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  1. Baseball fandom, for many, begins with a moment or two. Maybe you had the opportunity to meet a big league player and he became your hero. Maybe watching your dad play softball and then watching a ballgame on TV together is what brought you to the game. For some, the love of the game began and flourished with a pack of baseball cards. And maybe for you, like for me, there is a single card that exemplifies that love of the game. Baseball card collecting has become much more intense than it was in my childhood. Our biggest choice was whether to spend the 75 cents on a standard pack of Topps or spring for the $1.25 pack of glossy, flashy, hologram-y Upper Deck. Or, if we were really feeling fancy, we could go to KB Toys and splurge on a rack pack! I am going to sound like some kind of boomer here, but I can't keep up with the refractors, variations, jersey patches, etc... nor can I afford a box of cards from the local hobby shop at this point. So, with that being said, I have shifted my focus to trying to collect each and every Topps base-set Twins card in existence. No matter how many team sets I buy, or binders I fill with chronologically-cataloged cardboard Twins, my favorite card remains the same: The 1989 Topps Gary Gaetti card. Listen, I get it, it's a pretty unremarkable card for most people and it's worth MAYBE ten cents at the present time. However, for me it's about the memory associated with the card as opposed to its value. I can remember sitting on our rickety metal swing set as a seven-year-old when my dad returned from the store (to which he undoubtedly went to buy some dip). He handed me a pack of baseball cards, and I immediately began rifling through them looking for Jose Canseco, Cal Ripken, Kirby Puckett, and other superstars of the day, but mostly I was most stoked to get a Twins card. After flipping past Mike Moore, Jeffrey Leonard and other randoms from that '89 set, I saw it: a Gary Gaetti card. I excitedly showed it to my dad, who exclaimed "Wow! Not bad for a 75-cent pack of cards! Hang onto that one!" And I have. It's the only card I would never trade or gamble with as a kid. Why Gary Gaetti? I don't know. He is a Twins Hall of Famer, won a World Series ring and has two cool nicknames in "G-Man" and "The Rat!" Maybe it's some of this too... My latest mission has been to find autographed cards of the 1989 Topps set. I have acquired most of them in person, a couple off of Twins fan groups and one off of eBay of questionable quality. My white whale, of course, is a legit signed 1989 Topps Kirby Puckett. What is your favorite Twins card and why? What do you collect? Let us know in the comments! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. Baseball card collecting has become much more intense than it was in my childhood. Our biggest choice was whether to spend the 75 cents on a standard pack of Topps or spring for the $1.25 pack of glossy, flashy, hologram-y Upper Deck. Or, if we were really feeling fancy, we could go to KB Toys and splurge on a rack pack! I am going to sound like some kind of boomer here, but I can't keep up with the refractors, variations, jersey patches, etc... nor can I afford a box of cards from the local hobby shop at this point. So, with that being said, I have shifted my focus to trying to collect each and every Topps base-set Twins card in existence. No matter how many team sets I buy, or binders I fill with chronologically-cataloged cardboard Twins, my favorite card remains the same: The 1989 Topps Gary Gaetti card. Listen, I get it, it's a pretty unremarkable card for most people and it's worth MAYBE ten cents at the present time. However, for me it's about the memory associated with the card as opposed to its value. I can remember sitting on our rickety metal swing set as a seven-year-old when my dad returned from the store (to which he undoubtedly went to buy some dip). He handed me a pack of baseball cards, and I immediately began rifling through them looking for Jose Canseco, Cal Ripken, Kirby Puckett, and other superstars of the day, but mostly I was most stoked to get a Twins card. After flipping past Mike Moore, Jeffrey Leonard and other randoms from that '89 set, I saw it: a Gary Gaetti card. I excitedly showed it to my dad, who exclaimed "Wow! Not bad for a 75-cent pack of cards! Hang onto that one!" And I have. It's the only card I would never trade or gamble with as a kid. Why Gary Gaetti? I don't know. He is a Twins Hall of Famer, won a World Series ring and has two cool nicknames in "G-Man" and "The Rat!" Maybe it's some of this too... My latest mission has been to find autographed cards of the 1989 Topps set. I have acquired most of them in person, a couple off of Twins fan groups and one off of eBay of questionable quality. My white whale, of course, is a legit signed 1989 Topps Kirby Puckett. What is your favorite Twins card and why? What do you collect? Let us know in the comments! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. In this series of promotional shorts leading up to the 1985 Minnesota Twins season, we're offered a throwback to some classic faces that contributed to the 1987 World Championship team: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Gaetti's mustache. But despite these iconic players taking the stage, the real star of the show ends up being the free tube socks. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now. View full video
  4. In this series of promotional shorts leading up to the 1985 Minnesota Twins season, we're offered a throwback to some classic faces that contributed to the 1987 World Championship team: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Gaetti's mustache. But despite these iconic players taking the stage, the real star of the show ends up being the free tube socks. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now.
  5. The Rabbit Ball Season (1987) During the 1987 season, 79 players hit 20 home runs, a new record at the time. In the five seasons prior to the Rabbit Ball Season, the most players with 20+ homers in a season was 1986 when 60 players topping that mark. Four out of the top six home run totals all came in the 1987 season including Andre Dawson (49), Mark McGwire (49), George Bell (47) and Dale Murphy (44). Minnesota’s 1987 season is remembered for the team’s first championship, but the club also took advantage of the Rabbit Ball Season. Four Twins hit more than 20 home runs: Kent Hrbek (34), Tom Brunansky (32), Gary Gaetti (31) and Kirby Puckett (28). For Hrbek, it would be the only time he would cross the 30-homer threshold while Brunansky tied his career high. The Twins actually had five players in 1986 that hit 20 or more home runs but moving beyond the Rabbit Ball Season clearly put the Twins in a different light. The Aftermath (1988 and Beyond) MLB’s 1988 season saw a sharp decline when it came to home runs with only one player, Jose Canseco, topping the 40-home run mark. Overall, teams hit 3180 home runs compared to the 4458 home runs knocked out the year before. After a record- breaking 79 players had 20+ home runs, that total wouldn’t crack 50 again until 1991. Batters also saw their average OPS drop from .747 in 1987 to .696 in 1988. Offensively, the Twins looked a little different in 1988. Three players (Gaetti, Hrbek, and Puckett) had more than 20 home runs, but only six players were able to hit 13 or more home runs. Puckett might have been the brightest spot on the team as he hit .356/.375/.545 (.920) and led the league in a variety of offensive categories (at-bats, hits, singles, and total bases). He lost the batting title to Wade Boggs who hit .366 and no other hitters were higher than .325. In 1989, Kent Hrbek was the lone player on the team to hit more than 25 home runs. Gary Gaetti came close with 19 and Puckett dropped down to single digits in homers (9). In fact, the 1991 season was next season that saw anyone other than Hrbek hit more than 20 home runs. Chili Davis joined Hrbek in the 20-home run club and the club went on to their second World Series title in the last five seasons. No one knows if the baseballs will be similar or different for the 2020 season. Looking back at the aftermath of the Rabbit Ball Season, there’s a good chance home run rates will decrease this year. Maybe the Bomba Squad will have enough power to overcome it. Do you think the baseball will be different whenever MLB action is seen again? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. After reviewing some of the top players to wear a Minnesota Twins uniform in the 1960s and 1970s in past weeks, this week we will be jumping to the 1980s. Today we start with the top hitters of the 1980s, many of who helped the Twins to their first World Series championship.The 1960s presented Minnesota baseball fans with a new team, the Twins, and those teams provided some really good baseball for most of the decade. There were so many great players. The 1970s presented Minnesota Twins fans with a lot of mediocrity. Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but other than that, there were some strong single seasons, and a few players had two or three quality seasons. The 1980s Twins teams began really bad. Really bad. However, a young core of players were developing into a team that brought the first World Series title to Minnesota... and then a second four years later. There were several Twins Hall of Famers, and one MLB Hall of Famer in that group. The Twins of the second half of the decade could certainly hit. Below you'll find my choices for a Twins All-Decade lineup. A couple of the choices were difficult and will likely cause some discussion. Some were quite easy. Enjoy! C - Tim Laudner (1981-1989) 734 games, .225/.292/.391 (.682) with 97 doubles, 77 homers, 263 RBI. Laudner went to high school at Park Center, in Brooklyn Park (MN), and went to the University of Missouri. In 1979, the Twins made him their third-round pick. In 1981 he hit 42 homers at Double-A Orlando before the Twins called him up late in the year and he added two more. While he never hit, he was the team’s regular catcher for most of the decade. In the 1987 postseason, he was referred to as “Buck-Ninety” because he hit just .191 on the season. He hit .318 with a double and a homer in the World Series. He then was named an All-Star in 1988. 1B - Kent Hrbek (1981-1989) 1,156 games, .290/.368/.496 (.864) with 224 doubles, 201 homers, 724 RBI. The Twins made Hrbek their 17th-round pick in 1978 out of Bloomington (MN) Kennedy High School. He made his debut in August 1981. In 1982, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (to some Ripken guy who played in Baltimore). As a 22-year-old, he also played in his first (and only, by choice) All-Star Game. In 1984, he hit .311/.383/.522 (.906) with 27 homers and finished second in MVP voting. He hit over 20 homers in seven seasons in the ‘80s. In 1987, he hit a career-high 34 home runs. He added a home run in both the ALCS and the World Series in 1987. 2B - John Castino (1980-1984) 518 games, .277/.329/.398 (.727) with 73 doubles, 36 homers, 197 RBI. Castino’s career was cut short by major back issues. He debuted and was the co-Rookie of the Year in 1979. However, he played most days for the first four seasons of the 1980s. His best season was 1980 when he hit .302 with 17 doubles, seven triples and 13 home runs. He had another strong season in 1983, hitting .277 with 30 doubles and 11 homers. However, after just eight games in 1984, his career was done. 3B - Gary Gaetti (1981-1989) 1,207 games, .259/.311/.445 (.757) with 225 doubles, 185 homers, 673 RBI. Does anyone else feel that Gary Gaetti is a little underrated in Twins history? He is overshadowed, to some degree, by Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Gaetti debuted late in the 1981 season and became the team’s regular third baseman the following year. He was an All-Star in both 1988 and 1989, and was better in 1986 (34 homers, 108 RBI) and 1987 (31 homers, 109 RBI). He hit 19 or more homers in seven of the eight seasons in the 1980s. In addition to hit offensive prowess, Gaetti won four straight Gold Glove Awards between 1986 and 1989. SS - Greg Gagne (1983-1989) 717 games, .250/.294/.396 (.689) with 115 doubles, 47 homers, 216 RBI. Early in the 1982 season, the Twins traded their shortstop Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees. One of the players who came to the Twins in the deal was their shortstop for most of the rest of the decade, Greg Gagne. Gagne played 12 total games for the Twins between 1983 and 1984, but in 1985 he became the team’s regular shortstop. With Gagne, there wasn’t a lot of offense. However, in 1987, he hit .265/.310/.430 (.740) with 28 doubles, seven triples and ten homers. While not a great base stealer, Gagne had great speed. He also was a very good defensive shortstop. LF - Gary Ward (1980-1983) 407 games, .284/.332/.463 (.795) with 80 doubles, 51 homers, 218 RBI. Ward originally signed with the Twins in August of 1972. It was a slow process up the ladder. He spent 1975 and 1976 in Double-A. He spent 1977-1980 in Triple-A. He played a combined 23 big league games between 1979 and 1980. In 1981, he became an everyday player and remained with the team until a trade to Texas following the 1983 season. In 1982, he hit .289 with 33 doubles, seven triples and had career-highs with 28 homers and 91 RBI. In 1983, he played in his first All-Star Game and hit a career-high 34 doubles. He continued to play through the 1990 season. CF - Kirby Puckett (1984-1989) 924 games, .323/.357/.469 (.826) with 197 doubles, 96 homers, 506 RBI. Puckett was the third overall pick in the January phase of the draft. Two years later, he was in the big leagues. He came up as a speedy centerfielder and grew into one of the game’s most feared overall hitters and a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his 12- year career. In the 1980s, he had 199 or more hits in every season but his rookie year (when he had 165 hits in 128 games). In 1986, his power emerged with a career-high 31 homers. He was an All-Star each season starting in 1986. He won four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers in the decade (and more in the 1990s). In the ‘80s, he led the league in hits three times and in batting average in 1989 at .339. He had hit .356 in 1988 and finished runner up. He finished in the Top 6 in MVP voting four straight years from 1986 through 1989. RF - Tom Brunansky (1982-1988) 916 games, .250/.330/.452 (.782) with 154 doubles, 163 homers, 469 RBI. “Bruno” had been the 14th overall pick in the 1978 draft by the California Angels. In May 1982, he came to the Twins in a trade involving Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong. He immediately became the Twins primary right fielder and a leading source of power for the team. He was really quite consistent. He hit between .240 and .260 most years. He hit 21-30 doubles each year. He hit between 20 and 32 homers each year (32 in both 1984 and 1987). He represented the Twins in the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. Traded to the Cardinals after just 14 games in 1988. DH - Roy Smalley (1980-1982, 1985-1987) 575 games, .263/.354/.416 (.770) with 88 doubles, 59 homers, 221 RBI. Smalley began the 1980s as the Twins shortstop, coming off of his 1979 All-Star season. Between 1980 and 1981, he hit .274/.364/.415 (.779). As mentioned above, he was traded to the Yankees just four games into the 1982 season. He returned to the Twins before the 1985 season and was the team’s primary DH all three seasons, averaging 127 games played. Over those three seasons, he hit a combined .258/.350/.419 (.768) and willingly took on a lesser role late in the 1987 season as the Twins made their way toward their first World Series title. Let the discussion begin... 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
  7. The 1960s presented Minnesota baseball fans with a new team, the Twins, and those teams provided some really good baseball for most of the decade. There were so many great players. The 1970s presented Minnesota Twins fans with a lot of mediocrity. Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but other than that, there were some strong single seasons, and a few players had two or three quality seasons. The 1980s Twins teams began really bad. Really bad. However, a young core of players were developing into a team that brought the first World Series title to Minnesota... and then a second four years later. There were several Twins Hall of Famers, and one MLB Hall of Famer in that group. The Twins of the second half of the decade could certainly hit. Below you'll find my choices for a Twins All-Decade lineup. A couple of the choices were difficult and will likely cause some discussion. Some were quite easy. Enjoy! C - Tim Laudner (1981-1989) 734 games, .225/.292/.391 (.682) with 97 doubles, 77 homers, 263 RBI. Laudner went to high school at Park Center, in Brooklyn Park (MN), and went to the University of Missouri. In 1979, the Twins made him their third-round pick. In 1981 he hit 42 homers at Double-A Orlando before the Twins called him up late in the year and he added two more. While he never hit, he was the team’s regular catcher for most of the decade. In the 1987 postseason, he was referred to as “Buck-Ninety” because he hit just .191 on the season. He hit .318 with a double and a homer in the World Series. He then was named an All-Star in 1988. 1B - Kent Hrbek (1981-1989) 1,156 games, .290/.368/.496 (.864) with 224 doubles, 201 homers, 724 RBI. The Twins made Hrbek their 17th-round pick in 1978 out of Bloomington (MN) Kennedy High School. He made his debut in August 1981. In 1982, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (to some Ripken guy who played in Baltimore). As a 22-year-old, he also played in his first (and only, by choice) All-Star Game. In 1984, he hit .311/.383/.522 (.906) with 27 homers and finished second in MVP voting. He hit over 20 homers in seven seasons in the ‘80s. In 1987, he hit a career-high 34 home runs. He added a home run in both the ALCS and the World Series in 1987. 2B - John Castino (1980-1984) 518 games, .277/.329/.398 (.727) with 73 doubles, 36 homers, 197 RBI. Castino’s career was cut short by major back issues. He debuted and was the co-Rookie of the Year in 1979. However, he played most days for the first four seasons of the 1980s. His best season was 1980 when he hit .302 with 17 doubles, seven triples and 13 home runs. He had another strong season in 1983, hitting .277 with 30 doubles and 11 homers. However, after just eight games in 1984, his career was done. 3B - Gary Gaetti (1981-1989) 1,207 games, .259/.311/.445 (.757) with 225 doubles, 185 homers, 673 RBI. Does anyone else feel that Gary Gaetti is a little underrated in Twins history? He is overshadowed, to some degree, by Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Gaetti debuted late in the 1981 season and became the team’s regular third baseman the following year. He was an All-Star in both 1988 and 1989, and was better in 1986 (34 homers, 108 RBI) and 1987 (31 homers, 109 RBI). He hit 19 or more homers in seven of the eight seasons in the 1980s. In addition to hit offensive prowess, Gaetti won four straight Gold Glove Awards between 1986 and 1989. SS - Greg Gagne (1983-1989) 717 games, .250/.294/.396 (.689) with 115 doubles, 47 homers, 216 RBI. Early in the 1982 season, the Twins traded their shortstop Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees. One of the players who came to the Twins in the deal was their shortstop for most of the rest of the decade, Greg Gagne. Gagne played 12 total games for the Twins between 1983 and 1984, but in 1985 he became the team’s regular shortstop. With Gagne, there wasn’t a lot of offense. However, in 1987, he hit .265/.310/.430 (.740) with 28 doubles, seven triples and ten homers. While not a great base stealer, Gagne had great speed. He also was a very good defensive shortstop. LF - Gary Ward (1980-1983) 407 games, .284/.332/.463 (.795) with 80 doubles, 51 homers, 218 RBI. Ward originally signed with the Twins in August of 1972. It was a slow process up the ladder. He spent 1975 and 1976 in Double-A. He spent 1977-1980 in Triple-A. He played a combined 23 big league games between 1979 and 1980. In 1981, he became an everyday player and remained with the team until a trade to Texas following the 1983 season. In 1982, he hit .289 with 33 doubles, seven triples and had career-highs with 28 homers and 91 RBI. In 1983, he played in his first All-Star Game and hit a career-high 34 doubles. He continued to play through the 1990 season. CF - Kirby Puckett (1984-1989) 924 games, .323/.357/.469 (.826) with 197 doubles, 96 homers, 506 RBI. Puckett was the third overall pick in the January phase of the draft. Two years later, he was in the big leagues. He came up as a speedy centerfielder and grew into one of the game’s most feared overall hitters and a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his 12- year career. In the 1980s, he had 199 or more hits in every season but his rookie year (when he had 165 hits in 128 games). In 1986, his power emerged with a career-high 31 homers. He was an All-Star each season starting in 1986. He won four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers in the decade (and more in the 1990s). In the ‘80s, he led the league in hits three times and in batting average in 1989 at .339. He had hit .356 in 1988 and finished runner up. He finished in the Top 6 in MVP voting four straight years from 1986 through 1989. RF - Tom Brunansky (1982-1988) 916 games, .250/.330/.452 (.782) with 154 doubles, 163 homers, 469 RBI. “Bruno” had been the 14th overall pick in the 1978 draft by the California Angels. In May 1982, he came to the Twins in a trade involving Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong. He immediately became the Twins primary right fielder and a leading source of power for the team. He was really quite consistent. He hit between .240 and .260 most years. He hit 21-30 doubles each year. He hit between 20 and 32 homers each year (32 in both 1984 and 1987). He represented the Twins in the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. Traded to the Cardinals after just 14 games in 1988. DH - Roy Smalley (1980-1982, 1985-1987) 575 games, .263/.354/.416 (.770) with 88 doubles, 59 homers, 221 RBI. Smalley began the 1980s as the Twins shortstop, coming off of his 1979 All-Star season. Between 1980 and 1981, he hit .274/.364/.415 (.779). As mentioned above, he was traded to the Yankees just four games into the 1982 season. He returned to the Twins before the 1985 season and was the team’s primary DH all three seasons, averaging 127 games played. Over those three seasons, he hit a combined .258/.350/.419 (.768) and willingly took on a lesser role late in the 1987 season as the Twins made their way toward their first World Series title. Let the discussion begin... 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)
  8. Multiple reports surfaced last week that Minor League Baseball was prepared to accept MLB’s proposal to eliminate more than 40 teams. Short-season and rookie ball would be eliminated but they would like to work out a deal where baseball could continue for the long-term in those cities. After these reports surfaced, MiLB responded and clarified that no agreements had been reached between the two parties. Many insiders believe MLB will use the loss of revenue from 2020 as the final push to get their desired outcome for Minor League Baseball. Some of the leagues are in need of reconfiguration to cut back on travel and other costs. Also, some of the facilities have been sorely ignored throughout the years and are hardly suitable for preparing athletes for the big-leagues. The E-Twins started play in 1974 and until recently, have seen few upgrades to the team’s facilities. Small clubhouses, no weight room and poor fan amenities were part of Elizabethton. In October 2018, the Twins agreed to upgrade the home clubhouse and add many modern training amenities. This could be one reason Minnesota might push to continue a partnership with the city of Elizabethton. Ray Smith, the manager in Elizabethton, might be the biggest reason for the team’s success. He took over the managerial role at age 31, just one year after retiring from his professional playing career. He spent all but two professional seasons in the Twins organization including all his big-league playing time. In those three MLB seasons, he was a light-hitting catcher as he ended his career hitting .219/.259/.270 (.529), while earning the nickname “Quality or Qualls.” He brought that quality approach to his minor league managerial role. Last season’s E-Twins finished one game below .500 and that ended a streak of 30 straight seasons with a .500 record or better. That’s not a typo; it’s a culture of winning. Smith has won 10 Appy League crowns, over 1000 regular season wins and guided the team to the playoffs in 14 of the last 17 seasons. Elizabethton has been a rite of passage for many of the team’s greatest players. After being taken with the first overall pick, Joe Mauer took his first professional swings in an E-Twins uniform. In 32 games, he hit .400/.492/.491 (.983) with eight extra-base hits. Like Mauer, Kirby Puckett started his pro career in Elizabethton with a .928 OPS and 21 extra-base hits across 65 games. Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti made stops there on the way to being World Series heroes. The E-Twins are part of the fabric of the Minnesota Twins organization and now that fabric has a good chance of being torn. Do you think E-Twins will ever play another game as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. “It’s usually a cut-and-dried decision,” said the Shakopee native. “But I’ll be honest with you, I’m in a real pickle here.” For the uninitiated, a shirsey is a t-shirt styled like a baseball jersey, with a team logo in front and a player name and number on the back. Parker estimates he has “40-50, minimum.” “I would always grab a new one if the Goldy’s in the mall had them in stock, or when I went to the team store at Target Field,” said Parker. “I didn’t think I had that many, but when my fiancée moved in, she noted that I had more shirseys than dishes. She noted that I had more Torii Hunter shirseys than dishes.” While he’s given thought to downsizing his collection, the 31-year-old paralegal has grown attached to many of them. He gave Twins Daily a tour of some of his favorites. “This powder blue Gary Gaetti number, this is the one I wore to (Twins vs. Tigers) Game 163,” said Parker. “You can see the mustard stain on the sleeve where I dropped my DomeDog in the 7th inning. Oh, and this red Joe Nathan beauty, this is the one I wore under my graduation robe.” Parker paused before the only one that he had on a hanger. He cleared his throat and continued. “The blue Dougie Baseball (Doug Mientkiewicz) one. I wore this to a Fort Myers Miracle game he was managing. He saw me wearing it, and when the umpire ejected him for arguing balls and strikes, he pointed at me, turned back to the umpire and said ‘This guy gets it, you stupid [expletive] [expletive] piece of [expletive].’ I think about this a lot.” With the date nearing, Parker admits that he does have a group of finalists. “Oh, I have my eye on about a half-dozen for sure,” said Parker. “This Rod Carew throwback is in the conversation, but what if someone else is wearing that one? It’s like going to a dinner party in the same dress. And sure, I could wear my Nishioka one, but I don't really want to do irony. "Let's be honest: It's probably A.J. (Pierzynski) time." (Link to image license here.)
  12. The Twins Almanac for August 13-19 http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_105206_zpsixc8dcyp.jpg And here is the first full-fledged Twins Almanac in awhile. In my absence from Twins Daily, many of you have been keeping in touch on Twitter, with over 1,000 new people following @TwinsAlmanac over the past month. It's good to be back writing posts of greater than 140 characters, though. This was a fun week in Twins history to write about. My childhood hero Kent Hrbek's number 14 was retired this week in 1995, Tom Kelly's 66th birthday is this week, and Jim Thome hit two very memorable home runs. In other news, after nearly a decade in Seattle (and lately Bellingham...) I'm moving back to Minnesota next week, and I'm bringing Mrs. Almanac with me. We are expecting our rookie to make it's debut in January. I'm sure we'll make it out to Target Field a time or two before winter sets in. Hopefully we'll be seeing you. August 13 Happy 81st Birthday, Mudcat Grant It’s the birthday of Jim “Mudcat” Grant, born in 1935 in Lacoochee, FL. Grant had a 14-year major league career spanning from 1958 to 1971. The Twins acquired Grant in a trade with Cleveland on June 15, 1964. He was an All-Star in ‘65 and finished sixth in American League Most Valuable Player balloting. He led the league with 21 wins and 6 shutouts. He also tied with St. Louis’s Bob Gibson for most home runs allowed with 34. Grant started three games in the 1965 World Series, winning games one and six before Sandy Koufax outdueled Jim Kaat in game seven. Following the 1967 season, the Twins traded Grant and Zoilo Versalles to the Dodgers for 1969 All-Star catcher John Roseboro, Ron Perranoski, and Bob Miller. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_105721_zpsvx70ievr.jpg August 13, 1986 Twins Swap Ron Davis for George Frazier The Twins traded pitchers Ron Davis and Dewayne Coleman to the Chicago Cubs for Julius McDougal, Ray Fontenot and George Frazier. Davis, who was the supposed centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Smalley to the Yankees and brought Greg Gagne to Minnesota in 1982, had a shaky tenure as Twins closer. In 1984 he tied a single season record with 14 blown saves, a dubious feat which no pitcher has since matched. Four pitchers had blown 14 saves in a season prior to Davis, including Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers (1976) and Bruce Sutter (‘78). George Frazier pitched in 54 games for the Twins’ 1987 World Series champion team. It was his final season. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/Hrbek.teamissue_zpsfdujvojg.jpg August 13, 1995 Kent Hrbek’s Number Retired Kent Hrbek grew up in Bloomington, less than a mile from Metropolitan Stadium. He graduated from Kennedy High School in 1978 and was drafted by the Twins that spring in the 17th round. He jumped straight from A ball to make his major league debut on August 24, 1981 at Yankee Stadium. With the game tied at 2-2 in the 12th, Hrbek hit a home run off of future-Twin George Frazier for his first big league hit. Four days later Tim Laudner would also homer in his major league debut, and less than a month later Gary Gaetti would homer in his first at-bat. In 1982, his first full season in the show, Hrbek batted .301 with 160 hits, 23 HRs and 92 RBI, made his only All-Star appearance, and finished second to Cal Ripken Jr. for American League Rookie of the Year. In 1984 Hrbie was runner-up to Tigers pitcher Willie Hernandez for American League MVP. Kent Hrbek hit a career-high 34 home runs in 1987. It would be the Twins’ last 30-home run season until Justin Morneau hit 34 in his 2006 MVP season. So much for the Steroid Era in Minnesota. Only Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett played more games in a Twins uniform than Kent Hrbek. His 293 career HRs, 1,086 RBI and 838 walks are each second in Twins history to only Harmon Killebrew. In addition to being one of the most prodigious sluggers in Twins history, Hrbek is widely praised for his defense. Many, in fact, go so far as to rank Hrbek among the greatest defensive first basemen in baseball history. And though he was not the fastest man, Tom Kelly regarded Hrbie as an excellent baserunner. Hrbek’s number 14 was the fourth number retired by the Twins, after Harmon Killebrew in 1974, Rod Carew in 1987 and Tony Oliva in 1991. Kent Hrbek was inducted along with Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett and Calvin Griffith as the inaugural class of the Twins’ Hall of Fame on August 12, 2000. August 14, 2010 Brian Duensing Pitches 3-Hit Complete-Game Shutout On a Saturday night at Target Field Brian Duensing pitched the first of two career shutouts as the first-place Twins beat the Athletics 2-0. Duensing gave up a hit in each of the first three innings before holding the A’s hitless the final six innings of the ballgame. He also walked two batters while striking out four. Reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Orlando Hudson drove in the Twins’ other run. The Twins went on to win the Central Division in 2010, their sixth division crown in nine seasons. They were swept out of the playoffs by the New York Yankees. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_105519_zpskdl32b6s.jpg August 15 Happy 66th Birthday, Tom Kelly It’s the birthday of Tom Kelly, born in 1950 in Graceville, MN, though he grew up in Sayreville, New Jersey and attended Monmouth University also in New Jersey. Graceville, with a population of 565 at last check, is also the birthplace of Bill Davis, who played sparingly for Cleveland and San Diego in the sixties. Davis attended Richfield High School just south of Minneapolis. Kelly was drafted in the 8th round by the Seattle Pilots in 1968. After three lackluster seasons in the Pilots/Brewers organization, TK was signed by the Minnesota Twins prior to the ‘71 season. He made his major league debut on May 11, 1975 at age 24. He played 49 games in the majors, going 23-for-117 (.181) while playing primarily first base. In his tenth game, May 26th, TK hit his one and only big league home run in Detroit off of Vern Ruhle. Ruhle makes at least one other appearance in the annals of Twins home run history. On August 22, 1975, Ruhle, who shares a 1975 Topps rookie card with Edina High School and University of Minnesota alumnus Paul Siebert, gave up a home run to the Twins’ Dave McKay in his first big league at-bat. Kelly spent the 1976 season in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization playing for the Rochester Red Wings, who were Baltimore’s AAA affiliate at the time. Kelly returned to the Twins’ organization in 1977 as a player-manager. Kelly joined the major league club as a coach in 1983 under manager Billy Gardner. Kelly, only 35-years-old, was named Twins manager with 23 games remaining in 1986, replacing Ray Miller. In 1987, with a cast of characters many of whom he played a large role in cultivating down on the farm, Kelly “became the youngest non-playing manager to win the World Series since John McGraw in 1905” (per Baseball Reference). Following back-to-back losing seasons in 1989 and ‘90, TK won his second World Series in 1991 with only seven players and four starters remaining from the ‘87 World Series roster. The only pitcher remaining from 1987 was Allan Anderson who only played in 4 regular season games in ‘87 and did not play in either postseason. After eight of the most miserable seasons in Twins history, TK piloted the club to second place in the Central in 2001 before handing the helm to Ron Gardenhire who won three consecutive division championships in his first three seasons, a total of five in the decade and another in 2010. Tom Kelly’s number 10 was retired on September 8, 2012. August 15, 2011 Jim Thome Joins the 600-HR Club The Twins traded outfielder Delmon Young to the Tigers prior to the first game of their series against them in Detroit. Young, batting third in his debut with his new team, hit a 2-out home run off of Francisco Liriano in the first inning. It would prove to be Jim Thome’s day, though. With the Twins and Tigers tied at 3 in the sixth, Thome hit a 2-run opposite field home run to left-center off of Rick Porcello, driving in Jason Kubel. It was the 599th home run for the 40-year-old Thome, playing in his 21st big league season. Then, just one inning later, the Twins clinging to a 6-5 lead, two on and two out, Thome hit Daniel Schlereth’s 2-1 offering to straightaway left field and into the Tigers’ bullpen, becoming the eighth member of the 600-HR Club. The Twins went on to beat the first place Tigers 9-6. Thome finished the day 3-for-4 with 5 RBI and the 2 runs scored. Thome, whose final season was 2012, officially retired on August 2, 2014 with 612 home runs. He hit 66 of those home runs against the Tigers, more than he hit against any other team. The team he hit the second-most against was the Twins, 61. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_110645_zpskw8dunrg.jpg August 16, 1975 All Nine Twins Get 2+ Hits Twins batters collected 20 hits in a 9-1 victory over Cleveland at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. All nine Twins batters got at least 2 hits. Center fielder “Disco” Dan Ford and catcher Phil Roof each got 3 hits. Of the 20 hits only five went for extra bases, with Roof hitting a home run. The starting lineup that day was Lyman Bostock, Dan Ford, Rod Carew, John Briggs, Tony Oliva, Eric Soderholm, Steve Braun, Jerry Terrell (Waterville High School ‘64; Minnesota State, Mankato ‘68), Phil Roof. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_105324_zpsinrwxudh.jpg August 17, 2010 Jim Thome Walk-Off Home Run Trailing the Twins by three games in the Central Division standings, the White Sox were in town for the first of a three-game series. The Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first against Chicago pitcher John Danks. Entering the top of the ninth, however, the Twins clung to a 5-4 lead. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, hitting in the 8-hole, tied the game on closer Matt Capps’ second pitch of the inning. The White Sox threatened to take the lead, but after intentionally walking Alex Rios to load the bases, Capps induced an inning-ending double play from none other than Paul Konerko. Alexei Ramirez came to the plate again in the tenth, this time with big Jon Rauch on the mound, and this time with a runner in scoring position. Ramirez singled to center, driving in the go-ahead run. Delmon Young led off the bottom the tenth with a single against 2010 All-Star Matt Thornton. Jim Thome then hit Thornton’s 1-0 offering, a belt-high fastball, well-over the limestone facade onto the plaza for the first walk-off hit in Target Field history. It was Thome’s 17th home run of the season, and 581st of his career. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160810_110930_zpshmzusjfs.jpg August 18, 1986 Tom Seaver Wins 311th and Final Game Pitching for the Red Sox, 41-year-old Tom Seaver won his 311th and final major league game in a narrow 3-1 Boston victory over the Minnesota Twins in the Metrodome. Seaver pitched 8 ⅔ innings, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7. Seaver gave up a single to the first batter he faced, leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett. In the bottom of the third he gave up a solo home run to Roy Smalley, tying the game at 1-1. Seaver, though he would issue 4 walks over the course of the game, would not give up another hit until he had two outs in the ninth. Frank Viola, too, pitched a strong game. After finding himself in a 1-0 hole two batters into the game, he held the Red Sox scoreless, allowing just 4 hits in the second through eighth innings. Tied 1-1 in the ninth, however, Viola gave up a single to center fielder Tony Armas and 2-run home run to catcher Rich Gedman to give the Red Sox a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. With two out in the ninth, Seaver gave up a his third and final hit, a double to Randy Bush. With Tom Brunansky pinch-hitting for Billy Beane and representing the tying run, Red Sox manager John McNamara brought in Bob Stanley who got Bruno looking to secure Tom Seaver’s 311th win. It is also interesting to note that Tom Seaver earned his 300th win the previous August while pitching for the White Sox against the Yankees in the city that he is most associated with, New York, on the same day that Rod Carew got his 3,000th hit off of Frank Viola, pitching, of course, for Carew’s former club. August 19 Happy 58th Birthday, Gary Gaetti It’s the birthday of Gary Gaetti, born in 1958 in Centralia, IL. The 20-year major leaguer played 10 seasons in Minnesota, 1981-1990. On September 20, 1981, Gaetti homered in his first major league at-bat. He was the third Twin that season to homer in his first major league game (Kent Hrbek, August 24, and Tim Laudner, August 28). Six Twins have homered in their first major league at-bat: Rick Renick, Dave McKay, Gaetti, Andre David, Luke Hughes and Eddie Rosario. Like Eddie Rosario, Andre David's home run was on the first pitch. The pitcher was Jack Morris and it was the only major league home run he would ever hit. Gaetti won Gold Gloves at third in 1986, ‘87 and ‘88 and represented the Twins in the 1988 and ‘89 All-Star Games. He hit 201 home runs in a Twins uniform, eighth most in team history, one spot behind Kirby Puckett (207). August 19, 1991 Randy Bush Hits Record Pinch-Hit Double In an 8-7 loss to division-rivals Oakland at the Metrodome Randy Bush got his seventh consecutive pinch-hit dating back to July 5, tying an American League record set in 1981 by the Rangers’ Bill Stein. Jose Canseco and Kirby Puckett had traded solo home runs in the first inning. Tied at 7-7 in the ninth, 1980 New Ulm High School graduate Terry Steinbach drove in Dave Henderson with a two-out line drive single to center off of Steve Bedrosian. After Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley struck out Mike Pagliarulo to lead-off the ninth, Bush pinch-hit for Al Newman, hitting a 1-0 double to right. Eckersley, however, retired Knoblauch and Larkin to preserve the victory for the Athletics. August 19, 2007 Johan Santana Strikes Out Twins Record 17 In a Sunday afternoon game at the Metrodome versus Texas, reigning Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana struck out a team record 17 batters in only eight innings. Santana struck out all nine Rangers at least once. The only two hits that Santana allowed were to the designated hitter, known steroid user Sammy Sosa who singled in the fifth and doubled in the seventh. Santana finished strong, striking out the side in his eighth and final inning. He did not issue a walk. Joe Nathan came in in the ninth to preserve the 1-0 Twins win. Michael Young, who had struck out in all three at-bats against Santana, struck out swinging to end the game. The only run that the Twins could muster against Rangers starting pitcher Kevin Millwood was a Michael Cuddyer home run leading off the second. The End Well, that's all. Thanks for reading. And if your townball team is looking for a legitimate 32-year-old base stealing threat for next summer, stop into Johnson's Hardware Hank & Rental in scenic downtown Zimmerman and ask for the prodigal son. And keep in touch with the Twins Almanac on Facebook.
  13. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160430_104657_zpswsn6rbqy.jpg May 5th It’s the Birthday of Larry Hisle It’s the birthday of Larry Hisle, born on this day in 1942 in Portsmouth, OH. The 14-year Major Leaguer played five seasons for the Twins, from 1973 to ‘77 when he hit .302 with 28 home runs and an American League-leading 119 RBI. In 2010, Fox Sports North included Hisle among their “50 Greatest Twins.” Hisle was the hitting coach for the back-to-back World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and ‘93. In ‘93 the Blue Jays’ John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar had the first, second and third best batting averages in the American League. Hisle is currently the Milwaukee Brewers’ Manager of Youth Outreach. May 5, 2001 LaTroy Hawkins Blows First Save After Record Streak On a Saturday night in Kansas City, the first place (20-8) Twins handed LaTroy Hawkins a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Hawkins had converted the first 23 save opportunities of his career, an MLB record. After pulling within a run on a sacrifice fly, however, former Twin David McCarty tied the game with a two-out, line drive single to center, scoring Jermaine Dye. With McCarty aboard in the twelfth, Royals outfielder Dee Brown hit a walk-off home run off of Travis Miller. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160430_103847_zpsqmjepuuy.jpg May 6, 2011 Twins Score Two Runs on Balks The Twins scored two runs on balks en route to a 9-2 win over the Red Sox at Fenway. In the second inning, Denard Span scored on a Tim Wakefield balk, after which manager Terry Francona was ejected. Up 8-2 in the sixth, Trevor Plouffe scored the Twins' second run on a balk, this time by Alfredo Aceves. May 6, 2015 Eddie Rosario Homers on First MLB Pitch Leading off the bottom of the third against Oakland’s Scott Kazmir at Target Field, Eddie Rosario hit the first pitch he saw in the Major Leagues for an opposite field home run. He was hitless in three subsequent at-bats. The Twins went on to beat Oakland 13-0. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/Rosario.2015Topps_zpsn20jsyqv.jpg Six Twins have homered in their first Major League at-bat: Rick Renick, Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, Andre David, Luke Hughes and Rosario. Fifteen players in the history of Major League Baseball have homered on their first big league pitch. In 2010, Boston’s Daniel Nava hit a grand slam on his first Major League pitch. In 1981, in the span of less than a month, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner and Gary Gaetti each homered in their first Major League game. Keep in touch with the Twins Almanac on Facebook, and by following @Twins Almanac on Twitter.
  14. Anything can happen. Dreams can come true. Tom Klawitter’s big league career may not have been real long. Many Twins die-hards may not even remember it. However, his story is one worth telling. It’s worth telling to Minnesota Twins fans. It’s worth telling to Minnesota Twins minor leaguers, and minor leaguers across baseball. It’s also worth telling to kids who dream of getting to the big leagues. Klawitter was born in 1958 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Asked if he was a Twins fan, Klawitter said, “It’s kind of funny. As a kid, I was kind of a front-runner. Back in the late-60s, I was an Orioles fan, and then I became a Dodgers fan after I got drafted. I did have a connection to the Twins with (former Twins 3B) Craig Kusick being from LaCrosse.” He wasn’t drafted out of high school, and then he stayed home for college. He spent four years at the University of Wisconsin, in LaCrosse. It was there that, despite being a northern school, he started to get the attention of area scouts. “I got to my senior year. I was 5-0, and the guys down south were 15-and-whatever, so I didn’t expect (to get drafted).” In June of 1980, Klawitter was the 19th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time, the Dodgers were one of the most popular teams in baseball. They had players such as Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Ron Cey and more household names. Klawitter said, “It was obviously a great opportunity for me. That was quite an experience being around all those great ballplayers. When I got up there early, it was Ron Cey and Valenzuela and those guys that were in the majors at the time. Garvey. Tommy Lasorda. In ’81 I went to camp there. It was quite an experience to see those guys. I was pretty spoiled at the time. The Dodgers were a first-class, top-of-the-line organization. Vero Beach was the place to be. You got treated pretty well down there.” In 1980, he had the second most starts for a Lethbridge (Rookie League) team that went 52-18. In 1981, he won 11 games for Lodi of the California League. In 1982, he made the jump to AA San Antonio. The then-24-year-old went 9-14 with a 5.30 ERA that year. The next spring he returned to San Antonio, but his stay there was short. After just seven games, he was released by the Dodgers. It was a tough time for Klawitter, but good came from it. “That’s a tough thing. It’s like being let go from your job. Obviously it’s pretty tough on you. Fortunately, I was able to come back pretty close to home and got picked up by the Twins.” The Twins signed him and sent him to Low Class A Wisconsin Rapids, a town less than a two-hour drive from his hometown of LaCrosse. “That was just what the doctor ordered. I was back in my old stomping grounds, where I had a lot of success. It seemed to pump in a lot of confidence, and I pitched pretty well. So that was kind of the start of it.” Over 23 appearances (21 starts) with Wisconsin Rapids, Klawitter went 10-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 156.1 innings. The next season, 1984, he jumped all the way up to AAA Toledo. “Being in AAA with the Mudhens is another great experience, and I had a pretty good year there too.” He made 26 starts and went 10-6 with a 3.59 ERA for the Mudhens. The roster was made up of several of the players who would become big pieces of the Minnesota Twins 1987 championship team. Playing for manager Cal Ermer, the team went 74-63. The Minnesota Twins 1984 team went late into the season before falling out of playoff contention, but prior to the age of social media, most of the players in Toledo weren’t really keeping tabs on the big league club, including Klawitter. “For me, I was so happy to be there that I didn’t even notice that some of the guys were really pressing to get to the big leagues or back to the big leagues or whatever. It was a really good time, and I was pitching well. When you’re playing well, it’s a lot more fun. I was right in the rotation, and Cal Ermer had a lot of confidence in me. The dynamics of the team were, I mean, we had a pretty close group of guys. I think that’s why we were successful. We did pretty well right up to the end. We had a good mix of guys that had had a taste of it and guys that were just trying to get a part of it. It was pretty neat.” Klawitter continued, “I’m not even sure we had anyone called up that year from our team. Brad Havens might have been. We were kind of in the thick of what we were doing. Scott Ullger was one of our outfielders. Bobby Mitchell, who came over from the Dodgers, I knew. It was just a bunch of great guys who, I mean, I really felt that we played for our team and not so much for ourselves. You don’t find that a lot in pro ball.” He truly enjoyed the opportunity. “It was a phenomenal opportunity at the time. That’s when I first started my friendship with Kirby. He was in AAA for a month and then he got called up right after that.” Klawitter performed, and because of it, he received a non-roster invitation to major league spring training with the Twins. He was excited about the news and another opportunity. “I was surprised and obviously very thankful. I took whatever I could get. I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t on the 40-man roster. I was thankful for the opportunity to get that chance. They sent me my contract, and it said this, but you’re a non-roster player, and come down with the big club in Orlando. We did pretty much what everyone was doing, just the fact that we were not on the roster. We went about our business and just hoped for an opportunity. I got down there and made the best of it.” He was also realistic about his chances of making the big league club out of spring training. “I thought I could have gone back to Toledo, and I would have been fine with that. I was playing pro ball, and I guess you can look at it any way you want to. It was a lot of us non-roster guys throwing batting practice and doing this or that and that’s part of everything.” In fact, his first spring training outing wasn’t really even supposed to happen, or at least not likely. “I believe somebody was looking out for me,” Klawitter explained. “The coaches told me to go warm up, that I had the ninth. We were on the road and down by I don’t know how many runs. The chances of me getting in the game were not good. Sure enough, we came back and went ahead. I went out there and shut them down in the ninth.” He believes that the coaches thought to themselves, “Wow! Maybe this guy can pitch.” One outing became two, and then three, and so on. “I didn’t really watch who else was pitching, but a couple of other guys weren’t getting the job done. I had a pretty good spring.” With the last name of Klawitter, it was clear that his nickname since his young years was The Klaw. As spring went along, and he was experiencing success, his nickname became a big part of his story At the same time, Baron von Raschke was very popular among pro wrestling fans. His signature move was The Claw. The match only made too much sense, and it just took off, with the help of one of his teammates. “(Twins Hall of Famer Kent) Hrbek was fun-loving, and he was kind of into this wrestling with Baron von Raschke, and it was just perfect timing for me.” “It was absolutely a blast. It took some of the pressure off. It just kind of kept building. You get Hrbek feeding off it, and (Gary) Gaetti started saying stuff. Then all of a sudden (manager Billy) Gardner, I don’t know why, stuck his hand out and started doing The Claw and it worked on its own,” Klawitter continued, “Like I said, someone was looking after me and it was a perfect opportunity for me. In the right place at the right time. It was definitely a high spot in my career, I’ll tell you that.” Instead of pitching when the games were out of hand, Klawitter started pitching in the seventh inning or in more important game situations. That’s when he figured he had a chance to make the team. Even toward the end of spring training, he was pretty certain that he would head back to Toledo. It wasn’t until very late in camp that somebody told him that he had made the Twins opening day roster. Klawitter recalled, “That was such an honor. I can’t even remember how it happened.” The first phone calls he made were to his family. “You’d like to call everybody. It’s more of a conversation like, ‘you won’t believe this, but I’m breaking with the big club.’” Tom Klawitter was the story of Twins spring training thirty years ago. His story did not end when he was called up to the Twins. In Part 2 of this Tom Klawitter story, we discuss his brief time in a Twins uniform. We will also tell you what has kept him busy, competitive and successful since his retirement. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments below.
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