Twins History Lesson: August 9-15

It seems to me like this week’s History Lesson* is loaded down with a lot of “lasts”. I suppose it is getting to be the time of year when we’re going to see more and more of those. They don’t call these the “dog days of summer” for nothing, I guess.

Is August 9 ALWAYS an off day? There really were only a couple of items of any interest taking place on the 9th and those were both back during the Twins first decade in Minnesota:

Rich Rollins

1962: You know how fun it is when the current Twins get big games out of the “new kids” on days when the studs don’t perform up to expectations? That kind of thing is hardly new to the Twins. On this date in 1962, those “new kids” were 3B Rich Rollins, who went 2 for 6 with 4 RBI, and 2B Bernie Allen who went 4 for 6, also with 4 RBI. They led the Twins to a 12-10 win over the Kansas City A’s.

1967: On the flip side, you know how much it sucks to see the Twins build a nice big lead throughout the course of the game, only to see them give up a huge inning that sends the game in to Extra Innings? That’s not exactly new, either. On August 9, 1967, the Twins coughed up a 7-0 lead, giving up 7 runs to the Senators in the 7th inning. The Twins would lose the 5 hour, 40 minute game in the 20th inning, but that’s not the most remarkable part. Check out these stats for a couple of the two teams’ RELIEF pitchers: The Twins’ fourth pitcher, Al Worthington, threw 8 and 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out 8 and giving up just 2 hits (Jim Roland threw the last four innings and got the loss). But Worthington’s performance was only good for second best that night. Washington’s fifth pitcher, Darold Knowles, went 10 innings, striking out 10 and giving up just 3 hits. He didn’t get the W though as Dave Baldwin tossed the final 3 innings.

August 10 has been an active date in Twins history and has witnessed a couple of those “lasts” I referred to at the beginning of this post:

1971: Harmon Killebrew became a member of what was still an elite club at the time when he notched his 500th career home run off Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar in the first inning of their game at Met Stadium. He also hit #501 off Cuellar in the same game, but the Twins lost to the O’s 4-3. Killebrew was the 10th player in history to reach the 500 HR mark.

Kent Hrbek

1994: The Twins’ 17-7 win over Boston on this date was not only the final regular season game of the year (due to the players’ walkout that would ultimately lead to the cancellation of the rest of the 1994 season, including the World Series), it was also the day Twins Territory said good-bye to #14. Kent Hrbek went 1 for 5 but knocked in 3 runs in the game, but Kirby Puckett brought the heavy lumber, going 2 for 3, scoring 4 runs and driving in 7 more. Since nobody really knew for sure how long the walkout would last, there was no certainty about this being Hrbie’s final game. As a result, he didn’t get the proper ceremonial send off he deserved. Typical of Twins crowds, however, they sent Hrbek in to retirement with standing ovations before each of his final two plate appearances.

The early 1980s Twins’ general era of futility may have been perfectly epitomized by pitcher Terry Felton. On August 11, 1982, Felton broke the MLB record for most losses at the beginning of a career without recording a win when he and the Twins dropped a 6-3 game to the Angels. Felton would go on to lose 16 straight games (13 in 1982, along with his 0-3 career record going in to that season). Felton would never win a Major League game and left baseball with the record for most career losses without a win (16) and the most losses in a season without a win (13). How bad were the Twins that year? Felton actually had an ERA of 4.99 and a WHIP of 1.491. Not great by any means, but not 0-13 material. The Twins lost 102 games in 1982 so there were plenty of L’s to go around. Let the record also show that Felton did record 3 saves in 1982.

August 12 has seen a few more positive events in the organization’s history:

1979: It can’t be easy to throw a 10 hit complete game shutout but that’s exactly what Twins pitcher Jerry Koosman did on this date against the Oakland A’s. Good thing, too, because the Twins only managed to push across one run in support of Kooz.

Harmon Killebrew, HOF

1984: Harmon Killebrew’s journey to Cooperstown was fittingly completed as Killer was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Luis Aparicio and Rick Ferrell.

August 13 has seen it’s share of fond farewells among other items of note on that date:

1970: If you were a pitcher with a no-hitter going against the Twins, the last guy you wanted to see come to the plate was Cesar Tover. On this date, for a record-tying fourth time in his Twins career, Tovar accounted for the only hit against an opposing pitcher. The Twins lost 1-0 to the Senators and pitcher Dick Bosman. Jim Kaat gave up the one Senator run (it was unearned) for the loss.

1986: The Ron Davis era came to a close in Minnesota as RD wass traded to the Cubs, along with Dewayne Coleman in return for shortstop Julius McDougal, and pitchers George Frazier and  Ray Fontenot.

1995: Kent Hrbek got the formal “thank you” he deserved as the Twins held a ceremony to retire his number 14.

Brad Radke

2006: Pitcher Brad Radke threw 7 shutout innings at the Blue Jays before turning the game over to Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan to complete the 5-0 shutout. It was Radke’s 148th (and last) regular season W.

Now that Twins fans are having so much fun in Target Field, it’s fair to ask why the Twins ever moved out of Metropolitan Stadium in the first place. Perhaps one clue can be found in the box score of the Twins’ final doubleheader played at the Met on August 14, 1981 against the Seattle Mariners. Paid Attendance: 5,630.

August 15 has seen a couple of trades of note. In 1993, the Twins traded 3B Mike Pagliarulo to the Orioles for a player to be named later (which became pitcher Erik Schullstrom) and 14 years later on the same date in 2007, we said good bye to Ramon Ortiz as he was shipped to the Rockies for infielder Matt Macri.

What does this week hold in store for 2010? Well a sweep of the WhiteSox would be a good start, right?! The number of trades in our look back at this week reminds us that we can still see new faces on the roster at this time of year, as well. – JC

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

A Snapper Weekend

As I mentioned in my little essay about minor league baseball on Saturday, the Twins’ Midwest League (low-A) affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, are in Cedar Rapids taking on the Kernels in a four game series that runs through Tuesday. I’ve been to the first two games of the series, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and I’m hoping to get out to the Tuesday game, as well. Monday’s game is a noon start so that would could be a bit iffy. (The blogging gig hasn’t blossomed to the point where I can quit my day job… yet.)

Saturday night, I was at the game with family and friends and friends of family, so the social aspect was fine. It was a pleasant enough evening, just a bit on the humid side, but nothing compared to what it was a week or so ago (or what it would be on Sunday). But the game itself was among the more difficult professional games to watch I’ve been to in a while.

Snapper/Kernel games are always a bit of a challenge for me, anyway. I’m a Kernels fan, of course, since they’re my hometown team. But when the Snappers come to town, I also look forward to seeing the Twins’ young prospects do well. So I root for the Kernels to win and the Beloit players to do well individually.

Pitcher Pedro Guerra and Danny Rams (1B)

Saturday night, the Kernels won the game 10-4, and it wasn’t among the better efforts I’ve seen out of the Snappers.  Top prospect Aaron Hicks, had a nice double down the LF line in the first inning and I got to see Pedro Guerra get his first start since being called up to Beloit. The Snappers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through two innings. Guerra had a respectable debut, though he didn’t throw the ball particularly hard. He gave up a couple of runs in the third inning and left after giving up a walk and a double to the first two hitters he faced in the 5th.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

The Kernels sent 8 players to the plate in the 5th inning while taking a 7-5 lead in what had to be one of the longest half innings I’ve witnessed all year, purely in terms of time elapsed. Deliberate pitching, hitters stepping out of the box over and over, an error or two and a pitching change made that half inning drag on forever.

There aren’t many bright spots among your pitching staff in a 10-4 loss, but Nelvin Fuentes entered the game in the bottom of the 7th and went on to strike out 3 in two scoreless, hitless, innings to finish the night. It was also a tough night for the Snappers in the field as they ended up being charged with 5 errors on the game. Second baseman Reggie Williams had a nice night at the plate, going 2 of 4 with a double (that I thought should have been ruled a triple).

After doubling, Aaron Hicks takes his lead in front of Kernel SS Jon Karcich

But the great thing about baseball is that there’s always another game tomorrow. In this case, the Snappers bounced back from Saturday’s 10-4 loss to win Sunday afternoon 10-9. Yes, they did still have some pitching issues and yes, they did rack up 4 more errors, so it may not SEEM like it was much of an improvement, but I’ll guarantee it was a happier clubhouse after the game than the night before.

Pitcher Martire Garcia and 3B Reggie Williams

Danny Rams leads off behind Jeremy Cruz and in front of Jean Segura after a walk. He added a 2B and a HR in the game.

For the second straight game, Beloit manager Nelson Prada sent a pitcher to the mound for his first start as a Snapper. Sunday, it was Martire Garcia making his MWL debut. Garcia got off to a bit of a rocky start the first two innings but settled down and hung a couple of zeros on the board for the Kernels in the 3rd and 4th innings before calling it a day.

Nelson Prada's not telling the umpire a fish story

Of course, Prada didn’t see much of Garcia’s performance as he was tossed early in the bottom of the first inning for arguing with the home plate umpire over whether a Kernel double down the RF line was fair or foul. That left the team in the capable hands of Twins fans’ old friend Tommy Watkins, who’s the Snapper hitting coach.

And his hitters were doing their jobs at the plate (if not so much in the field). 1B Danny Rams and CF Aaron Hicks brought the big lumber. Rams went 2-3 with a walk, double and a home run. He also scored 3 runs. Hicks was 3-4 with two doubles.

Tommy Watkins signals pitches to his catcher

Once again, the pitchers struggled a bit, but lefty reliever Matt Tone managed to shut the Kernels out in his two innings (the 7th and 8th) of relief. That allowed Beloit the cushion to withstand a 9th inning rally and hang on to their 10-9 win.

It was one long, hot day at the ballpark for these guys following a very long game the night before.  We’re approaching mid-August. It’s hot. They’ve been playing baseball virtually every day since they reported for Spring Training over five months ago. But that didn’t stop Aaron Hicks and Steven Liddle from diving for balls in the outfield (Liddle also showed off his arm on an impressive throw to the plate) or Reggie Williams from diving for hard ground balls down the line at 3B or James Beresford and Derek McCallum from hanging tough on double plays at 2B. And Josmil Pinto caught a day game in oppressive heat and humidity after catching the game the night before. The execution isn’t perfect, but there’s no doubting their effort and that bodes well for the future of our favorite Major League team.

Finally, just because we’re all Tommy Watkins fans, one last picture of Tommy positioning his outfielders from the bench Saturday night. – JC