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  1. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? Leave a COMMENT and join 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
  2. Derek Falvey was brought over from Cleveland to help the Twins build a pitching pipeline. Those dreams have yet to come to fruition as the 2021 Twins might be the worst pitching staff in team history. On Tuesday night, Twins fans that stayed up late to watch a West Coast game were treated with a real clunker. Minnesota faced off against a bad Seattle team and it escalated into an embarrassing loss. J.A. Happ allowed six earned runs in four innings to an anemic Mariners offense. Happ is only one issue with a pitching staff that might be the worst in franchise history. Out of the 15 American League teams, Minnesota ranks 13th or lower in ERA, hits, R, HR, and strikeouts, but it goes even further than that. While all those numbers show how bad the Twins have been this season, there are ways to compare the current team to former seasons. ERA- and FIP- are all statistics that allow fans to compare pitchers across different eras because it adjusts for the league and the park. For each area, 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. If a team has a 90 ERA- that means they were 10 percentage points better than the league average. When it comes to ERA-, there is only one Minnesota team with a worse total than the 2021 Twins. The 1995 Twins finished the year with a 56-88 record and their starting staff was composed of a 22-year-old Brad Radke, Kevin Tapani, Mike Trombley, Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Erickson, and Jose Para. As a club, they had the ranked last or second to last in the American League when it came to ERA, HR, R, W, IP, and H. Entering play on Wednesday, the 2021 Twins (119 ERA-) were only one point behind the 1995 team (120 ERA-), so they certainly can end up in the bottom spot by season’s end. FIP is used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defensive performance behind the player. The 2021 Twins also have the second worse FIP- in team history, but this time the 1982 squad has the worst total. That squad finished 60-102, which was last place in the AL West. Starters on the team included Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Frank Viola, and Jack O’Connor. Like the 1995 team, they ranked at or near the bottom of the AL in ERA, HR, ER, R, and BB. What makes it even more frustrating is how good last year’s staff was in comparison to the current team. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young and he wasn’t the only one to find success. All four of Minnesota’s top four starters were above league average when it comes to ERA-. Minnesota’s bullpen also had many reliable arms whereas the 2021 team’s bullpen has been a train wreck. In the not-so-distant future, it seems likely for the 2021 Twins to cut ties to some of their veteran pitching options and start seeing what the team has for younger arms. Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax have been added to the staff and other prospects will be following closely behind. Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, have both showcased dominant stuff in the upper levels of the minors this season and their big-league debuts made come sooner rather than later. Do you think this is the worst pitching staff in team history? Leave a COMMENT and join 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 View full article
  3. Yesterday, we reviewed the top Minnesota Twins hitters from the decade of the 1980s. That group was impressive. Today, we will discuss the top Twins pitchers during the 1980s.Some of the Twins teams in the early '80s were really bad. However, it was a time for some development, and one of the players developed turned into one of the bettter pitchers in team history. There is no question that Frank Viola was the team's top pitcher of the 1980s, and he helped lead the 1987 Twins to a World Series title before the end of the decade. However, there is a big drop-off after Viola, and after reading today's article, you probably won't be surprised that the Twins had questions regarding a third starter even on a World Series team. Question marks in the pitching staff may have been an understatement in the early '80s. So, read my all-decade pitchers below and then discuss the pitchers. Did I leave someone out? What surprised you? Don't forget that on Thursday night, I'll be posting another podcast in which I talk about the Twins decade with a beat reporter who covered the team during the decade. It's a ton of fun and I really think you'll enjoy it... In fact, the writer actually convinced me to make one change in the bullpen below, the first time that has happened during this series. SP - Frank Viola (1982-1989) 260 games, 259 starts, 112-93 with 3.86 ERA in 1,772 2/3 innings. 1,214 K. 521 BB. Viola was the Twins second -round pick in 1981 out of St. Johns. Just over a year later, he made his debut for the Twins. In the early years, he was working innings for a struggling team, but as he got better, the Twins got better. He won 18 games in both 1984 and 1985. He won 17 games and posted a 2.90 ERA in 1987. That season ended with him named the MVP of the World Series. In 1988, he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was his lone All-Star appearance with the Twins. He was traded to the Mets during the 1989 season. He pitched more than twice as many innings as any other pitcher for the Twins during the decade. SP - Bert Blyleven (1985-1988) 120 games, 120 starts, 50-48 with 4.22 ERA in 860 innings. 633 K. 236 BB. Blyleven was easily the Twins top pitcher during the decade of the 1970s. He was traded to Texas, won a World Series with the 1979 Pirates, and pitched for Cleveland. He was traded back to the Twins in the middle of the 1985 season. While he was no longer the same pitcher as in his first stint with the Twins, he still provided solid pitching and innings for the Twins. He posted a 4.01 ERA in both 1986 and 1987. He was the second reliable starter on the 1987 World Series team as well. SP - Allan Anderson (1986-1989) 88 games, 75 starts, 37-35 with 3.72 ERA in 495 2/3 innings. 206 K. 130 BB. Anderson was the Twins second-round pick in 1982 out of high school in Ohio. He moved up the ladder and debuted in June of 1986. He pitched in 21 games that summer and then another four games in 1987. In 1988, he made 30 starts and went 16-9 with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. The following season, he made 33 starts and went 17-10 with a 3.80 ERA. During those seasons, he struck out just 3.7 and 3.2 batters, respectively, per nine innings. However, he also had elite control and command which made him good for a couple of seasons. SP - Albert Williams (1980-1984) 120 games, 97 starts, 35-38 with 4.24 ERA in 642 2/3 innings. 262 K. 227 BB. The back story of Albert Williams, whether it is true or embellished, is fascinating, but the right-hander from Nicaragua had a couple of mediocre seasons for the Twins during the decade. That qualifies him as a Top 5 starter of the decade. He spent parts of five seasons with the Twins, mostly as a starter. In the three seasons in which he threw 150 or more innings, he had ERA+ of 97, 101 and 103. In those seasons, his strikeout rate dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 to 3.2. In 1984, it was just 2.9, and he was let go. SP - Mike Smithson (1984-1987) 128 games, 126 starts, 47-48 with 4.46 ERA in 816 innings. 438 K. 227 BB. Smithson came to the Twins with John Butcher from the Rangers after the 1983 season for Gary Ward. He made a good first impression when he won 15 games and posted a 3.68 ERA in 252 innings over 36 starts in 1984. He won 15 games again in 1985, though his ERA rose to 4.34 (exactly league average) in 257 innings. He went 13-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 1986, and he was 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in 1987 before losing his job and being left off of the Twins postseason roster. Oh, and his 438 strikeouts for the Twins was third-highest among Twins starters in the decade. RP - Doug Corbett (1980-1982) 137 games, 0 starts, 10-14 with 43 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 246 innings. 164 K. 86 BB. Corbett made his MLB debut at the beginning of the 1980 season as a 27-year-old for the Twins. He posted a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings in 73 games. He went 8-6 with 23 saves. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, he went 2-6 with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA in a league-leading 54 games and 87 2/3 innings. No truth to any rumors that his right arm sent a thank you note to those involved in the strike. After just ten games in 1982, the Twins traded him to the Angels in a deal that brought Tom Brunansky. RP - Juan Berenguer (1987-1989) 160 games, 7 starts, 25-8 with 9 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 318 innings. 302 K. 155 BB. When Berenguer came to the Twins as a free agent in 1987, he had already pitched in parts of nine MLB seasons. While he hadn’t been a great starter, Tom Kelly used him a lot in his four seasons with the Twins. In 1987, he went 8-1 with four saves in 47 games and 112 innings. He worked over 100 innings all four years. Unlike most pitchers of the decade, Berenguer actually had a fastball that reached up to 93 or even 94 mph. He averaged just shy of a strikeout per inning during his time with the Twins. That is now just below league average, but at that time, it was very strong. Berenguer became a popular Twins player thanks to the Berenguer Boogie, along with very strong pitching. RP - Jeff Reardon (1987-1989) 191 games, 0 starts, 15-16 with 104 saves and a 3.70 ERA in 226 1/3 innings. 185 K. 55 BB. Reardon came to the Twins before the 1987 season. He had been an All-Star in 1985 and 1986. His biggest attribute to Twins fans was that he was not Ron Davis. However, he got off to a slow start early in his Twins career. After that, however, he became quite reliable. Despite an 8-8 record and 31 saves, his 1987 ERA was just 4.48. However, he received both MVP and Cy Young Award votes. His 104 saves was second in the organization during the decade. In 1988 ,he posted a 2.47 ERA in 74 innings and was an All-Star. RP - Ron Davis (1982-1986) 286 games, 0 starts, 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA in 381 1/3 innings. 349 K. 185 BB. After a couple of great years in the Yankees bullpen, Davis came to the Twins before the 1982 season with Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley. Goose Gossage was the Yankees closer, so Davis would get an opportunity in that role with the Twns that he did not get with the Yankees. While Davis has unfortunately become almost a punch line for Twins fans, and at times he really did struggle mightily, most of the time he did get the job done. He finished the games he came into 87% of the time. It isn’t impressive relative to today’s closers, but when he was going two or more innings most times, it was good. That said, when he was dealt to the Cubs in 1986, it was understandably welcomed. RP - Keith Atherton (1986-1988) 155 games, 0 starts, 19-18 with 15 saves and a 3.91 ERA in 235 innings. 153 K. 87 BB. After three-plus seasons in Oakland, Atherton came to the Twins in a May 1986 trade and became a generally reliable relief option for the Twins for the next three seasons. He was the #3 most used reliever in 1987 behind Berenguer and Reardon. As we saw at the back end of the starting group, Atherton was simply solid for three seasons with the Twins and that put him in my top five. What do you think? Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD) Click here to view the article
  4. Some of the Twins teams in the early '80s were really bad. However, it was a time for some development, and one of the players developed turned into one of the bettter pitchers in team history. There is no question that Frank Viola was the team's top pitcher of the 1980s, and he helped lead the 1987 Twins to a World Series title before the end of the decade. However, there is a big drop-off after Viola, and after reading today's article, you probably won't be surprised that the Twins had questions regarding a third starter even on a World Series team. Question marks in the pitching staff may have been an understatement in the early '80s. So, read my all-decade pitchers below and then discuss the pitchers. Did I leave someone out? What surprised you? Don't forget that on Thursday night, I'll be posting another podcast in which I talk about the Twins decade with a beat reporter who covered the team during the decade. It's a ton of fun and I really think you'll enjoy it... In fact, the writer actually convinced me to make one change in the bullpen below, the first time that has happened during this series. SP - Frank Viola (1982-1989) 260 games, 259 starts, 112-93 with 3.86 ERA in 1,772 2/3 innings. 1,214 K. 521 BB. Viola was the Twins second -round pick in 1981 out of St. Johns. Just over a year later, he made his debut for the Twins. In the early years, he was working innings for a struggling team, but as he got better, the Twins got better. He won 18 games in both 1984 and 1985. He won 17 games and posted a 2.90 ERA in 1987. That season ended with him named the MVP of the World Series. In 1988, he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was his lone All-Star appearance with the Twins. He was traded to the Mets during the 1989 season. He pitched more than twice as many innings as any other pitcher for the Twins during the decade. SP - Bert Blyleven (1985-1988) 120 games, 120 starts, 50-48 with 4.22 ERA in 860 innings. 633 K. 236 BB. Blyleven was easily the Twins top pitcher during the decade of the 1970s. He was traded to Texas, won a World Series with the 1979 Pirates, and pitched for Cleveland. He was traded back to the Twins in the middle of the 1985 season. While he was no longer the same pitcher as in his first stint with the Twins, he still provided solid pitching and innings for the Twins. He posted a 4.01 ERA in both 1986 and 1987. He was the second reliable starter on the 1987 World Series team as well. SP - Allan Anderson (1986-1989) 88 games, 75 starts, 37-35 with 3.72 ERA in 495 2/3 innings. 206 K. 130 BB. Anderson was the Twins second-round pick in 1982 out of high school in Ohio. He moved up the ladder and debuted in June of 1986. He pitched in 21 games that summer and then another four games in 1987. In 1988, he made 30 starts and went 16-9 with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. The following season, he made 33 starts and went 17-10 with a 3.80 ERA. During those seasons, he struck out just 3.7 and 3.2 batters, respectively, per nine innings. However, he also had elite control and command which made him good for a couple of seasons. SP - Albert Williams (1980-1984) 120 games, 97 starts, 35-38 with 4.24 ERA in 642 2/3 innings. 262 K. 227 BB. The back story of Albert Williams, whether it is true or embellished, is fascinating, but the right-hander from Nicaragua had a couple of mediocre seasons for the Twins during the decade. That qualifies him as a Top 5 starter of the decade. He spent parts of five seasons with the Twins, mostly as a starter. In the three seasons in which he threw 150 or more innings, he had ERA+ of 97, 101 and 103. In those seasons, his strikeout rate dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 to 3.2. In 1984, it was just 2.9, and he was let go. SP - Mike Smithson (1984-1987) 128 games, 126 starts, 47-48 with 4.46 ERA in 816 innings. 438 K. 227 BB. Smithson came to the Twins with John Butcher from the Rangers after the 1983 season for Gary Ward. He made a good first impression when he won 15 games and posted a 3.68 ERA in 252 innings over 36 starts in 1984. He won 15 games again in 1985, though his ERA rose to 4.34 (exactly league average) in 257 innings. He went 13-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 1986, and he was 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in 1987 before losing his job and being left off of the Twins postseason roster. Oh, and his 438 strikeouts for the Twins was third-highest among Twins starters in the decade. RP - Doug Corbett (1980-1982) 137 games, 0 starts, 10-14 with 43 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 246 innings. 164 K. 86 BB. Corbett made his MLB debut at the beginning of the 1980 season as a 27-year-old for the Twins. He posted a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings in 73 games. He went 8-6 with 23 saves. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, he went 2-6 with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA in a league-leading 54 games and 87 2/3 innings. No truth to any rumors that his right arm sent a thank you note to those involved in the strike. After just ten games in 1982, the Twins traded him to the Angels in a deal that brought Tom Brunansky. RP - Juan Berenguer (1987-1989) 160 games, 7 starts, 25-8 with 9 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 318 innings. 302 K. 155 BB. When Berenguer came to the Twins as a free agent in 1987, he had already pitched in parts of nine MLB seasons. While he hadn’t been a great starter, Tom Kelly used him a lot in his four seasons with the Twins. In 1987, he went 8-1 with four saves in 47 games and 112 innings. He worked over 100 innings all four years. Unlike most pitchers of the decade, Berenguer actually had a fastball that reached up to 93 or even 94 mph. He averaged just shy of a strikeout per inning during his time with the Twins. That is now just below league average, but at that time, it was very strong. Berenguer became a popular Twins player thanks to the Berenguer Boogie, along with very strong pitching. RP - Jeff Reardon (1987-1989) 191 games, 0 starts, 15-16 with 104 saves and a 3.70 ERA in 226 1/3 innings. 185 K. 55 BB. Reardon came to the Twins before the 1987 season. He had been an All-Star in 1985 and 1986. His biggest attribute to Twins fans was that he was not Ron Davis. However, he got off to a slow start early in his Twins career. After that, however, he became quite reliable. Despite an 8-8 record and 31 saves, his 1987 ERA was just 4.48. However, he received both MVP and Cy Young Award votes. His 104 saves was second in the organization during the decade. In 1988 ,he posted a 2.47 ERA in 74 innings and was an All-Star. RP - Ron Davis (1982-1986) 286 games, 0 starts, 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA in 381 1/3 innings. 349 K. 185 BB. After a couple of great years in the Yankees bullpen, Davis came to the Twins before the 1982 season with Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley. Goose Gossage was the Yankees closer, so Davis would get an opportunity in that role with the Twns that he did not get with the Yankees. While Davis has unfortunately become almost a punch line for Twins fans, and at times he really did struggle mightily, most of the time he did get the job done. He finished the games he came into 87% of the time. It isn’t impressive relative to today’s closers, but when he was going two or more innings most times, it was good. That said, when he was dealt to the Cubs in 1986, it was understandably welcomed. RP - Keith Atherton (1986-1988) 155 games, 0 starts, 19-18 with 15 saves and a 3.91 ERA in 235 innings. 153 K. 87 BB. After three-plus seasons in Oakland, Atherton came to the Twins in a May 1986 trade and became a generally reliable relief option for the Twins for the next three seasons. He was the #3 most used reliever in 1987 behind Berenguer and Reardon. As we saw at the back end of the starting group, Atherton was simply solid for three seasons with the Twins and that put him in my top five. What do you think? Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD)
  5. The past two days, we have provided an All-Decade Team for the 1980s Minnesota Twins for you to read about and consider. Today, I am excited to publish this week's Ge tto Know 'Em podcast in which we discuss the 1980s Twins with StarTribune.com's Howard Sinker.The Twins began the decade of the 1980s in really bad shape. The 1981 strike may have kept them from being one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1982 Twins lost 102 games. However, that team was developing a strong core of young players, taking their lumps, who would be World Series champions just five years later. While our look at the hitters of the decade shows that there was some good offense, the pitching staffs were generally quite "offensive." With the exception of Frank Viola, it's clear why the Twins struggled at finding quality starting pitchers. Bert Blyleven came back in the mid-80s and helped the team toward that 1987 championship. Who would the player of the decade be for the Twins? Kirby Puckett? Kent Hrbek? Maybe Frank Viola? Which players were underrated? Which players were your favorites, whether they were great players or not. To help talk about the 1980s Twins, we are joined by friend of Twins Daily's Howard Sinker. Howard is the digital man behind the startribune.com sports pages online. In September of 1984, he was the Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune. It was a job that he held until August of 1987. He saw some bad baseball. He saw some very good baseball. He interacted with some of your favorite players from that 1980s. You can follow Howard on Twitter at @afansview. And be sure to check out his great work at StarTribune.com as well. Enjoy, and discuss! 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) Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) 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. Click here to view the article
  6. The Twins began the decade of the 1980s in really bad shape. The 1981 strike may have kept them from being one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1982 Twins lost 102 games. However, that team was developing a strong core of young players, taking their lumps, who would be World Series champions just five years later. While our look at the hitters of the decade shows that there was some good offense, the pitching staffs were generally quite "offensive." With the exception of Frank Viola, it's clear why the Twins struggled at finding quality starting pitchers. Bert Blyleven came back in the mid-80s and helped the team toward that 1987 championship. Who would the player of the decade be for the Twins? Kirby Puckett? Kent Hrbek? Maybe Frank Viola? http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep17_Howard_Sinker.mp3 Which players were underrated? Which players were your favorites, whether they were great players or not. To help talk about the 1980s Twins, we are joined by friend of Twins Daily's Howard Sinker. Howard is the digital man behind the startribune.com sports pages online. In September of 1984, he was the Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune. It was a job that he held until August of 1987. He saw some bad baseball. He saw some very good baseball. He interacted with some of your favorite players from that 1980s. You can follow Howard on Twitter at @afansview. And be sure to check out his great work at StarTribune.com as well. Enjoy, and discuss! http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep17_Howard_Sinker.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) Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) 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.
  7. Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players. But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career. Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise. The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease. When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses. But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team. But it wouldn’t be his Twins team.
  8. The Twins appeared to be ascending in 1977. The 'Lumber Company' made a charge towards the division title and over a million fans watched Rodney Carew fall just eight hits shy of hitting .400. But the team was about to go sharply downhill - before the next season even began. Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players. But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career. Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise. The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease. When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses. But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team. But it wouldn’t be his Twins team. Click here to view the article
  9. This week's Almanac chronicles 35 events in Minnesota baseball history, featuring former Twins Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Bert Blyleven, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Eric Milton, ByungHo Park, Jason Kubel, Dick Stigman, Lyman Bostock, Butch Wynegar, Frank Viola, and Joe Niekro, and Minnesotan major leaguers Charley Bender, Howie Schultz, Jim Eisenreich, Bob Johnson, Dan Smith, Rip Conway, and Hack Spencer. 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 Click here to view the article
  10. 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
  11. Gladden had a dour demeanor that rubbed some people the wrong way. While with the Giants, he had exchanged blows with teammate Jeffrey Leonard during an on-field batting practice. The scuffle stemmed from Gladden’s tendency to take long batting practice sessions, fouling off balls and taking extra cuts. This practice irked Leonard and one day Leonard let Gladden know it. Gladden, not one to back down from a fight, jumped Leonard. According to Hank Greenwald, the Giants play-by-play announcer who witnessed the melee from the booth, the two went at it next to the batting cage and ended up rolling in the dirt before being separated by other teammates. Brunansky, who faced Gladden in the minors, said that he “hated” the way Gladden played the game back then. “He seemed arrogant,” the Twins right fielder said. “He didn't seem to care how he went about it.” In spite of the reputation, the Twins front office felt that the team needed some of that hard scrabble attitude. Unsatisfied with the performance of veteran Mickey Hatcher, McPhail looked elsewhere for help and targeted Gladden, but the transaction took forever to complete. "Every time I talked to (Giants general manager) Al Rosen, he asked for either Jeff Bumgarner or Steve Gasser,” McPhail told the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman. “I wasn’t going to give either one up.” “We talked about the deal at least once every week until we made it. Atlanta and the Dodgers were very interested in Gladden. The Giants had made a deal with the Reds for Eddie Milner, and they had an abundance of outfielders. Rosen was reluctant to trade him to a team in the National League. He didn’t want Gladden to come back and hurt him.” McPhail said that the trade discussions started early in the offseason during the winter meetings, but the back and forth prolonged the deal until well into spring training. “Rosen finally called one day late in March and said he was going to deal Gladden that day. He said he was willing to make the trade for three of our young pitching prospects. He gave me a list of five, I took two out, and we made the trade.” With Gladden acquired, the Twins cut Hatcher on March 31. It was a shock to the fan base. Hatcher, who had played with the Twins for the last six years with a .284 average but inconsistent playing time, saw the writing on the wall as spring training played out and manager Tom Kelly used him less frequently in the exhibition games. “After two weeks of being here I knew it was over for me,” Hatcher told reporters. “When you’re only playing once every four days, you get the idea. It was obvious they wanted to look at the younger players.” McPhail said he wanted speed. Gladden, who had nabbed 94 bases in 138 attempts with the Giants and was capable of playing center field, would provide that dimension. Additionally, he was tabbed to assume the leadoff hitter role in place of Puckett, who had a breakout power year in 1986, allowing him to hit in the middle of the order where he was better suited and where Tom Kelly wanted him to bat. (Once he assumed the interim manager title the previous September, Kelly shifted Puckett out of the leadoff and into the third spot.) Kelly, however, wasn’t sure what to do with Gladden initially. In the season’s first game Gladden led off but was the designated hitter. It wasn’t until five games later that he got his first start in the outfield, only it was in right field. Kelly preferred Randy Bush and Mark Davidson while spot starting Gladden on occasion. It was not until mid-May that Gladden solidified his role as the team’s starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Almost immediately, Twins players took notice of Gladden’s attitude. “We didn’t know much about him but we found out soon,” said left-handed reliever Dan Schatzeder. “In one of the first games he played for us, he got into a jawing match with an umpire. He was asserting himself right away. We thought, ‘This guy’s going to be interesting.’” Interesting is right. It would be another eight months before his infamous fight with Lombardozzi, but Gladden was about to provide a very memorable punch against the Cardinals. **** In his second at-bat of Game 1, Gladden grounded into a fielder’s choice, erasing Tim Laudner at second. The at-bat was a microcosm of who Gladden was as a leadoff hitter. Magrane struggled with his command, walking three of the last four hitters he faced. Common baseball sense would be to exert patience and make the rookie pitcher sweat through his polyester. However, rather than making Magrane squirm, Gladden took a cut at the the first pitch -- a big curve, no less -- and bounced the ball harmlessly to Lawless at third who fired to Herr at second to retire Laudner. That was the frustrating part of Gladden as a leadoff hitter. Of course, even though Gladden ignored standard practice like making a pitcher throw a glutton of pitches, on the bases he was able to set up camp right in the pitcher's mind. In spite of eliminating the lead runner, Gladden, now at first base, became all-consuming to the Cardinals’ rookie lefty who struggle to hold runners. Magrane paid extra attention (and then some) to the irritating long-haired runner who had taken 25 bases on 34 attempts during the regular season. What's more, Gladden was 18 for 21 in attempts in the Metrodome that year. And Magrane was terrible when it came to slowing down the run game -- runners had swiped 18 bases on 21 tries. His big body and lack of a slide step gave runners ample time to trot to the next base. Gladden, with one foot on the turf and one foot in the dirt cut-out, was an itch that Magrane needed to scratch constantly. Before even throwing a pitch to Gagne, he thew over to first nine consecutive times. Afterwards, Magrane admitted the obvious that he had obsessed over Gladden. “I messed around with him too much,” Magrane said. “I felt if he was going to go, it was going to be on the first pitch. I should have gone after the hitter a lot more. But I just messed around with him too much.” A batter later, Gladden eventually did swipe that base but was stranded there when Puckett grounded out to second. It would be in his next at bat, with the bases loaded and Magrane out of the game, that Gladden would break the game wide open. Gladden was rejuvenated during the Detroit series after the second half of the year saw his production drop off a cliff. After hitting .283/.337/.405 in the first half, he went .195/.273/.290 the rest of the way after the break. In the ALCS Gladden went 7-for-20 (.350), scored five and drove in another five. He did miss out on the opportunity to add to his RBI total when he failed to convert during a bases loaded appearance in Game 4: With the bags filled and two outs in the second inning, the Tigers’ Frank Tanana threw Gladden three straight breaking balls and ended the threat without the ball being put into play. In the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, with Hrbek, Lombardozzi and Laudner occupying the bases, Gladden was given a second chance to do some damage. With his golden hair escaping out of the back of his navy helmet by several inches, Gladden assumed his standard closed stance at the plate -- his front foot almost touching the plate-side batter’s box chalk and his back foot splayed out behind him -- and teased his bat several times in Cardinals' reliever Bob Forsch’s direction. Forsch started Gladden off with a fastball up and away for ball one. On the 1-0 count, the pent-up party atmosphere of the Dome’s left field bleachers released a beach ball onto the field, causing a break in the action while Willie McGee grabbed and tossed the ball over the plastic wall in center. “What’s a ballgame without a beach ball these days,” Michaels inquired to the audience during the brief delay. Dome announcer Bob Casey took that moment to remind the crowd not to throw things on the playing field. After the brief delay, Forsch tried to hit the outside corner again with a fastball but it drifted back over the plate. Gladden was behind and fouled into the first base stands. Forsch then went to the breaking ball on the outer half that Gladden spun down the first base line. Similar to the Detroit series, Gladden now had the bases loaded with two strikes. Then Forsch made a critical mistake. He went back to the curveball. Maybe it wasn’t so much that Forsch went back to the curveball but that he didn’t bury the breaking ball as much as he should have. Forsch’s curve was a looper that started at the belt and broke to the knees. Gladden was out over his front leg when he greeted the pitch and lifted it towards left field. Off the bat, it looked like a chip shot. But it carried. http://i.imgur.com/HRGSXL8.gif “High in the air to deep left field,” Michaels bellowed as Gladden’s shot drifted toward the plexiglass-guarded fans. “Coleman goes back...a grand slam!” The 55,171 people in attendance fell into hysteria. Reports later said that the decibel level reached 118. At that level, it was similar to sitting next to an ambulance siren or a jackhammer, a level of exposure that is only recommended for less than 30 seconds. The Metrodome crowd roared like that for several minutes. The first grand slam in a World Series game since 1970 put the Twins squarely ahead 7 to 1. Gladden later joked to the media that he should have put his “flap” down, the act of keeping one arm motionless while rounding the bases. “I was pretty excited running around the bases” said Gladden, a former Giant. 'I thought about putting my flap down like Jeffrey Leonard, but I thought twice about it.” Had Gladden opted for the flap-down look, it would have been a solid troll move to start the opening game of the series. The St. Louis Cardinals had seen plenty of Leonard’s “one flap down” routine during a contentious National League Championship Series. “I don’t like Jeffrey Leonard,” said Cardinals pitcher John Tudor. “It’s no secret to him or anyone else.” That feeling was shared by most of Tudor’s teammates. In Game 3, Bob Forsch dotted him with a pitch that Leonard felt was intentional. In Game 4, Leonard had already launched a home run deep to left field when later he tried to score from first on a misplayed fly ball. The relay reached home plate and the waiting Cardinals’ catcher Tony Pena in plenty of time. Rather than sliding, Leonard came in high and Pena took the opportunity to place a “tag” right in Leonard’s mug. The Twins were now firmly in the driver’s seat and the stadium was rocking off its hinges. Greg Gagne, who followed Gladden at the plate, said afterwards that the volume of the crowd was unbelievable. “After Gladden hit that grand slam, I was in the batter's box and my ears were ringing. I asked Tony (Pena) if his ears were ringing and he couldn’t even hear me.” **** As bedlam overtook in the Dome, the action outside throughout the Twin Cities was just as Twins-centric. With tickets difficult to obtain, fans waited around the Metrodome ticket offices for over an hour after the start of the game in hopes of landing an unclaimed ticket. At the Orpheum Theater, singer-songwriter Warren Zevon performed in front of 1,500 fans and provided them with continuous updates of the score for Game 1. Zevon worked Kirby Puckett’s name into one of his songs and disparaged the Cardinals in another. For an encore, he returned to the stage with a Twins jersey. Back on the mound Frank Viola remained a magician. Viola was unsolvable for the majority of the game. Having a 10-1 lead didn’t hurt either. Outside of the Puckett misplay that led to the Cardinals’ only run, he was virtually flawless. Prior to being pulled after eight innings, he retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and did not allow a baserunner past first from the fourth inning on. Interestingly enough, if things had gone differently and the Twins were inclined to shop Viola during the lean years, he may have been in the other dugout. “I’ve always like Viola,” Whitey Herzog told the Star Tribune’s Steve Aschburner. “We’ve tried to get him for years. He’s a premier pitcher. He knows how to pitch, he changes speeds real well. He pitched an outstanding ball game.” Gladden added an RBI double in the seventh inning, cementing his spot as the game’s most valuable offensive player. His five RBI in one game topped the five he drove in through the entire ALCS series. He had gone from a roster afterthought to a celebrity in the span of two and a half hours. The crowd was delirious leaving the ballpark. Outside the Metrodome, each local TV newscast positioned a reporter on the scene and each reporter was inundated with fans chanting “we’re number one” or the Twins fight song. No doubt that the lopsided results of Game 1 had people thinking that this series would be over after the next three games. With the area’s population all clamoring to participate in the largest screamfest the state had ever seen, Kent Hrbek offered up words that every Twins fan unable to join the party thought. “I wished they had built a bigger stadium.” **** Previous installments... Tame The Tigers Dealt The Cards
  12. The nickname “Wrench” -- short for “Mr Goodwrench” -- came from Kent Hrbek. Hrbek said that Dan Gladden looked like he finished performing an oil change on a car. “He reminds you of a guy who took four auto-shop classes in high school,” Hrbek explained to Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy. ''Dan could strike out four times and somehow get dirty. The guy is a piece of work.'' “Wrench” was the perfect description for how Gladden played the game. With his speed, grit and hustle, it sometimes felt like he was hitting you with one.Gladden had a dour demeanor that rubbed some people the wrong way. While with the Giants, he had exchanged blows with teammate Jeffrey Leonard during an on-field batting practice. The scuffle stemmed from Gladden’s tendency to take long batting practice sessions, fouling off balls and taking extra cuts. This practice irked Leonard and one day Leonard let Gladden know it. Gladden, not one to back down from a fight, jumped Leonard. According to Hank Greenwald, the Giants play-by-play announcer who witnessed the melee from the booth, the two went at it next to the batting cage and ended up rolling in the dirt before being separated by other teammates. Brunansky, who faced Gladden in the minors, said that he “hated” the way Gladden played the game back then. “He seemed arrogant,” the Twins right fielder said. “He didn't seem to care how he went about it.” In spite of the reputation, the Twins front office felt that the team needed some of that hard scrabble attitude. Unsatisfied with the performance of veteran Mickey Hatcher, McPhail looked elsewhere for help and targeted Gladden, but the transaction took forever to complete. "Every time I talked to (Giants general manager) Al Rosen, he asked for either Jeff Bumgarner or Steve Gasser,” McPhail told the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman. “I wasn’t going to give either one up.” “We talked about the deal at least once every week until we made it. Atlanta and the Dodgers were very interested in Gladden. The Giants had made a deal with the Reds for Eddie Milner, and they had an abundance of outfielders. Rosen was reluctant to trade him to a team in the National League. He didn’t want Gladden to come back and hurt him.” McPhail said that the trade discussions started early in the offseason during the winter meetings, but the back and forth prolonged the deal until well into spring training. “Rosen finally called one day late in March and said he was going to deal Gladden that day. He said he was willing to make the trade for three of our young pitching prospects. He gave me a list of five, I took two out, and we made the trade.” With Gladden acquired, the Twins cut Hatcher on March 31. It was a shock to the fan base. Hatcher, who had played with the Twins for the last six years with a .284 average but inconsistent playing time, saw the writing on the wall as spring training played out and manager Tom Kelly used him less frequently in the exhibition games. “After two weeks of being here I knew it was over for me,” Hatcher told reporters. “When you’re only playing once every four days, you get the idea. It was obvious they wanted to look at the younger players.” McPhail said he wanted speed. Gladden, who had nabbed 94 bases in 138 attempts with the Giants and was capable of playing center field, would provide that dimension. Additionally, he was tabbed to assume the leadoff hitter role in place of Puckett, who had a breakout power year in 1986, allowing him to hit in the middle of the order where he was better suited and where Tom Kelly wanted him to bat. (Once he assumed the interim manager title the previous September, Kelly shifted Puckett out of the leadoff and into the third spot.) Kelly, however, wasn’t sure what to do with Gladden initially. In the season’s first game Gladden led off but was the designated hitter. It wasn’t until five games later that he got his first start in the outfield, only it was in right field. Kelly preferred Randy Bush and Mark Davidson while spot starting Gladden on occasion. It was not until mid-May that Gladden solidified his role as the team’s starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Almost immediately, Twins players took notice of Gladden’s attitude. “We didn’t know much about him but we found out soon,” said left-handed reliever Dan Schatzeder. “In one of the first games he played for us, he got into a jawing match with an umpire. He was asserting himself right away. We thought, ‘This guy’s going to be interesting.’” Interesting is right. It would be another eight months before his infamous fight with Lombardozzi, but Gladden was about to provide a very memorable punch against the Cardinals. **** In his second at-bat of Game 1, Gladden grounded into a fielder’s choice, erasing Tim Laudner at second. The at-bat was a microcosm of who Gladden was as a leadoff hitter. Magrane struggled with his command, walking three of the last four hitters he faced. Common baseball sense would be to exert patience and make the rookie pitcher sweat through his polyester. However, rather than making Magrane squirm, Gladden took a cut at the the first pitch -- a big curve, no less -- and bounced the ball harmlessly to Lawless at third who fired to Herr at second to retire Laudner. That was the frustrating part of Gladden as a leadoff hitter. Of course, even though Gladden ignored standard practice like making a pitcher throw a glutton of pitches, on the bases he was able to set up camp right in the pitcher's mind. In spite of eliminating the lead runner, Gladden, now at first base, became all-consuming to the Cardinals’ rookie lefty who struggle to hold runners. Magrane paid extra attention (and then some) to the irritating long-haired runner who had taken 25 bases on 34 attempts during the regular season. What's more, Gladden was 18 for 21 in attempts in the Metrodome that year. And Magrane was terrible when it came to slowing down the run game -- runners had swiped 18 bases on 21 tries. His big body and lack of a slide step gave runners ample time to trot to the next base. Gladden, with one foot on the turf and one foot in the dirt cut-out, was an itch that Magrane needed to scratch constantly. Before even throwing a pitch to Gagne, he thew over to first nine consecutive times. Afterwards, Magrane admitted the obvious that he had obsessed over Gladden. “I messed around with him too much,” Magrane said. “I felt if he was going to go, it was going to be on the first pitch. I should have gone after the hitter a lot more. But I just messed around with him too much.” A batter later, Gladden eventually did swipe that base but was stranded there when Puckett grounded out to second. It would be in his next at bat, with the bases loaded and Magrane out of the game, that Gladden would break the game wide open. Gladden was rejuvenated during the Detroit series after the second half of the year saw his production drop off a cliff. After hitting .283/.337/.405 in the first half, he went .195/.273/.290 the rest of the way after the break. In the ALCS Gladden went 7-for-20 (.350), scored five and drove in another five. He did miss out on the opportunity to add to his RBI total when he failed to convert during a bases loaded appearance in Game 4: With the bags filled and two outs in the second inning, the Tigers’ Frank Tanana threw Gladden three straight breaking balls and ended the threat without the ball being put into play. In the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, with Hrbek, Lombardozzi and Laudner occupying the bases, Gladden was given a second chance to do some damage. With his golden hair escaping out of the back of his navy helmet by several inches, Gladden assumed his standard closed stance at the plate -- his front foot almost touching the plate-side batter’s box chalk and his back foot splayed out behind him -- and teased his bat several times in Cardinals' reliever Bob Forsch’s direction. Forsch started Gladden off with a fastball up and away for ball one. On the 1-0 count, the pent-up party atmosphere of the Dome’s left field bleachers released a beach ball onto the field, causing a break in the action while Willie McGee grabbed and tossed the ball over the plastic wall in center. “What’s a ballgame without a beach ball these days,” Michaels inquired to the audience during the brief delay. Dome announcer Bob Casey took that moment to remind the crowd not to throw things on the playing field. After the brief delay, Forsch tried to hit the outside corner again with a fastball but it drifted back over the plate. Gladden was behind and fouled into the first base stands. Forsch then went to the breaking ball on the outer half that Gladden spun down the first base line. Similar to the Detroit series, Gladden now had the bases loaded with two strikes. Then Forsch made a critical mistake. He went back to the curveball. Maybe it wasn’t so much that Forsch went back to the curveball but that he didn’t bury the breaking ball as much as he should have. Forsch’s curve was a looper that started at the belt and broke to the knees. Gladden was out over his front leg when he greeted the pitch and lifted it towards left field. Off the bat, it looked like a chip shot. But it carried. http://i.imgur.com/HRGSXL8.gif “High in the air to deep left field,” Michaels bellowed as Gladden’s shot drifted toward the plexiglass-guarded fans. “Coleman goes back...a grand slam!” The 55,171 people in attendance fell into hysteria. Reports later said that the decibel level reached 118. At that level, it was similar to sitting next to an ambulance siren or a jackhammer, a level of exposure that is only recommended for less than 30 seconds. The Metrodome crowd roared like that for several minutes. The first grand slam in a World Series game since 1970 put the Twins squarely ahead 7 to 1. Gladden later joked to the media that he should have put his “flap” down, the act of keeping one arm motionless while rounding the bases. “I was pretty excited running around the bases” said Gladden, a former Giant. 'I thought about putting my flap down like Jeffrey Leonard, but I thought twice about it.” Had Gladden opted for the flap-down look, it would have been a solid troll move to start the opening game of the series. The St. Louis Cardinals had seen plenty of Leonard’s “one flap down” routine during a contentious National League Championship Series. “I don’t like Jeffrey Leonard,” said Cardinals pitcher John Tudor. “It’s no secret to him or anyone else.” That feeling was shared by most of Tudor’s teammates. In Game 3, Bob Forsch dotted him with a pitch that Leonard felt was intentional. In Game 4, Leonard had already launched a home run deep to left field when later he tried to score from first on a misplayed fly ball. The relay reached home plate and the waiting Cardinals’ catcher Tony Pena in plenty of time. Rather than sliding, Leonard came in high and Pena took the opportunity to place a “tag” right in Leonard’s mug. The Twins were now firmly in the driver’s seat and the stadium was rocking off its hinges. Greg Gagne, who followed Gladden at the plate, said afterwards that the volume of the crowd was unbelievable. “After Gladden hit that grand slam, I was in the batter's box and my ears were ringing. I asked Tony (Pena) if his ears were ringing and he couldn’t even hear me.” **** As bedlam overtook in the Dome, the action outside throughout the Twin Cities was just as Twins-centric. With tickets difficult to obtain, fans waited around the Metrodome ticket offices for over an hour after the start of the game in hopes of landing an unclaimed ticket. At the Orpheum Theater, singer-songwriter Warren Zevon performed in front of 1,500 fans and provided them with continuous updates of the score for Game 1. Zevon worked Kirby Puckett’s name into one of his songs and disparaged the Cardinals in another. For an encore, he returned to the stage with a Twins jersey. Back on the mound Frank Viola remained a magician. Viola was unsolvable for the majority of the game. Having a 10-1 lead didn’t hurt either. Outside of the Puckett misplay that led to the Cardinals’ only run, he was virtually flawless. Prior to being pulled after eight innings, he retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and did not allow a baserunner past first from the fourth inning on. Interestingly enough, if things had gone differently and the Twins were inclined to shop Viola during the lean years, he may have been in the other dugout. “I’ve always like Viola,” Whitey Herzog told the Star Tribune’s Steve Aschburner. “We’ve tried to get him for years. He’s a premier pitcher. He knows how to pitch, he changes speeds real well. He pitched an outstanding ball game.” Gladden added an RBI double in the seventh inning, cementing his spot as the game’s most valuable offensive player. His five RBI in one game topped the five he drove in through the entire ALCS series. He had gone from a roster afterthought to a celebrity in the span of two and a half hours. The crowd was delirious leaving the ballpark. Outside the Metrodome, each local TV newscast positioned a reporter on the scene and each reporter was inundated with fans chanting “we’re number one” or the Twins fight song. No doubt that the lopsided results of Game 1 had people thinking that this series would be over after the next three games. With the area’s population all clamoring to participate in the largest screamfest the state had ever seen, Kent Hrbek offered up words that every Twins fan unable to join the party thought. “I wished they had built a bigger stadium.” **** Previous installments... Tame The Tigers Dealt The Cards Click here to view the article
  13. Given the opportunity, Dan Rohlfing decided to return to the Minnesota Twins organization on a minor league contract. Recently, he took time to answer several questions for Twins Daily readers about a variety of prospects. Let’s get started. Seth Stohs (SS): Earlier this month, you announced on Twitter that you are returning to the Twins. Tell us what went into your decision to sign with the Twins. What were some of the factors that led to that choice? Dan Rohlfing (DR):Opportunity is the number one factor I look at. I just want a chance to play and prove myself. This year, with the teams I was talking to, the Twins were the best fit. Bonus points for it being a familiar place! SS: You’ve been a free agent the last couple of years and signed with two different organizations. Have you enjoyed the free agency process at all, or is is more stressful? DR: Free agency starts as exciting. Then can turn stressful pretty quickly if it doesn't go your way. Wondering who will call or the thought of a fresh start somewhere is always exciting. The first couple years went smooth, and I signed back with the Twins pretty quickly. But, then there are years like last year where the catchers market was saturated and the phone wasn't ringing. I didn't sign with the Dbacks until Feb 8th. So to say I was stressed may be an understatement. SS: After all those years in the Twins organization, you’ve had a year in the Mets and Diamondbacks systems. Without getting into anymore detail than you’re comfortable, were there (significant) differences between the organizations from your perspective? DR: There wasn't anything too crazy that I can remember. Baseball-wise, it's all the same game. The main difference I noticed is just how teams place emphasis in different areas. SS: What did it mean to you to put on the red, white and blue chest protector and represent Team USA in the WSBC Premier 12 tournament a year ago in Japan? What was that experience like for you? DR: Playing for Team USA was always a dream of mine and that was the most fun I've ever had playing ball. That uniform had a special feel to it the second I put it on, different than any other uniform I've ever worn. We had such an awesome group of guys that all came together and truly played for the name on the front. Even though Park and Team Korea took the gold, we walked away with silver, and I wouldn't trade that experience of playing for Team USA for anything. SS: I have to ask… How was your Wally Backman experience? (Secondly, did you work with Frank Viola as well in 2015 in Las Vegas?) DR: Ha ha! What a staff! That was fun. I loved playing for Wally and working with Frank! Wally is a guy you wanted to play hard for. He still remembers how tough it is to play this game, and because of that the way he interacts with his players is special and he was the type of guy you wanted to win for. You knew he always had your back and clearly has no problem tearing into an umpire for you. If you need a refresher just check out his YouTube videos. Ha ha!. SS: You spent eight years moving gradually up the Twins system. You had a lot of teammates in those years, and there were several that you played with a lot. For instance, you played with James Beresford about five of those years. Were you excited to see him get his month in the big leagues in 2016? DR: So many great guys! I think Jimmy and I may actually be legal brothers now. Between time at the field and living together in about 7 different apartments and houses we definitely got close. That was the happiest I've been for someone to get 'the call'. The only one that would top it was if I received that call myself. SS: Having seen that, and with the time you’ve spent in AAA over the years, does it change your opinion at all on what it would mean to you to get an opportunity in the big leagues, even if just for a week? DR: I'll take one day at this point. Ha ha! Baseball has been my life and my dream since I can remember. To be able to say "I made it" would make every single sacrifice I've made worth it. SS: You’ve spent some time in the Dominican Winter League. What do you get out of the Winter League experience? DR: Each year I've had a little different motive. The first year was for the experience and getting more reps in against quality competition to make myself better. The other year I was a free agent so it helped get more exposure. Also the money is nice so that's always a plus of going down. SS: What is it that you most enjoy about catching? DR: I love the action. It's a crazy position where you impact the game on so many different levels. My favorite part has to be working with pitchers and game-calling. It gets you involved in every pitch, and it becomes a game within a game. Using my knowledge of what the pitcher has against each different hitter is a true chess match. SS: As more catcher statistics such as pitch framing have become more prevalent, what are your thoughts on them? In your experience, are they used by coaches at various levels in any way? DR: I love them. I'm not exactly sure how I measure up on them, but I'd be willing to bet I could guess pretty close to where I am. Being a catcher first/hitter second type of guy I love seeing guys finally getting credit and getting paid their worth for what they do behind the dish SS: Are you looking forward to getting back to Ft. Myers and spring training in that Twins uniform again? DR: I am. Fort Myers has become kind of a second home to me and a town I really enjoy. Leaving the Twins was a sad day for me, so to get another opportunity with them is something I hope to take advantage of. I'm excited to see what this year has in store. Thank you to Dan Rohlfing for taking time to thoughtfully respond to these questions. Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the comments down below.
  14. Dan Rohlfing was the Twins 14th round draft pick in 2007 out of high school in St. Louis. He played a lot of third base in high school, but the Twins had him mostly playing catcher. Because he is such a good athlete, he played some in the outfield as well. After three years of rookie-league ball, Rohlfing skipped the Midwest League and jumped right to Ft. Myers in 2010. He split the 2011 and 2012 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain and finished the 2012 season with some time in the Arizona Fall League. His 2013 was split between New Britain and Rochester, and he spent the 2014 season with the Red Wings. Though he could have left earlier as a minor league free agent, he signed with the Mets before the 2015 season and spent the summer in Las Vegas (AAA). In 2016, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks and spent most of the season in AAA Reno.Given the opportunity, Dan Rohlfing decided to return to the Minnesota Twins organization on a minor league contract. Recently, he took time to answer several questions for Twins Daily readers about a variety of prospects. Let’s get started. Seth Stohs (SS): Earlier this month, you announced on Twitter that you are returning to the Twins. Tell us what went into your decision to sign with the Twins. What were some of the factors that led to that choice? Dan Rohlfing (DR):Opportunity is the number one factor I look at. I just want a chance to play and prove myself. This year, with the teams I was talking to, the Twins were the best fit. Bonus points for it being a familiar place! SS: You’ve been a free agent the last couple of years and signed with two different organizations. Have you enjoyed the free agency process at all, or is is more stressful? DR: Free agency starts as exciting. Then can turn stressful pretty quickly if it doesn't go your way. Wondering who will call or the thought of a fresh start somewhere is always exciting. The first couple years went smooth, and I signed back with the Twins pretty quickly. But, then there are years like last year where the catchers market was saturated and the phone wasn't ringing. I didn't sign with the Dbacks until Feb 8th. So to say I was stressed may be an understatement. SS: After all those years in the Twins organization, you’ve had a year in the Mets and Diamondbacks systems. Without getting into anymore detail than you’re comfortable, were there (significant) differences between the organizations from your perspective? DR: There wasn't anything too crazy that I can remember. Baseball-wise, it's all the same game. The main difference I noticed is just how teams place emphasis in different areas. SS: What did it mean to you to put on the red, white and blue chest protector and represent Team USA in the WSBC Premier 12 tournament a year ago in Japan? What was that experience like for you? DR: Playing for Team USA was always a dream of mine and that was the most fun I've ever had playing ball. That uniform had a special feel to it the second I put it on, different than any other uniform I've ever worn. We had such an awesome group of guys that all came together and truly played for the name on the front. Even though Park and Team Korea took the gold, we walked away with silver, and I wouldn't trade that experience of playing for Team USA for anything. SS: I have to ask… How was your Wally Backman experience? (Secondly, did you work with Frank Viola as well in 2015 in Las Vegas?) DR: Ha ha! What a staff! That was fun. I loved playing for Wally and working with Frank! Wally is a guy you wanted to play hard for. He still remembers how tough it is to play this game, and because of that the way he interacts with his players is special and he was the type of guy you wanted to win for. You knew he always had your back and clearly has no problem tearing into an umpire for you. If you need a refresher just check out his YouTube videos. Ha ha!. SS: You spent eight years moving gradually up the Twins system. You had a lot of teammates in those years, and there were several that you played with a lot. For instance, you played with James Beresford about five of those years. Were you excited to see him get his month in the big leagues in 2016? DR: So many great guys! I think Jimmy and I may actually be legal brothers now. Between time at the field and living together in about 7 different apartments and houses we definitely got close. That was the happiest I've been for someone to get 'the call'. The only one that would top it was if I received that call myself. SS: Having seen that, and with the time you’ve spent in AAA over the years, does it change your opinion at all on what it would mean to you to get an opportunity in the big leagues, even if just for a week? DR: I'll take one day at this point. Ha ha! Baseball has been my life and my dream since I can remember. To be able to say "I made it" would make every single sacrifice I've made worth it. SS: You’ve spent some time in the Dominican Winter League. What do you get out of the Winter League experience? DR: Each year I've had a little different motive. The first year was for the experience and getting more reps in against quality competition to make myself better. The other year I was a free agent so it helped get more exposure. Also the money is nice so that's always a plus of going down. SS: What is it that you most enjoy about catching? DR: I love the action. It's a crazy position where you impact the game on so many different levels. My favorite part has to be working with pitchers and game-calling. It gets you involved in every pitch, and it becomes a game within a game. Using my knowledge of what the pitcher has against each different hitter is a true chess match. SS: As more catcher statistics such as pitch framing have become more prevalent, what are your thoughts on them? In your experience, are they used by coaches at various levels in any way? DR: I love them. I'm not exactly sure how I measure up on them, but I'd be willing to bet I could guess pretty close to where I am. Being a catcher first/hitter second type of guy I love seeing guys finally getting credit and getting paid their worth for what they do behind the dish SS: Are you looking forward to getting back to Ft. Myers and spring training in that Twins uniform again? DR: I am. Fort Myers has become kind of a second home to me and a town I really enjoy. Leaving the Twins was a sad day for me, so to get another opportunity with them is something I hope to take advantage of. I'm excited to see what this year has in store. Thank you to Dan Rohlfing for taking time to thoughtfully respond to these questions. Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the comments down below. Click here to view the article
  15. And here is The Twins Almanac for the week of April 17th through the 23rd. Two of the 50 Greatest Twins share a birthday this week. This week in 1961 the Twins played their first home opener and celebrated their first walk-off win. Several impressive streaks began and ended. The Twins put together a 6-run inning on just 1 hit. And this week in Twins history, just 14 games removed from the 1987 World Series, Minnesota made a demoralizing trade with St. Louis for a pontificating clubhouse cancer. April 17, 2009 Kubel Completes Cycle with Game-Winning Grand Slam Playing the LA Angels at the Metrodome, the Twins trailed 4-9 going into the bottom of the 8th. They scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Mike Redmond and Denard Span. After Brendan Harris struck out looking for the second out, the Angels, still leading by 2, intentionally walked Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who had already gone 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and was a HR shy the cycle. Kubel hit the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins’ 7-run 8th inning rally. Joe Nathan retired the Angels in order in the top of the 9th for the save and an 11-9 Twins win. April 17, 2014 The Twins 8-Walk 8th Inning (aka, Minnesota’s 6-Run, 1-Hit Inning) The Twins and the Blue Jays played two cold ones on April 17th after having been snowed out the previous night. The Twins won game 1 by a score of 7-0. The gametime temperature of 31 degrees was a record for a Twins home game. The temperature was up to 42 for the start of game 2. The Twins trailed 3-5 going into the bottom of the 8th when they would score 4 runs before their first hit, and ultimately score 6 runs on just 1 hit. Blue Jays pitcher, Steve Delebar, walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning.Eduardo Nunez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt. In retrospect the sacrifice was completely unnecessary, 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 4 runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a 2-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally recorded the final two outs of the inning. Glen Perkins sat down the Jays in order in the 9th, securing a 9-5 Twins victory. April 19th Twin Birthdays 4/19 is the birthday of Frank Viola (born in 1960 in East Meadow, NY) and Joe Mauer (born in 1983 in St. Paul). The Twins drafted Frank Viola in the 2nd round in 1981 out of St. John’s University (Queens, NY). Viola was the MVP of the 1987 World Series, and was an All-Star and Cy Young Award-winner the following season when he won a Major League-leading 24 games. 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. As a Met, Viola was an NL All-Star in 1990 and ‘91, finishing 3rd in NL Cy Young balloting in 1990. Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame with Carl Pohlad in 2005. Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus, Joe Mauer, was the #1 overall draft choice in 2001. Mauer made his Major League debut on Opening Day, 2004, at age 20. He went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. Mauer was on second in the bottom of the 11th with 2 out when Shannon Stewart hit a 3-run walk-off homer, giving the Twins a 7-4 win over Cleveland. The Twins went on to win the AL Central in Mauer’s rookie season before losing to the Yankees in the Divisional round. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_185555_zpsxnup2udc.jpg Joe Mauer has won three American League batting championships (2006, ‘08 and ‘09). No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was Cincinnati’s Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Mauer was the 2009 American League MVP, hitting a career-high .365, and collecting career-highs in hits (191), home runs (28), and RBI (96). He is a 6x All-Star. April 19, 1961 A crowd of 3,000 fans gathered at the airport to welcome home the 5-1 Twins, two days before their inaugural home opener. April 19, 1988 Niekro Called for 3 Balks After the Yankees’ Rickey Henderson led off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro was called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and to third. Henderson scored on a Don Mattingly double. Henderson came up again in the 2nd inning, this time hitting a 2-RBI single to left. Niekro was promptly called for his 3rd balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. After giving up a 2-run home run to Mike Pagliarulo to make it 7-0 Yankees in the 2nd, Niekro was replaced by Juan Berenguer. Berenguer, Keith Atherton and Jeff Reardon did not allow a run the rest of the game. Trailing 3-7 in the bottom of the 9th, the Twins scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky beforeHrbek lined out to first, ending the game with the tying runner, Mark Davidson, stranded on third. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184731_zpsini02nam.jpg April 21, 1961 Inaugural Home Opener The 5-1 Twins played their first ever home game, taking on the expansion Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The teams were tied 3-3 when the Senators scored 2 off of Ray Moore in the top of the 9th to win 5-3. Only 24,606 fans attended the game, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees. April 21, 1985 John Butcher 1hr 55min Complete Game Shutout The Twins had lost 9 in a row, falling to 2-9 on the season, entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Twins pitcher John Butcher hurled a remarkable complete game shutout. Butcher allowed 3 hits, but faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. He threw just 81 pitches and the game was over in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in both Twins runs in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game Twins winning streak. April 21, 2007 Twins Start Season with 19 Consecutive Stolen Bases In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla stole second base for the Twins' 19th consecutive successful steal attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught stealing in the 8th to end the streak. With a 7-5 lead in Kansas City, Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th, with all three outs coming on called third strikes. April 21, 2012 Willingham Begins Twins Career with 15-Game Hit Streak First-year Twin, Josh Willingham, led off the top of the 9th in Tampa Bay with a line drive single to center, extending his season-opening hit streak to 15 games. Willingham would score on a Ryan Doumit sac fly, but the Twins lost 4-1. Willingham’s streak was the longest to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett’s 1994 streak for the longest by a Twin to begin a season. April 22, 1961 Twins 1st Walk-Off Win In game 2 of their first ever home series, the Twins and expansion Senators played to a 4-4 tie through nine. In the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded and one away, Zoilo Versalles gave the Twins their first ever walk-off win, driving in Earl Battey with a sacrifice fly to center. The freshly minted Twins improved to 6-2 on the season. April 22, 1980 Geoff Zahn pitched a complete game for an 8-1 Twins win in the 1980 home opener. The gametime temperature was a balmy 89 degrees outside the Metrodome. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson and Roy Smalley each hit home runs in the game. April 22, 1988 Twins’ Day Goes from Bad to Worse Bert Blyleven gave up 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 hit batters in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-6 loss to Cleveland at the Metrodome. Four of those runs came on a Cory Snyder grand slam. Later in the game, Joe Carter also hit a grand slam off of Keith Atherton. To add insult to injury, after the game the Twins traded Tom Brunanskyto the Cardinals in exchange for clubhouse cancer, Tom Herr. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184502_zpslydldyma.jpg April 23, 1961 In the final game of the Twins' first ever home series, Jack Kralick pitched a complete game, 4-hit shutout in a 1-0 Twins win versus the expansion Senators. Kralick's bat provided the Twins' only run, driving inBilly Gardner with a 5th inning single. The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season. April 23, 1980 Ken Landreaux begins a 31-game hitting streak by breaking up Angel pitcher Bruce Kison's no-hitter with a one out double in the 9th. California holds on to win 17-0. For the history of the Minnesota Twins, told one day at a time, like The Twins Almanac on Facebook, and follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter. For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook, and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter. Click here to view the article
  16. April 17, 2009 Kubel Completes Cycle with Game-Winning Grand Slam Playing the LA Angels at the Metrodome, the Twins trailed 4-9 going into the bottom of the 8th. They scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Mike Redmond and Denard Span. After Brendan Harris struck out looking for the second out, the Angels, still leading by 2, intentionally walked Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who had already gone 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and was a HR shy the cycle. Kubel hit the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins’ 7-run 8th inning rally. Joe Nathan retired the Angels in order in the top of the 9th for the save and an 11-9 Twins win. April 17, 2014 The Twins 8-Walk 8th Inning (aka, Minnesota’s 6-Run, 1-Hit Inning) The Twins and the Blue Jays played two cold ones on April 17th after having been snowed out the previous night. The Twins won game 1 by a score of 7-0. The gametime temperature of 31 degrees was a record for a Twins home game. The temperature was up to 42 for the start of game 2. The Twins trailed 3-5 going into the bottom of the 8th when they would score 4 runs before their first hit, and ultimately score 6 runs on just 1 hit. Blue Jays pitcher, Steve Delebar, walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning.Eduardo Nunez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt. In retrospect the sacrifice was completely unnecessary, 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 4 runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a 2-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally recorded the final two outs of the inning. Glen Perkins sat down the Jays in order in the 9th, securing a 9-5 Twins victory. April 19th Twin Birthdays 4/19 is the birthday of Frank Viola (born in 1960 in East Meadow, NY) and Joe Mauer (born in 1983 in St. Paul). The Twins drafted Frank Viola in the 2nd round in 1981 out of St. John’s University (Queens, NY). Viola was the MVP of the 1987 World Series, and was an All-Star and Cy Young Award-winner the following season when he won a Major League-leading 24 games. 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. As a Met, Viola was an NL All-Star in 1990 and ‘91, finishing 3rd in NL Cy Young balloting in 1990. Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame with Carl Pohlad in 2005. Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus, Joe Mauer, was the #1 overall draft choice in 2001. Mauer made his Major League debut on Opening Day, 2004, at age 20. He went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. Mauer was on second in the bottom of the 11th with 2 out when Shannon Stewart hit a 3-run walk-off homer, giving the Twins a 7-4 win over Cleveland. The Twins went on to win the AL Central in Mauer’s rookie season before losing to the Yankees in the Divisional round. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_185555_zpsxnup2udc.jpg Joe Mauer has won three American League batting championships (2006, ‘08 and ‘09). No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was Cincinnati’s Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Mauer was the 2009 American League MVP, hitting a career-high .365, and collecting career-highs in hits (191), home runs (28), and RBI (96). He is a 6x All-Star. April 19, 1961 A crowd of 3,000 fans gathered at the airport to welcome home the 5-1 Twins, two days before their inaugural home opener. April 19, 1988 Niekro Called for 3 Balks After the Yankees’ Rickey Henderson led off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro was called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and to third. Henderson scored on a Don Mattingly double. Henderson came up again in the 2nd inning, this time hitting a 2-RBI single to left. Niekro was promptly called for his 3rd balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. After giving up a 2-run home run to Mike Pagliarulo to make it 7-0 Yankees in the 2nd, Niekro was replaced by Juan Berenguer. Berenguer, Keith Atherton and Jeff Reardon did not allow a run the rest of the game. Trailing 3-7 in the bottom of the 9th, the Twins scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky beforeHrbek lined out to first, ending the game with the tying runner, Mark Davidson, stranded on third. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184731_zpsini02nam.jpg April 21, 1961 Inaugural Home Opener The 5-1 Twins played their first ever home game, taking on the expansion Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The teams were tied 3-3 when the Senators scored 2 off of Ray Moore in the top of the 9th to win 5-3. Only 24,606 fans attended the game, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees. April 21, 1985 John Butcher 1hr 55min Complete Game Shutout The Twins had lost 9 in a row, falling to 2-9 on the season, entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Twins pitcher John Butcher hurled a remarkable complete game shutout. Butcher allowed 3 hits, but faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. He threw just 81 pitches and the game was over in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in both Twins runs in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game Twins winning streak. April 21, 2007 Twins Start Season with 19 Consecutive Stolen Bases In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla stole second base for the Twins' 19th consecutive successful steal attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught stealing in the 8th to end the streak. With a 7-5 lead in Kansas City, Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th, with all three outs coming on called third strikes. April 21, 2012 Willingham Begins Twins Career with 15-Game Hit Streak First-year Twin, Josh Willingham, led off the top of the 9th in Tampa Bay with a line drive single to center, extending his season-opening hit streak to 15 games. Willingham would score on a Ryan Doumit sac fly, but the Twins lost 4-1. Willingham’s streak was the longest to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett’s 1994 streak for the longest by a Twin to begin a season. April 22, 1961 Twins 1st Walk-Off Win In game 2 of their first ever home series, the Twins and expansion Senators played to a 4-4 tie through nine. In the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded and one away, Zoilo Versalles gave the Twins their first ever walk-off win, driving in Earl Battey with a sacrifice fly to center. The freshly minted Twins improved to 6-2 on the season. April 22, 1980 Geoff Zahn pitched a complete game for an 8-1 Twins win in the 1980 home opener. The gametime temperature was a balmy 89 degrees outside the Metrodome. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson and Roy Smalley each hit home runs in the game. April 22, 1988 Twins’ Day Goes from Bad to Worse Bert Blyleven gave up 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 hit batters in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-6 loss to Cleveland at the Metrodome. Four of those runs came on a Cory Snyder grand slam. Later in the game, Joe Carter also hit a grand slam off of Keith Atherton. To add insult to injury, after the game the Twins traded Tom Brunanskyto the Cardinals in exchange for clubhouse cancer, Tom Herr. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184502_zpslydldyma.jpg April 23, 1961 In the final game of the Twins' first ever home series, Jack Kralick pitched a complete game, 4-hit shutout in a 1-0 Twins win versus the expansion Senators. Kralick's bat provided the Twins' only run, driving inBilly Gardner with a 5th inning single. The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season. April 23, 1980 Ken Landreaux begins a 31-game hitting streak by breaking up Angel pitcher Bruce Kison's no-hitter with a one out double in the 9th. California holds on to win 17-0. For the history of the Minnesota Twins, told one day at a time, like The Twins Almanac on Facebook, and follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter. For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook, and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.
  17. And here is The Twins Almanac for the week of April 17th through the 23rd. Two of the 50 Greatest Twins share a birthday this week. This week in 1961 the Twins played their first home opener and celebrated their first walk-off win. Several impressive streaks began and ended. The Twins put together a 6-run inning on just 1 hit. And this week in Twins history, just 14 games removed from the 1987 World Series, Minnesota made a demoralizing trade with St. Louis for a pontificating clubhouse cancer. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184936_zpsnp5gyhwp.jpg April 17, 2009 Kubel Completes Cycle with Game-Winning Grand Slam Playing the LA Angels at the Metrodome, the Twins trailed 4-9 going into the bottom of the 8th. They scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Mike Redmond and Denard Span. After Brendan Harris struck out looking for the second out, the Angels, still leading by 2, intentionally walked Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who had already gone 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and was a HR shy the cycle. Kubel hit the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins’ 7-run 8th inning rally. Joe Nathan retired the Angels in order in the top of the 9th for the save and an 11-9 Twins win. April 17, 2014 The Twins 8-Walk 8th Inning (aka, Minnesota’s 6-Run, 1-Hit Inning) The Twins and the Blue Jays played two cold ones on April 17th after having been snowed out the previous night. The Twins won game 1 by a score of 7-0. The gametime temperature of 31 degrees was a record for a Twins home game. The temperature was up to 42 for the start of game 2. The Twins trailed 3-5 going into the bottom of the 8th when they would score 4 runs before their first hit, and ultimately score 6 runs on just 1 hit. Blue Jays pitcher, Steve Delebar, walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning. Eduardo Nunez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt. In retrospect the sacrifice was completely unnecessary, 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 4 runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a 2-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally recorded the final two outs of the inning. Glen Perkins sat down the Jays in order in the 9th, securing a 9-5 Twins victory. April 19th Twin Birthdays 4/19 is the birthday of Frank Viola (born in 1960 in East Meadow, NY) and Joe Mauer (born in 1983 in St. Paul). The Twins drafted Frank Viola in the 2nd round in 1981 out of St. John’s University (Queens, NY). Viola was the MVP of the 1987 World Series, and was an All-Star and Cy Young Award-winner the following season when he won a Major League-leading 24 games. 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. As a Met, Viola was an NL All-Star in 1990 and ‘91, finishing 3rd in NL Cy Young balloting in 1990. Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame with Carl Pohlad in 2005. Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus, Joe Mauer, was the #1 overall draft choice in 2001. Mauer made his Major League debut on Opening Day, 2004, at age 20. He went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. Mauer was on second in the bottom of the 11th with 2 out when Shannon Stewart hit a 3-run walk-off homer, giving the Twins a 7-4 win over Cleveland. The Twins went on to win the AL Central in Mauer’s rookie season before losing to the Yankees in the Divisional round. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_185555_zpsxnup2udc.jpg Joe Mauer has won three American League batting championships (2006, ‘08 and ‘09). No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was Cincinnati’s Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Mauer was the 2009 American League MVP, hitting a career-high .365, and collecting career-highs in hits (191), home runs (28), and RBI (96). He is a 6x All-Star. April 19, 1961 A crowd of 3,000 fans gathered at the airport to welcome home the 5-1 Twins, two days before their inaugural home opener. April 19, 1988 Niekro Called for 3 Balks After the Yankees’ Rickey Henderson led off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro was called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and to third. Henderson scored on a Don Mattingly double. Henderson came up again in the 2nd inning, this time hitting a 2-RBI single to left. Niekro was promptly called for his 3rd balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. After giving up a 2-run home run to Mike Pagliarulo to make it 7-0 Yankees in the 2nd, Niekro was replaced by Juan Berenguer. Berenguer, Keith Atherton and Jeff Reardon did not allow a run the rest of the game. Trailing 3-7 in the bottom of the 9th, the Twins scored 3 runs on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky before Hrbek lined out to first, ending the game with the tying runner, Mark Davidson, stranded on third. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184731_zpsini02nam.jpg April 21, 1961 Inaugural Home Opener The 5-1 Twins played their first ever home game, taking on the expansion Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The teams were tied 3-3 when the Senators scored 2 off of Ray Moore in the top of the 9th to win 5-3. Only 24,606 fans attended the game, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees. April 21, 1985 John Butcher 1hr 55min Complete Game Shutout The Twins had lost 9 in a row, falling to 2-9 on the season, entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Twins pitcher John Butcher hurled a remarkable complete game shutout. Butcher allowed 3 hits, but faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. He threw just 81 pitches and the game was over in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in both Twins runs in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game Twins winning streak. April 21, 2007 Twins Start Season with 19 Consecutive Stolen Bases In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla stole second base for the Twins' 19th consecutive successful steal attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught stealing in the 8th to end the streak. With a 7-5 lead in Kansas City, Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th, with all three outs coming on called third strikes. April 21, 2012 Willingham Begins Twins Career with 15-Game Hit Streak First-year Twin, Josh Willingham, led off the top of the 9th in Tampa Bay with a line drive single to center, extending his season-opening hit streak to 15 games. Willingham would score on a Ryan Doumit sac fly, but the Twins lost 4-1. Willingham’s streak was the longest to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett’s 1994 streak for the longest by a Twin to begin a season. April 22, 1961 Twins 1st Walk-Off Win In game 2 of their first ever home series, the Twins and expansion Senators played to a 4-4 tie through nine. In the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded and one away, Zoilo Versalles gave the Twins their first ever walk-off win, driving in Earl Battey with a sacrifice fly to center. The freshly minted Twins improved to 6-2 on the season. April 22, 1980 Geoff Zahn pitched a complete game for an 8-1 Twins win in the 1980 home opener. The gametime temperature was a balmy 89 degrees outside the Metrodome. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson and Roy Smalley each hit home runs in the game. April 22, 1988 Twins’ Day Goes from Bad to Worse Bert Blyleven gave up 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 hit batters in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-6 loss to Cleveland at the Metrodome. Four of those runs came on a Cory Snyder grand slam. Later in the game, Joe Carter also hit a grand slam off of Keith Atherton. To add insult to injury, after the game the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals in exchange for clubhouse cancer, Tom Herr. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160416_184502_zpslydldyma.jpg April 23, 1961 In the final game of the Twins' first ever home series, Jack Kralick pitched a complete game, 4-hit shutout in a 1-0 Twins win versus the expansion Senators. Kralick's bat provided the Twins' only run, driving in Billy Gardner with a 5th inning single. The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season. April 23, 1980 Ken Landreaux begins a 31-game hitting streak by breaking up Angel pitcher Bruce Kison's no-hitter with a one out double in the 9th. California holds on to win 17-0. For the history of the Minnesota Twins, told one day at a time, like The Twins Almanac on Facebook, and follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter. For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook, and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.
  18. March 5, 2006, was a Sunday. I was at my house surfing the internet. Early in the afternoon, news came out the Kirby Puckett had suffered a stroke. It was a shock, one of those moments where your heart misses a beat. But all along I kept thinking, “Well, it’s Kirby Puckett. He’s going to be OK. He's got to be OK.” It wasn’t long before the tone of the reports shifted and the outlook didn’t look very good. We heard that Dan Gladden and others were traveling to Arizona. I went to work that Monday morning with a heavy heart. As soon as I got to the office, I printed off a picture of Kirby Puckett and taped it up on the overhead bin in my cubicle. Under it, another print-out had the words “Get Well, Kirby!” If I recall, Puckett passed away that morning. I read the news. The “Get Well Kirby” was replaced with “RIP, Kirby! The Greatest!” I had been blogging for about three years already at that time so people around the office knew that I was a baseball fan and a Twins fan. Before noon, I had dozens of people come to my desk and feel the need to talk about, to ask me if I had heard. I answered their questions. But it hurt. I had to leave. I just had to get out of the office. I left the office and went home. I just wanted to be alone. I don’t remember if I shed tears, but I do remember just sitting in a chair, numb. I remember asking myself how many 30-year-olds in Minnesota were feeling the same way I was. That was a rough day. -------------------------------------------------- When you’re young and you play baseball, you have to have a favorite player and a favorite team. Being from Minnesota, of course my favorite team was the Minnesota Twins. Favorite player? Well, everyone had TBS at that time, and I watched quite a few Braves games. For some reason, I never really liked the Cubs, but I loved the Braves. Claudell Washington was my first favorite player. But I was a Twins fan. My parents would take us to the Metrodome a time or two a year. We’d get there for batting practice and try to get some autographs. The Twins were on TV much less at that time, and living in the outstate, it was even more rare. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Twins games were on Midwest Sports Center (and later Fox Sports North) and we could get a large majority of the games. In 1984, I was eight years old. Kirby Puckett was called up to the Twins. He had four hits in his big league debut. I was immediately a fan. Was it because he was short and stocky, like eight-year-old me? Maybe. Was it that he was really fast and the Twins really needed a center fielder badly? I guess, but probably not likely. Was it because he had such a cool name? I think there is a lot of truth in that one. I had been collecting baseball cards since 1982 and had already learned what the numbers on the back meant and could do a lot of the math in my head. By 1984, I was reading box scores in the newspaper most every day. And now I had a name that I could look for first in the paper. Puckett CF 5 1 2 1 When I did watch him more, I just enjoyed it. He swung at pretty much everything. The pitch could be six inches off the plate, and he would swing, and usually end up getting a hit. He played so hard, and he looked like he was having a blast. I remember getting ready for school one day in 1985, Puckett’s second season. It was late April. Puckett did not hit a home run during his rookie season. On April 22, 1985, Puckett hit his first home run. I believe it was after my bedtime. The next morning, I remember sitting on the living room couch, struggling to tie my shoes. My mom came into the room and said, “Seth, did you hear? Kirby Puckett his his first home run last night!” I was so excited, but that’s what it is like for a kid’s favorite player. You remember the minutiae like sitting on the couch and looking at your mom when she walks into the room. Mom walked into the room where I was getting ready for school hundreds of times in my youth. That morning is the only one that I remember vividly. That’s what it is when you have a sports hero. A few years later, I was playing summer baseball on a team where we got real uniforms. What number did I request? 34, of course. While I wasn’t always able to get that number, I tried. When I moved up to varsity basketball as a junior, something strange happened. Home jerseys were odd numbers, and road jerseys were even numbers. My home jersey number was 55. My varsity baseball number had been five, and my high school football number became 55, so I was happy with 55. Because of that, I probably should have gone with uniform 54 on the road in basketball. No, I went with 34. ---------------------------------------------- It’s awesome when the player that you idolized as an eight-year-old becomes a great player too. That doesn’t hurt. And, Puckett was a great, great player. Think about it. As a rookie he hit .292 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. The next year, he hit .288. And then he took off. From 1986 through 1995, he was an all-star all ten years. He won six Gold Gloves in center field and made so many of those leaping catches over the eight-foot wall. He won six Silver Slugger awards. He finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting seven times, finishing second in 1992 and third in 1987 and 1988. Five times he had over 200 hits and led the league four times. Sure, he didn’t like walking, but advanced stats sure showed him to be great. After those first two seasons, his OPS+ never dipped below 119. Because of his physique, people would often talk about how he wouldn't age well on the field. His final two seasons were 1994 and 1995. They were his age 34 and 35 seasons. He posted OPS of .902 and .894, the third and fifth best seasons of his career. ---------------------------------------- Kirby Puckett joined a strong core of young players when he came up, and that core helped the Twins to the 1987 championship. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, and Tim Laudner were all with the Twins already when Puckett joined them. That 1987 team was special. They were a group of guys who seemed to really gel together as a team, and build into a champion. Twins fans felt it. Twins fans even today recall that team and those players with special fondness. Brunansky was traded early in 1988. Viola won the 1988 Cy Young but in 1989 he was traded. Gary Gaetti left via free agency. However, Puckett and Hrbek were still around. So were Dan Gladden, Al Newman and Gene Larkin. They were now joined by the likes of Knoblauch, Scott Erickson and Rule 5 pick Shane Mack. Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera came to the Twins in the Viola trade. The Twins brought in Jack Morris, Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo via free agency. That team was also very special. In 1990, the Twins had the worst record in the American League. In 1991, the Twins faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The Braves had finished last in the National League in 1990. The two teams produced what many call the greatest World Series of all time. Kirby Puckett played a big role in each of those World Championships. He had those shining moments that fans just can’t forget. He was fortunate that his teammates helped get the team to the position where Puckett could come up big. Consider the following: 1987 ALCS vs Detroit - He went 1-13 in the first three games of the series before going 4-11 with a homer in the final two games. 1987 World Series - Through game five, Puckett was just 4-20 (.200). Then in Game 6, he went 4-4. Then he went 2-4 with a double in Game 7. 1991 ALCS vs Toronto - He was 1-7 in the first two games. In games three through five, he went 8-14 with a double and two home runs. 1991 World Series - Through the first five games, Puckett went 3-18 (.167). And we all remember Game 6. He had The Catch, and then he had the “We’ll see you tomorrow night” walk-off home run to send it to Game 7. Fans love the story of Puckett going into the the clubhouse before Game 6 in 1991 and telling the team that he was going to put them on his back. And then he came through. Puckett was the clear leader of those Tom Kelly championship teams. In 1987, I was in 7th grade. I remember after Game 5 thinking that the Twins were down 3-2, but they were good at home. I had hope, but it was tough. I remember Game 7. My family was watching the game upstairs on our main TV. I was down in the unfinished basement, watching on a fuzzy, snowy, black-and-white TV. By myself. I couldn’t stand to be around people. It was just too exciting. In 1991, I was a junior in high school. I mean, I remember it much, much more. I remember that feeling in my heart during Game 6. I remember the intensity of Game 7. Jack Morris was tremendous, but so was John Smoltz. Do you remember the 3-2-3 double play? Ron Gant and Kent Hrbek. Chuck Knoblauch deeking Lonnie Smith to save a run. Gene Larkin singling to deep right. Dan Gladden running home from third. Ron Gardenhire running around third base as if he were an airplane. Jack Morris summoning Gladden to and the simultaneous jump of that pile as Gladden hopped on home plate. ------------------------------------------------------------- Things ended unfortunately for Puckett. He was hit by a running Dennis Martinez pitch very late in that 1995 season. His jaw was broken and his season was over. Although that incident is not the reason, it would prove to be the final at-bat of his career. It ended his season. He came to spring training in 1996, and he was just crushing the ball. Paul Molitor had signed with the team, and Chuck Knoblauch was one of the game’s best players at that time. There was a lot of excitement. However, on March 28th, right before the start of the season, Puckett woke up unable to see out of his right eye. Soon, he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Four surgeries later and nothing more could be done. Puckett announced his retirement. At this point, I was in college. It was another moment where my eyes just might have contained some sweat. Watching the press conference and seeing tears flowing from Knoblauch and Molitor’s eyes was hard. ------------------------------------------------- Five years later, he was on the Hall of Fame ballot. In my mind, he was an easy choice to be a Hall of Famer, but until it is official you just never know. In the end, Puckett easily made it in the first ballot. Immediately I made calls to my dad and my brother. We had a trip to plan. Along with a high school friend and his dad, we went to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction weekend in 2001. Being there was an amazing experience. The Museum is a bucket list thing for all baseball fans. I’m sure many of you were there too. Based on the number of fans who came from Minnesota I know some of you did. ------------------------------------------------------ Following Puckett’s Hall of Fame induction, things got bad for Puckett. News came out about his personal life that was too terrible to be ignored. There were accusations of domestic abuse. Puckett was shown to be unfaithful to his wife publicly, even though it was clear that Twins media appeared to have some knowledge of it. More and more information came out, and then there was the Frank Deford article in Sports Illustrated. The cover showed Puckett as a player and also at his current state and had the title, “The Secret Life of Kirby Puckett.” It was through that even, again in 2001, that I would never place an athlete or anyone else on a pedestal the way that I had done with Puckett. To this day, I 100% respect any athlete’s ability to play the game, but it’s hard to know what’s really going on behind closed doors. It was an important lesson for me, and it should be for others as well. Respect the player. Respect the way he plays the game and the success that he experiences. Notice and appreciate the work that the players do off the field and in the community. And just leave it at that. Imagine how Puckett might be judged now had Twitter been around at that time. ----------------------------------------------------- Kirby Puckett was my hero. Getting one of his baseball cards was always a good feeling. Watching him play the game for 12 years in a Twins uniform. If you are anywhere near my age I’m guessing the Kirby Puckett holds a special place in your heart to this day. Ten years ago today Puckett’s life came to an end. It was a day of great sadness, and a lot of soul searching. Here I am, ten year later, and thinking about Kirby Puckett still brings back great memories. He wasn’t a perfect player, but he was an all-time great. He was a Hall of Famer. He did a lot in the community. He always played hard, and he always had the big smile on his face. He had some big moments, and he led our favorite team to two World Series championships.
  19. Without question, my first real hero in baseball was Kirby Puckett. Without question, Kirby Puckett was my last real baseball hero. Anyone who grew up a baseball fan in the mid-80s through the mid-90s likely had the same baseball role model as me, Kirby Puckett. Ten years ago today, Kirby Puckett passed away at the age of 45, a day after suffering a massive stroke at his home in Arizona. I’ve shared some of the below at various times in the past, but I felt like sharing my thoughts on Puckett. I’m certain, and I hope, many of you will share your memories as well.March 5, 2006, was a Sunday. I was at my house surfing the internet. Early in the afternoon, news came out the Kirby Puckett had suffered a stroke. It was a shock, one of those moments where your heart misses a beat. But all along I kept thinking, “Well, it’s Kirby Puckett. He’s going to be OK. He's got to be OK.” It wasn’t long before the tone of the reports shifted and the outlook didn’t look very good. We heard that Dan Gladden and others were traveling to Arizona. I went to work that Monday morning with a heavy heart. As soon as I got to the office, I printed off a picture of Kirby Puckett and taped it up on the overhead bin in my cubicle. Under it, another print-out had the words “Get Well, Kirby!” If I recall, Puckett passed away that morning. I read the news. The “Get Well Kirby” was replaced with “RIP, Kirby! The Greatest!” I had been blogging for about three years already at that time so people around the office knew that I was a baseball fan and a Twins fan. Before noon, I had dozens of people come to my desk and feel the need to talk about, to ask me if I had heard. I answered their questions. But it hurt. I had to leave. I just had to get out of the office. I left the office and went home. I just wanted to be alone. I don’t remember if I shed tears, but I do remember just sitting in a chair, numb. I remember asking myself how many 30-year-olds in Minnesota were feeling the same way I was. That was a rough day. -------------------------------------------------- When you’re young and you play baseball, you have to have a favorite player and a favorite team. Being from Minnesota, of course my favorite team was the Minnesota Twins. Favorite player? Well, everyone had TBS at that time, and I watched quite a few Braves games. For some reason, I never really liked the Cubs, but I loved the Braves. Claudell Washington was my first favorite player. But I was a Twins fan. My parents would take us to the Metrodome a time or two a year. We’d get there for batting practice and try to get some autographs. The Twins were on TV much less at that time, and living in the outstate, it was even more rare. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Twins games were on Midwest Sports Center (and later Fox Sports North) and we could get a large majority of the games. In 1984, I was eight years old. Kirby Puckett was called up to the Twins. He had four hits in his big league debut. I was immediately a fan. Was it because he was short and stocky, like eight-year-old me? Maybe. Was it that he was really fast and the Twins really needed a center fielder badly? I guess, but probably not likely. Was it because he had such a cool name? I think there is a lot of truth in that one. I had been collecting baseball cards since 1982 and had already learned what the numbers on the back meant and could do a lot of the math in my head. By 1984, I was reading box scores in the newspaper most every day. And now I had a name that I could look for first in the paper. Puckett CF 5 1 2 1 When I did watch him more, I just enjoyed it. He swung at pretty much everything. The pitch could be six inches off the plate, and he would swing, and usually end up getting a hit. He played so hard, and he looked like he was having a blast. I remember getting ready for school one day in 1985, Puckett’s second season. It was late April. Puckett did not hit a home run during his rookie season. On April 22, 1985, Puckett hit his first home run. I believe it was after my bedtime. The next morning, I remember sitting on the living room couch, struggling to tie my shoes. My mom came into the room and said, “Seth, did you hear? Kirby Puckett his his first home run last night!” I was so excited, but that’s what it is like for a kid’s favorite player. You remember the minutiae like sitting on the couch and looking at your mom when she walks into the room. Mom walked into the room where I was getting ready for school hundreds of times in my youth. That morning is the only one that I remember vividly. That’s what it is when you have a sports hero. A few years later, I was playing summer baseball on a team where we got real uniforms. What number did I request? 34, of course. While I wasn’t always able to get that number, I tried. When I moved up to varsity basketball as a junior, something strange happened. Home jerseys were odd numbers, and road jerseys were even numbers. My home jersey number was 55. My varsity baseball number had been five, and my high school football number became 55, so I was happy with 55. Because of that, I probably should have gone with uniform 54 on the road in basketball. No, I went with 34. ---------------------------------------------- It’s awesome when the player that you idolized as an eight-year-old becomes a great player too. That doesn’t hurt. And, Puckett was a great, great player. Think about it. As a rookie he hit .292 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. The next year, he hit .288. And then he took off. From 1986 through 1995, he was an all-star all ten years. He won six Gold Gloves in center field and made so many of those leaping catches over the eight-foot wall. He won six Silver Slugger awards. He finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting seven times, finishing second in 1992 and third in 1987 and 1988. Five times he had over 200 hits and led the league four times. Sure, he didn’t like walking, but advanced stats sure showed him to be great. After those first two seasons, his OPS+ never dipped below 119. Because of his physique, people would often talk about how he wouldn't age well on the field. His final two seasons were 1994 and 1995. They were his age 34 and 35 seasons. He posted OPS of .902 and .894, the third and fifth best seasons of his career. ---------------------------------------- Kirby Puckett joined a strong core of young players when he came up, and that core helped the Twins to the 1987 championship. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, and Tim Laudner were all with the Twins already when Puckett joined them. That 1987 team was special. They were a group of guys who seemed to really gel together as a team, and build into a champion. Twins fans felt it. Twins fans even today recall that team and those players with special fondness. Brunansky was traded early in 1988. Viola won the 1988 Cy Young but in 1989 he was traded. Gary Gaetti left via free agency. However, Puckett and Hrbek were still around. So were Dan Gladden, Al Newman and Gene Larkin. They were now joined by the likes of Knoblauch, Scott Erickson and Rule 5 pick Shane Mack. Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera came to the Twins in the Viola trade. The Twins brought in Jack Morris, Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo via free agency. That team was also very special. In 1990, the Twins had the worst record in the American League. In 1991, the Twins faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The Braves had finished last in the National League in 1990. The two teams produced what many call the greatest World Series of all time. Kirby Puckett played a big role in each of those World Championships. He had those shining moments that fans just can’t forget. He was fortunate that his teammates helped get the team to the position where Puckett could come up big. Consider the following: 1987 ALCS vs Detroit - He went 1-13 in the first three games of the series before going 4-11 with a homer in the final two games.1987 World Series - Through game five, Puckett was just 4-20 (.200). Then in Game 6, he went 4-4. Then he went 2-4 with a double in Game 7.1991 ALCS vs Toronto - He was 1-7 in the first two games. In games three through five, he went 8-14 with a double and two home runs.1991 World Series - Through the first five games, Puckett went 3-18 (.167). And we all remember Game 6. He had The Catch, and then he had the “We’ll see you tomorrow night” walk-off home run to send it to Game 7.Fans love the story of Puckett going into the the clubhouse before Game 6 in 1991 and telling the team that he was going to put them on his back. And then he came through. Puckett was the clear leader of those Tom Kelly championship teams. In 1987, I was in 7th grade. I remember after Game 5 thinking that the Twins were down 3-2, but they were good at home. I had hope, but it was tough. I remember Game 7. My family was watching the game upstairs on our main TV. I was down in the unfinished basement, watching on a fuzzy, snowy, black-and-white TV. By myself. I couldn’t stand to be around people. It was just too exciting. In 1991, I was a junior in high school. I mean, I remember it much, much more. I remember that feeling in my heart during Game 6. I remember the intensity of Game 7. Jack Morris was tremendous, but so was John Smoltz. Do you remember the 3-2-3 double play? Ron Gant and Kent Hrbek. Chuck Knoblauch deeking Lonnie Smith to save a run. Gene Larkin singling to deep right. Dan Gladden running home from third. Ron Gardenhire running around third base as if he were an airplane. Jack Morris summoning Gladden to and the simultaneous jump of that pile as Gladden hopped on home plate. ------------------------------------------------------------- Things ended unfortunately for Puckett. He was hit by a running Dennis Martinez pitch very late in that 1995 season. His jaw was broken and his season was over. Although that incident is not the reason, it would prove to be the final at-bat of his career. It ended his season. He came to spring training in 1996, and he was just crushing the ball. Paul Molitor had signed with the team, and Chuck Knoblauch was one of the game’s best players at that time. There was a lot of excitement. However, on March 28th, right before the start of the season, Puckett woke up unable to see out of his right eye. Soon, he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Four surgeries later and nothing more could be done. Puckett announced his retirement. At this point, I was in college. It was another moment where my eyes just might have contained some sweat. Watching the press conference and seeing tears flowing from Knoblauch and Molitor’s eyes was hard. ------------------------------------------------- Five years later, he was on the Hall of Fame ballot. In my mind, he was an easy choice to be a Hall of Famer, but until it is official you just never know. In the end, Puckett easily made it in the first ballot. Immediately I made calls to my dad and my brother. We had a trip to plan. Along with a high school friend and his dad, we went to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction weekend in 2001. Being there was an amazing experience. The Museum is a bucket list thing for all baseball fans. I’m sure many of you were there too. Based on the number of fans who came from Minnesota I know some of you did. ------------------------------------------------------ Following Puckett’s Hall of Fame induction, things got bad for Puckett. News came out about his personal life that was too terrible to be ignored. There were accusations of domestic abuse. Puckett was shown to be unfaithful to his wife publicly, even though it was clear that Twins media appeared to have some knowledge of it. More and more information came out, and then there was the Frank Deford article in Sports Illustrated. The cover showed Puckett as a player and also at his current state and had the title, “The Secret Life of Kirby Puckett.” It was through that even, again in 2001, that I would never place an athlete or anyone else on a pedestal the way that I had done with Puckett. To this day, I 100% respect any athlete’s ability to play the game, but it’s hard to know what’s really going on behind closed doors. It was an important lesson for me, and it should be for others as well. Respect the player. Respect the way he plays the game and the success that he experiences. Notice and appreciate the work that the players do off the field and in the community. And just leave it at that. Imagine how Puckett might be judged now had Twitter been around at that time. ----------------------------------------------------- Kirby Puckett was my hero. Getting one of his baseball cards was always a good feeling. Watching him play the game for 12 years in a Twins uniform. If you are anywhere near my age I’m guessing the Kirby Puckett holds a special place in your heart to this day. Ten years ago today Puckett’s life came to an end. It was a day of great sadness, and a lot of soul searching. Here I am, ten year later, and thinking about Kirby Puckett still brings back great memories. He wasn’t a perfect player, but he was an all-time great. He was a Hall of Famer. He did a lot in the community. He always played hard, and he always had the big smile on his face. He had some big moments, and he led our favorite team to two World Series championships. Click here to view the article
  20. “Now that the Twins have become America’s team, I’ll say Minnesota in six games,” ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted. “Twins in six,” speculated the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gerry Fraley. “Their pitching staff is in order. They have the first two games at home. They’re relatively healthy. The series is set up perfectly for them.” The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Kurkjian, who had doubted the Twins in the ALCS selected them as the superior team for the World Series but threw some shade by saying “the Twins will win in seven because the Cardinals are so banged up and because of the Metrodome factor.” On the other hand, no one was counting St. Louis out either. The Cardinals were injured, sure. They were offensively depleted, yes. But they had speed and speed never slumps. They were battle-tested with recent World Series experience. And they had Whitey Herzog at the helm. He had guided his team to the best record in the National League and pulled them through a bloodbath of an NLCS against the Giants. Once more into the fray and coming out the other side victors was not an unreasonable expectation. At 95-67, the Cardinals had finished with the National League’s best record but, in many ways, they had lost the magic they possessed during the first half of the season. At the break St. Louis led all of baseball with 56 wins. Despite pitching well and playing good defense throughout the year, it was the offense that was ablaze in the season’s first half, scoring an MLB-best 486 runs. Even though speedsters like Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr were getting on and getting over, the vast majority of the lumber was supplied by first baseman Jack Clark, who was hitting .311/.459/.645 with an MLB leading 86 RBI at that point. Like the rest of the Cardinals, Clark regressed some in July and August but on September 9, while playing at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, his season essentially came to an end. In the top of the sixth, Clark hit a harmless grounder off of Dennis Martinez that third baseman Tim Wallach fielded and made a wide throw to Andres Galarraga at first. In efforts to avoid Galarraga’s tag, Clark moved awkwardly and rolled his ankle. Herzog said afterward that he knew that Clark’s season was finished right then and there. Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch later wrote that the injury was one of the “ugliest” he had ever seen, describing Clark’s foot grossly swollen and the color of an eggplant. ''Without Jack Clark in the lineup we’re missing a big weapon,'' Clark’s replacement Jim Lindeman told the New York Times. “When he walks up to the plate, he's the only guy who gets the crowd buzzing and the other team fidgeting. He's the only guy who intimidates people with his bat.'' Compounding the issue was Terry Pendleton, the Cardinals hitter with the second most home runs after to Clark, who pulled a muscle in his rib cage during the final game of the National League Championship Series and was not expected to participate much. “Right now it is doubtful that he will play at all,” Herzog said addressing the media before the series. Clark and Pendleton’s absence was no doubt felt throughout the Cardinal lineup. Rather than having Clark, a hitter with a 1.055 OPS that season, Herzog was forced to use the rookie Lindeman, who possessed a .632 OPS over his last two seasons, or the 35-year-old Dan Driessen, who had spent most of the year in AAA and posted a .625 OPS in 24 games with the Cardinals. In place of Pendleton, who had posted a respectable .772 OPS that year, it was the 30-year-old Tom Lawless, owner of a career .549 OPS. The drop-off was substantial. “Two hundred RBIs,” Herzog said in regards to missing thumper Clark and third baseman Terry Pendleton in the heart of the order. “I’d say that is a hole.” Clark led the team with 35 home runs during the regular season. After that, Pendleton’s 12 was a distant second followed by center fielder Willie McGee’s 11, who, now with Clark out and Pendleton ailing, sadly represented St. Louis’ biggest long-ball threat. In fact, no other Cardinals starter managed more than five that year. Prior the series, the Star Tribune’s Doug Grow marveled at the juxtaposition of the two teams. “The Twins dig in at the plate and grunt as they play long-ball. Watch ‘em in batting practice. They love that time in the cage. They stand there and laugh and measure how far they hit it,” Grow observed. “When the St. Louis Cardinals step into the batting cage, the walls are safe from baseballs. Batting is something the Cardinals do only so they can get a chance to run.” With so few options Herzog decided to use the right-handed part-time player in Lindeman, who had nine career home runs to his name, as his cleanup hitter against left-handed pitching in the postseason. In Game 3 of the NLCS, Lindeman responded by hitting a 1-1 fastball from San Francisco’s Atlee Hammaker over the left-center field fence for a two-run shot (one of two home runs the Cardinals hit that entire seven game series). It was his first cleanup duty since April of that year. "I think the last time I batted cleanup I probably went oh for four and broke three bats," he told reporters after the game. With another left-hander on the mound from Minnesota in Game 1 and the switch-hitting Pendleton unable to swing from the right-side, Herzog went forward with a lineup card that included Lindeman in the middle of the order, another rookie at DH (Tom Pagnozzi and his .583 OPS) and Lawless, who had a .080 batting average in the regular season, at third. They would meet the man known in Minnesota as “Sweet Music”. *** On the night of October 17, 1987, 27-year-old Frank Viola was at work and not at his brother’s wedding in New York where he was supposed to be the best man, like he had committed to a year prior. In 1986 the Twins were well out of postseason contention and the left-handed starter figured that if 1987 were anything like the previous year, he would have his October wide open to participate in his brother’s nuptials. After all, how could a team that won just 71 games make up that much ground? “I thought it would be a little far-fetched. I told ‘em, yeah, I shouldn’t have any problem making it. That was last year, when we were 20 games under .500. It’s unbelieveable,” Viola told the Star Tribune. Viola was just as much at fault for the Twins making this postseason run as anyone as he had finished the year 17-10 with a solid 2.90 ERA (a career-best 159 ERA+). When people asked how he was able to shave an entire run off his ERA over the previous year, he attributed it to his changeup. Viola’s development of the changeup was the difference maker from the good pitcher that arrived with the Twins in the early 1980s into the great one towards the end of that decade. In 1983, Viola was a lefty who used a solid fastball and a slider-curveball combination to retire hitters (or not retire them when you consider his 128 earned runs that season was the most in baseball). That same year, Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres taught Viola how to throw a changeup, keeping his arm action consistent with his fastball delivery. When Podres left and Dick Such took over pitching coach duties, Viola’s changeup became a significant weapon. “I had been working on it for 3 ½ years under Podres but was using 15 or 20 grips. None of them worked. When Such joined us, he made a few adjustments and all of a sudden I found myself comfortable throwing a changeup,” Viola said in spring training before the 1986 season. By 1986, he had mastered command of the pitch and scrapped his slider in favor of the off-speed pitch. "The changeup I use now is the one I felt most comfortable with, but it took me two years to throw it over the plate," Viola told the LA Times in August 1987. Because the Twins were pushed out of the pennant race early in 1986, Viola said he was able to experiment with the pitch until he got it right. It was working swimmingly -- after striking out 5.3 hitters per nine innings over his first four seasons, he was now whiffing 7 per nine, a massive jump. Most notably, the changeup also gave Viola an advantage over right-handed hitters he did not have before. From 1982 through 1985, Viola struck out 13 percent of right-handed hitters but saw that rate jump to 19 percent in 1986 through 1987. Viola’s showcased his changeup early in the first inning. After Vince Coleman executed a decent but unsuccessful bunt on Viola’s first-pitch curve, shortstop Ozzie Smith took his stance in the right-handed batters’ box. With the exception of Bill Buckner, no hitter was more difficult to strike out than the Wizard of Oz. From 1982 through 1987, Smith had struck out in just 4.9% of his total plate appearances. If there was one thing Ozzie was going to do, it was put the ball in play. In his first appearance against Viola, the left-hander shot a low-90s fastball on the inner-half of the plate at Smith's knees for strike one and then missed wide on a big curve that skipped in the dirt to even the count. Viola now turned to that off-speed weapon that the National League was not accustomed to. The first split the plate in half while falling rapidly, leaving Smith waving over the top of it. Based on that favorable outcome, Viola followed that one with a near clone of it that Smith once again swung over for strike three. http://i.imgur.com/acpj6rP.gif Up to that point, Smith had 55 World Series plate appearances under his belt without a strikeout. If their first match-up was any indication, Frank Viola was showing the Cardinals hitters and viewers across America that something special was afoot. **** When you consider the personnel loss the Cardinals had, it was a near miracle that they were able to overtake the Giants in the NLCS. ABC’s Al Michaels’ suggested that Herzog reached baseball’s pinnacle series by virtue of “paste and glue and tacks and the rest of it”. They were missing Clark. Pendleton had a strained rib cage that kept him from being able to hit right-handed. Everything about the lineup felt patchwork. Following his tendon tear Clark attempted to do everything possible to make it back for the postseason to face his former team. He made a pair of pinch-hitting appearances in the regular season and was kept on the roster for the NLCS despite the inability to put much weight on his right leg. Prior to games, he and some of the coaching staff took private on-field batting practice, away from the attention of his teammates and onlookers. The results were not good. He lunged and lurched at balls and produce off-balanced swings with mediocre contact. "It's going to take a while longer," he said in response to an inquiry about his injury status, "and I don't know how much longer it will be. This is more than just a little twisted ankle. There isn't any medicine I can take. If there were shots or pills that would help, I'd have had them by now.” Herzog used Clark once in the seven game series against San Francisco -- a pinch-hit appearance in Game 3 -- where Clark struck out looking with runners on first and second. Before the start of the World Series, the Cardinals ran Clark through a simulated game. Clark went down looking in his at-bats, barely able to transfer his weight off his front leg. That was enough for Herzog to decide not to keep him on the roster for the series, instead opting to carry reliever Lee Tunnell. Surprisingly, it was Clark’s replacement who got the Cardinals on the board first. Leading off the second inning, Viola ran a fastball off the inside edge of the plate, inciting the right-handed Lindeman to flinch. Naturally, the next offering after going hard in was to throw something soft away. Viola spotted a changeup just off the outside corner but left it too far up and Lindeman, now swinging off his front foot, was able to lift toward center field. Puckett, who enjoyed playing a deep center in order to defend the wall and takeaway would-be home runs, initially froze. http://i.imgur.com/X7B15RH.gif Perhaps Puckett misjudged the contact, or lost the ball momentarily in the sea of white Homer Hankies; either way, by the time he made his furious break back toward the infield and the landing spot, the ball hit the artificial turf and Lindeman gained second. Following a Willie McGee fly out to right center that moved him up a base, Lindeman later scored on an RBI groundout by Tony Pena, putting the Cardinals up 1-0. As it turns out, the run proved to be as harmless as a minnow bite. Although Magrane had kept the potent Twins hitless through the first three innings, his habit of falling behind hitters and issuing free passes eventually catch up to him. The Twins offense also used their first plate appearances to calibrate themselves against the young pitcher. After their first looks, they were ready to pounce. Magrane had relied mainly on his sinking fastball -- one that didn’t find the zone consistently. In the bottom of the fourth, he started Gaetti with a fastball inside which the reigning ALCS MVP rapped on the ground down the third baseline. Lawless, playing deep for the power hitter, laid out to snare the ball well behind the bag and came up firing. In a bang-bang play, Gaetti beat it by a step -- the Twins’ first hit of the 1987 World Series was an infield hit. After Gaetti’s single, veteran DH Don Baylor did the same. Ditto for Tom Brunansky. *** Brunansky didn’t know it at the time but he was showcasing his talents his future employer. It was no secret that the Cardinals lacked power. When Clark left as a free agent after the 1987 season, St. Louis was left with a pile of toothpicks for bats. Internally, they hoped that Lindeman would progress in the power department but they looked for more of a proven presence, adding beefy Bob Horner to the mix, much to manager Whitey Herzog’s chagrin. The 30-year-old Horner had averaged 24 home runs in his ten seasons in Atlanta but had spent 1987 in Japan playing for the Yakult Swallows where he smacked another 31 home runs. In his exit interview, Horner took parting shots at the Japanese version of the game, calling out the pitchers for not throwing him strikes, chastising the fans for their choice of whistles and noisemakers, and saying the umpires’ strike zones were prejudice against foreigners. His words nearly incited an international incident. While he never was asked about Horner’s remarks, the Redbirds’ manager wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of adding him based on his pool of play. “I don’t like Horner,” Herzog told reporters where rumors surfaced that Cardinals’ GM Dal Maxvill was targeting the large first baseman. “Of his lifetime homers, about seventy percent were hit in Atlanta. He never could hit in St. Louis. He can’t hit, and he can’t field.” It was true that the bulk of Horner’s round-trippers had come in Fulton County Stadium -- 174 of his 218 homers came in Atlanta. Herzog’s words, however, eventually reached Horner who had signed with St. Louis on a one-year, $960,000 deal, significantly lower than the $10 million multi-year deal that Yukult offered him to stay. “Obviously it’s not something you want to read,” Horner said. “But even though Whitey had criticized me in making those statements, I would still enjoy the challenge of proving him wrong.” With a need for more power, the Cardinals turned to the Twins. On April 22, 1988, the two sides agreed to swap the outfielder Brunansky for St. Louis’ switch-hitting second baseman, Tommy Herr. According to Sid Hartman, who had learned of the trade on the radio while driving his close, personal friend Bobby Knight to his hotel in Bloomington, he immediately called McPhail at home in the middle of the night to ask “what the hell is going on?” The Twins GM told the Star Tribune columnist that they were convinced Brunansky couldn’t throw the ball from right field any more and was turning into a defensive liability. What’s more, Brunansky was hitting .184 with just a lone home run through the season’s first 14 games. And, more importantly, the Twins were 4 and 9 and looking for a spark. Herr reportedly cried when he heard the news. His desire to play for the Twins was questioned by fans, the media and teammates when he was continually sidelined with injuries. In his autobiography, Kent Hrbek called Herr the only teammate he ever played with that he really didn’t like. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Brunansky brought with him some of the Twins’ loosy-goosy clubhouse attitude that involved various pranks which endeared him to his coworkers -- possibly with the exception of pitcher Joe Magrane. Later that summer, with the help of Ozzie Smith, the outfielder orchestrated a prank on the pitcher. Magrane, who had a reputation as being a pretty-boy clotheshorse, was sent a telegram from GQ magazine requesting a photoshoot. Smith had been profiled in the April issue so it seemed somewhat plausible that the magazine was interested in more St. Louis subjects -- this time to display winter fashion. On a day in which the heat reached 105 degrees, a photographer and Magrane, along with five winter suits, took to the Busch Stadium field and began a photoshoot that lasted over an hour in the oppressive Missouri summer heat. In his book, Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch described Magrane as “sweating like a stuffed pig” as he ran from the field to the clubhouse for an attire change. Several days later, Magrane received another telegram that said “because of your subpar season, we’ve decided not to use your session in GQ.” A day later, a follow up telegram arrived. It read: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ve been had. There’s no GQ.” *** While wearing winter knits in 105 degree heat sounds uncomfortable, it probably was nothing for Magrane compared to the pressure on the mound at the Metrodome with the bases now at maximum capacity (in the form of Gaetti, Baylor and his future teammate Brunansky) and Kent Hrbek coming to the plate looking for a meal. People worried about Hrbek. After all, he went 1-for-20 in the ALCS against Detroit. Fans expressed frustration with their team's best run producer's inability to produce. Was the pressure to carry his hometown team -- his childhood rooting interest -- to their first World Series victory be too much? Throughout the regular season, Hrbek did little against left-handed pitching. While he finished with 34 home runs, all but six came against right-handed pitchers and he posted a .225/.290/.370 line against southpaws in 155 plate appearances. So it was no surprise that the first baseman was batting seventh in the game against Magrane. Magrane had been tough on left-handed opponents, limiting them to a .226 average and just one home run. Given that Magrane held the platoon advantage, it shouldn’t come as surprise that Hrbek’s contact on the 0-1 pitch wasn’t solid. The ball hit the ground inches in front of home then again just beyond second base -- a classic Dome ball that found its way between Smith, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game, and Herr at second to score Gaetti and Baylor, putting the Twins ahead 2-1. “I just looked at it on the TV, and it was a high fastball away,” Hrbek told the Star Tribune. “I was just trying to hit it to the outfield and go to the left field to get the run in. It’s the old Randy Bush theory. You try to swing as hard as you can in case you hit it.” When Steve Lombardozzi walked, the fifth consecutive Twins hitter to reach base, Whitey Herzog emerged to tell Magrane his night was over. Magrane exited to a chorus of “Happy Trails” by Twins fans. Herzog called on the veteran Bob Forsch, in hope of coaxing a double-play grounder out of catcher Tim Laudner. Forsch did get the grounder but the right-handed hitting Lauds was able to will it through the left-side of the infield between Herr and Lindeman, scoring Brunansky from third and loading the bases once again. That’s when outfielder Dan Gladden came to the plate. ****Come back to TwinsDaily.com tomorrow for more of the "1987 Revisited" series****
  21. “I’ve been reading about some people who have said that it’s a disgrace to have us representing the American League,” said Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti shortly before baseball’s biggest series began. “The way I figure it, we might as well go ahead and disgrace the whole game by winning it.” Yes, while the Twins were heavy underdogs facing the powerful and experienced Tigers in the previous round, sentiments shifted as the battered and bruised Cardinals landed in town. For as much as they wanted to continue to play the role of the dark horse, suddenly people believed in the Twins’ chances. On display in the ALCS was power, pitching and solid decision-making by the rookie manager. More national media types were throwing their weight behind the team that had torn the stuffing out of Detroit in five games.“Now that the Twins have become America’s team, I’ll say Minnesota in six games,” ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted. “Twins in six,” speculated the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gerry Fraley. “Their pitching staff is in order. They have the first two games at home. They’re relatively healthy. The series is set up perfectly for them.” The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Kurkjian, who had doubted the Twins in the ALCS selected them as the superior team for the World Series but threw some shade by saying “the Twins will win in seven because the Cardinals are so banged up and because of the Metrodome factor.” On the other hand, no one was counting St. Louis out either. The Cardinals were injured, sure. They were offensively depleted, yes. But they had speed and speed never slumps. They were battle-tested with recent World Series experience. And they had Whitey Herzog at the helm. He had guided his team to the best record in the National League and pulled them through a bloodbath of an NLCS against the Giants. Once more into the fray and coming out the other side victors was not an unreasonable expectation. At 95-67, the Cardinals had finished with the National League’s best record but, in many ways, they had lost the magic they possessed during the first half of the season. At the break St. Louis led all of baseball with 56 wins. Despite pitching well and playing good defense throughout the year, it was the offense that was ablaze in the season’s first half, scoring an MLB-best 486 runs. Even though speedsters like Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr were getting on and getting over, the vast majority of the lumber was supplied by first baseman Jack Clark, who was hitting .311/.459/.645 with an MLB leading 86 RBI at that point. Like the rest of the Cardinals, Clark regressed some in July and August but on September 9, while playing at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, his season essentially came to an end. In the top of the sixth, Clark hit a harmless grounder off of Dennis Martinez that third baseman Tim Wallach fielded and made a wide throw to Andres Galarraga at first. In efforts to avoid Galarraga’s tag, Clark moved awkwardly and rolled his ankle. Herzog said afterward that he knew that Clark’s season was finished right then and there. Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch later wrote that the injury was one of the “ugliest” he had ever seen, describing Clark’s foot grossly swollen and the color of an eggplant. ''Without Jack Clark in the lineup we’re missing a big weapon,'' Clark’s replacement Jim Lindeman told the New York Times. “When he walks up to the plate, he's the only guy who gets the crowd buzzing and the other team fidgeting. He's the only guy who intimidates people with his bat.'' Compounding the issue was Terry Pendleton, the Cardinals hitter with the second most home runs after to Clark, who pulled a muscle in his rib cage during the final game of the National League Championship Series and was not expected to participate much. “Right now it is doubtful that he will play at all,” Herzog said addressing the media before the series. Clark and Pendleton’s absence was no doubt felt throughout the Cardinal lineup. Rather than having Clark, a hitter with a 1.055 OPS that season, Herzog was forced to use the rookie Lindeman, who possessed a .632 OPS over his last two seasons, or the 35-year-old Dan Driessen, who had spent most of the year in AAA and posted a .625 OPS in 24 games with the Cardinals. In place of Pendleton, who had posted a respectable .772 OPS that year, it was the 30-year-old Tom Lawless, owner of a career .549 OPS. The drop-off was substantial. “Two hundred RBIs,” Herzog said in regards to missing thumper Clark and third baseman Terry Pendleton in the heart of the order. “I’d say that is a hole.” Clark led the team with 35 home runs during the regular season. After that, Pendleton’s 12 was a distant second followed by center fielder Willie McGee’s 11, who, now with Clark out and Pendleton ailing, sadly represented St. Louis’ biggest long-ball threat. In fact, no other Cardinals starter managed more than five that year. Prior the series, the Star Tribune’s Doug Grow marveled at the juxtaposition of the two teams. “The Twins dig in at the plate and grunt as they play long-ball. Watch ‘em in batting practice. They love that time in the cage. They stand there and laugh and measure how far they hit it,” Grow observed. “When the St. Louis Cardinals step into the batting cage, the walls are safe from baseballs. Batting is something the Cardinals do only so they can get a chance to run.” With so few options Herzog decided to use the right-handed part-time player in Lindeman, who had nine career home runs to his name, as his cleanup hitter against left-handed pitching in the postseason. In Game 3 of the NLCS, Lindeman responded by hitting a 1-1 fastball from San Francisco’s Atlee Hammaker over the left-center field fence for a two-run shot (one of two home runs the Cardinals hit that entire seven game series). It was his first cleanup duty since April of that year. "I think the last time I batted cleanup I probably went oh for four and broke three bats," he told reporters after the game. With another left-hander on the mound from Minnesota in Game 1 and the switch-hitting Pendleton unable to swing from the right-side, Herzog went forward with a lineup card that included Lindeman in the middle of the order, another rookie at DH (Tom Pagnozzi and his .583 OPS) and Lawless, who had a .080 batting average in the regular season, at third. They would meet the man known in Minnesota as “Sweet Music”. *** On the night of October 17, 1987, 27-year-old Frank Viola was at work and not at his brother’s wedding in New York where he was supposed to be the best man, like he had committed to a year prior. In 1986 the Twins were well out of postseason contention and the left-handed starter figured that if 1987 were anything like the previous year, he would have his October wide open to participate in his brother’s nuptials. After all, how could a team that won just 71 games make up that much ground? “I thought it would be a little far-fetched. I told ‘em, yeah, I shouldn’t have any problem making it. That was last year, when we were 20 games under .500. It’s unbelieveable,” Viola told the Star Tribune. Viola was just as much at fault for the Twins making this postseason run as anyone as he had finished the year 17-10 with a solid 2.90 ERA (a career-best 159 ERA+). When people asked how he was able to shave an entire run off his ERA over the previous year, he attributed it to his changeup. Viola’s development of the changeup was the difference maker from the good pitcher that arrived with the Twins in the early 1980s into the great one towards the end of that decade. In 1983, Viola was a lefty who used a solid fastball and a slider-curveball combination to retire hitters (or not retire them when you consider his 128 earned runs that season was the most in baseball). That same year, Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres taught Viola how to throw a changeup, keeping his arm action consistent with his fastball delivery. When Podres left and Dick Such took over pitching coach duties, Viola’s changeup became a significant weapon. “I had been working on it for 3 ½ years under Podres but was using 15 or 20 grips. None of them worked. When Such joined us, he made a few adjustments and all of a sudden I found myself comfortable throwing a changeup,” Viola said in spring training before the 1986 season. By 1986, he had mastered command of the pitch and scrapped his slider in favor of the off-speed pitch. "The changeup I use now is the one I felt most comfortable with, but it took me two years to throw it over the plate," Viola told the LA Times in August 1987. Because the Twins were pushed out of the pennant race early in 1986, Viola said he was able to experiment with the pitch until he got it right. It was working swimmingly -- after striking out 5.3 hitters per nine innings over his first four seasons, he was now whiffing 7 per nine, a massive jump. Most notably, the changeup also gave Viola an advantage over right-handed hitters he did not have before. From 1982 through 1985, Viola struck out 13 percent of right-handed hitters but saw that rate jump to 19 percent in 1986 through 1987. Viola’s showcased his changeup early in the first inning. After Vince Coleman executed a decent but unsuccessful bunt on Viola’s first-pitch curve, shortstop Ozzie Smith took his stance in the right-handed batters’ box. With the exception of Bill Buckner, no hitter was more difficult to strike out than the Wizard of Oz. From 1982 through 1987, Smith had struck out in just 4.9% of his total plate appearances. If there was one thing Ozzie was going to do, it was put the ball in play. In his first appearance against Viola, the left-hander shot a low-90s fastball on the inner-half of the plate at Smith's knees for strike one and then missed wide on a big curve that skipped in the dirt to even the count. Viola now turned to that off-speed weapon that the National League was not accustomed to. The first split the plate in half while falling rapidly, leaving Smith waving over the top of it. Based on that favorable outcome, Viola followed that one with a near clone of it that Smith once again swung over for strike three. http://i.imgur.com/acpj6rP.gif Up to that point, Smith had 55 World Series plate appearances under his belt without a strikeout. If their first match-up was any indication, Frank Viola was showing the Cardinals hitters and viewers across America that something special was afoot. **** When you consider the personnel loss the Cardinals had, it was a near miracle that they were able to overtake the Giants in the NLCS. ABC’s Al Michaels’ suggested that Herzog reached baseball’s pinnacle series by virtue of “paste and glue and tacks and the rest of it”. They were missing Clark. Pendleton had a strained rib cage that kept him from being able to hit right-handed. Everything about the lineup felt patchwork. Following his tendon tear Clark attempted to do everything possible to make it back for the postseason to face his former team. He made a pair of pinch-hitting appearances in the regular season and was kept on the roster for the NLCS despite the inability to put much weight on his right leg. Prior to games, he and some of the coaching staff took private on-field batting practice, away from the attention of his teammates and onlookers. The results were not good. He lunged and lurched at balls and produce off-balanced swings with mediocre contact. "It's going to take a while longer," he said in response to an inquiry about his injury status, "and I don't know how much longer it will be. This is more than just a little twisted ankle. There isn't any medicine I can take. If there were shots or pills that would help, I'd have had them by now.” Herzog used Clark once in the seven game series against San Francisco -- a pinch-hit appearance in Game 3 -- where Clark struck out looking with runners on first and second. Before the start of the World Series, the Cardinals ran Clark through a simulated game. Clark went down looking in his at-bats, barely able to transfer his weight off his front leg. That was enough for Herzog to decide not to keep him on the roster for the series, instead opting to carry reliever Lee Tunnell. Surprisingly, it was Clark’s replacement who got the Cardinals on the board first. Leading off the second inning, Viola ran a fastball off the inside edge of the plate, inciting the right-handed Lindeman to flinch. Naturally, the next offering after going hard in was to throw something soft away. Viola spotted a changeup just off the outside corner but left it too far up and Lindeman, now swinging off his front foot, was able to lift toward center field. Puckett, who enjoyed playing a deep center in order to defend the wall and takeaway would-be home runs, initially froze. http://i.imgur.com/X7B15RH.gif Perhaps Puckett misjudged the contact, or lost the ball momentarily in the sea of white Homer Hankies; either way, by the time he made his furious break back toward the infield and the landing spot, the ball hit the artificial turf and Lindeman gained second. Following a Willie McGee fly out to right center that moved him up a base, Lindeman later scored on an RBI groundout by Tony Pena, putting the Cardinals up 1-0. As it turns out, the run proved to be as harmless as a minnow bite. Although Magrane had kept the potent Twins hitless through the first three innings, his habit of falling behind hitters and issuing free passes eventually catch up to him. The Twins offense also used their first plate appearances to calibrate themselves against the young pitcher. After their first looks, they were ready to pounce. Magrane had relied mainly on his sinking fastball -- one that didn’t find the zone consistently. In the bottom of the fourth, he started Gaetti with a fastball inside which the reigning ALCS MVP rapped on the ground down the third baseline. Lawless, playing deep for the power hitter, laid out to snare the ball well behind the bag and came up firing. In a bang-bang play, Gaetti beat it by a step -- the Twins’ first hit of the 1987 World Series was an infield hit. After Gaetti’s single, veteran DH Don Baylor did the same. Ditto for Tom Brunansky. *** Brunansky didn’t know it at the time but he was showcasing his talents his future employer. It was no secret that the Cardinals lacked power. When Clark left as a free agent after the 1987 season, St. Louis was left with a pile of toothpicks for bats. Internally, they hoped that Lindeman would progress in the power department but they looked for more of a proven presence, adding beefy Bob Horner to the mix, much to manager Whitey Herzog’s chagrin. The 30-year-old Horner had averaged 24 home runs in his ten seasons in Atlanta but had spent 1987 in Japan playing for the Yakult Swallows where he smacked another 31 home runs. In his exit interview, Horner took parting shots at the Japanese version of the game, calling out the pitchers for not throwing him strikes, chastising the fans for their choice of whistles and noisemakers, and saying the umpires’ strike zones were prejudice against foreigners. His words nearly incited an international incident. While he never was asked about Horner’s remarks, the Redbirds’ manager wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of adding him based on his pool of play. “I don’t like Horner,” Herzog told reporters where rumors surfaced that Cardinals’ GM Dal Maxvill was targeting the large first baseman. “Of his lifetime homers, about seventy percent were hit in Atlanta. He never could hit in St. Louis. He can’t hit, and he can’t field.” It was true that the bulk of Horner’s round-trippers had come in Fulton County Stadium -- 174 of his 218 homers came in Atlanta. Herzog’s words, however, eventually reached Horner who had signed with St. Louis on a one-year, $960,000 deal, significantly lower than the $10 million multi-year deal that Yukult offered him to stay. “Obviously it’s not something you want to read,” Horner said. “But even though Whitey had criticized me in making those statements, I would still enjoy the challenge of proving him wrong.” With a need for more power, the Cardinals turned to the Twins. On April 22, 1988, the two sides agreed to swap the outfielder Brunansky for St. Louis’ switch-hitting second baseman, Tommy Herr. According to Sid Hartman, who had learned of the trade on the radio while driving his close, personal friend Bobby Knight to his hotel in Bloomington, he immediately called McPhail at home in the middle of the night to ask “what the hell is going on?” The Twins GM told the Star Tribune columnist that they were convinced Brunansky couldn’t throw the ball from right field any more and was turning into a defensive liability. What’s more, Brunansky was hitting .184 with just a lone home run through the season’s first 14 games. And, more importantly, the Twins were 4 and 9 and looking for a spark. Herr reportedly cried when he heard the news. His desire to play for the Twins was questioned by fans, the media and teammates when he was continually sidelined with injuries. In his autobiography, Kent Hrbek called Herr the only teammate he ever played with that he really didn’t like. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Brunansky brought with him some of the Twins’ loosy-goosy clubhouse attitude that involved various pranks which endeared him to his coworkers -- possibly with the exception of pitcher Joe Magrane. Later that summer, with the help of Ozzie Smith, the outfielder orchestrated a prank on the pitcher. Magrane, who had a reputation as being a pretty-boy clotheshorse, was sent a telegram from GQ magazine requesting a photoshoot. Smith had been profiled in the April issue so it seemed somewhat plausible that the magazine was interested in more St. Louis subjects -- this time to display winter fashion. On a day in which the heat reached 105 degrees, a photographer and Magrane, along with five winter suits, took to the Busch Stadium field and began a photoshoot that lasted over an hour in the oppressive Missouri summer heat. In his book, Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch described Magrane as “sweating like a stuffed pig” as he ran from the field to the clubhouse for an attire change. Several days later, Magrane received another telegram that said “because of your subpar season, we’ve decided not to use your session in GQ.” A day later, a follow up telegram arrived. It read: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ve been had. There’s no GQ.” *** While wearing winter knits in 105 degree heat sounds uncomfortable, it probably was nothing for Magrane compared to the pressure on the mound at the Metrodome with the bases now at maximum capacity (in the form of Gaetti, Baylor and his future teammate Brunansky) and Kent Hrbek coming to the plate looking for a meal. People worried about Hrbek. After all, he went 1-for-20 in the ALCS against Detroit. Fans expressed frustration with their team's best run producer's inability to produce. Was the pressure to carry his hometown team -- his childhood rooting interest -- to their first World Series victory be too much? Throughout the regular season, Hrbek did little against left-handed pitching. While he finished with 34 home runs, all but six came against right-handed pitchers and he posted a .225/.290/.370 line against southpaws in 155 plate appearances. So it was no surprise that the first baseman was batting seventh in the game against Magrane. Magrane had been tough on left-handed opponents, limiting them to a .226 average and just one home run. Given that Magrane held the platoon advantage, it shouldn’t come as surprise that Hrbek’s contact on the 0-1 pitch wasn’t solid. The ball hit the ground inches in front of home then again just beyond second base -- a classic Dome ball that found its way between Smith, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game, and Herr at second to score Gaetti and Baylor, putting the Twins ahead 2-1. “I just looked at it on the TV, and it was a high fastball away,” Hrbek told the Star Tribune. “I was just trying to hit it to the outfield and go to the left field to get the run in. It’s the old Randy Bush theory. You try to swing as hard as you can in case you hit it.” When Steve Lombardozzi walked, the fifth consecutive Twins hitter to reach base, Whitey Herzog emerged to tell Magrane his night was over. Magrane exited to a chorus of “Happy Trails” by Twins fans. Herzog called on the veteran Bob Forsch, in hope of coaxing a double-play grounder out of catcher Tim Laudner. Forsch did get the grounder but the right-handed hitting Lauds was able to will it through the left-side of the infield between Herr and Lindeman, scoring Brunansky from third and loading the bases once again. That’s when outfielder Dan Gladden came to the plate. ****Come back to TwinsDaily.com tomorrow for more of the "1987 Revisited" series**** Click here to view the article
  22. Who will be the next Brian Dozier? Bert Blyleven? Justin Morneau? LaTroy Hawkins or Brad Radke? 2nd Round 1981 – Frank Viola – LHP – St. John’s University – WAR 47.4 Viola was up with the Twins by 1982 and went on to win 176 games in his long career. He was the World Series MVP in 1987 for the Twins. He also won the 1988 American League Cy Young. Honorable Mention: Butch Wynegar (1974 - WAR 26.3), Scott Baker (2003), Tim Teufel (1980), Jesse Crain (2002), Jacque Jones (1996). Bill Swift (1983), Del Unser (1965), Allan Anderson (1982). Current: Ryan Eades (2013), Mason Melotakis (2012), JT Chargois (2012), Madison Boer (2011), Niko Goodrum (2010). Last year: Nick Burdi 3rd Round 1969 – Bert Blyleven – RHP – High School in California – WAR 95.3 Blyleven was drafted by the Twins and debuted as a 19-year-old in 1970. He went on to win 287 games with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. After years of falling short, Blyleven went into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is going to make you an organization’s top selection for a round most times. Honorable Mention: Steve Garvey (1966-Did Not Sign), Justin Morneau (1999), AJ Pierzynski (1994), Denny Neagle (1989), John Castino (1976) Current: Stuart Turner (2013), Adam Brett Walker (2012), Corey Williams (2011), Pat Dean (2010), Brian Duensing (2005) Last Year: Michael Cederoth 4th Round 1965 – Graig Nettles – 3B – San Diego State University – WAR 68.0 Of his 68 WAR, just one WAR came with the Twins. Following the 1969 season, he was traded with Dean Chance and others to Cleveland for Luis Tiant. He went on to become one of the best third baseman of his era. Honorable Mention: Scott Erickson (1989) Current: Danny Ortiz (2008), Eddie Rosario (2010), Matt Summers (2011), Zack Jones (2012), Stephen Gonsalves (2013) Last Year: Sam Clay 5th Round 1967 – Dave Goltz – RHP – Rothsay (MN) High School – WAR – 23.2 A local product, Dave Goltz signed and spent five years in the minor leagues before debuting in 1972. He was with the Twins through the 1979 before going to California to play for the Dodgers and then the Angels. He had double-digit wins each season from 1974 through 1979 including a 20-win season in 1977. Honorable Mention: Doug Mientkiewicz (1995) Current: Aaron Slegers (2013), Tyler Duffey (2012) Last Year: Jake Reed 6th Round 2002 – Pat Neshek – RHP – Butler University – WAR 7.3 The Minnesota native debuted with his hometown team in 2006 and was in the final vote for an All-Star pick in 2007, though he lost out. He was a dominant force in the bullpen until he had some elbow problems and eventually missed time due to Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, the Twins let him go and he spent time with San Diego before doing well in Oakland and then becoming an All-Star in 2014 with the Cardinals. He turned that into a big contract with the Astros this year. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1973) Current: BJ Hermsen (2008), Chris Herrmann (2009), Logan Darnell (2010), Dereck Rodriguez (2011), Brain Navarreto (2013) Last Year: John Curtiss 7th Round 1991 – LaTroy Hawkins – RHP – High School in Gary, Indiana – WAR 17.2 “The Hawk” came up as a starter way back when and struggled. Then he became the closer. And he struggled. Then Rick Anderson moved him to the set up man job and his career took off. In fact, at age 42, he is still playing. Only 13 pitchers in big league history have pitched in more games than Hawkins. There is a chance that he could end the year (and his career) in the Top 10 all-time. Honorable Mention: Mark Guthrie (1987) Current: Steven Gruver (2011), Jorge Fernandez (2012), Brian Gilbert (2013), Last Year: Andro Cutura 8th Round 1991 – Brad Radke – RHP – High School in Tampa, FL – WAR 45.5 One round after drafting Hawkins, the Twins selected Radke out of high school. He flew through the Twins minor league system and debuted as a 22-year-old in 1995. He was “Real-As-Radke” early in his career, but he got into the national spotlight in 1997 when he won 20 games. He was a stalwart in the Twins rotation from 1995 through 2006 and won 148 major league games. Following his career, he was named to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. Honorable Mention: Rick Burleson (1969), Brian Dozier (2009), Adam Lind (2002) Current: Jason Wheeler (2011) Last Year: Keaton Steele 9th Round 1981 – Steve Lombardozzi – SS – University of Florida – WAR 4.4 “Lombo” was a surprise contributor as the second baseman for the Twins during their World Series championship in 1987. He didn’t hit for average, but he and Greg Gagne combined to play very good defense up the middle. Before the 1989 season, he was traded to Houston but only played another 19 games before retiring. His son has spent a lot of time in the big leagues the last three years. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1977), Tony Fossas (1978) Current: Mitch Garver (2013) Last Year: Max Murphy 10th Round 1966 – Steve Braun – SS – High School in New Jersey – WAR 17.6 Braun spent six seasons (1971-1976) with the Twins, playing in at least 115 games each year. He played mostly third base, though he spent time in the outfield as well. He played for four other organizations through the 1985 season, though he was primarily a part-time player and pinch hitter much of the remainder of his career. Honorable Mention: Jeff Reboulet (1986), Marty Cordova (1989) Current: Brett Lee (2011), DJ Baxendale (2012), CK Irby (2013) Last Year: Randy LeBlanc So, as you can see, there aren’t a ton of success stories as the rounds go on, but you just never know which players are going to take off and become valuable regulars in the big leagues. Today, the Twins will draft their third round pick through their 10th round picks. Who will be the next Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola or Brad Radke? Who will be the next Brian Dozier or Craig Nettles?
  23. On day two, the Minnesota Twins will select eight more players in the MLB Draft. Rounds 3 through 10 will take place on Tuesday afternoon. We will detail each of those picks here at Twins Daily. The first-round picks get a lot of the publicity, but teams can find great talents in the later rounds as well. Today, I’ll take a look at the best Twins picks from rounds two through ten in their draft history.Who will be the next Brian Dozier? Bert Blyleven? Justin Morneau? LaTroy Hawkins or Brad Radke? 2nd Round 1981 – Frank Viola – LHP – St. John’s University – WAR 47.4 Viola was up with the Twins by 1982 and went on to win 176 games in his long career. He was the World Series MVP in 1987 for the Twins. He also won the 1988 American League Cy Young. Honorable Mention: Butch Wynegar (1974 - WAR 26.3), Scott Baker (2003), Tim Teufel (1980), Jesse Crain (2002), Jacque Jones (1996). Bill Swift (1983), Del Unser (1965), Allan Anderson (1982). Current: Ryan Eades (2013), Mason Melotakis (2012), JT Chargois (2012), Madison Boer (2011), Niko Goodrum (2010). Last year: Nick Burdi 3rd Round 1969 – Bert Blyleven – RHP – High School in California – WAR 95.3 Blyleven was drafted by the Twins and debuted as a 19-year-old in 1970. He went on to win 287 games with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. After years of falling short, Blyleven went into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is going to make you an organization’s top selection for a round most times. Honorable Mention: Steve Garvey (1966-Did Not Sign), Justin Morneau (1999), AJ Pierzynski (1994), Denny Neagle (1989), John Castino (1976) Current: Stuart Turner (2013), Adam Brett Walker (2012), Corey Williams (2011), Pat Dean (2010), Brian Duensing (2005) Last Year: Michael Cederoth 4th Round 1965 – Graig Nettles – 3B – San Diego State University – WAR 68.0 Of his 68 WAR, just one WAR came with the Twins. Following the 1969 season, he was traded with Dean Chance and others to Cleveland for Luis Tiant. He went on to become one of the best third baseman of his era. Honorable Mention: Scott Erickson (1989) Current: Danny Ortiz (2008), Eddie Rosario (2010), Matt Summers (2011), Zack Jones (2012), Stephen Gonsalves (2013) Last Year: Sam Clay 5th Round 1967 – Dave Goltz – RHP – Rothsay (MN) High School – WAR – 23.2 A local product, Dave Goltz signed and spent five years in the minor leagues before debuting in 1972. He was with the Twins through the 1979 before going to California to play for the Dodgers and then the Angels. He had double-digit wins each season from 1974 through 1979 including a 20-win season in 1977. Honorable Mention: Doug Mientkiewicz (1995) Current: Aaron Slegers (2013), Tyler Duffey (2012) Last Year: Jake Reed 6th Round 2002 – Pat Neshek – RHP – Butler University – WAR 7.3 The Minnesota native debuted with his hometown team in 2006 and was in the final vote for an All-Star pick in 2007, though he lost out. He was a dominant force in the bullpen until he had some elbow problems and eventually missed time due to Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, the Twins let him go and he spent time with San Diego before doing well in Oakland and then becoming an All-Star in 2014 with the Cardinals. He turned that into a big contract with the Astros this year. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1973) Current: BJ Hermsen (2008), Chris Herrmann (2009), Logan Darnell (2010), Dereck Rodriguez (2011), Brain Navarreto (2013) Last Year: John Curtiss 7th Round 1991 – LaTroy Hawkins – RHP – High School in Gary, Indiana – WAR 17.2 “The Hawk” came up as a starter way back when and struggled. Then he became the closer. And he struggled. Then Rick Anderson moved him to the set up man job and his career took off. In fact, at age 42, he is still playing. Only 13 pitchers in big league history have pitched in more games than Hawkins. There is a chance that he could end the year (and his career) in the Top 10 all-time. Honorable Mention: Mark Guthrie (1987) Current: Steven Gruver (2011), Jorge Fernandez (2012), Brian Gilbert (2013), Last Year: Andro Cutura 8th Round 1991 – Brad Radke – RHP – High School in Tampa, FL – WAR 45.5 One round after drafting Hawkins, the Twins selected Radke out of high school. He flew through the Twins minor league system and debuted as a 22-year-old in 1995. He was “Real-As-Radke” early in his career, but he got into the national spotlight in 1997 when he won 20 games. He was a stalwart in the Twins rotation from 1995 through 2006 and won 148 major league games. Following his career, he was named to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. Honorable Mention: Rick Burleson (1969), Brian Dozier (2009), Adam Lind (2002) Current: Jason Wheeler (2011) Last Year: Keaton Steele 9th Round 1981 – Steve Lombardozzi – SS – University of Florida – WAR 4.4 “Lombo” was a surprise contributor as the second baseman for the Twins during their World Series championship in 1987. He didn’t hit for average, but he and Greg Gagne combined to play very good defense up the middle. Before the 1989 season, he was traded to Houston but only played another 19 games before retiring. His son has spent a lot of time in the big leagues the last three years. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1977), Tony Fossas (1978) Current: Mitch Garver (2013) Last Year: Max Murphy 10th Round 1966 – Steve Braun – SS – High School in New Jersey – WAR 17.6 Braun spent six seasons (1971-1976) with the Twins, playing in at least 115 games each year. He played mostly third base, though he spent time in the outfield as well. He played for four other organizations through the 1985 season, though he was primarily a part-time player and pinch hitter much of the remainder of his career. Honorable Mention: Jeff Reboulet (1986), Marty Cordova (1989) Current: Brett Lee (2011), DJ Baxendale (2012), CK Irby (2013) Last Year: Randy LeBlanc So, as you can see, there aren’t a ton of success stories as the rounds go on, but you just never know which players are going to take off and become valuable regulars in the big leagues. Today, the Twins will draft their third round pick through their 10th round picks. Who will be the next Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola or Brad Radke? Who will be the next Brian Dozier or Craig Nettles? Click here to view the article
  24. Clayton Kershaw is in the midst of one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history. He looks to be a lock for the National League Cy Young and there's a chance he could win the NL MVP. After missing a chunk of games at the beginning of the season, he has rebounded to post one of the best seasons on record. Starting pitching seems to be one of the areas the Twins are struggling to find success.There hasn't been a player of Kershaw's caliber in the Twins rotation since the Johan Santana days in the Metrodome. However, there have been some very good seasons from past Twins pitchers. Last week ESPN tried to rank the top 20 pitcher seasons of the last 50 years. There were no Twins on the list but some Minnesota players were on the honorable mention list. For the purposes of this post, WAR is the average between the Baseball Reference and FanGraphs version of the statistic. ERA+ is ERA that is adjusted for home park and league context. Postseason performance was also considered. 1. Bert Blyleven, 1973 W-L: 20-17 | 2.52 ERA | 325.0 IP | 258 SO | ERA+: 156 | WAR: 10.5 "[blyleven's] best season came in 1973, when he went 20-17, with a 2.52 ERA in 40 starts. He pitched 325 innings and tossed nine shutouts. But in 10 starts in which he allowed one or two runs, he went just 5-4 -- even though he pitched at least 8 1/3 innings in all of those games."--- David Schoenfield, ESPN's SweetSpot Blog The sheer number of innings thrown by Blyleven at such a high level makes this season the most impressive in Twins history. His record could have been even more impressive if the Twins had given him more run support. The Twins finished with a .500 record so there was never a shot for Blyleven to strut his stuff in the postseason that year. Surprisingly, Blyleven received one lone vote in the AL Cy Young balloting that year. Jim Palmer won the award because he had more wins and a lower ERA. Blyleven bested him in innings, complete games and shutouts. He also struck out over 100 more batters. 2. Johan Santana, 2004 W-L: 20-6 | 2.61 ERA | 228.0 IP | 265 SO | ERA+: 182 | WAR: 8.1 "He's the only guy I know who at times has a 20-mile-per-hour differential between his fastball and his change-up. Usually guys have a 10-mile-per hour difference." --- Brett Boone, Seattle Mariners second baseman The toughest choice on this list was between Santana and Blyleven for the top spot. Santana was so dominant in 2004 that it was painstakingly hard not to put him in the top spot. His season didn't get off to the best start. Through his first 12 starts, he had a 5.50 ERA and he had allowed 12 home runs in just under 69 innings. Things turned quickly as he had a 1.64 ERA and 75 strikeouts over his last 55 innings before the All-Star break. He got even better after the Mid-Summer Classic. He started 15 games with a 1.21 ERA and struck out 129 in 104.1 innings. He walked 23 and batters were able to muster only a .443 OPS and they only coaxed 23 walks. 3. Bert Blyleven, 1974 W-L: 17-17 | 2.66 ERA | 281.0 IP | 249 SO | ERA+: 142 | WAR: 8.3 "It (his curveball) was nasty. I'll tell you that. Enough to make your knees buckle. Bert (Blyleven) was a terrific pitcher -- a dominating pitcher." --- Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame Third Baseman In the follow-up season to his best professional year, Blyleven continued his dominating form. Many of his numbers dropped off but he was still very good. He was especially good in front of the Metropolitan Stadium crowd. In home games, he had a 1.91 ERA and he threw 12 complete games. He struck out 150 over 160 innings and he limited his walks to 45. The second half of the season was also particularly strong for Blyleven. He had a 2.00 ERA and he struck out 107 in just under 113 innings. Over his last 12 starts, he threw 98 innings with a 1.65 ERA. 4. Johan Santana, 2006 W-L: 19-6 | 2.77 ERA | 233.2 IP | 245 SO | ERA+: 162 | WAR: 7.3 "Santana fiddled with a change-up before 2002, but that was when the pitch blossomed. After Minnesota sent Santana to Class AAA Edmonton to covert him from a reliever to a starter, Bobby Cuellar, the pitching coach there, preached about the significance of trusting his change-up in any situation." --- Jack Curry, The New York Times The 2006 season was the last season in a very dominant three year stretch for Santana. He led all of baseball in ERA and strikeouts and he had the most innings pitched and games started in the American League. Among pitchers who compiled a minimum of 600 innings between 2004 and 2006, Santana led in ERA, ERA+, strikeouts, and K/BB ratio. He was the undisputed best pitcher in the baseball world even if it was only for three seasons. 5. Frank Viola, 1987 W-L: 17-10 | 2.90 ERA | 251.2 IP | 197 SO | ERA+: 159 | WAR: 6.9 "It's a tremendous feeling. MVP is a great, great honor but I couldn't do it without the other 23 guys and they all should share in this."--- Frank Viola, 1987 World Series MVP Some people might look at Viola's 1988 campaign as being more dominant since won the Cy Young that year. His 1987 campaign gets moved into the top 5 on this list because of his playoff performance. Viola was credited with three of the team's eight postseason victories that season. His Game 1 and Game 7 starts at the Metrodome were particularly strong as he pitched eight innings in both games and he limited the Cardinals to three runs. During the regular season, he allowed under 100 runs for the first time in his career and he posted the best ERA+ mark for his entire 15-year career. 6. Johan Santana, 2005 W-L: 16-7 | 2.87 ERA | 231.2 IP | 238 SO | ERA+: 155 | WAR: 7.4 In his first All-Star season, Santana lost some Cy Young support because of his low win total. He struck out more batters than everyone else in the baseball world. There were seven starts during the season where Santana didn't allow more than two earned runs and he was either charged with a loss or given a no-decision. 7. Frank Viola, 1988 W-L: 24-7 | 2.64 ERA | 255.1 IP | 193 SO | ERA+: 154 | WAR: 6.9 Viola rode a World Series high into the 1988 season and rattled a league high 24 victories. He posted double-digit victories at home and on the road. Over the first half of the season, he had a 14-2 record with a 2.24 ERA including five complete games. In the month of May, he was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA, including two complete game shutouts. 8. Bert Blyleven, 1971 W-L: 16-15 | 2.81 ERA | 278.1 IP | 224 SO | ERA+: 126 | WAR: 6.9 There wasn't much of a sophomore slump for Mr. Blyleven. The 1971 season marked the beginning of a six year stretch where he posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower. It was also the start of an eight year stretch where he threw a minimum of 11 complete games. Blyleven was starting his march toward the Hall of Fame. 9. Dean Chance, 1968 W-L: 16-16 | 2.53 ERA | 292.0 IP | 234 SO | ERA+: 124 | WAR: 6.6 Chance was coming off a 20-win season during his first season in Minnesota. His ERA was .20 points lower in 1968 and he tossed more innings. He had 15 complete games and six of those starts were shutouts. His 234 strikeouts were a career high that he would never break and his 0.98 WHIP was the only time he finished a season below 1.00 in this category. 10. Bert Blyleven, 1975 W-L: 15-10 | 3.00 ERA | 275.2 IP | 233 SO | ERA+: 129 | WAR: 6.4 The 1975 campaign was Blyleven's last full season in Minnesota before he came back a decade later. His 20 complete games were his second highest total as a Twin, behind only his 1973 season. He struck out over 220 for the fifth straight year. In seven of his losses or no-decisions, he pitched at least seven and gave up three runs or less. Honorable Mentions: Dean Chance (1967), Camilo Pascual (1962), Dave Goltz (1977), Jim Perry, (1970), Jim Katt (1966), Jim Katt (1967), Jerry Koosman (1979), Francisco Liriano (2006) Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Who would be in your top 10 list? Click here to view the article
  25. There hasn't been a player of Kershaw's caliber in the Twins rotation since the Johan Santana days in the Metrodome. However, there have been some very good seasons from past Twins pitchers. Last week ESPN tried to rank the top 20 pitcher seasons of the last 50 years. There were no Twins on the list but some Minnesota players were on the honorable mention list. For the purposes of this post, WAR is the average between the Baseball Reference and FanGraphs version of the statistic. ERA+ is ERA that is adjusted for home park and league context. Postseason performance was also considered. 1. Bert Blyleven, 1973 W-L: 20-17 | 2.52 ERA | 325.0 IP | 258 SO | ERA+: 156 | WAR: 10.5 "[blyleven's] best season came in 1973, when he went 20-17, with a 2.52 ERA in 40 starts. He pitched 325 innings and tossed nine shutouts. But in 10 starts in which he allowed one or two runs, he went just 5-4 -- even though he pitched at least 8 1/3 innings in all of those games."--- David Schoenfield, ESPN's SweetSpot Blog The sheer number of innings thrown by Blyleven at such a high level makes this season the most impressive in Twins history. His record could have been even more impressive if the Twins had given him more run support. The Twins finished with a .500 record so there was never a shot for Blyleven to strut his stuff in the postseason that year. Surprisingly, Blyleven received one lone vote in the AL Cy Young balloting that year. Jim Palmer won the award because he had more wins and a lower ERA. Blyleven bested him in innings, complete games and shutouts. He also struck out over 100 more batters. 2. Johan Santana, 2004 W-L: 20-6 | 2.61 ERA | 228.0 IP | 265 SO | ERA+: 182 | WAR: 8.1 "He's the only guy I know who at times has a 20-mile-per-hour differential between his fastball and his change-up. Usually guys have a 10-mile-per hour difference." --- Brett Boone, Seattle Mariners second baseman The toughest choice on this list was between Santana and Blyleven for the top spot. Santana was so dominant in 2004 that it was painstakingly hard not to put him in the top spot. His season didn't get off to the best start. Through his first 12 starts, he had a 5.50 ERA and he had allowed 12 home runs in just under 69 innings. Things turned quickly as he had a 1.64 ERA and 75 strikeouts over his last 55 innings before the All-Star break. He got even better after the Mid-Summer Classic. He started 15 games with a 1.21 ERA and struck out 129 in 104.1 innings. He walked 23 and batters were able to muster only a .443 OPS and they only coaxed 23 walks. 3. Bert Blyleven, 1974 W-L: 17-17 | 2.66 ERA | 281.0 IP | 249 SO | ERA+: 142 | WAR: 8.3 "It (his curveball) was nasty. I'll tell you that. Enough to make your knees buckle. Bert (Blyleven) was a terrific pitcher -- a dominating pitcher." --- Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame Third Baseman In the follow-up season to his best professional year, Blyleven continued his dominating form. Many of his numbers dropped off but he was still very good. He was especially good in front of the Metropolitan Stadium crowd. In home games, he had a 1.91 ERA and he threw 12 complete games. He struck out 150 over 160 innings and he limited his walks to 45. The second half of the season was also particularly strong for Blyleven. He had a 2.00 ERA and he struck out 107 in just under 113 innings. Over his last 12 starts, he threw 98 innings with a 1.65 ERA. 4. Johan Santana, 2006 W-L: 19-6 | 2.77 ERA | 233.2 IP | 245 SO | ERA+: 162 | WAR: 7.3 "Santana fiddled with a change-up before 2002, but that was when the pitch blossomed. After Minnesota sent Santana to Class AAA Edmonton to covert him from a reliever to a starter, Bobby Cuellar, the pitching coach there, preached about the significance of trusting his change-up in any situation." --- Jack Curry, The New York Times The 2006 season was the last season in a very dominant three year stretch for Santana. He led all of baseball in ERA and strikeouts and he had the most innings pitched and games started in the American League. Among pitchers who compiled a minimum of 600 innings between 2004 and 2006, Santana led in ERA, ERA+, strikeouts, and K/BB ratio. He was the undisputed best pitcher in the baseball world even if it was only for three seasons. 5. Frank Viola, 1987 W-L: 17-10 | 2.90 ERA | 251.2 IP | 197 SO | ERA+: 159 | WAR: 6.9 "It's a tremendous feeling. MVP is a great, great honor but I couldn't do it without the other 23 guys and they all should share in this."--- Frank Viola, 1987 World Series MVP Some people might look at Viola's 1988 campaign as being more dominant since won the Cy Young that year. His 1987 campaign gets moved into the top 5 on this list because of his playoff performance. Viola was credited with three of the team's eight postseason victories that season. His Game 1 and Game 7 starts at the Metrodome were particularly strong as he pitched eight innings in both games and he limited the Cardinals to three runs. During the regular season, he allowed under 100 runs for the first time in his career and he posted the best ERA+ mark for his entire 15-year career. 6. Johan Santana, 2005 W-L: 16-7 | 2.87 ERA | 231.2 IP | 238 SO | ERA+: 155 | WAR: 7.4 In his first All-Star season, Santana lost some Cy Young support because of his low win total. He struck out more batters than everyone else in the baseball world. There were seven starts during the season where Santana didn't allow more than two earned runs and he was either charged with a loss or given a no-decision. 7. Frank Viola, 1988 W-L: 24-7 | 2.64 ERA | 255.1 IP | 193 SO | ERA+: 154 | WAR: 6.9 Viola rode a World Series high into the 1988 season and rattled a league high 24 victories. He posted double-digit victories at home and on the road. Over the first half of the season, he had a 14-2 record with a 2.24 ERA including five complete games. In the month of May, he was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA, including two complete game shutouts. 8. Bert Blyleven, 1971 W-L: 16-15 | 2.81 ERA | 278.1 IP | 224 SO | ERA+: 126 | WAR: 6.9 There wasn't much of a sophomore slump for Mr. Blyleven. The 1971 season marked the beginning of a six year stretch where he posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower. It was also the start of an eight year stretch where he threw a minimum of 11 complete games. Blyleven was starting his march toward the Hall of Fame. 9. Dean Chance, 1968 W-L: 16-16 | 2.53 ERA | 292.0 IP | 234 SO | ERA+: 124 | WAR: 6.6 Chance was coming off a 20-win season during his first season in Minnesota. His ERA was .20 points lower in 1968 and he tossed more innings. He had 15 complete games and six of those starts were shutouts. His 234 strikeouts were a career high that he would never break and his 0.98 WHIP was the only time he finished a season below 1.00 in this category. 10. Bert Blyleven, 1975 W-L: 15-10 | 3.00 ERA | 275.2 IP | 233 SO | ERA+: 129 | WAR: 6.4 The 1975 campaign was Blyleven's last full season in Minnesota before he came back a decade later. His 20 complete games were his second highest total as a Twin, behind only his 1973 season. He struck out over 220 for the fifth straight year. In seven of his losses or no-decisions, he pitched at least seven and gave up three runs or less. Honorable Mentions: Dean Chance (1967), Camilo Pascual (1962), Dave Goltz (1977), Jim Perry, (1970), Jim Katt (1966), Jim Katt (1967), Jerry Koosman (1979), Francisco Liriano (2006) Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Who would be in your top 10 list?
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