Target Field, improving to 3-0 on the season. Chicago's only hit was a third-inning single by catcher Omar Narváez. Santana pitched with a comfortable lead all afternoon, as the Twins scored five in the bottom of the first. Robbie Grossman added a RBI single in the eighth for a 6-0 Twins win. Santana made his second All-Star team in 2017, and finished the season 16-8, tied with Cleveland's Corey Kluber for the major league lead with five complete games and three shutouts. Here is a list of all the one-hitters in Twins history on Baseball Reference, courtesy of TwinsTrivia.com's John Swol. April 16, 1961 First Grand Slam in Twins History Bob Allison hits the first grand slam in Twins history in the top of the first in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader in Baltimore. The Orioles’ Chuck Estrada, who had tied for the league lead with 18 wins the previous season and would win 15 in 1961, walked three straight to start the game, filling the bases for the cleanup hitter Allison. After giving up a double to Jim Lemon, Estrada was pulled, ultimately being responsible for five runs. Relief pitcher John Papa didn’t fare much better, issuing consecutive two-out bases-loaded walks before Dick Hall, the third pitcher used by Baltimore in the six-run first, got the final out. Allison added a three-run homer in the sixth, establishing a Twins single-game record with seven RBI in the 10-5 win. That record was matched four times before being broken by Glenn Adams with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Randy Bush also had eight RBI on May 20, 1989. Read more about 7+ RBI games in Twins history. In addition to being the first in Twins history, Allison's grand slam was significant in two more ways. It was the first of three he hit in 1961, still tied for the team single-season record with Rod Carew (1976), Kent Hrbek (1985), Kirby Puckett (1992), and Torii Hunter (2007). Additionally, it was the first of eight grand slams the Twins hit during their inaugural 1961 season. That is still the team record. The other Twins to hit grand slams in 1961 were Dan Dobbek, Harmon Killebrew, Julio Becquer (a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam on the fourth of July), Ted Lepcio, and Bill Tuttle. April 16, 2016 ByungHo Park hits a prodigious 462-foot blast over the batter's eye at Target Field. April 17, 1968 Harmon Killebrew homers and doubles in a 13-1 Twins win over Washington, improving to 6-0, the best start in team history. April 17, 1970 Playing for the Oakland A's, 1954 Edina-Morningside grad Bob "Rocky" Johnson hits his 44th and final major league home run off the Twins' Jim Kaat. April 17, 1977 Twins First baseman Rod Carew caps off a seven-run second-inning rally with a two-out, four-RBI triple. Carew scored on an error when the pitcher missed the cutoff. April 17, 1979 Angels ace Nolan Ryan pitches a four-hit shutout as the Twins lose their home opener 6-0. April 17, 2009 Kubel Completes Cycle with Grand Slam Down 9-4 to the Angels in the bottom of the eighth, the Twins score three on Mike Redmond and Denard Span hits. After Brendan Harris (who homered earlier in the game) strikes out for the second out of the inning, the Angels, still clinging to a two-run lead, intentionally walk Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who is a home run shy of the cycle. Kubel hits the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins' seven-run eighth inning rally. Joe Nathan retires the Angels in order in the ninth to save the 11-9 Twins win. It was the ninth of ten cycles in Twins history. The previous eight were Rod Carew (5/20/70), César Tovar (9/19/72), Larry Hisle (7/4/76), Lyman Bostock (7/24/76), Mike Cubbage (7/27/78), Gary Ward (9/18/80), Kirby Puckett (8/1/86), and Carlos Gómez (5/7/08). Michael Cuddyer hit for the tenth and most recent cycle in Twins history just over a month later on May 22. Two players had previously completed the cycle with a grand slams. Interestingly, they were both shortstops: Tony Lazzeri in 1932, and Miguel Tejada in 2001. April 17, 2010 Mauer Receives MVP Award Joe Mauer receives his 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award in a pregame ceremony at Target Field prior to a game against the Royals. After missing the first 22 games of the 2009 season with a lower back injury, Mauer homered on his first swing back from the disabled list. He went on to hit 11 home runs and drive in 32 runs in the month of May. He set career-highs with 28 home runs and 96 RBI on the season, and win his third AL batting title with a .365 average, the best by a catcher in major league history. The Twins won the Central Division in 2009 with a dramatic 12th-inning walk-off win in Game 163 versus Detroit, but were swept by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Mauer went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the game against the Royals. Jim Thome homered in the game. Tied 5-5 in the seventh, Orlando Hudson led off the bottom of the inning with a home run, giving the Twins a 6-5 win. April 17, 2014 Eight-Walk Eighth Inning After being snowed out the previous night, the Twins and Blue Jays played a frigid doubleheader on April 17. The Twins won Game 1 by a score of 7-0. The 31° gametime temperature was the coldest for a Twins home game at the time. The temperature was up to 42° by the start of Game 2. The Twins trailed 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth. They would score four runs before getting their first hit, and ultimately score six on just one hit in the inning. Blue Jays pitcher Steve Delebar walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning. Eduardo Núñez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt, moving the tying run into scoring position. That was completely unnecessary in retrospect, as Sergio Santos (replacing Delebar) and J.A. Happ combined to walk the next five Twins batters. Three runs scored on Santos wild pitches, and a fourth run scored when Happ walked Chris Colabello with the bases loaded. Finally, after having already scored four runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a two-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally got the final two outs. Glen Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, securing a 9-5 Twins win. April 18, 1896 Birthdate of Rip Conway It's the birthdate of St. Thomas alumnus Rip Conway, born 122 years ago in White Bear Lake. Conway got into 14 major league games as an infielder and pinch-hitter for the Boston Braves in 1918. April 18, 1912 Spencer Makes Only MLB Appearance Hack Spencer, who was born in St. Cloud and grew up in the Minneapolis area, makes his one and only major league appearance with the St. Louis Browns, allowing two runs on two hits in the final 1.2 innings of a 12-7 loss to the White Sox. The Browns finished the season 53-101. The only American League team with a worse record was the New York Highlanders. They changed their name to the Yankees the next season, and went on to win 27 World Series, including at least two in each decade from 1920 to 2010, except for the '80s in which they won none. The Yankees have not won a World Series in the current decade, if that makes anyone feel better. April 18 Happy 59th Birthday, Jim Eisenreich It’s the birthday of 1977 St. Cloud Tech grad, St. Cloud State all-time great, and 15-year major leaguer Jim Eisenreich, born in St. Cloud in 1959. Eisenreich’s SCSU career overlapped with future major leaguers Bob Hegman and Dana Kiecker. The Twins selected Eisenreich in the 16th round of the 1980 draft. He made his major league debut playing center field and batting leadoff on Opening Day 1982 (age 22). His Twins career never got off the ground, however. He played in just 48 games over three seasons, hampered by uncontrollable tics and jerks. He was misdiagnosed with agoraphobia, “the fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment.” He did not play in 1985 or ‘86. He was selected off waivers by the Royals on October 2, 1986. It wasn’t until he was with the Royals that Eisenreich was correctly diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. With this newfound understanding of his condition, he was able to get his baseball career back on track. He played 44 games with the Royals in 1987, and 82 in 1988. He averaged 131 games per season between 1989 and 1992, hitting .286 over that four-year span. He hit .341 over 59 career games against the Twins, his best average versus any American League team. He hit .405 in 63 career games against the Dodgers. Eisenreich signed with Philadelphia prior to the 1993 season, and hit .324 over his four seasons there (1993–1996). He hit .361 in 1996, the highest Phillies average since Smokey Burgess hit .368 in 1954. Eisenreich played in two World Series, first with the 1993 Phillies, and then with the 1997 Marlins. He hit clutch home runs in both Series. The Phillies lost to the Blue Jays. The Marlins beat Cleveland. Eisenreich was involved in a blockbuster trade on May 14, 1998, as the Marlins dealt him, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, and prospect Manuel Barrios to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. 1998 would be Eisenreich’s final major league season. I’m always interested in Minnesotans facing each other in the major leagues. A cursory search of Baseball Reference shows that Eisenreich homered off 1973 Highland Park graduate Jack Morris on August 13, 1987, and off 1981 Mankato West grad Gary Mielke on August 14, 1990. On July 15, 1990, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and double versus 1979 Fairfax grad and former St. Cloud State teammate Dana Kiecker at Fenway. It was the first time that SCSU alumni played against each other in the majors. In total, Eisenreich went 4-for-8 with a walk and two doubles versus Kiecker between 1990 and ‘91. Read Scot Johnson’s thorough SABR BioProject biography of Eisenreich. April 18, 1963 Stigman Pitches Three-Hit Shutout 1954 Sebeka graduate Dick Stigman pitches a three-hit shutout as the Twins beat the Angels 3-0 at Met Stadium in two hours and one minute. 1963 was Stigman's best season. He won 15 games, and finished third in the American League with 193 strikeouts and 15 complete games. Teammate Camilo Pascual led the AL with 202 K's and 18 complete games (tied with the Yankees' Ralph Terry). Sandy Koufax led the majors with 306 strikeouts. April 18, 1964 Oliva's First HR is Game-Winner Tied 6-6 in Washington, Tony Oliva leads off the top of the tenth with his first career home run. Jerry Zimmerman drove in Bob Allison for an insurance run as the Twins won 8-6. April 18, 1969 After starting the season with a four-city road trip, Tom Hall pitches a two-hit shutout as the Twins beat the Angels 6-0 in their home opener. April 18, 1976 Trailing 4-2 in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, Lyman Bostock and Butch Wynegar hit their first major league home runs off Catfish Hunter, giving the Twins a 5-4 win. Wynegar, who turned 20 a month earlier, was the youngest player to homer in Twins history. April 18, 1979 Angels first baseman Rod Carew goes 4-for-4 with two doubles in an 11-6 win over the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. April 19 Happy 58th Birthday, Frank Viola It’s the birthday of Twins all-time great Frank Viola, born in East Meadow, NY in 1960. While at St. John’s, Viola was involved in perhaps the greatest college baseball game ever played, pitching 11 shutout innings to earn the win at Yale in the first-round of the NCAA tournament on May 21, 1981. Yale’s Ron Darling had pitched 11 no-hit innings before St. John’s second baseman Steve Scafa led off the 12th with a bloop single. Scafa stole second and third, and, with runners on the corners, stole home on the back end of a double steal/rundown play. Reliever Eric Stampfl pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the twelfth to secure the St. John’s win. The Twins drafted Viola in the second round less than three weeks later. The Twins’ first pick (11th overall) was Arizona State third baseman Mike Stodders. The ten players selected ahead of him all made it to the majors. He did not. The Rangers selected Ron Darling ninth overall. After just 25 games in the minors, Viola made his major league debut opposing Dennis Martinez and the Orioles at the Metrodome on June 6, 1982, at age 22. After four shaky but scoreless innings, Viola gave up three runs in the fifth before being pulled. The teams played to a 5-5 tie through nine innings, and the Orioles won it in 12 on a two-run Eddie Murray homer off new Twins’ closer Ron Davis, driving in former Twin “Disco” Dan Ford. Viola had a breakout season in 1984. He pitched a four-hit shutout in Anaheim on May 8. This significance of this game? A 24-year-old center fielder wearing number 34 went 4-for-5 that day in his major league debut. Viola went 18-12 on the season and finished sixth in AL Cy Young balloting. He went on to win 93 games over the five seasons from 1984 to ‘88. Viola gave up former Twin Rod Carew’s 3,000th hit on August 4, 1985. He went 17-10 during the 1987 regular season, but, more importantly, he went 2-1 in the World Series, garnering Most Valuable Player honors. His best individual season was 1988. From April 26 to May 10 he pitched 29 consecutive scoreless innings, the third-longest streak in Twins history. He made his first All-Star team in ‘88 en route to winning a major-league leading 24 games and the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was a noteworthy year for two other Twins pitchers. Alan Anderson led the AL with a 2.45 ERA, and Bert Blyleven tied with fellow Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for the major league lead with 17 losses. On July 31st, 1989, the Twins traded Viola to the New York Mets for pitchers Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage. It was arguably the most successful trade in Twins history. The only other contender is the A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser trade on November 14, 2003. Viola made the National League All-Star Team in 1990 and ‘91. He won 20 games in 1990 and finished third in NL Cy Young. He signed with the Red Sox prior to the 1992 season where he was reunited with former Twins teammate Jeff Reardon who became the major leagues' all-time saves leader that season. After two successful seasons in Boston, Viola pitched just 15 games over his final three seasons with the Red Sox, Reds, and Blue Jays. Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame alongside Carl Pohlad in 2005. He has worked as a pitching coach in the Mets organization since 2011, and is currently the pitching coach of their triple-A Las Vegas 51s. April 19, 1970 Oliva Sets RBI Streak Record Twins right fielder Tony Oliva drives in center fielder César Tovar with a sac fly in 6-3 Twins win in Oakland. It's Oliva's tenth consecutive game with an RBI dating back to October 1, 1969. That stood as the longest RBI streak in Twins history until Kirby Puckett collected an RBI in 11-straight games from September 15 to 25, 1988. April 19 Happy 35th Birthday, Joe Mauer It’s the birthday of 2001 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, first overall draft pick, three-time American League batting champ, 2009 AL Most Valuable Player, and six-time All-Star Joseph Patrick Mauer, born in St. Paul in 1983. No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was 1986 Hall of Fame inductee Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Mauer’s .365 batting average in 2009 is the best by a catcher in major league history. He entered the 2018 season needing just 99 hits to pass Rod Carew for second-most in Twins history, trailing only Kirby Puckett. He had 160 hits last season. April 19, 1988 Niekro Called for Three Balks After Yankees speedster Rickey Henderson leads off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro is called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and third. He probably would have scored from first on Don Mattingly's double, anyway. Henderson hit another single in the second, this time driving in 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield and catcher Don Slaught. Niekro was promptly called for his third balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. He scored on a Bob Meacham single through the left side of the infield. After Mike Pagliarulo hit a two-run homer to extend the Yankees lead to 7-0 in just the second inning, Tom Kelly went to the bullpen. Juan Berenguer, Keith Atherton, and Jeff Reardon held the Yankees scoreless the rest of the game. Still trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Twins pulled to within one on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky, but with Mark Davidson on third representing the tying run, Kent Hrbek lined out to the first baseman Mattingly to end the game. April 20, 1903 Bender Makes Debut 19-year-old Crow Wing County native Charles Albert Bender makes his major league debut with the Philadelphia Athletics, pitching six innings in relief, earning the win over the Boston Americans’ Cy Young. Seven days later he pitched his first shutout, opposing New York Highlanders Hall of Fame pitcher Clark Griffith. Griffith went on to own the Washington Senators until his death in 1955 when his son Calvin took over. Calvin, of course, moved the Senators to Minnesota in 1961. Bender became the first Minnesotan inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1953. He was the only Minnesotan enshrined in Cooperstown for 48 years until 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield was inducted in 2001, alongside Twins all-time great Kirby Puckett, and Negro Leagues legend Hilton Smith, who pitched for the semi-pro Fulda, MN team in 1949. April 20 Happy 49th Birthday, Dan Smith It’s the birthday of 1987 Apple Valley grad and former Rangers pitcher Dan Smith, born in St. Paul in 1969. The Rangers selected Smith in the first round (16th overall) of 1990 draft out of Creighton University. There was a strong Minnesota presence in the 1990 draft. The Reds selected Gophers great Dan Wilson 7th overall, and the Astros selected Tom Nevers 21st overall out of Edina High School. Two Cretin-Derham Hall players were drafted: future Florida State and Carolina Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke by the Blue Jays in the second round, and Mike Vogel by the White Sox in the seventh round. The Twins selected Jamie Ogden out of White Bear Lake in the third round. The Athletics selected 1987 Brainerd grad Todd Revenig out of Minnesota State, Mankato in the 37th round. Revenig made two relief appearances with Oakland in 1992, and retired with a 0.00 major league ERA. The Twins selected 1986 New Ulm grad Brian Raabe out of the University of Minnesota in the 41st round (1,063rd overall). Raabe played 17 major league games over three seasons with the Twins, Mariners, and Rockies. He is currently the head baseball coach at Bethel. Dan Smith made his major league debut in Texas on September 12, 1992 (age 23), opposing 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris and the eventual World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Devon White led off the game with a ground ball single and promptly stole second. Roberto Alomar bunted White over to third, and Joe Carter drove him in with a sac fly. Welcome to the big leagues, right?! Smith induced a pop out from 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield for the final out. Smith loaded the bases in the second inning and Devon White cleared them with a three-run double. The four runs were all Toronto would need as they beat the Rangers 4-2. For what it’s worth, Smith did strike out Devon White in the fourth inning for his first major league strikeout. Smith pitched 14 innings over four games (two starts) in 1992, compiling an 0-3 record. He made it back to the majors with the Rangers in 1994, making 17 relief appearances. He earned his only major league win on June 8, his second appearance of the season. April 20, 1973 Blyleven Tough-Luck Loss Bert Blyleven strikes out 13 in Arlington, but loses 1-0. The Rangers' Jim Spencer singled in the bottom of the ninth, moved to second on a passed ball by Twins catcher Randy Hundley, and scored on Jim Fregosi's two-out walk-off single to left. The run was unearned. Rangers pitcher Steve Hargan held the Twins to two hits and three walks. April 20, 1994 Puckett Season-Starting Hit Streak Right fielder Kirby Puckett goes 1-for-4 with two RBI off Cleveland's Dennis Martinez in a 6-5 walkoff win, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games, still tied with Josh Willingham (2012) for the longest streak to start a season in Twins history. In Willingham's case, it was his first 15 games in a Twins uniform. April 21, 1961 First Home Opener in Twins History Having started their inaugural season 5-1, the Twins came home to Bloomington to play the expansion Washington Senators. Only 24,606 fans attended the first home opener, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees. The teams were tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth when the Senators scored two off Ray Moore for a 5-3 win. April 21, 1985 Butcher Pitches Speedy Shutout The Twins had lost nine a row, falling to 2-9 entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when John Butcher hurled a remarkable three-hit, 81-pitch* shutout. Butcher faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum (caught stealing and ground ball double play). The game was over in 1 hour and fifty-five minutes. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5 with two RBI in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game winning streak. *Pitch count according to John Swol's great site TwinsTrivia.com. April 21, 2007 Nineteenth Straight Steal In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla steals second for the Twins' 19th-straight successful stolen base attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught attempting to steal in the eighth, ending the streak. Joe Nathan protected the 7-5 lead in the ninth, striking out three-straight Royals, all looking. April 21, 2012 Willingham Extends Record Hit Streak Josh Willingham leads off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to center, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games. The Twins lost to the Rays 4-1, but Willingham's hit set a new record for longest streak to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett (1994) for the longest streak to begin a season in team history. Willingham had a career year in 2012, hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, and winning a Silver Slugger Award alongside fellow AL outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Keep in touch with the Twins Almanac on Facebook
  16. April 1, 2002 Twins Hit 5 HRs on Opening Day The Twins tie an American League Opening Day record with five home runs in Kansas City. Jacque Jones hit a solo and three-run home run, while David Ortiz, Brian Buchanan, and Torii Hunter each hit solo shots in a 8-6 Twins win. The Twins are the most recent of five AL teams to hit five homers on Opening Day. The Mets set the major league Opening Day record with six home runs against the Expos in 1988. The major league record for home runs in any game is 10, by the Blue Jays against the Orioles in 1987 (full list on Baseball Almanac). April 1, 2007 Carneal Passes Away Legendary Twins radio broadcaster Herb Carneal passes away at age 83. Carneal spent 44 years calling Twins games, joining Ray Scott and Halsey Hall in 1962, the Twins’ second season in Minnesota. He received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 1996. He and Jim Kaat comprised the sophomore class of the Twins Hall of Fame, inducted on July 7, 2001. On a personal note, when I was in elementary school I won a drawing at Hardee’s (true story) and got to spend an inning in the booth with Herb Carneal and John Gordon. April 2 Happy 67th Birthday, Tom Johnson It’s the birthday of former Twins reliever Tom Johnson, born in St. Paul in 1951. Johnson graduated from St. Paul’s Murray High School (now a middle school) in 1969, the same year that Dave Winfield graduated from St. Paul Central. Both players accepted scholarships to play for coaches Dick Siebert and Jerry Kindall at the University of Minnesota, but Johnson backed out at the last minute and signed a professional contract with the Twins. Johnson made his major league debut at Met Stadium on September 10, 1974 (age 23), starting the top of the 14th in relief of 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral graduate Tom Burgmeier. The Twins had a 4-1 lead entering the ninth when White Sox catcher Brian Downing hit a three-run homer off Bill Campbell to tie it up (Campbell had a historic ’76 season with the Twins, which he parlayed into a big pay day with the Red Sox following the season). Each team scored in the 11th and 13th innings for a 6-6 tie. Johnson struck out the first batter he faced, Eddie Leon. He gave up a single to the second batter, Jorge Orta. During the next at-bat, Johnson had Orta picked off first but made a throwing error, allowing Orta to advance to second. Orta later came around to score, with the run being unearned, despite the error being on Johnson himself. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the inning, Eric Soderholm reached on a two-out single, and scored on a Tony Oliva double. Johnson came back out to pitch a 1-2-3 top of the 15th. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Goose Gossage walked Rod Carew, who stole second, and scored on a Larry Hisle walk-off single, giving Johnson the win over future Hall of Famer Gossage. Johnson also earned the win in his second appearance three days later (September 13), again with Carew scoring the walk-off run, this time with a home run leading off the 10th. He pitched in both halves of a doubleheader on September 14, earning a save in Game 1. He pitched seven innings total in four appearances in 1974, giving up just four hits and no walks (0.571 WHIP). After making 18 appearances in both 1975 and ’76, Johnson had the best season of his career in 1977, going 16-7 with 15 saves, 3.13 ERA, and 1.357 WHIP in 71 games (146.2 innings pitched). He struggled during 18 appearances in 1978, his final major league season. Read Jim McKernon‘s SABR BioProject essay on Johnson (click here). April 2, 1962 Twins Trade Ramos for Power and Stigman It what is commonly considered the first major trade in team history, the Twins trade Pedro Ramos to Cleveland for four-time All-Star Vic Power and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate and 1960 All-Star Dick Stigman. Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961. He was involved in an interesting piece of Twins history on May 12, 1961, as he and Angels pitcher Eli Grba traded homers off each other. Grba homered off Ramos in the top of the fifth to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Ramos returned the favor in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. He added a two-run single in the sixth, and the Twins held on to win 5-4, with the pitcher driving in the final three runs. Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 40 appearances (15 starts) in 1962. 1963 was his best season. He pitched a three-hit shutout in his second start of the season on April 18, and went on to post a 15-15 record in 33 starts. That’s just three no-decisions! He posted career-bests with a 3.25 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 15 complete games, and 193 strikeouts, finishing third in the American League in the latter two categories (Camilo Pascual led the league in both). Pedro Ramos, incidentally, was second in the AL with a 1.067 WHIP, and 8.237 strikeouts per nine innings in 1963. April 2, 2010 First MLB Game at Target Field The Twins and Cardinals play an exhibition game at Target Field, the first major league game at the new ballpark. Center fielder Denard Span had himself a day, collecting the stadium’s first hit (a triple, of course), first home run, and first run scored. Jacque Jones, attempting a comeback with the club, pinch-hit and received a memorable standing ovation. I sure wish the Twins would make this kind of footage available. If they want to monetize it, fine, but don’t just keep it in the damn vault! April 3, 1982 First MLB Game in the Dumb Dome The Twins and Phillies play an exhibition game at the Metrodome, the first major league game at the new ballpark. After Pete Rose collected the Dome’s first base hit, 1978 Bloomington Kennedy graduate Kent Hrbek hit the first AND second home runs in Metrodome history, powering the Twins to a 5-0 win. April 3, 1997 Old Man Grand Slam 40-year-old Twins DH Paul Molitor hits a grand slam off Detroit’s Willie Blair at home in the Dome, driving in Todd Walker, Chuck Knoblauch, and Rich Becker. It is the third and final grand slam of the 1974 Cretin High School graduate’s career. The second came off Minnesota’s Dave Stevens on July 5, 1994. The first came way back on April 22, 1981. 41-year-old Dave Winfield hit a grand slam at the Metrodome on April 4, 1993. I believe he is the oldest Twin to do so. Atlanta’s Julio Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam on June 27, 2005 at age 46. Playing for the Mets, he became the oldest player to hit a home run off the Diamondbacks’s Randy Johnson on May 4, 2007 at age 48. April 4, 1990 Twins Trade Pomeranz for Ortiz The Twins trade future-KARE11 anchor Mike Pomeranz to the Pirates for Junior Oritz and minor league pitcher Orlando Lind. Oritz, who wore number 0, hit .335 (57-for-170) in 71 games (47 starts) in 1990. He is best remembered at Scott Erickson‘s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. He hit .209 in 61 regular season games (41 starts), and went 1-for-8 in six postseason games. Mike Pomeranz never made it to the majors. These days he works in San Diego, doing, among other things, Padres pre- and post-game broadcasts. April 5, 2004 Wuertz Makes MLB Debut 1997 Austin High School graduate Michael Wuertz strikes out the first two batters he faces in his major league debut, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth in a 7-4 Cubs win in Cincinnati. Wuertz made 426 relief appearances over eight seasons with the Cubs and Athletics. April 5, 2014 Gardenhire Wins 1,000th Brian Dozier homers on the second pitch of the game, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory in Cleveland for Ron Gardenhire’s 1,000th managerial win. The milestone victory didn’t come without a new gray hair, however, as 2001 Stillwater grad Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth before securing the Kyle Gibson win. April 6 Happy 67th Birthday, Bert Blyleven It’s the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland in 1951. He grew up in Garden Grove, CA, and was drafted by the Twins out of high school in the third round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Blyleven made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 (age 19) at RFK Stadium versus the Ted Williams-managed Senators. After Tony Oliva drove in César Tovar in the top of the first, staking the youngster to a 1-0 lead, Blyleven gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Lee Maye. He recovered, striking out the second batter for the first of 3,701 career K’s, and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just the one run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Tovar put the Twins back on top 2-1 in the fifth, driving in Frank Quilici. Ron Perranoski pitched the final two innings, saving the first of Blyleven’s 287 major league wins (currently 27th all-time). Blyleven earned a 7-1 complete game victory over the Brewers on July 12, 1972 for the 1,000th win in Twins history. Remarkably, he also earned the 2,000th win in Twins history on September 25, 1985. Only July 31, 1972, Blyleven gave up two inside-the-park home runs at Met Stadium to Chicago’s Dick Allen, who went on to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award that season. The next player to hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game was Greg Gagne at the Metrodome on October 4, 1986, doing so in his first two at-bats. He tripled in his third at-bat. Remarkably, Blyleven was on the mound for that game, too. More on Blyleven’s ’86 season later. On May 23, 1973, Blyleven pitched a one-hit shutout versus the Royals at Met Stadium. He would pitch two more one-hitters on September 26, 1973, and July 4, 1974, but the first was the only shutout of the three. Jim Kaat also pitched a one-hitter in 1973. 1973 was Blyleven’s best season, posting his only 20-win season (with 17 losses), with a career-best 2.52 ERA, major league-leading 2.32 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and a major league-leading nine shutouts in a staggering 325 innings pitched (Wilbur Wood led the majors with 359.1 innings pitched). He pitched back-to-back shutouts twice in 1973 (and once in 1971). His 25 complete games, nine shutouts, and 325 innings pitched are still Twins records. He finished the season with 258 strikeouts, a team record that would stand for 31 years until Johan Santana K’ed 265 in 2004 (Nolan Ryan led the majors with 383 K’s in 1973, 125 more than Blyleven’s team record!). Blyleven made his first of two career All-Star teams in ’73. Blyleven earned an 11-inning 1-0 win in Milwaukee on August 27, 1975. Craig Kusick tied a major league record with three hit-by-pitches in the game. Blyleven earned a remarkable 15 1-0 complete game wins in his career. Blyleven was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith early in the 1976 season. With trade rumors swirling, Blyleven walked off the mound after the top of the ninth on May 31 trailing the Angels 3-1. Some of the 8,379 fans in attendance, frustrated by Blyleven’s refusal to sign Griffith’s latest contract offer, gave the pitcher grief, singing “bye, bye, Bertie.” Before he got to the dugout, Blyleven, visibly angry, looked to the stands and gave someone—possibly hecklers, but likely Griffith himself—the ol’ one-finger salute. The next day, June 1, Blyleven was traded along with Danny Thompson to the Rangers for four players, including Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage, and $250,000 cash. Blyleven wasn’t the only player involved in the trade that had bad blood with Griffith. Contract negotiations between Danny Thompson and the owner were also at a standstill. Griffith refused to give the infielder, who had been diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 1973 season, a fair price, insisting that no other team would offer someone with cancer a contract at all. Thompson struggled in Texas, and passed away that December. Blyleven pitched a two-hit shutout at Met Stadium in his first game against the Twins on July 26, 1976. He pitched a no-hitter in his final start as a Ranger on September 22, 1976. The Rangers sent him to the Pirates as part of a four-team, 11-player trade on December 8. Not until the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers during the 2015 season would another pitcher be traded after pitching a no-hitter in his final game with a team. Blyleven made his second postseason with the Pirates in 1979 (he had pitched two innings of relief in the ALCS as a rookie in 1970). He earned a complete-game 1-0 win over the Reds in the third and decisive game of the NLCS in Pittsburgh. Johnny Bench homered for the Reds’ only run. Blyleven started Game 3 of the World Series in Baltimore, leaving after six in a 2-2 tie. The Pirates went on to win 3-2 on a Manny Sanguillen RBI single in the ninth. Down three games to one and trailing 1-0 in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, Blyleven entered in relief in the sixth and held the Orioles scoreless on just three hits over the final four innings of the game. The Pirates rallied for a 7-1 win, sending the Series back to Baltimore where they won both games. Blyleven was traded with Manny Sanguillen to Cleveland following the 1980 season. He won 19 games with Cleveland in 1984, finishing third in AL Cy Young balloting. He finished third again in 1985, when, playing for both Cleveland and Minnesota, he led the AL with 24 complete games, five shutouts, 206 strikeouts, and 293.2 innings pitched. After making his second All-Star team that summer, the Twins reacquired Blyleven on August 1 in exchange for four players, including former first-round draft pick and future All-Star Jay Bell, who would become the 11th player to homer on his first major league pitch on September 29, 1986. The Twins’ Andre David had also homered on his first MLB pitch on June 29, 1984, as did Eddie Rosario on May 6, 2015. The Twins put on one heckuva show at the Metrodome on August 1, 1986, as Blyleven two-hit the A’s, striking out a team record 15 (broken by Johan Santana with 17 strikeouts in just eight innings on August 19, 2007), becoming just the tenth player in major league history with 3,000 strikeouts. One of Oakland’s two hits, not surprisingly, was an Alfredo Griffin homer in the eighth. Kirby Puckett, meanwhile, hit for the seventh of ten cycles in team history, and the first at the Dome. Twins won 10-1. On September 13, 1986, Blyleven set a team record by giving up five home runs in a 14-1 loss to the Rangers at the Metrodome. Carlos Silva tied that record with five home runs allowed on August 22, 2006. On September 29, 1986, Blyleven gave up his 46th home run of the season, breaking Hall of Famer Robin Roberts’ 30-year-old single-season record. He would give up 50 altogether, while notching 17 wins and pitching an American League-leading 271.2 innings. Blyleven was solid again in 1987, going 15-12 in 37 starts, pitching 267 innings. He did, however, again lead the majors with 46 home runs allowed. He beat Jack Morris in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and earned the win the fifth and decisive game in Detroit. He held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings as the Twins won Game 2 of the World Series 8-4. He took his only postseason loss in his final postseason appearance, giving up three runs over six innings as the Cardinals won Game 5 4-2 to take a 3-2 Series lead. The Twins, of course, won Games 6 and 7 back in Minnesota. Altogether, Blyleven went 5-1 in eight career postseason games (six starts), with a 2.47 ERA and 1.077 WHIP. Blyleven tied a major league record by hitting four Cleveland batters on April 22, 1988, giving up seven runs in just 4.2 innings. That wasn’t the worst thing that happened that day, though. After the game, the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals for clubhouse cancer Tommy frickin’ Herr. Blyleven notched his 250th major league win on June 19, 1988. Of his eventual 287 wins, 149 came in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat‘s 190 (including one as a Senator). Blyleven holds Twins records with 141 complete games and 29 shutouts. For comparison, Brad Radke pitched 37 complete games. 1988 was a rough season overall, though, as Blyleven led the majors with 17 losses. After the season he was sent to the Angels as part of a five-player trade that brought Paul Sorrento to Minnesota. Blyleven came roaring back in 1989, going 17-5 with a league-leading five shutouts. He finished fourth in Cy Young balloting and was named AL Comeback Player of the Year. 1992 was his final major league season. He was 41 years old. He retired with 3,701 strikeouts, fifth-most in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and 1987 teammate Steve Carlton. Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, his fourteenth year on the ballot. The Twins retired his number 28 on July 16, 2011. April 6, 1973 Oliva Hits First HR by DH With Rod Carew aboard in the top of the first on Opening Day, Tony Oliva hits the first regular season home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley who spearheaded the movement for the AL to adopt the DH. Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his 25 complete games of the season as the Twins won 8-3. April 6, 1982 First Regular Season Game at Dome The Twins opened the 1982 season versus Seattle at home in the dumb new Dome. 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate Jim Eisenreich, making his major league debut, had the honor of being the first Twins batter to the plate. He grounded out to short. Two batters later right fielder Dave Engle homered for the first regular season hit in Metrodome history. Gary Gaetti was thrown at at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat. He put the ball over the fence in his next two at-bats, going 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored in an 11-7 Twins loss. April 6, 1993 Winfield Homers in Twins Debut 1969 St. Paul Central graduate Dave Winfield (age 41) homers in his Twins debut, a 10-5 loss to the White Sox at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett also homered in the game. Winfield signed with the Twins after winning a World Series in his only season with the Blue Jays. He had been sensational in 1992, hitting .290 with 26 home runs, 33 doubles, 92 runs, and 108 RBI, finishing fifth in American League MVP voting (Dennis Eckersley won the award, with Kirby Puckett coming in runner-up). It was certainly exciting to have him in Minnesota, but his production was pretty pedestrian, hitting .270 with 21 home runs, 27 doubles, 72 runs, and 76 RBI in 143 games for a 0.2 WAR (wins above replacement). He hit another 10 of his 465 major league home runs in 77 games with the Twins in 1994. He wrapped up his 22-year Hall of Fame career with Cleveland in 1995. April 7, 1970 Alyea Has Record-Setting Opening Day In his first game as a Twin, outfielder Brant Alyea drives in a team record seven runs, helping Jim Perry to a 12-0 shutout on Opening Day in Chicago. Alyea went on to drive in 21 runs in the Twins’ first 12 games. Remarkably, 19 of those 21 RBI came in Jim Perry’s first four starts. Perry would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season. Pretty hot start to his Twins career. His Senators career got off to a hot start, too, homering on his first major league pitch on September 11, 1965. Alyea matched his team RBI record on September 7, 1970, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and driving in all seven Twins runs in a 7-6 win over the Brewers at Met Stadium. Glenn Adams broke Alyea’s record with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Rod Carew also made Twins history that day, going 4-for-5 with a walk and a team record (since tied) five runs scored, raising his season average to .403. Randy Bush tied Adams’ team record with eight RBI on May 20, 1989. April 7, 1984 Morris Pitches No-Hitter Playing for the Tigers, 1973 Highland Park (St. Paul) graduate Jack Morris pitches a no-hitter in Chicago. April 7, 1987 Hrbek Hits Walk-Off in Opener After tying the game with his second RBI groundout in the eighth, Kent Hrbek hits a walk-off single in the tenth to give the Twins a 5-4 Opening Day win over Oakland at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett homered and doubled in the game. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any notes to contribute, please leave a comment or e-mail me at Matt@TwinsAlmanac.com.
  17. Interestingly enough, after I compiled my list Seth Stohs wrote about the "Top 15 Minnesota Twins Players". You'll see a lot of overlap here, but I put it in the form of a 25-man roster. Here is how I constructed the 25-man team. The roster had to be realistic. This specifically pertains to the bench and bullpen. The player had to spend over half their career with the Twins, The player had to play for the Twins for at least 5 years, The player had to play for the Twins between 1961 - current. The player had to play at that particular position for a majority of his career. The exception to this rule is the DH. Hitters Catcher - Joe Mauer Not a lot to say here. By far, Joe Mauer is the best offensive and defensive catcher in franchise history. He will go down as one of the best catcher to ever play the game, and arguably the best hitting catcher to ever play. Don't let the contract and the latter part of his career overshadow his impact on the field when he was at his best. First Base - Kent Hrbek When choosing between Hrbek and Killebrew I had to consider the defensive numbers. Hrbek was not a great defender himself but he was much better than Killebrew, so he gets slotted here. Behind Killebrew, he and Justin Morneau were the two players to consider here and Hrbek was an easy choice over Morneau. I mean who can pull a guy off first better than Herbie? Second Base - Rod Carew I wasn't around to watch Carew play but his number is retired for a reason. With the Twins he played mostly 2B, but later in his career he became a full time 1B for the Angels. Other than Knoblauch and Dozier, there really aren't any other options here. As much as he is known for his offense, he was an okay defender as well. Third Base - Corey Koskie This was a toss-up between Koskie and Gary Gaetti. From my perspective, Koskie was the better overall player and thus garnered the starting job. The former Canadian hockey goalie was a superb defender and also a good guy to have in the middle of a line up. It's too bad concussions limited his career as he could have been a solid player for a long time. Shortstop - Roy Smalley In the entire history of the Twins franchise, there are only three guys to even consider for this spot. Smalley, Zoilo Versalles and Greg Gagne. Smalley wins the job and it's not even close. The other two were better defenders but were non-factors at the plate. I'm the kind of guy who prefers a player who can contribute to both aspects of the game rather than one aspect really well. Left Field - Shane Mack Behind even shortstop, this is probably the weakest position in franchise history. Bob Allison would have been the shoo-in here but he spent a majority of his career in right field. Mack was the de facto left fielder. Hey, at least he brings some championship pedigree to the team. Center Field - Kirby Puckett Was there ever a doubt? Torii was great, but Kirby was greater. I was a little too young to watch much of his career before his unfortunate early retirement, but he may be the most popular and adored Twin of all time. I've never heard it live, but I can still hear Bob Casey announcing Kirby's name in the Dome. Right Field - Tony Oliva This one was easy. Obviously, Oliva was one of the best Twins of all time, as his number is retired. Bob Allison was the only other true contender at this spot. Oliva is one of only a few Twins to finish his career with a batting average above .300, was the Rookie of the Year in 1964 and finished second in MVP voting twice ('65 & '70). DH - Harmon Killebrew This is the perfect spot for him. He wasn't a good defender at all and he is one of the best hitters of all time. He is the best Twins hitter, probably even player, in franchise history. Pitching Staff I used innings pitched to determine if the player spent more than half his career as a Twin. Ace - Johan Santana This was a tough call. Arguably, he was the most dominant pitcher in Twins history but that was only for a stretch of five or so years. The two behind him weren't so much dominant, but were able to maintain consistently solid production over a longer period of time. Nonetheless, Johan is the ace. Over the five or so years he was the best pitcher in baseball winning two Cy Young Awards ('04 and '06) while garnering some MVP votes in those seasons as well. If I needed to win one game, I'd choose Johan in his prime. Starting Pitcher No. 2 - Bert Blyleven Excluding Steve Carlton, who didn't qualify for my list anyway, Bert is the only Twins pitcher to be elected to Cooperstown who also qualified for this list. When choosing between him and Jim Kaat that HoF honor was what gave Blyleven the edge. Bert spent just over half (51.6% IP) as a Minnesota Twin. In all, he pitched for 22 big league seasons. Never truly dominant but almost always a reliable pitcher. Starting Pitcher No. 3 - Jim Kaat If Bert is in the Hall of Fame, then Kaat needs to be. Their statistics are practically the same, although Kaat won only one World Series back in '82 with the Cardinals and he wasn't much of a contributor for them. That said, he holds the major league record for winning 16 consecutive Gold Gloves. Most pitchers' careers don't last 16 years. Starting Pitcher No. 4 - Camilo Pascual Camilo is another guy who wasn't too dominant, but was able to consistently produce over a long career. He was the franchise's first "ace" and deserves to be in the rotation. To be fair, the candidates drop off pretty quick after the top 3 or 4. Starting Pitcher No. 5 - Frank Viola Viola was key to the 1987 World Series championship (he was the MVP) and followed that up by winning the Cy Young in 1988. If it wasn't for being traded, he probably would have been slotted as the No. 4, but it hurt his Twins resume a little bit that he wasn't here longer. That said, we did end up getting a key piece back who will show up later in this list. Long Relief - Jim Perry Admittedly, I just took the Twins starting pitcher who just missed the cut and put him here. Honestly, I think Pascual, Viola and Perry could all be put in whatever order you wanted. He fits the description of most Twins pitchers, which is not dominant but consistently solid. The two best years of his career were in '69 and '70 where he finished third and first in Cy Young voting, respectively. Middle Relief No. 1 - Tom Hall Hall spent the Twins portion of his career bouncing back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. He had a very nondescript career, never garnering an award vote of any kind and never making an All-Star Game. That said, as a reliever Hall could give you multiple innings and averaged over a strikeout per inning. Middle Relief No. 2 - LaTroy Hawkins If you can last as long as LaTroy did in the era that he did it, then you are one of the best to do it. He pitched for 21 seasons in the big leagues and was solid all the way through his retirement season in 2015 with the Blue Jays. Hawkins was converted to a relief pitcher after five largely unsuccessful seasons as a starter. As with Hall, he never garnered an award vote of any kind and never made an ASG. Set up No. 1 - Glen Perkins The Twins second-best closer of all time would be my first choice as the set up guy. Perkins was unsuccessful as a starter, but found his niche as a fire-throwing closer. It's unfortunate that injuries derailed the last few years of his career and forced him into an early retirement. I have to imagine the highlight of his career (for himself and Twins fans) was seeing him close out the 2014 All-Star Game in his home stadium. Set up No. 2 - Rick Aguilera Aguilera came to the Twins in the trade that sent Viola to the Mets in '89. Although he made 11 starts that year, he made 460 relief appearances as a member of the Twins. He did well with the Twins as he made the ASG three times, garnered MVP votes in 1991, and was a key contributor to the '91 World Series title. Set up No. 3 - Juan Rincon Rincon had a pretty good stretch from 2004 - 2006. When in a crunch, the Twins could relied upon Rincon to get them out of a jam. Obviously, a key skill to have as a set up guy. Closer - Joe Nathan Not much to say here. He is the best Twins closer of all time, finished his career with the most saves in Twins history and was one of the best in the game when he was in his prime. In '04 and '06 he was actually in the Cy Young and MVP talks a little bit. In all of baseball, there aren't many closers that were as good as he was. Honorable Mentions (Bench) OF/1B - Bob Allison He primarily played right field, which disqualified him from the left field spot. I feel like he is one of the overlooked Twins greats. No, his number isn't retired, but he spent all of his 13 years in a Senators/Twins uniform and hit 256 home runs in that time. If it wasn't for injuries I think his career could have been longer and he could have passed the 300 HR plateau. C - Early Battey Any realistic roster needs a back-up catcher. Battey is the guy. While with the Senators/Twins franchise he won three Gold Gloves, made four ASGs and finished top 10 in MVP voting three times. 2B/SS - Chuck Knoblauch A key cog to the 1991 World Series and a good player for the Twins over 7 years. He'll be a good guy to have off the bench when we need speed on the base paths. Utility - Gary Gaetti He was Nick Punto before Nick Punto was Nick Punto. The only two positions he didn't play throughout his career were CF and C. He wasn't necessarily a great player, but was solid for the Twins. He was another important piece in the '87 World Series team. In my eyes, my biggest "snub" was Torii Hunter. When constructing a realistic 25-man roster I needed to have a back-up catcher which is where Battey made the list over Hunter. Another area I struggled with was the bullpen construction. After Perry, Nathan, Aguilera, and Perkins the pickins' got slim and I ended up having to consider individual seasons over career stats. Carl Willis was a name that almost made the cut. So what do you think? Who did I miss? Let the debate begin!
  18. In April, Aaron Gleeman’s book The Big 50: Minnesota Twins will become available; (pre-order a copy today). In it, you’ll find stories and information on the best players in Minnesota Twins history as well as some of the great stories in the franchise’s years in Minnesota. Now, I’m looking forward to it to see how his top 50 all-time Twins players rankings end up. And, I want to see how his list compares to mine. And, I want to see how my list compares to yours. Give it some thought and rank your top 10 or 15 Twins players in the comments below. ----------------------------------------------------------- 15 - Torii Hunter - bWAR: 26.2, OPS+: 103 Hunter ranks seventh in Twins history in games played, plate appearances, hits and RBI. His 214 home runs in a Twins uniform rank fifth in team history. And yet, it is his defense that made him a star. With the Twins, he won the first seven of his nine Gold Gloves. He returned to the Twins in 2015 after seven years away and was a big part on a Twins team that finished over .500. Imagine how much higher up this list he’d be if he’d stayed. 14 - Frank Viola - bWAR: , ERA+: 111 Viola debuted with the Twins in 1982 and was a fixture in the team’s rotation until he was traded to the Mets at the deadline in 1989. After going 11-25 in his first two seasons, Viola went 101-67 over the rest of his Twins career. He was an All-Star just once. He was the MVP of the 1987 World Series when he won Games 1 and 7. In 1988, he went 24-7 and won the AL Cy Young Award. He was a given for 35 starts and about 250 innings a season. 13 - Bob Allison - bWAR: 30.5, OPS+: 131 Allison made an incredible catch during the 1965 World Series, but he was best known for his bat and his power. A big, burly power hitter, Allison is currently number six on the Twins home run list with 211, just behind Hunter. Allison was an All-Star at the AL Rookie of the Year in 1959 with the Senators. He played in two All-Star games as a member of the Twins. 12 - Joe Nathan - bWAR: 18.4, OPS+: 204 His WAR may not stack up, but his dominance is unquestioned. He became the Twins closer when he arrived in 2004, and went on to record 260 saves, passing Rick Aguilera for the team’s record. His season ERAs from 2004 through 2009 were 1.62, 2.70, 1.58, 1.88, 1.33 and 2.10. In fact, if not for Mariano Rivera, more people might call Joe Nathan the best closer of the era. He struck out 30.7% of batters faced during his Twins tenure, more than 10% more than Aguilera, Al Worthington and Eddie Guardado, the next three relievers on the list. Recently retired, Nathan was a guest at the Twins Daily Winter Meltdown this year. 11 - Chuck Knoblauch - bWAR: 37.9, OPS+: 114 The Twins #1 pick in 1989, he joined the big league club by Opening Day 1991. He jumped in as the team’s leadoff hitter, won AL Rookie of the Year and helped the Twins to their second World Series championship. In his seven seasons with the Twins, he hit .304 and got on base 39% of the time. He played in four All-Star Games, and he won two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove Award in a league that included Roberto Alomar. 10 - Jim Kaat - bWAR: 31.7, ERA+: 112 “Kitty” had pitched in 16 MLB games with the Senators before the team came to Minnesota in 1961. Kaat was an All-Star in 1962 and 1966. He won 12 AL Gold Glove awards as a member of the Twins organization (and the team’s annual award for best defensive player is named after him). After being traded to the White Sox in 1973, he won 20 games for them in 1974 and 1975. Kaat was a key cog in the Twins 1965 World Series appearance. He went 189-152 with the Twins. That’s 40 more wins than the #2 on the list. He is Top 5 in many Twins pitching categories. Recently the Twins named him a Special Assistant. 9 - Brad Radke - bWAR: 45.6, ERA+: 113 Radke quietly was one of the best pitchers/players in Twins history. Always calm and poised, Radke threw a ton of strikes, mixed in a great changeup to go with a low-90s fastball. He is second all-time on the Twins list in number of starts, and he’s number three in number of innings pitched. His 148 wins is third, one behind Bert Blyleven. He won 20 games on a 1997 Twins team that won just 68 games. During a two-month stretch (12 starts), he went 12-0 with a 1.87 ERA. He finished third in Cy Young voting and made the All-Star team the next season. Overlooked because he played on some bad teams, Radke was a stabilizing force in Twins rotations for a dozen years. Shoulder issues caused him to retire after his age-33 season. 8 - Bert Blyleven - bWAR: 49.3, ERA+: 119 Blyleven came up to the Twins as a 19-year-old in 1970 and went 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA. Over his next five seasons, he won 16, 17, 20, 17 and 15 games. In those years, he posted ERAs of 2.81, 2.73, 2.52, 2.66 and 3.00. It was definitely an era for pitching, and Blyleven was one of the best at the time. He was traded in 1976 and returned in 1985. He was a key veteran starter for the Twins in that 1987 World Series championship. He went 148-139 for the Twins in his career with a 3.28 ERA. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. 7 - Johan Santana - bWAR: 35.5, ERA+: 141 Santana came to the Twins in the Rule 5 draft and became one of the best pitchers in baseball. He spent his first couple of years in the Twins bullpen. When he went down to AAA his second year, he worked with Bobby Cuellar on his changeup and the rest is history. He became a starter in 2004, went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and won the Cy Young. He should have repeated as Cy Young winner in 2005 when he went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Then in 2006, he won again after posting a 19-7 record and a 2.77 ERA. He led the AL in ERA twice, in WHIP three times, and in strikeouts three times. In his four Twins years as a starter, he averaged 228 innings. He went to three All-Star Games, finished Top 5 in Cy Young voting each year. He was traded to the Mets before the 2008 season. Last month, the Twins announced that he’s been elected into the team’s Hall of Fame. 6 - Kent Hrbek - bWAR: 38.4, OPS+: 128 The kid from Bloomington spent all 14 of his big leagues seasons with the Twins who retired his #14. His 293 home runs are second only to Harmon Killebrew in team history. He is in the Top 5 in most Twins offensive categories. He hit .282 and got on base nearly 37% of the time. He played in just one All-Star Game, and he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1982 and second in the MVP race in 1984. He was a key cog in the two Twins World Series championships. 5 - Tony Oliva - bWAR: 43.0, OPS+: 131 Oliva won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1964. He won the batting title his first two seasons and a third one in 1971. He was an All-Star his first eight seasons and finished second in AL MVP voting twice. He led the league in hits five times and doubles four times. His 220 home runs rank fourth in team history. Unfortunately in 1972, a major knee injury curtailed his career. When he returned, he was the team’s DH, and he still hit well, just not to the level he had before the injury. He was the Twins hitting coach in 1987, and his uniform #6 was retired. 4 - Joe Mauer - bWAR: 53.4, OPS+: 126 As Mauer enters his 15th season with the Twins, the St. Paul native finds himself in the Top 5 in many Twins offensive categories. He has hit .308 and been on base over 39% of the time during his career. Mauer won the AL MVP in 2009 when he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has been an All-Star six times, won five Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Glove Awards. He was putting together another monster season in 2013 when he suffered a concussion. He has not regained his form, though he had a strong 2017 season. 3 - Kirby Puckett - bWAR: 50.9, OPS+: 124 Puckett emerged on the scene for the Twins in 1984, and he led the Twins to their two World Series championships. A career .318 hitter, he got on base 36% of the time. He made his first All-Star Game in 1986 and then played in each of the next ten. He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting seven times. He won six Gold Glove Awards, and he also won six Silver Slugger Awards. He is Top 5 in many Twins offensive categories and no Twins player has scored more runs or had more hits or doubles than Puckett. His career came to an abrupt end before the 1996 season and he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. 2 - Rod Carew - bWAR: 63.7, OPS+: 137 Rod Carew was a hitting machine. He was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 1967. He was also an All-Star that year, and in the remaining 11 seasons of his Twins career. He won the AL MVP in 1977 when he flirted with .400, ending the year at .388 (with a .449 OBP). He won seven batting titles in his 12 years with the Twins and recently the award for winning the American League batting title was named in his honor. He is Top 5 in nearly all statistical categories for the Twins, and his bWAR is just about 10 wins higher than the #2 in that list, Harmon Killebrew. Carew ended his career with over 3,000 hits and earned his induction into Cooperstown. 1 - Harmon Killebrew - bWAR: 53.8, OPS+: 148 The Killer was a feared home run hitter during his career. 475 of his 573 career home runs came in a Twins uniform (and 84 came in a Senators uniform before they came to Minnesota). So, he is the Twins leader in home runs by 182. When he retired, he was in the Top 5 in MLB history in homers. He’s the team’s leader in RBI by about 250. He walked about 430 more times than Joe Mauer has in his career, and Mauer is #2 on the Twins list. It’s hard to believe, but Killebrew actually walked more than he struck out during his Twins career. For some reason, it took him four ballots to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame. So there you have my ranking of the Top 15 Twins of all-time… Be sure to add your Top 15. Who moves up? Who moves down? Who moves out, and who moves in? It should be a fun discussion as we continue to wait for offseason news.
  19. At the end of April, Joe Mauer was hitting a career-low .225/.271/.275 with just four extra base hits. Fans panicked again. Everyone whined and complained about the $23 million man. But Mauer, true to who he is, took it in stride. With his performance so far in May, it’s easy to understand why. On May 1, Pioneer Press scribe Mike Berardino wrote an article titled “Joe Mauer shrugs off worst April in his Minnesota Twins career.” Mauer was quoted as saying, “I’ve been feeling pretty good. I just really haven’t had a whole lot of results here early. I think it’s just been frustrating because I’ve been making some good contact and just not having any results from it. That’s baseball. Hopefully that shifts soon.” That was true. As Berardino pointed out, there were several indicators that Mauer’s process was solid. For instance, he was putting the ball in play, a lot. He wasn’t striking out much at all. When he did make contact, he was hitting a very high percentage of line drives. His exit velocity was second on the team behind only Miguel Sano’s league-leading numbers. Mauer’s Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was just .243, almost 100 points below his career average, and about 60 points lower than his career low. In other words, his process at the plate was fine. His numbers were just hurt by the effects of small sample size, defensive shifts and some bad luck. However, Mauer trusted the process. He likely made a few adjustments. For instance, his walk rate has returned to where it has been in his career. He’s seeing more pitches again, which has always been a good thing for him. He has continued to hit a lot of line drives. He continues to have an average exit velocity over 90 mph. And the results have shown that things would even out a little bit over time. In 16 games so far in May, Mauer is hitting .345/.446/.527 (.973) with four doubles and two home runs, including his first career walk off homer. Want more? Check out this tweet: Mauer also said at the end of a frustrating April, “I feel like I’m striking the ball pretty well. You’ve got to try to stick with the process, and hopefully those results change.” Trust the process. Listen, at 34 years old, Joe Mauer isn’t suddenly going to be putting up numbers like he did when he was 26 years old, back when those numbers he put up in May were pretty close to the numbers he put up for a season. Back when he became the first American League catcher ever to win not one, but three, batting titles. To expect him to still be that player would be unfair. And that’s true even if he hadn’t suffered the concussions he has. And it would be true if he was still catching. But it’s time for Twins fans to start realizing what we have seen in Joe Mauer since his debut as a 20-year-old back in 2004. He’s one of the top five hitters in Minnesota Twins’ history, a history that is approaching 60 seasons. We almost forget the Gold Gloves he won behind the plate, or how good he has become at first base now. In the Bible (Luke 4:24), it says, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Minnesotans would appreciate Joe Mauer more if he did play somewhere else. But he’s chosen to stay in Minnesota through the good and the bad in his career. Twins fans loved him until the injuries, and when the injuries (knee surgeries and concussions) started affecting his numbers, many Twins fans turned on him. And it’s too bad. My hope is that when Mauer’s playing career is done, that he is treated with as much admiration and respect as the other greats in Minnesota Twins history are. I hope that he’s treated as well as Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Kent Hrbek are. When you consider all he’s done on the field and in the community, Joe Mauer deserves that.
  20. In 1964, six players accounted for 181 of their 221 home runs (82%). That team had six players with 20 or more home runs. Harmon Killebrew led the way with his record 49 home runs (which he did again in 1969). Bob Allison and Tony Oliva each had 32 home runs. Jimmie Hall hit 25 homers. Don Mincher hit 23. Zoilo Versalles hit 20 home runs. Two others, Earl Battey and Rich Rollins, added 12 homers each. Those eight players in double-digits accounted for 93% of that team’s home runs. The 2016 team has nine players with double-digit home runs. It’s certainly been fun following Brian Dozier through his 42 home runs, most of which have come in the season’s second half. Miguel Sano has 24 homers. Max Kepler is third on the list with 17 homers. Trevor Plouffe, Byungho Park and Eduardo Nunez each hit 12 homers (and we know none of them will hit more for the Twins this season). Joe Mauer and Robbie Grossman have each hit 11 home runs. Eddie Rosario joined the double-figure homer club with his 10th homer shortly before his season came to an end. Those nine players in double-digits have accounted for 78% of the team’s homers. This is the second time in the team’s history that nine players have reached 10 or more home runs. The other time came in 2004. That year Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter all had 23 to 25 home runs. Justin Morneau, Lew Ford, Michael Cuddyer, Shannon Stewart, Henry Blanco and Luis Rivas all had between 10 and 19 homers that year. As interesting, Matthew Lecroy ended the season with nine homers, and Cristian Guzman added eight home runs. As the Twins have six games left in the 2016 season, there are three players sitting at eight homers on the season. Kurt Suzuki, Kennys Vargas and Byron Buxton need two more home runs to join the double-digit dinger club. The Twins have shown some prodigious power in 2016 and hit 193 home runs through their first 156 games. While there are many reasons for the Twins second 100-loss season, the fact that Twins pitchers have allowed 218 home runs so far certainly doesn’t help. Dozier’s Final Week Brian Dozier still has plenty to play for over the final six games. Last week, he hit his 42nd home runs of the season. 40 of those homers have come as a second baseman which set the American League record for home runs by a second baseman in MLB history. If he can hit two more homers this season he will tie Davey Johnson (Atlanta 1973) and Rogers Hornsby (St. Louis 1922) for the Major League record. You’ve seen or read that statistic. However, he’s also approaching another Twins record that I think is just as impressive. To go with his 42 home runs, Dozier has 35 doubles and five triples. That’s 82 extra base hits which is two behind the current Twins record. In 1964, Tony Oliva was a 25-year-old rookie. He won the batting title, the Rookie of the Year award and was an All Star. He hit .323 with 43 doubles, nine triples and 32 home runs. That’s 84 extra base hits which has been the team’s record for 52 years. With three more extra base hits, Dozier would break that Twins record. Dozier went past 100 runs scored for the third straight year. Only Chuck Knoblauch has done that in Twins history. He is sitting at 99 RBI. With one more RBI, he becomes the third Twins player this century to have 100 runs scored and 100 RBI. In 2001, Corey Koskie had 100 runs scored with 103 RBI. In 2006, Michael Cuddyer scored 102 runs and drove in 109 runs. Dozier’s season OPS is sitting at .905. Looking back through the 26 seasons since the 1991 season, Dozier should finish with a Top 10 season (by OPS). Here are the Top 25 Twins seasons in the last 25 years by OPS. If Dozier can keep his OPS above .900, he’ll be just the 7th Twins player in that time period to do so. 1 - Joe Mauer - 2009 - 1.031 2 - Chuck Knoblauch - 1996 - .965 3 - Joe Mauer - 2006 - .936 4 - Justin Morneau - 2004 - .934 5 - Chuck Knoblauch - 1995 - .965 6 - Jason Kubel - 2009 - .907 7 - Brian Dozier - 2016 - .905 8 - Kirby Puckett - 1995 - .894 9 - Chili Davis - 1991 - .892 10 - Josh Willingham - 2012 - .890 11 - Joe Mauer - 2013 - .880 12 - Justin Morneau - 2012 - .878 13 - Justin Morneau - 2008 - .873 14 - Joe Mauer - 2010 - .871 15 - Michael Cuddyer - 2006 - .867 16 - Matt Lawton - 2000 - .865 17 - Joe Mauer - 2008 - .864 Matt Lawton - 1998 - .864 Kirby Puckett - 1992 - .864 20 - Michael Cuddyer - 2009 - .862 21 - Joe Mauer - 2012 - .861 22 - Shane Mack - 1992 - .860 23 - Torii Hunter - 2002 - .859 24 - Paul Molitor - 1996 - .858 25 - Jacque Jones - 2002 - .852 Six games to go. Still plenty of reasons to watch and several milestones still up for grabs.
  21. 4/3/82: The Twins beat the Phillies 5-0 in an exhibition game, the first major league game played at the Metrodome. Pete Rose collected the new stadium’s first hit, and Bloomington-native Kent Hrbek hit the Dome’s first two home runs. 4/4/90: The Twins traded future-KARE 11 anchor, Mike Pomeranz, to Pittsburgh in exchange for Junior Ortiz and a minor league pitcher. Ortiz, who wore #0, is best-remembered as Scott Erickson’s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. 4/5/14: The Twins beat the Indians 7-3 in Cleveland for Ron Gardenire’s 1,000th managerial win. Leadoff hitter Brian Dozier homered on the second pitch of the game. Leading 7-1 in the 9th, 2001 Stillwater Area High School graduate and former Golden Gopher, Glen Perkins, gave up 2 runs before securing the Kyle Gibson victory. 4/6 is the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland (1951). Blyleven grew up in Garden Grove, CA and was drafted by Minnesota out of high school in the third round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Bert made his major league debut on June 2nd, 1970 at age 19. Blyleven went on to pitch for 22 seasons, 11 in Minnesota (‘70-’76, ‘85-’88). He is a two-time World Series champion, winning his first in 1979 as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and his second as a member of the ‘87 Twins. Blyleven won 149 games as a Twin, second only to Jim Kaat (190). His 3,701 career strikeouts rank fifth in major league history. Bert Blyleven was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, his 14th year on the ballot. His number 28 is retired by the Minnesota Twins. 4/6/66: The Twins traded Nimrod, MN native and 1954 Sebeka High School grad, Dick Stigman and a player to named later to the Boston Red Sox for backup catcher Russ Nixon and second baseman Chuck Schilling who never appeared in a major league game for Minnesota and retired rather than accept a minor league assignment. Schilling became a math teacher in Long Island, NY. 4/6/73: Tony Oliva hit the first home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter in the top of the 1st, driving in Rod Carew. Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his season’s 25 complete games in the Twins’ 8-3 victory. 4/7/70: Outfielder Brant Alyea drove in 7 runs to back winning pitcher Jim Perry in the season-opener. Alyea went on to collect 21 RBI in the Twins’ first 12 games, 19 of which came in Perry’s first four starts of the season. 4/8/88: The Twins beat the Blue Jays 6-3. Dan Gladden went 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored, 4 RBI and 2 home runs. He homered in the 1st and 8th and, and stole home off of David Wells in the 7th with Kent Hrbek batting. Gladden stole home three times in his career, twice in ‘88 and once in ‘89. He was caught attempting to steal home five times. Rod Carew stole home 17 times, and Paul Molitor 10 times. 4/9/00: The Twins hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in a 13-7 win in Kansas City. Already leading 6-0 entering the top of the 6th, Corey Koskie led off the inning with a base hit. Ron Coomer, Jacque Jonesand Matt LeCroy then proceeded to hit three consecutive home runs on four total pitches, Coomer and Jones hitting first-pitch homers, and LeCroy taking an 0-1 pitch out of the park. Coomer homered again in the 7th, again with Koskie on base. Eric Milton had retired the first 20 batters in order and had a two-hit shutout going into the 8th. After retiring the first two batters, including former Twin David McCarty, Milton allowed two hits and was relieved by Eddie Guardado. Guardado gave up an RBI single and then back-to-back home runs to Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye. He was relieved by Hector Carrasco who surrendered the Royals’ third consecutive home run to Mike Sweeney. It was the first game in major league history in which each team hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. The Twins are one of seven teams to have hit four consecutive home runs, doing so on May 2, 1964 in Kansas City versus the Athletics. With the score tied 3-3 entering the top of the 11th, Tony Oliva hit a leadoff home run, followed by Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew, giving the Twins a 7-3 victory. The Twins set the American League record by hitting five home runs in a single inning on June 9, 1966, also against the KC Athletics, but this time in Bloomington at the Met. The Athletics erupted for four runs in the first off Camilo Pascual, who only lasted ⅔ of an inning. Facing 1987 Hall of Fame inductee, Catfish Hunter, the Twins pulled within 4-3 on a Bob Allison RBI double in the 5th and a two-run Killebrew homer in the 6th. Then, in the bottom of the 7th, Rich Rollins and Zoilo Versalles connected for back-to-back homers off of Hunter to take the lead. Reliever Paul Lindblad retired Sandy Valdespino before allowing back-to-back homers to Tony Oliva and Don Mincher. The Athletics then turned to John Wyatt who allowed the Twins’ third consecutive home run, and the fifth of the inning, to Harmon Killebrew, his second of the game. Four National League teams have hit five home runs in an inning. The first time was in 1939 and the most recent in 2006. All four were against the Cincinnati Reds. For the history of the Minnesota Twins told one day at a time, 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.
  22. Kaat signed with the Washington Senators as an 18-year-old in 1957. He made his big league debut late in the 1959 season as a 20-year-old. His first full season in the big leagues was 1961, when the Senators moved north and west to Minnesota and became the Twins. He pitched for the Twins until the 1972 season when the Twins brass thought he was done. In his time as a Minnesota Twins pitcher, he was one of the most respected pitchers in baseball. He struggled in his two brief stints with the Senators, but if you count those numbers into his Minnesota Twins numbers, he went 190-159 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. That accounts for an adjusted-ERA+ of 110, which is 10% better than average. He gave up just 0.8 HR/9. He walked just 2.1 per nine. His 5.6 K/9 rate sounds miniscule in today’s world, but at the time, it was above average. Remember, players in his era were embarrassed to strike out. He represented the Twins in two All-Star Games. “Kitty” was a big part of the 1965 World Series team. In that Series, he started three games, all three against Sandy Koufax. He did win game two of that series, but as we know, Koufax became legendary in that Series. He was named the 1966 American League Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. He went 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP. The Cy Young Award was started in 1956, but the first time there were separate awards for each league was 1967. Names like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Whitey Ford won MLB Cy Youngs before 1967. After being traded to the White Sox later in the 1973 season, he spent two more years there. He pitched great in 1975 and earned his third trip to the All-Star Game. He spent 1976 through 1979 with the Phillies. He was traded to the Yankees in 1979 and also pitched for them to start the 1980 season. 1979 was the first season in which he primarily pitched out of the bullpen. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals as a 40-year-old in 1980. He stayed with the Cardinals until he was released in July, 1983. His first World Series was with the Twins in 1965. His second World Series was in 1982, and this time he earned the ring. He pitched in four games for the Cardinals in the Series. Kaat was known for his defense. He won 16 Gold Gloves, which was a record until Greg Maddux won 18 of them in his Hall of Fame career. Kaat won the award each year from 1962 through 1973, and then 1974 through 1977. In his 25 years as a big leaguer, Kaat went 283-237 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He had an adjusted ERA+ of 108. He became more crafty as he aged, and his career strikeout rate was just 4.9 per nine. From 1961 through 1976 (16 seasons), he went over 200 innings 14 times and over 300 innings twice. He was on his way to 200+ innings again in 1972. He was 10-2 with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 15 starts and 113.1 innings. Unfortunately, he had major elbow pain and didn’t pitch the rest of the season. Later, he would find out that the injury and pain he had at the time would now require Tommy John surgery. He didn’t have any surgery, but he did change several things to allow him to pitch, and he pitched for another decade. After retirement, he did join former teammate Pete Rose’s Cincinnati Reds coaching staff. Rose was so impressed by Kaat’s knowledge of pitching that he said if he was ever manager and Kaat was interested, he could be his pitching coach. He did have one twenty-game winner in his full season as pitching coach. However, Kaat has stayed in the game since then as an analyst of the game, and frankly, one of the best. He was a full time analyst somewhere from 1986 through 2006 when he allegedly retired. He was the Twins color analyst from 1988 through 1993. However, after some time off, he has called games in the World Baseball Classic, done work for MLB Network and more since then. In his time, he won seven NY Emmy’s for on-air sports coverage. We all know that “wins” are not a great indicator of great pitching. However, 283 wins means that he was very, very good for a very long time. He is one of just 29 men who played in four decades. There are 30 pitchers in baseball history with more wins than Kaat. Just five of them are not in the Hall of Fame. Bobby Matthews won 297 games between 1871 and 1888. Tony Mullane won 284 games between 1881 and 1894. Tommy John won 288 games between 1963 and 1989. Randy Johnson should get into the Hall of Fame this year on his first ballot, and Roger Clemens who should be in the Hall of Fame. In his 15 years on the ballot, Kaat never received more than 29.7% of the vote by the writers. In his excellent autobiography, Still Pitching, Kaat actually acknowledges that his was probably not a Hall of Fame career and he outlines some of the reasons. However, the Hall of Fame is also about character and integrity. There is also room for players who are great ambassadors of the game. Jim Kaat is certainly that. I once heard Kaat give a speech, probably four or five years ago. First, it was excellent. He told story after story after story of his days with the Twins. He had the crowd laughing and crying, and nodding their heads with memories. He spoke for 45 minutes, and not once did he use his notes. He has given to many charities and been a spokesman for baseball. He has represented the game very well for over 55 years now. When you combine his excellent playing career with his post-career baseball history, a strong case should be made in support of Kaat’s Hall of Fame candidacy. The Veteran’s Committee will be voting one week from today, December 8. Will Tony Oliva or Jim Kaat get the opportunity to call themselves Hall of Famers? I guess we’ll find out then. His long career speaks to the changes in the game. When he first came up, pitchers hit and starters threw 250 to 300 innings. By the time he retired, the DH era had begun and bullpens became much more important. It’s never a bad thing to take a look back at the great history of baseball and of the Minnesota Twins. Kaat is arguably (though there’s little question in my mind) the best pitcher in Twins history. It’s fun to look back, and for those of us who didn’t see him pitch, a reminder of how good he was. If you want to send a last-minute letter of support for Jim Kaat, you can do so by mailing a letter to the Veteran’s Committee at: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn: Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown, NY 13326
  23. On December 8, the 16-person Veteran's Committii will vote on which of the ten players from the Golden Era should be elected. Like the Baseball Writer’s vote, to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, a player will need 75% of the vote (or, 12 votes). Tony Oliva is a Twins legend. He is a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame and is one of the five best players in team history. However, he was not voted into the Hall of Fame after 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. In fact, he never accumulated more than 47.3% of the vote. However, thanks to the Hall of Fame’s addition of this Golden Era vote, Oliva has another chance. As Twins fans, we can certainly support one of ours being awarded the greatest honor a baseball player can receive. The Case For Oliva Players are to be considered or judged based on several criteria including record, ability, integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the team. However, it all starts with record as a player since there are a lot of people of high character and integrity in the game. So, let’s start with his playing career. Oliva had cups of coffee with the Twins in 1962 and 1963. In 1964, he was the American League Rookie of the Year and won the league batting title when he hit .323. In 1965, he hit .321, becoming the only player in team history to win back-to-back batting titles. In 1966, he led the league in hits for the third straight year but his .307 batting average was second behind Frank Robinson. In 1971, he hit a career-high .337 for his third and final batting title. He led the league in hits five times, and four times he led the league in doubles. Three times he finished in the top five in MVP voting. Five times he finished in the top ten. All-Star appearances mean different things to different people these days, but the reason it was called The Golden Era is because so many of baseball’s elite players came from that era. To have been selected for eight straight All-Star games, from 1964 through 1971, tells us how great he was in the era. The Twins actually released Oliva in 1961 because he was so bad defensively in the outfield. However, he turned around his defense in right field enough to earn a Gold Glove Award in 1966. He was known to have had one of the strongest arms in baseball. Oliva’s peak was from 1964 through 1971 (ages 25-32). Unfortunately, he was able to play just ten games in 1972 because of his knees. I wanted to see where Oliva ranked during that eight year stretch compared to his contemporaries. His triple slash line for that time frame was .313/.360/.507 (.867). That is an adjusted-OPS+ of 140. In other words, he was 40% better than the average player for that stretch. His .313 batting average was tied with Pete Rose for fourth in MLB, behind Roberto Clemente (.334), Rico Carty (.322), and Matty Alou (.314). It was best in the American League, ahead of teammate and roommate Rod Carew’s .306 average. Because he was such an aggressive hitter, his on-base percentage ranks 31st from that time frame, but it is 13th in the American League. That said, he was third in the American League with 90 intentional walks. Only sluggers Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard were intentionally walked more often in the AL. That is a sign of the respect opponents had for him. His slugging percentage is tied for 10th in MLB for that time frame. However, in the American League, only Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard rank ahead of him. His OPS was 14th in baseball, sixth in the American League (top five – Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Howard and Mickey Mantle). His 1,455 hits was behind only Rose (1,554), Lou Brock (1,552), Billy Williams (1,516) and Clemente (1,460). In the AL, Brooks Robinson’s 1,313 hits was second to Oliva. His 278 doubles was best in MLB from 1964-1971. His 46 triples ranked 12th in MLB and fourth in the American League. His 177 home runs ranked 15th in all of baseball and eighth in the AL. His 719 RBI was 13th overall behind 11 Hall of Famers (and just ahead of three more). That RBI total ranked fourth in the American League (leader was Harmon Killebrew). He was 10th in MLB with 711 runs scored, which ranked second in the American League. Many think that the knee injuries completely derailed his career. Sure, it slowed him down, but he was still pretty good. After playing in just ten games in 1972, Oliva became the Twins DH in 1973 and played in 374 games over the next three seasons. In those three years, he hit a combined .283/.338/.401 (.740). That may sound somewhat pedestrian, especially in comparison to those first eight full seasons. However, with an adjusted OPS+ of 109, he was still nine percent better than the average player. So, did he fade after the injuries, and after he turned 32? Sure, a little. He was still a very good player. Despite hobbling when he walked. Despite Rod Carew’s stories of Oliva crying himself to sleep at night in pain, or limping to get ice, he still continued to play at a very high level. That said, there will always be the question of What If... with Tony Oliva’s career. His career hitting line, from 1962-1975, is .304/.353/.476 (.830) which equates to an adjusted-OPS+ of 131. He accumulated 329 doubles, 48 triples, 220 home runs and 947 RBI. Post-Playing Career Oliva came to the United States from Cuba for an opportunity to play baseball and earn a living. However, he got married in South Dakota and has made Bloomington his home for 50 years. He has remained active in the organization. In fact, many may forget that he was that Twins first base coach in 1985 and their hitting coach from 1986 through 1991. I think most Twins fans would agree that was a pretty good stretch for the Twins. Since then, he has been a special adviser for the Twins. He has spent time in Ft. Myers as an instructor as well as going around to the minor league affiliates to do much of the same. He is very active in the community, often representing the Twins at events. Currently, he is an Analyst on the Twins Spanish Radio network and a minor league instructor. Seemingly all Twins fans have a good Oliva story. For me, the first one was in 2001 while in Cooperstown for Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield’s Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Just walking through the streets of Cooperstown, Oliva was chatting with fans and taking pictures. I happened to be in a store when my brother got his picture taken with him. In the last fifteen years, Oliva has had many honors bestowed on him. His #6 was retired by the Twins. He was part of the inaugural Twins Hall of Fame class. He was also named to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2011, the bronze statue of Oliva was dedicated outside of Gate 6 at Target Field. In short, he has been an ambassador of the game of baseball in the Upper Midwest for half of a century. His joy permeates a room when he is at the front sharing stories of his playing days, his Twins Caravan trips and more. He exudes integrity and character. What Can I Do? As we mentioned at the start, YOU can help Tony Oliva get votes. You can mail a letter to the Golden Era Veterans Committee about why you think Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame. The best way to influence the voting committee is by sending letters in support of Tony. VoteTonyO is working to send over 13,000 pieces of mail from fans, but more is needed. There are two things you can do to help the effort: 1. Mail pre-stamped VoteTonyO postcards VoteTonyO has designed and printed 8,000 custom postcards that are pre-stamped and pre-addressed. All you have to do is write a short message on the back and mail them in. These postcards are available for fans at no cost. To request postcards, email , providing your mailing address and desired quantity (in increments of 25). 2. Mail your own letter If you have more to say to the Hall of Fame voters about why Tony should be inducted, mail a letter to: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn: Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown, NY 13326 Don’t forget to write “VoteTonyO” on the front and back of the envelope. The vote is on December 8th, so you will need to get your letter or postcard as soon as possible.
  24. PeanutsFromHeaven

    14,001

    That's not an easy question to answer, and as someone who writes more than he takes action, I'm a little worried that I can't do much. After all, baseball writing focuses on providing clear and concise answers to clear and concise questions. Which player won the game? Which team lost the trade? Who's washed up? Who's the future? There's a quick answer to each of those questions and a swath of data to support any answer you give: box scores and power splits, defensive metrics and pitch mapping. But when it comes to addressing Hall of Fame worthiness, things get trickier. For instance one advanced measure, which analyzes an array of statistics and contexts, puts Tony ahead of no-doubt-legends like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson, but behind such faded who-the-hecks as Gavvy Cravath and Harry Stovey. http://votetonyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/VoteTonyO_Tony_Oliva_Official_Fan_Club-300x200.jpg "The numbers are easy", says Mike Murphy, one of Vote Tony O's spokespeople. "[They've] all been a record since 1976, but it's a little bit harder for us to quantify what Tony means to the community." Fuzzy though the quantification is, it's certain that Tony Oliva means a lot to his communities. He is and has been a role model for Cuban players coming to America. He served as a cornerstone of the Twins for the past 50 years as a player, a coach on both World Series winning clubs, and an announcer for our increasingly diverse fan base. Above all, he stands out as an indefatigable ambassador for the game, the team and life itself. Over the years Murphy and his family have seen this more than most people. "Tony loves being Tony. Tony loves being the guy that people want to come up and meet and touch and get an autograph. He loves everybody that comes up to him; he bends over backwards for these people, and it's because he truly enjoys it. " Again, anyone who has seen Oliva around the Twins in recent years knows it. Though the team has hardly been a bastion of good vibes, Oliva is often the greatest source of entertainment. He smiles. He beams. He radiates a love of the game that would insulate an ice fishing cabin in International Falls, and embodies a passion that those who fixate on questions about winning and losing too often forget. But the Murphys won't forget that passion, because they can't forget one of the rare times Oliva was dispirited rather than optimistic: winter 2011, the last time Tony was up for election. Mike Murphy remembers the push to the ballot. Remembers the day of the announcement. Remembers how "exactly the way you think it would be in your head, [that] was the way it was. You know the clock ticking and nobody talking, then depression sets in. "And the weird thing was Tony wasn't depressed he didn't get into the Hall of Fame. He's at peace with it; he's fine. That part's not a big deal. I'm sure he wants it, but the fact that he isn't in there? He's okay with it. "The part that disappointed him and bothered him was that he felt that he let his fans down...This is 35-ish years after the last baseball game he played. He was disappointed not because he didn't make it, but because he let his fans down." So while others might shake their heads and move on with their lives, the people behind Vote Tony O have taken up a three year campaign to push for Oliva's induction. They tweet. They promote. And they inundate the Hall of Fame with over 14,000 post cards highlighting Tony's achievements, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the game. According to Murphy, that has been the real driver of the group, focusing on "the character of the guy, the integrity of the guy, and re-shining some light. Hopefully we can pick up those last four votes and put him over." Four more votes, that's all Oliva needs. Twelve out of sixteen members of the veteran's committee. Former colleagues, executives and writers who know the game and its history, who should understand the effect that Oliva has had. And even though the votes belong to those men, and the honor of selection belongs to the players, the Murphys know that the institution isn't just the property of the gatekeepers or the honorees. "It's a museum. It's a New York State museum. It's a public thing, and frankly as a baseball fan: it's my museum." And even if you dispute Oliva's credentials (or refuse to consider him until after Gavvy Cravath gets his due), the leaders of Vote Tony O believe it's important to speak your mind. "It's our museum," repeats Murphy. "If [fans] feel strongly about anybody on that list be it Gil Hodges or Jim Kaat, I think it's their responsibility to let [the Hall of Fame] know. Nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong. But what we know as a fact is that an awful, awful lot of people think that Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame, and that's what we [want] to share with those 16 guys." So, how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame? Simple: do whatever we can. The Vote Tony O website has a wealth of post cards that you can print and mail to the Hall of Fame (also linked to here for your clickable perusal). The baskets of cards are dumped out in front of the committee members and makes for a rather effective image (as noted by former committee member Tommy Lasorda). So here's what you do 1. Click on the links to find the post card you like. 2. Print one (or preferably more) off. 3. Add a personal memory. 4. Address it to: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn- Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown NY 13326 5. Attach a stamp to the card. 6. Drop it in the mail. Whether you stood beside him at the Cuban sandwich station at Target Field, or held out a ball for an autograph at the Metrodome, or cheered with the Knothole Gang in the Old Met's bleachers on a Saturday afternoon, I think you'll agree that Tony Oliva is an integral part of what Minnesota baseball is. http://media.townhall.com/Townhall/reu/d/2011%5C98%5C2011-04-08T182219Z_01_MIN04_RTRIDSP_0_BASEBALL.jpg Whether you appreciated his friendly demeanor, or his clutch performances, or his bad-ball hitting, or his mentorship, or his courage in simply being a man of color in minor league towns that kept him separate and unequal, I think you'll agree it's time to stand up and say "thank you" to Tony Oliva. Whether you want to recognize a player who never got his due, or acknowledge the role he played in cementing baseball as an international game, or just want him to savor the game's greatest honor before (like Ron Santo and Buck O'Neill) it's too late, I think you'll agree it's important to call on the Veterans Committee to "Vote Tony O". Do your part: click, print, sign, lick a stamp, and make yours the 14,001st plea for the Veteran's Committee to Vote Tony O. Well...14,002nd. I already sent mine.
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