Voting for the Hall of Fame

Those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America with voting privileges (ten years of membership in the BBWAA) for the Baseball Hall of Fame have until this Friday, December 31, to cast their ballots for this year’s HoF class and the results should be announced January 5, I believe.

Around Twinsville, there will continue to be increased interest in the voting as local favorite, Bert Blyleven, tries to get those last few elusive votes that would allow him to join Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett as Hall of Famers who played most of their careers in a Twins uniform.

The BBWAA. As I mentioned, the HoF delegates responsibility for voting for this prestigious honor to baseball writers. (Seriously… stop laughing… they REALLY do entrust baseball writers with this!) That fact, alone, should tell us all we need to know about how seriously we should take this kind of thing. Still, it IS the Hall of Fame, and it’s the only baseball hall of fame we have, so it’s understandable that players who would like to be so honored pay attention to what the voting baseball writers think.

Ironically, for many players, it’s not until after the five year post-retirement waiting period ends that they first start to give a rats’ ass what baseball writers think of them. (Don’t you think Bert would perhaps have been a LITTLE bit nicer to a few writers during his playing days if he had known so many of them were going to be jerks about voting for him for the HoF decades later?)

I’ve always wondered why the BBWAA gets to decide who goes in to the HoF. It’s not that I have anything in particular against baseball writers as a group or individually. I read a lot of their stuff during the season and much of it is very good. Like most jobs, you don’t get to keep doing something for ten years unless you demonstrate some level of talent. (MLB third base coach might be one exception… nobody has ever been elected to the HoF on the basis of their talent as a third base coach and I wouldn’t want to turn over responsibility for deciding who gets in to the HoF to third base coaches with at least 10 years on the job.) Anyway, I’ve never felt writers were better qualified than any of the rest of us when it comes to judging a player’s HoF worthiness, but lacking any idea of a more knowledgeable group, I never objected too strongly.

Then these writers started getting on their soapboxes about players from the “steroid era” not deserving to be in the HoF.

I’m sure that if you and I sat down and tried to come up with a group of people worthy of casting judgments about others’ “morals”, we could come up with an idea or two. But I’m also pretty sure “sports writers” wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Not that sports writers are, inherently, less moral than any of the rest of us, as a group. But I’ve known enough of them over the years to be damn sure they aren’t morally superior to most other groups, either… and that includes ballplayers. So, if BBWAA members were willing to just vote based on players’ performances, I would reluctantly agree to let them keep their position as HoF gatekeepers. But if they think it’s their responsibility to protect the HoF’s integrity, please… spare me. The percentage of BBWAA members who would have willingly “juiced” in order to be able to play Major League Baseball in the 1990s instead of writing about it would be roughly 100%. I detest the hypocrisy of some of these writers.

Bert By ’11? I would vote for Bert Blyleven because I watched him pitch and followed his career from the time he broke in with the Twins until the time he retired and I firmly believe he was one of the best pitchers in baseball from the time he was a teenager and for a solid 20 years beyond that. Yet, I understand if some writers who saw him pitch through much of the same time period disagree. It’s not like he was Nolan Ryan exactly.

Bert Blyleven

But I can’t understand the writers who say their reason for not voting for Blyleven is that he was never “the best” pitcher in his era… that he accumulated his statistics just by being very good for a very long time.

Since when do we penalize players for being very good for a very long period of time? Shouldn’t a player who maintained such a high level of proficiency for over 20 years… long past the time when other supposedly more “elite” pitchers had retired to their recliners and sofas… be recognized for that kind of endurance? We aren’t talking about a guy who had a dozen decent seasons and then spent ten years working middle relief for any team that would give him a job. He started 25 games his rookie season and started 24 in his final year… 22 years later. Should he have retired a year or two sooner? Probably. But in his 20th season, he won 17 games for the Angels, posting a 2.73 ERA, and leading the league with five shutouts. I can’t blame him for not walking away from the game after that kind of season.

I’ll be glad to see Blyleven take his place alongside Killer, Kirby and Carew.

OK, I’ve rattled on long enough. Here’s a list of the eligible players. They are listed as they are on the BBWAA ballot, first those players who received at least 5% of the vote last year (in order of votes received last year), followed by those players in their first year of eligibility (in alphabetical order). The links take you to each player’s Wikipedia page.

Hall of Fame Ballot    
Bert Blyleven    
Roberto Alomar    
Jack Morris    
Barry Larkin    
Lee Smith    
Edgar Martinez    
Tim Raines    
Mark McGwire    
Alan Trammell    
Fred McGriff    
Don Mattingly    
Dave Parker    
Dale Murphy    
Harold Baines    
Carlos Baerga    
Jeff Bagwell    
Brett Boone    
Kevin Brown    
John Franco    
Juan González    
Marquis Grissom    
Lenny Harris    
Bobby Higginson    
Charles Johnson    
Al Leiter    
Tino Martinez    
Raúl Mondesí    
John Olerud    
Rafael Palmeiro    
Kirk Rueter    
Benito Santiago    
B. J. Surhoff    
Larry Walker

I’ve selected the maximum number (10) of players to include on my ballot. I wouldn’t have had to do that if the writers would have done their jobs in earlier years and already put some of these guys in the Hall.

I voted for the following players:

Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell.

Obviously, I’m not feeling morally superior to any of these players, either.

Alomar and Blyleven should be no-brainers, in my opinion.

Larkin and Trammell were among the best shortstops playing the game in my lifetime and I think Murphy and Parker are largely under appreciated. These four guys had game.

During the time I’ve followed the game, Tim Raines may have been the best lead off hitter and base stealer not named Ricky Henderson.

Some people say that Jack Morris only gets support on the basis of his performance in one World Series game. That may be. But it was one HELLUVA performance.

McGwire and Palmeiro will probably never get in to the Hall of Fame. If that’s the penalty they pay for their sins, so be it. I’m simply not prepared to single them out just because they got “caught”. When we’re ready to throw out everyone who played the game during the steroid era, let me know. I’ll support keeping McGwire, Palmeiro, et al, out of the HoF when we all agree to kick out Cal Ripken and, yes, Kirby Puckett AND impose lifetime bans on Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. Until we’re willing to keep out everyone who’s peak career years were from 1990-2005, I don’t want to hear about how we should selectively disqualify players we don’t like. And when we’ve cleaned out all of those “cheaters”, we can start working on expelling the guys who spent their entire careers using amphetamines (that should thin out the ranks of virtually everyone who played in the 1960s through the 1980s).

If you’d like to cast your own ballot, I suggest you buzz over to Joe Posnanski’s blog and vote there. I suppose I could have put up a poll in this post but, frankly, that would have required more work than I felt like putting in to this post.

By all means, feel free to criticize my picks in the comment section… or better yet, tell us who you would vote for!

– JC

UPDATE 12/30/2010:  This morning, Joe Posnanski posted on his blog his list of 8 “automatic” yes votes for the HoF. He included two players I did not include in my “vote” here, Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez. He makes compelling arguments for each. I’m not ready to vote for Martinez yet. If I were a BBWAA voter, I’d probably have him on my list to consider in the future, but he would be just beyond my “top 10″ out of this year’s eligible players. But I have no excuse for not including Bagwell other than simply copping to having had a brain fart. Bagwell has to be included on my list.

That means I have to remove one of my previously chosen 10. It would come down to Morris, Parker and Palmeiro and the case for each is sketchy enough that you could almost pick one out of a hat and say, “wait until next year.” Having to choose one, it would probably be Dave Parker. Sorry, Pirate fans… we’ll talk again a year from now. – JC

Twins History Lesson: September 20 – October 3

After what can only be described as a truly ugly weekend series in Detroit, maybe what we need to get that taste out of our mouths is a Twins History Lesson “doubleheader”. Let’s look at highlights for both the past week and the upcoming week in Twins history*.

September 20 has seen a couple of interesting events:

1965: As the Twins wound the clock down toward their first World Series appearance, it’s hard to imagine just 537 fans showing up for a make-up game with the Kansas City A’s. “Catfish” Hunter beat “Mudcat” Grant 8-2 before the smallest home crowd in Twins history. I suppose the 52 degree drizzling weather kept people away. Almost enough to make you wonder if they should build a domed stadium in the Twin Cities or something.

2004: The Twins clinched the AL Central title as Carlos Silva picked up the win in an 8-2 victory over the White Sox.

Harmon Killebrew

September 21 has seen both highs and lows:

1963: Harmon Killebrew hit three home runs in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he hit another one in the second game against the Red Sox. While it would seem that Fenway would be a great place for a guy like Killebrew (a right handed hitter known for his towering fly balls to LF) to hit, it was actually the only multi-home run game for Killer at the home of the Green Monster. It was also the only 3-home run game of Harmon’s career.

1997: There weren’t a lot of Twins highlights in the late 90s, but on this day Brad Radke gave us something to cheer about. He pitched all 10 innings of a 2-1 win over the Brewers at the Dome, striking out 9, walking nobody and giving up 6 hits (including a Jeff Cirillo solo HR). The Twins won on a Paul Molitor triple that drove in Brent Brede from first base. The Twins would finish with just 69 wins on the year… and Radke won 20 of those.

Looking at September 22:

Cesar Tovar

1968: Proving he could “do it all”, Cesar Tovar played one inning at each of the nine defensive positions in a win over Oakland. Tovar pitched the first inning and not only threw a scoreless inning, he struck out future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson in the process. The game was the ONLY time a position player pitched for the Twins at a game in Metropolitan Stadium, the only time a position player has been the starting pitcher for the Twins, and the only time the Twins have ever won a game in which a position player has pitched. It was obviously a Calvin Griffith publicity stunt and I suppose you would say it worked. The game drew the second highest paid attendance among the final 10 home games of the season… 11, 340. Griffith was so moved by Tovar’s willingness to do his part to bring in the extra fans, that he gave Tovar a little bonus… a new color TV.

1969: The Twins clinched the AL Western Division title with a 4-3 win over the Royals, on the strength of Harmon Killebrew’s 47th home run of the year. Bob Miller was the winning pitcher. (See NOTE at September 28 entry)

1970: Exactly one year later, to the day, the Twins clinched their second AL Western Division title with a 5-3 win over the A’s.

September 23:

1978: California Angel (and former Twin) Lyman Bostock, Jr., was shot and killed in Gary, Indiana. He remains the only Major League Baseball player murdered during a baseball season while he was an active player.

2003: The Twins clinched the AL Central title as they defeated the Tribe 4-1 at the Metrodome, then watched the White Sox and Royals both lose their games.

Johan Santana became the first Venezuelan to record 20 wins in a season on September 24, 2004, with an 8-2 win over Cleveland. In the process, he established a new Twins record with his 13th consecutive win and also broke Bert Blyleven’s franchise single-season strikeout record.

September 25 has seen its share of eventful games:

1985: Bert Blyleven was the winning pitcher as the Twins beat the Rangers 5-1… win number 2,000 for the Twins

2000: One of those “things you don’t see every day in MLB.” The Twins beat the Indians in the nightcap of a split doubleheader. What’s odd about that? Well, it was the only game of the doubleheader that the Twins participated in. In the afternoon game, the Tribe lost to the White Sox 9-2. This sort of 3-team twinbill has occurred only twice in MLB history.

Carlos Gomez

2008: The White Sox had come to Minnesota with a 2 and a half game lead over the Twins in the AL Central, but that lead was down to a half game when the teams took the field for the final game of the series. The Sox built a 6-1 lead through the top of the 4th inning, then managed just 4 baserunners the rest of the game. The Twins scored 2 in the 4th on a Carlos Gomez triple and Denard Span double and added another in the 6th on another Gomez triple and a successful Span suicide squeeze bunt. The 8th inning saw two more Twins runs on a double by Brendan Harris, a single by Gomez and a triple by Span that tied the game at 6. The game stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th inning when Alexi Casilla singled home Nick Punto with the winning run, sending the Twins a half game ahead of the White Sox and forcing Chicago to play a make up game in Detroit the following day in an attempt to force a Game 163 with the Twins.

1965 Twins Celebrate

On September 26, 1965, the Twins clinched their first American League Pennant, with a 2-1 win over the Senators at DC Stadium. Jim Kaat got the complete-game win for Minnesota, striking out 10 and walking nobody. Kaat and battery-mate Earl Battey were among 7 Twins on that team that had played for the organization as Washington Senators in 1960, before the move to Minnesota. Surveying the crazy scene in the winners locker room after the game, Battey smiled and said, “You guys act like you have never done this before.” It had been over three decades since the franchise had won a pennant.

September 27 has witnessed a couple of games of note:

1981: In recording their last win at Met Stadium, the Twins beat the Rangers 5-2 with John Castino and Gary Ward each hitting a pair of home runs.

1987: The Twins set a team record for single game regular season attendance when 53,106 watch a day game with the Royals.

1998: Paul Molitor ended his Hall of Fame career by going 2 for 4 with a single in his final at-bat in the Twins 6-2 win over the Indians.

Of interest for events of September 28:

1969: The Twins clinched the AL Western Division championship with a 5-2 win over the Mariners in the opening game of a doubleheader in Seattle. (NOTE: As indicated in the entry for September 22, there appears to be some confusion as to exactly when the Twins clinched their title in 1969. Perhaps they clinched at least a tie on 9/22? In any event, rather than digging to find out which is accurate, I’m reporting both… I’m feeling particularly lazy today.)

1974: The Twins were on the losing end of Nolan Ryan’s third (of an eventual seven) career no-hitter as Ryan and the Angels topped Minnesota 4-0. Ryan struck out 15 Twins in the game.

1978: This is the date of “the Speech”, given by Twins owner Calvin Griffith at a Lions Club event in Waseca MN. You can read all about it here, if you haven’t before. It was… unbelievable. For me personally, the low point in Minnesota Twins history.

1987: A much higher point in franchise history was reached when the Twins clinched the AL Western Division title with a 5-3 win over the Rangers in Arlington.

Kirby Puckett

1995: Kirby Puckett’s jaw was broken by a Dennis Martinez pitch. It would be the last regular season appearance of Puckett’s career. He would go through spring training the following year, but be diagnosed with glaucoma before the regular season would begin.

On September 29, 1991, the Twins clinched the AL Western Division title despite their 2-1 loss to Toronto, when the White Sox also suffered a 2-1 loss to the Mariners.

There have been two historic Twins games held on September 30:

1981: 15,900 fans attended the final home game played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Roy Smalley made the final out of the final game, a 5-2 loss to the Royals.

2008: We try not to hold it against him today, but on this date, Jim Thome broke our hearts with a home run off Nick Blackburn, accounting for the sole White Sox run in their 1-0 win over the Twins in the extra “Game 163″ necessitated when the Twins and Sox finished the season tied for the lead in the AL Central.

Let’s look at October 1:

2002: Despite falling behind 5-1 after the first two innings, the Twins came back to defeat Oakland 7-5 in Game 1 of the ALDS. Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz each homered in support of winning pitcher Brad Radke.

2006: It had never happened in MLB history before but it did on this date… a team that had not held sole possession of first place in their division/league for a single prior day the entire season, claimed their title on the last day of the season. The Twins won their game and then watched with fans as the Tigers blew a 6-0 lead over the Royals before losing 10-8 in 12 innings. 23 year old Joe Mauer became the first AL catcher to win a league batting title, hitting .347 to lead the Major Leagues.

A few oddities are mixed in with the events of October 2:

1974: In a game against the Twins, Texas manager Billy Martin became the first AL manager in the DH-era NOT to use a DH… allowing pitcher Fergie Jenkins to hit instead.

1988: With a crowd of 35,952, the Twins became the first team to pass the 3 million mark in paid attendance for a season. It was a Twins attendance mark that would stand unitl… well… a few days ago, when the Twins broke that record during a game at Target Field last week.

2004: Play was suspended at the Metrodome after 11 innings with the Twins and Indians tied at 5. Why? So crews would have sufficient time to convert the playing field for the scheduled Minnesota Gopher football game that night. Hmmm… maybe they should think about building a basball-only ballpark?

2009: Joe Nathan notched his 46th save, breaking Eddie Guardado’s prior team record of 45, which he recorded in 2002. Nathan would finish the season with 47 saves.

For those who may be tempted to take the Twins recent success for granted, let me end this History Lesson with a review of the final game of the 1999 season at Comisky Park on October 3, 1999. The White Sox scored in the bottom of the first inning and neither team tallied again until the top of the 7th when Doug Mientkiewicz singled and Torii Hunter drove him in with a double, both coming with two outs. At that point, with the score tied 1-1 in the middle of the 7th, the game was called due to rain, wind, cold and, I would imagine, indifference.

The Twins simply didn’t matter in 1999.

Win or lose this post season, the Twins matter now and they’ve mattered for the past 9 seasons. It’s good to be a Twins fan! – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: September 13-19

I know, I know… I skipped a couple of weeks of History Lessons*. My bad. What’s that? You hadn’t noticed? Gee, thanks a lot! I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. You know what they say… “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” And the Twins have a lot of history that they really don’t want to repeat, trust me.

I’m not going to go through the last two weeks and bring everything up to date, but I will mention a few events that I missed the opportunity to recount.

After all, we really do need to pause for a moment and acknowledge the longest home run hit by a Twin at the Metrodome. That would be a 480 ft shot off the bat of Kent Hrbek, launched on September 9, 1984 off of Rangers’ knuckleballer Charlie Hough.

Did you know that Harmon Killebrew’s last home run as a Twin, on September 11, 1974, was a walk-off 2-run shot to beat the A’s 5-3? If you claim you were there to see it, I’m going to need to see ticket stubs to prove it. Paid attendance that day was 3,982.

Eric Milton

Twenty-five years later, on September 11, 1999, Eric Milton tossed the fourth no-hitter in Twins history, beating the Angels 7-0. Only 11,222 were there for the game, which was one of those infamous 11:00 am starts to accommodate a Gophers football game scheduled for that evening (no, I didn’t check to see if they happened to lose to South Dakota U that Saturday, too). The Twins alllowed anyone showing up in their pajamas to get in to the game free. (I wonder if the wait-staff at the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant took advantage of the offer.)

We also can’t let this  event of September 3, 2006, pass without noting it (although I’m sure Bert Blyleven would prefer we would all forget). They say that, during his suspension, Twins fans attending games often broke out in to chants of “Free Bert!” and the organization eventually relented and reinstated him. I wonder though… were they absolutely certain it wasn’t just a bunch of confused, drunken clubbers hollaring for the Twins to play “Free Bird!” on the PA?

Anyway… on to this week’s History Lesson:

Terry Ryan

On September 13, 1994, the Twins named Terry Ryan as the team’s General Manager. Exactly thirteen years later, on the same date in 2007, Ryan announced his resignation from that position, effective at the end of the season. Ryan has remained a Senior Advisor to the team.

Looking at September 14:

1989: With his save of a 2-0 Twins win over the the Blue Jays, closer Jeff Reardon became the first pitcher to rack up at least 30 saves in five consecutive seasons.

1994: Already a month in to a players strike, MLB owners officially vote to cancel the rest of the season and the postseason.

2003: Ever wonder what F-9-8 means on a scorecard? On this date, it meant Twins RF Mike Ryan lost a fly ball off the bat of the Tribe’s Jhonny Peralta, had the ball hit him on the top of the head, and fall cleanly in to the glove of CF Dustan Mohr.

And on September 15:

1961: Those of you too young to ever see Sam McDowell pitch may have trouble believing this one, but on this date, “Sudden Sam” made his MLB debut against the Twins and left in the 7th inning after throwing so hard that he broke two of his own ribs. McDowell K’d 7 and left with a 2-0 lead, which the Twins were able to overcome eventually for a 3-2 win. Lee Stange, pitching in relief for the Twins, notched his first career victory. (In his recent SI.com post about the “32 fastest pitchers” in baseball history, Joe Posnanski listed McDowell at #10.)

2002 Twins Celebrate ALDS

2002: Some things are worth waiting for. On this date, the Twins clinched the AL Central Division Title with a rain-delayed 5-0 win over the Indians, combined with a White Sox loss to the Yankees. Kyle Lohse limited the Tribe to no runs on just 2 hits in his 6 innings of work, but the Twins were having trouble solving the young lefty that Cleveland had sent out to make his MLB debut against the Twins… Cliff Lee. A Denny Hocking 7th inning single drove in 2 runs to give the Twins a 3-0 lead before the rains came. Once play resumed, relief pitchers Johan Santana and Eddie Guardado completed the shut out. The Twins had to wait out a couple of rain delays in New York, where the Yankees led the Sox but were in their third delay of the evening, before they could celebrate. Eventually that game was declared over and the Twins were free to start popping champagne.

It was the first championship of any kind for the Twins since their 1991 World Series Championship and came just months after they were threatened with contraction in the prior preseason. This is the earliest date the Twins have ever clinched a title.

September 16 has seen a few notable events:

1983: Twins rookie Tim Teufel not only went 5 for 5 with a triple and his first two career home runs in an 11-4 win over the Blue Jays, but in the process became the first Twin to get 5 hits in a game at the Metrodome AND the only Twins player to ever get 5 hits and score 5 runs in a single game.

Paul Molitor

1993: With a single off of the A’s Dennis Eckersley during a Twins’ 5-3 13-inning win over Oakland, Dave Winfield became the 19th member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000-hit club.

1996: Three years after Winfield’s accomplishment, Paul Molitor joined the same exclusive club with a triple off of the Royals’ Jose Rosado during a 6-5 Twins loss in KC. Molitor was the first to record a triple as his 3,000th hit and the first to rack up 200 hits in the same season that he notched his 3,000th hit.

On September 17, 1988, Jeff Reardon became the first pitcher to record 40-save seasons for teams in both leagues as he closed out the White Sox in a 3-1 Twins win. He had previously recorded 42 saves for the Montreal Expos in 1985.

Looking at September 18:

1975: In an ironic, and yet somewhat fitting, manner, Harmon Killebrew launched his 14th and final home run of the year… and the final of his career… in a 4-3 win for his Kansas City Royals against the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. Another embarrassing crowd of just 3,201 fans witnessed Killer’s final home run.

2002: “Everyday Eddie” Guardado set a Twins record with his 43rd save of the season (he would end the year with 45 saves), his first season as a closer.

Cesar Tovar

On September 19, 1972,the Twins’ Cesar Tovar became the first Twin to hit for the cycle at Met Stadium. Not only that, but in doing so, he also became just the second player in MLB history to not only hit for the cycle, but end the game with a walk-off home run, beating the Rangers, 5-3. Ken Boyer had accomplished the same combination in 1961 and subsequent to Tovar doing so, three more players have done the same (George Brett in 1979, Dwight Evans in 1984, and Carlos Gonzalez just this season in 2010).

I think that’s enough “history” for this week.

Things are getting exciting right now, folks. The 6 game lead the Twins take in to Chicago this week is enough that fans can smell that Championship. Sure, it would have been nice to be close enough to clinching to do so on the field at The (Prison) Cell in Chicago in front of the Bitch Sox and their fans, but that lead just isn’t big enough to allow that to happen. The Twins can put a pretty big dent in any remaining hope the Sox and their bitchy fans might still have, so let’s hope for that.

The celebration can wait until the Twins get back to Target Field anyway, right? (Not that I would dare to presume anything, of course…. you know, just in case the baseball gods are reading this.) – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: August 23-29

With about 6 weeks left in the season and the Twins grasping on to a five game lead in the AL Central standings, it’s tempting to start to feel like things are well within hand. But before we dig in to the upcoming week in Twins history, let’s keep one little piece of history in mind… one year ago, the Twins were not only 4.5 games behind the division leading Tigers, but 2.5 behind the White Sox. We all know those leads weren’t safe last year and it’s too early to assume the Twins’ current lead is any safer.

Let’s see what August 23 has brought the Twins direction:

1966: Jim Kaat got the W as the Twins notched win number 500 since the franchise relocated to Minnesota with a victory, appropriately enough, over the Senators.

1977: Dave Goltz threw a one-hitter at the Red Sox and got support from everyone in the line up (each of them recording at least one hit), including a home run from Rod Carew. Goltz struck out 10 in the 7-0 win over Boston.

Jacque Jones

2005: For the second time in Twins history, Minnesota won a game 1-0 with the only run coming on the team’s only hit, a 423 foot home run by Jacque Jones to lead off the 8th inning. Freddy Garcia of the White Sox gave up the dinger and lost to Johan Santana, who only gave up 3 hits, himself.

Kent Hrbek made his MLB debut with the Twins on August 24, 1981, and what a debut it was. In what was a sneak preview of things to come, Hrbie delivered a game-winning home run in the top of the 12th inning off of  George Frazier at Yankee Stadium.

A lot was made about the rain out of their Friday game this weekend resulting in the White Sox and Royals having to play three games inside of 24 hours and, without a doubt, that was a challenge for both teams. But on August 25, 1967, the Twins faced the prospect of playing their third double header in four days. That’s 7 games in four days in the middle of a four-team pennant race. Desperate for a complete game to give their bullpen a break, the Twins turned to Dean Chance, who would be pitching on just two days’ rest, to face the Indians in the second game of the twin bill. The result? Only the second no-hitter in Twins history. Chance actually gave up a run to the tribe in the first inning on two walks, an error and a wild pitch, before going on to strike out 8 to earn the 2-1 win.

Jack Kralick

Speaking of no-hitters, the first Twins no-no was recorded on August 26, 1962, by Jack Kralick, who came within a couple of outs in the ninth inning from being perfect. After Kralick helped his own cause against the A’s with a successful sacrifice bunt in the top of the 9th, followed by a Lenny Green sac fly scoring Bernie Allen, the Twins held a 1-0 lead heading in to the bottom of the ninth. Kralick lost his perfect game with a 1-out full count walk, but got two straight pop outs to put the Twins first no-hitter in the record books.

It’s hard telling which factoid was the most unusual to come out of the Twins’ 1-0 extra inning win over the Brewers on August 27, 1975… was it Craig Kusick tying the MLB record of getting hit by three pitches or iron man Bert Blyleven pitching the 11 inning complete game shutout?

August 28 has seen a couple of items of interest:

1981: Just four days after Kent Hrbek’s debut at Yankee Stadium, fellow rookie Tim Laudner also homered in his first MLB game against the Tigers at Metropolitan Stadium.

2009: The Twins acquired relief pitcher Jon Rauch from the D’Backs.

Lets wrap up this week’s trip down memory lane with a couple of items from August 29:

1963: In what has to be one of the more impressive demonstrations of power hitting in the franchise’s history, the Twins swept a double header from the Senators, 14-2 and 10-1. The Twins hit 12 home runs combined in the two games. Rich Rollins, Bob Allison and Zoilo Versalles each hit one HR, while Bernie Allen, Jimmie Hall and Vic Power each hit two balls out of DC Stadium. Harmon Killebrew won the club’s Home Run Derby with 3 round-trippers.

2009: The Twins signed lefty reliever Ron Mahay, who had been released by the Royals three days earlier.

That’s it! Tonight, the Twins start a critical four-game series against the Rangers at the Oven in Arlington (where high temperatures are forecast to be 106, 103, 93 and 94 degrees over the next four days). Meanwhile, the White Sox have the day off as they wait for the Orioles to show up in Chicago for a three-game series starting Tuesday. Should be an interesting week! – 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”.

GameChat – A’s @ Twins, 7:10 pm

It’s really good to have our boys back home and I hope that the weather cooperates while they are here!  I think everyone in MN would be glad for a short break from torrential rain.  So Morneau is improving but Gardy announced today that they aren’t talking time tables with him anymore – they want to make sure that he’s ready and so far he still hasn’t had any symptom-free days – at least he’s not feeling bad until he gets home now.  If you want a full recap of life for him right now, Phil Mackey did a great write-up today.

Unfortunately, news about Mijares is not as good.  He’s got more than a sprained knee – it’s a torn meniscus and requires surgery and he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.  Ouch.

TC Bear announced today on twitter that he & Bert Blyleven planted trees over at the Luce Line trail today for all the bats Twins pitchers have broken so far – he said the broken bat total right now is at 131.  At 100 trees per bat, that’s a lot of new canopy!  Here’s a pic!  Bert is supposed to talk about it in the FSN pregame if you are able to watch the program.

Coming off the series win in Chicago, I’m sure that the team morale is high.  Let’s hope that Pavano does a very Pavano job and that our offense keeps up the good work.

Oakland @ Minnesota
Crisp, CF   Span, CF
Barton, D, 1B   Hudson, O, 2B
Suzuki, K, C   Mauer, DH
Cust, DH   Cuddyer, 1B
Kouzmanoff, 3B   Kubel, RF
Ellis, M, 2B   Young, D, LF
Davis, R, RF   Valencia, 3B
Carter, LF   Casilla, A, SS
Pennington, SS   Butera, C
  Gonzalez, G, P     Pavano, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 14 2
Minnesota 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 x 4 5 2

 

That was a CRAZY game – some INCREDIBLE defense and amazing plays and then some absolutely head-banging plays.  But it all worked out to give Carl Pavano win #15 which puts him in a tie for first place in the American League!  In the postgame interview, he FINALLY expressed what it is about Drew Butera that he connects so well with – they are both Italian.  But he did mention that he’s a bit angry with Drew for shaving the mustache off.  AND he really enjoyed the walk-on music that Target Field played for him tonight – the theme to Mario Bros!  And even TC “grew” his mustache in honor of the big guy’s start tonight.  Carl’s not sure what it is about his mustache that has elicited such support from the fans but I think I speak for all of us when I say, if you keep winning, we’ll keep loving the ‘Stache! (at least metaphorically)

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The most incredible play of the night was a GORGEOUSLY executed suicide squeeze bunt between Drew Butera and Danny Valencia.  Wow.  Butera’s bunt was perfect and I swear that Danny was 2/3 of the way to homeplate with his leadoff before Butera even made contact.  VERY well done boys.  For that play alone, they both have a special bakery prize – their very own “BUNT” Cake!! Hope they really enjoy it!

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SECOND, there were inumberable plays tonight where our boys sacrificed the body to make the play – Lexi, Spanky and Hudson all really laid it out there – literally.  But none came up with blood on the uniform, met with the trainer and stayed in the game the way Michael Cuddyer did.  For that grit and determination, Knuckleballs awards him the very rarely offered GOLDEN BANDAID!  Thanks for all you do, Cuddy!

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Additionally, the bullpen came out AGAIN and in some high pressure situations, kept the Twins in the lead and allowed us to walk off the field with the win.  Since there was still a bit of roughness that I am worried is attributed to dehydration after the keg they got last night, they will have to live with rootbeer floats tonight instead of the other kind.  And Jesse Crain – for coming in with the bases loaded and nailing it down anyway, you get yours in a tall, frosty mug straight out of the freezer with an extra scoop!  We really enjoy it when you come in and do stuff like that!

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Of course, all this leads up to who did we vote to get the BOD!?!  For that we go back to the beginning.  In addition to that absolutely gorgeous squeeze, Valencia went 2/4, with a double, a run, and 2 RBI.  For that, he has earned today’s BOD!  Viva La Valencia!

Twins History Lesson: July 26 – August 1

Yes, I know… I skipped the Twins History Lesson* post (again) last week. Did you miss it? You did? Really? Dang… now I feel bad. Tell you what, there wasn’t a LOT of cool stuff that happened during the week of July 19-25 but I’ll briefly mention a couple of items, just for you, then I’ll move on to all the noteworthy items (and a few not so noteworthy) for the upcoming week.

Bruno the speed demon?

If I say “pine tar incident”, chances are you’re mind goes to George Brett’s famous “out” on July 24, 1983, that was later reversed. But how many of you remember July 19, 1975, when the Yankees’ Thurman Munson had his first inning RBI single nullified when his bat was found to have pine tar more than the legally allowed 18 inches up the handle?  Nobody? OK, do you maybe remember Tom Brunansky’s inside-the-park Grand Slam Home Run seven years later, on July 19, 1982?

Let’s also catch up with a couple of pitching performances taking place on July 23 in 2005 and 2006. On 7/23/05, the Twins needed a starting pitcher to face off against Justin Verlander in the second game of a doubleheader with the Tigers so the call went to Rochester for an arm to pitch one game and head back to the Red Wings. Enter Scott Baker, who held the Kitties to 2 runs on 5 hits in 7 innings to earn his first W as a Twin… then headed straight back to Rochester. Gardy’s postgame quote: “I think you’re seeing what we hope to get out of this young man. It’s very exciting.”

Exactly a year later, another young starting pitcher, Francisco Liriano, combined with four Twins relievers (Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan) to set a new Twins record for most strikeouts in a nine inning game, with 17 combined Ks, in a 3-1 win over the Indians. Liriano recorded an even 10 of those Ks in his 5 innings of work.

Lyman Bostock

July 24 is also worth catching up on. On that date in 1961, The Twins signed Tony Oliva and 15 years later, in 1976, Twins OF Lyman Bostock hit for the cycle during a 17-2 win over the WhiteSox.

That’s enough for last week… let’s move on to this week in Twins History:

Merritt: No pitch count?

On July 26, 1967, Twins pitcher Jim Merritt set a Twins record when he pitched 13 innings in a 3-2 win over the Yankees. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Merritt to earn the W as it took 18 innings for the Twins to earn that win. I’m guessing the Twins didn’t have Merritt on a pitch count limit.

There have been a couple of hitting performances of note on July 27. In 1978, Twins 3B Mike Cubbage hit for the cycle in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. He was the 5th Twin to accomplish the feat and the first after Bostock’s cycle two years and  three days earlier.

Five years later, on July 27, 1983, the Brewers Ben Ogilvie hit the longest HR in Metrodome history when he took a Brad Havens pitch 481 feet in to the upper deck in RF.

Dean Chance

Those in attendance at Fenway Park for the Twins/RedSox game on July 28, 1967, saw something very few people ever had an opportunity to see, but few of them probably really appreciated it. The Twins beat the Sox 9-2 as pitcher Dean Chance outdueled Boston ace Jim Lonborg (who was allowed to take leave from his National Guard duty to pitch the game). The rarity? That would be Chance’s bunt for a base hit in the Twins’ 7-run 4th inning. It was Chance’s first base hit following a stretch of 78 straight ABs without a hit (setting an AL record). Chance and Lonborg matched up twice more that season in eventful games. Nine days after this game, Chance retired all 15 hitters he faced in a rain shortened five inning “perfect game” win over Lonborg and the RedSox, making Lonborg 0-12 against the Twins in his career. Unfortunately, he broke that string on October 1, leading the Sox to the AL pennant over the Twins on the last day of the season.  Chance was the Twins’ losing pitcher.

I couldn’t find a darn thing of note that has ever occurred on July 29 in the history of the Twins. That probably won’t change this season as the team has the 29th off this year.

Not much going on for the Twins on July 30, either, for that matter, unless you consider the Twins trading Matt Lawton to the Mets for Rick Reed in 2001 or the trade of Luis Castillo to the same Mets for Drew Butera and Dustin Martin in 2007 to be big deals. Hmmmm… I do sense a pattern here. Should we look forward to Bill Smith completing another trade with the Mets on Friday?

We’ll make up for the lack of activity over July29-30 with a pretty long list of stuff for July 31, much of it trade related as it’s the last day for non-waiver trades:

1965: No trades of note on this date, but Tony Oliva’s heads up baserunning brought home a 2-1 win in 11 innings over the Orioles. (See if this sounds familiar, you fans of the movie Major League.) With one out in the 11th and Oliva on 2B and Harmon Killebrew having been intentionally walked to set up the double play, Joe Nossek hit a roller to Brooks Robinson at 3B. Robinson threw to second to force Killer but the relay to first was too late to complete the double play. That’s when O’s firstbaseman Boog Powell was surprised to realize Oliva never stopped at 3B but had rounded it and headed for home. Powell’s throw was late and Oliva slid home for the Twins win. His quote after the game, “… if I’m out at home, it’s a bad play. Today it was a good play because I made it.”

1972: No trade involved here either, but if you ever get a chance to talk to Bert Blyleven ask him about the day he gave up two inside-the-park HRs to the WhiteSox’ Dick Allen (then duck).

Now let’s get to some of those trades, shall we?

1987: The Twins picked up future HoF pitcher Steve Carleton from the Indians for a player to be named (who turned out to be pitcher Jeff Perry).

Frankie 'Sweet Music" Viola

Rick Aguilera

1989: The Twins became the first team in MLB history to trade a reigning Cy Young Award winner by trading Frank Viola to the Mets for Rick Aguilera, David West, Kevin Tapani, Jack Savage and Tim Drummond.

1995: Tapani was traded to the Dodgers along with Mark Guthrie in return for Jose Parra, Greg Hansell, Chris Latham and future FSN field reporter Ron Coomer.

2004: The Twins sent 1B Doug Mientkiewicz to the Cubs for pitcher Justin Jones.

2006: The Twins sent P Kyle Lohse (and his evil twin, Lyle) to the Reds for P Zach Ward.

2009: The Twins acquired SS Orlando Cabrera and cash from the A’s for minor leaguer Tyler Ladendorf.

Finally, let’s check in on what the first day of August has meant to the Twins:

1985: Pitcher Bert Blyleven returned to the Twins in a trade with Cleveland. The Twins sent outfielder Jim Weaver, pitchers Curt Wardle and Rich Yett, and shortstop Jay Bell to the Indians.

Bert Blyleven

1986: Exactly a year after returning to the Twins, Blyleven threw a 2 hitter against the A’s and struck out 15 hitters (then a club record). In the process, he became the 10th pitcher with 3,000 career Ks. In the same 10-1 win, Kirby Puckett became the first Twin to hit for the cycle in a game at the Metrodome.

1994: Oriole Cal Ripken played in his 2,000th consecutive game in a 1-0 win over the Twins at the ‘Dome.

2007: Perhaps a memory many of us would prefer not be reminded about as the Twins decided to go forward with their game against the Royals in order to keep from sending almost 25,000 fans on to already congested roads following the collapse of the I-35W bridge about an hour before game time. A moment of silence to remember the victims of the bridge collapse was held prior to the game.

With that, let’s all look forward to cheering on the Twins in their series this week at Kansas City and at home, next weekend, against the Mariners! – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: July 11-17. All-Star Edition

It has been a while since we’ve posted a Twins History Lesson* and, as you can imagine, we’ve passed over a number of events of interest in the organization’s past. Too many to get caught up on all at once so we’re just going to pretend we haven’t missed anything and pick things up with this week in Twins History.

Since the second week of July has been when MLB has historically held the All-Star game, this week naturally has an All-Star bend to it. Of course, not starting until July 11 means that we just barely miss reminding fans of the All-Star game held on July 9, 1968 where Twin Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew ruptured a hamstring at the Astrodome, missed the next seven weeks of the season and, ultimately, very likely cost the Twins what coulda/woulda/shoulda been their second AL pennant. That’s still painful for many of us older Twins fans to remember, so I’m actually glad it falls outside this week’s timeline and I won’t have to relive it here.

Of course, it also means we won’t be able to relive Torii Hunter’s heroics in the 2002 ASG, played on July 8, when he pulled back what would have been a Barry Bonds home run in the first inning of what would become the ASG ending in a tie at Miller Park. Too bad, because that kind of thing should be remembered. I could have even posted a picture, like the one at the right. Ah well, maybe next year.

So now, on to this week’s memories:

July 11 has seen a couple of notable events.

1961: Harmon Killebrew became the first Twin All-Star on this date in 1961 and in a pinch hit appearance, ripped a home run off of Mike McCormick in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

1965: The Twins took a 4 game lead in the AL standings in to the last game before the All-Star break. The Twins fell behind the Yankees in the top of the ninth inning when pitcher Jerry Fosnow picked up a slow roller up the 1B line and went to tag Yankee hitter Roger Repoz. But the ball popped free and Elston Howard crossed home plate. The home plate umpire ruled Repoz had interfered with Fosnow, however, and the run was taken off the board. That’s when the 1B umpire stepped in and overruled the home plate umpire, allowing the Yankee run to score (see… things really haven’t changed that much over the years, have they?) Things looked bleak for the Twin in the bottom of the ninth when Tony Oliva flew out for the second out with Rich Rollins, who had walked, on 1B. Que Harmon Killebrew. His full count HR won the game and, as described by Killer after the game was, “one of the sweetest of the sweet.” The Twins would go on to the World Series in 1965 and the Yankees would finish 25 games behind. (All together now… Awwwwwwwwwww.)

1968: Twins rookie Rick Rennick homered in his first MLB at bat, becoming the first Twin to do so, as he took the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich yard in a 5-4 Twins victory.

2005: Speaking of things that are painful to remember, it was on this date that the Twins acquired Bret Boone from the Mariners. He was released, thank God, not long afterward.

Not a real eventful date, but let’s look in on July 12 anyway:

1972: Bert Blyleven put the lid on the Brewers 7-1, giving the Twins their 1,000th win since the franchise moved to Minnesota. Coincidentally, Blyleven would also be the winning pitcher years later when the Twins notched win number 2,000.

1996: 36-year-old Kirby Puckett, appearing at a press conference with a white patch over his right eye, announced his retirement. “I was told I would never make it because I’m too short,” the 5’8″ Puckett said during the press conference. “Well, I’m still too short, but I’ve got 10 All-Star games, two World Series championships, and I’m a very happy and contented guy. It doesn’t matter what your height is, it’s what’s in your heart.”

2001: The Twins held their own version of Home Run Derby in a 13-5 win over the Brewers. Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie and Jacque Jones tied a MLB record of three players on the same team hitting two home runs in a game. Doug Mientkiewicz tried to keep pace, but could manage only one HR.

July 13 must be a popular day for holding All-Star Games.Lots of ASG history and we’re seeing yet another game on that date this year.

1965: The Twins’ Metropolitan Stadium hosted the All-Star Game and six Twins were on the AL squad (Earl Battey, Mudcat Grant,  Jimmie Hall, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Zoilo Versalles). But the NL won the game 6-5 as Willie Mays homered, walked twice and scored twice and Juan Marichal tossed three scoreless innings.

1971: Long before they began holding a Home Run Derby before the ASG, a group of future Hall of Fame members played long ball during the AL’s 6-4 win in Tiger Stadium. The Twins Harmon Killebrew went yard, as did Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson (who’s mammoth shot travels 520 feet!) and Frank Robinson. It was the sole AL victory between 1962 and 1983.

1976 When he pinch hit for Luis Tiant in the 7th inning, catcher Butch Wynegar became the youngest Twin (20 years and 121 days) to appear in an All-Star Game. He was walked by John “the Count” Montefusco.

1993: Torii Hunter Kirby Puckett may have won the ASG MVP award for his HR and double in the AL’s 9-3 win, but that’s not what most baseball fans recall about this game. Rather, that would be John Kruk’s comical at bat against a young, very hard-throwing and very, very wild Randy Johnson.

On July 14, 1991, the Twins retired Tony Oliva’s #6. Seventeen years later, Twins 1B Justin Morneau won the 2008 ASG Home Run Derby by defeating the Rangers Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals. So why does every Derby commercial since then feature Hamilton instead of Morneau? Possibly because of Hamilton’s 28 HRs in the first round (including 13 consecutive at one point).

July 15 has seen a couple of oddities among the noteworthy events taking place on that date.

1964: About a month after joining the Twins in a trade with Cleveland, pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant threw a 6-0 complete game shutout against the Senators. So what? Well he did it while giving up 13 hits (all singles). The Senators left 12 men on base (boy does that sound familiar, huh?) and when it was all over, Grant told reporters, “You might say I utilized the position of my fielders hansomely. The way they were hitting me, it’s a wonder somehody didn’t get killed out there.”

2008: One day after claiming his Home Run Derby title, Twins 1B Justin Morneau slid home with the winning run on Michael Young’s sac fly as the AL won the ASG 4-3. The game wents 15 innings and took 4 hours and 50 minutes to complete.

Looking back at July 16…

1969: Rod Carew recorded his 7th and final steal of home plate of the season, tying a 15 year old MLB record. What made this all the more unusual is that it took place with the bases loaded and led a unique triple steal as Harmon Killebrew recorded one of his 19 career SBs and Charlie Manuel (yes, the same Charlie Manuel managing the Phillies now) was credited with the sole SB of his career as they moved up to 2B and 3B behind Carew’s steal of home. So why didn’t Carew steal home again that year after swiping it 7 times by mid July? Not only were pitchers no longer pitching from the windup with Carew on 3B, but he missed much of August when he was called up for military duty. Sure are a lot of things we don’t see much of these days, aren’t there?

1985: The Metrodome hosted the All-Star Game (and I was there… 3 rows from the top of dead centerfield!) and OF Tom Brunansky was the Twins only representative on the AL roster. Led by LeMar Hoyt’s 3 innings of pitching, the NL won 6-1.

Let’s wrap up the History Lesson with a good news/bad news item. On July17, 1990, the Twins became the first team in MLB history to record two triple plays in one game, both started by ground balls to 3B Gary Gaetti. Unfortunately, they were using assbats that day and the Red Sox won the game 1-0.

I’m out of town this week and won’t be online much, if at all. Let’s hope all the guys come back from the All-Star break healthy, rested and ready to get after it. (Sorry… sort of channeling my inner Gardy there) – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: June 14 – 20

It’s no wonder that Major League Baseball came up with interleague play as a gimmick to generate interest in games played during the month of June. Based on the relative lack of notable events taking place in Twins history this month, baseball certainly needed something to keep fans from turning their attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, there’s been a smattering of noteworthy milestones, transactions and general an entertaining event or two that we felt worth bringing to the attention of Knuckleballs Nation. (Yeah, we know… it’s a REALLLLLLY small nation. But we can dream!) Now on with this week’s Twins History Lesson.*

Even to someone like me who had the pleasure of following Jim Kaat’s Twins career as it was playing out, it’s still somewhat amazing to me how often his name comes up in these peeks back in Twins history. June 14, 1964, may not have been a monumental date in the organization’s history, but the game that day did demonstrate just the sort of player Kaat was. It was questionable whether would even take his turn in the rotation against the Washington Senators because of a sore shoulder that had caused him to leave a game five days earlier. Kaat got a shot of Novocain in the shoulder the day before his start and took the mound vs. the Senators. He not only threw a complete game, but hit a 2-run home run in the sixth inning of the Twins 9-2 victory in the second game of a double header. It was Kaat’s second HR of the season.

There have been a couple of notable events on June 15 over the years:

On June 15, 1964 (the day after Kaat’s big game mentioned above), in a deal that would prove critical to their AL Championship season a year later in 1965, the Twins acquired pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant from the Cleveland Indians in return for pitcher Lee Stange and OF/3B George Banks.

Forty-four years later, on June 15, 2008, pitcher Scott Baker became the first Twins pitcher to strike out four hitters in one inning, when he K’d Brewers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder (who reached 1B on a wild pitch on strike 3), Russell Branyan, and Mike Cameron.

June 16 has seen a pair of events, one personal and one more team oriented, that proved indicative of greater things to come:

The Twins’ rookie starting pitcher Frank Viola threw seven innings while giving up just one run on June 16, 1982, to earn his first career victory… a 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Nine years later, on June 16, 1991, the Twins scratched out a 4-2, 10-inning, win over the Indians. It was the Twins’ 15th straight victory and moved them in to first place in the Western Division for the first time since the final day of their 1987 championship season. Not a bad comeback for a team that lost 9 of their fist 11 games of the year and didn’t reach .500 until May 15.  The winning streak ended the following night, but by the time they finished their road trip a week later, they held a 3 1/2 game lead in the Division… and never looked back.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Astros manager Cecil Cooper became the first managers fined by MLB for failing to comply with the league’s “pace of game” regulations on June 17, 2008. A month earlier, teams were instructed by MLB to help enforce rules intended to cut the amount of time it took to play games. (Apparently the Yankees and Red Sox still haven’t received that memo.)

Washington Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg has drawn a lot of attention recently as he continues to be heralded as the next “can’t miss” superstar pitcher. But he’s far from the first phenom to garner that kind of attention and the events of June 18, 1973, could provide a cautionary lesson to those singing Strasburg’s praises. On that date, the Rangers’ David Clyde took the mound for his first Major League start… just 20 days after pitching in the state championship game for his high school team. The 18 year old Clyde gave up just one hit to the Twins in the 4-3 Ranger victory, in front of the first sell-out crowd at Arlington Stadium. Clyde, the $125,000 bonus baby, would go on to win a total of 18 games in his five year MLB career.

June 19 has been an eventful day for a trio of famous Twins:

On June 19, 1968, in a game against the Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium, slugger Harmon Killebrew became the first Twin to drive in 1000 runs in a career.

Twenty years later, on June 19, 1988, Jeff Reardon notched his 20th save of the year as he closed out a 3-1 win over the Mariners. It was the seventh consecutive season he accomplished that feat. The game also marked Bert Blyleven’s 250th career victory.

On June 19, 2007, on the team bus to Shea Stadium for that night’s interleague game with the Mets, Blyleven, who as a broadcaster never misses the opportunity to complain about starting pitchers failing to complete games, told Johan Santana he’d allow his head to be shaved if Santana throws a complete game shutout that night against the Mets. Not a single Met so much as reached third base  against Santana and before the next night’s game, Blyleven was shorn.

On June 20, 1965, the Twins played in front of the largest crowd ever to see the team play on the road, as 71,245 showed up for a double header at Yankee Stadium. In the first game, the Twins broke a 4-4 tie in the ninth inning when Zoilo Versalles and Sandy Valdespino scored runs on two separate wild pitches thrown by two different Yankee pitchers in the Twins 6-3 win. 20-year old pitcher Dave Boswell was credited with the win in the second game but, once again, a wild pitch played a role when Versalles reached first base after swinging and missing at a 3rd strike knuckleball ahead of a Harmon Killebrew home run. The 7-4 win capped a sweep of the Yankees on their home turf and served notice that the Twins were for real and they went on to win the ’65 AL pennant.

This week has the potential to create some new “history” as the Twins are scheduled to face the current odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, on Thursday before heading to Philadelphia for a weekend series against the defending NL champion Phillies. Let’s hope the Twins get healthy in a hurry and return to their traditional dominant ways over NL opponents. – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: June 7-13

It’s that time of the week again so before the Twins kick off their homestand tonight against the Landed Gentry, let’s take a quick look back at this week in Minnesota Twins history*

There isn’t much all that notable connected to June 7, unless your name is Kent Hrbek. On June 7, 1986, Hrbie singled three times, doubled once and hit a HR as he backed up pitcher Bert Blyleven with the first and only 5-hit game of his career as the Twins beat the Royals 4-1.

June 8 hasn’t been all that much more remarkable:

1965: MLB conducted its first free agent draft for HS and college players. The Twins drafted SS Eddie Leon out of the University of Arizona. Leon did not sign with the Twins, opting to stay in school.

1976: Gene Mauch caleds on his “closer”, Bill Campbell, to relieve Pete Redfern in the 4th inning with 2 Cleveland Indians on base. Campbell faced only 17 hitters (one over the minimum) as he finished out the game to earn the 3-1 win. It was Campbell’s 6th appearance in an eight day period during which he threw 16 innings and it was the fifth game already that season that he had thrown at least four innings. That year, Campbell would go on to pitch in 78 games and record 17 wins as a relief pitcher! He led the Twins in those categories, as well as ERA (3.00). It’s the only time in Twins history that a pitcher has led the team in all three of those categories. My, how times have changed.

1978: The Twins drafted Kent Hrbek in the 17th round of the free agent draft.

June 9 has seen a couple of the more unique events in the organization’s history:

1966: Rich Rollins, Zoilo Versalles, Tony Oliva, Don Mincher and Harmon Killebrew all homered in the 7th inning of their win over the Kansas City A’s. It’s the first time in American League history that a team hit five HRs in one inning.

1975: Twins Manager Frank Quillici turned in a lineup card to the umpires that differed from the one he turned in to the press box and posted in the dugout for his team. The official version, given to the umpire, had Dan Ford hitting 7th and Danny Thompson 8th, but the version posted in the dugout had them reversed… and that’s the way they batted through the 8th inning. Indians manager Frank Robinson never brought the matter to the attention of the umpire. For some reason, Ford decided to hit in his correct spot in the order, ahead of Thompson, in the 9th inning. After a 9th inning HR by Vic Adbury tied the game at 10-10, Ford and Thompson again hit in their correct spots in the 11th inning, when Thompson’s single scored Eric Soderholm with what would eventually be the winning run.

Ah interleague play. On June 10, 2004, the Twins completed a 3-game sweep of the NY Mets with a 15-inning, 3-2 win. Kyle Lohse gave up 2 runs in the first 3 innings but he, along with help from five relievers shut down the Mets on 5 hits through the following 12 innings. Trailing 2-1 in the 9th, Jose Offerman doubled home Matt LeCroy all the way from 1B to tie the score. In the top of the 15th, with a Met runner on 1B, Torii Hunter ran down two potential gappers to maintain the 2-2 tie. In the bottom of the inning, three straight Twins singled to load the bases. Michael Ryan (who entered the game as a pinch runner for Joe Mauer in the 8th inning) slapped a single to RF to win the game.

Hmmm let’s see… June 11…

1964: The Twins traded 1B Vic Power and OF Lenny Green to the Angels for OF Frank Kastro. Ouch. And fans today think Bartlett and Garza for Young and Harris was a bad trade?

1972: Twins pitcher Jim Kaat homered off of the Tribe’s Vince Colbert during the Twins 5-2 win. It’s the last HR, to date, hit by a Twins pitcher.

2005: Forty seasons after the Twins lose 3 World Series games to the Dodgers in the 1965 Classic, Justin Morneau’s single, HR and 4 RBI helped the Twins win for the first time in Dodger Stadium, 5-3.

June 12 has been eventful in a couple of recent years:

2006: Joe Mauer earned Player of the Week honors by going 15 for 24 (a .625 clip) and reaching base four times in five consecutive games.

2009: It was just a year ago that the Cubs’ Milton Bradley provided comic relief in the 8th inning of their contest with the Twins by catching Joe Mauer’s 1-out sacrifice fly ball to RF… and promptly tossing the ball in to the bleachers. Bradley had lost track of the number of outs and was charged with an error, allowing Brendan Harris to advance to 3rd base.

On June 13, 1997, the Twins played their first regular season interleague game at the Astrodome in Houston. Manager Tom Kelly got his first lesson in NL customs as he had to borrow a lineup card from the Houston manager (seems in the AL, the home team provided cards to both teams and in the NL, each team provided their own). Behind Chuck Knoblauch’s 4 for 4 night, Paul Molitor’s 2 run HR… on a night when he made his second non-DH appearance (at first base) of the year… and Brad Radke’s 8 innings of 1-run, 6-hit pitching, the Twins mob the Astros 8-1. It’s the first of what becomes an annual Twins tradition of feasting on NL teams in interleague play.

That’s it for this week’s history lesson. Let’s hope the Twins get healthy and kick the Royals around a bit before commencing to whup some NL butt as interleague play resumes this weekend. Personally, I’m just glad the games are returning to a more reasonable starting time this week. – 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”.

Twins History Lesson: May 31 – June 6

While we all drain the extra cups of coffee necessary to get through the day after last night’s late game in Seattle, let’s take a quick look back at Twins history for this week*.

Apparently not a single really impressive thing has happened on May 31 (although last night’s win was certainly nice). Well, that’s not entirely true. Big Orioles’ 1B Boog Powell scored from second base on a Twins wild pitch on May 31, 1966. For a guy as big and slow as Powell, that was impressive. And on this date in 1980, the Twins’ Ken Landreaux went 0 for 4. That certainly wasn’t impressive, but the 31 game hitting streak that ended with his May 31 collar was impressive.

June 1 hasn’t been a whole lot more impressive, but at least there were a couple of items worth noting:

1961: The Twins acquired OF Bill Tuttle from the Kansas City A’s  and 2B Billy Martin from the Milwaukee Braves in the first two trades in Twins’ history.

1976: In a trade involving a few more notable players, Minnesota traded P Bert Blyleven and SS Danny Thompson to the Texas Rangers for SS Roy Smalley, 3B Mike Cubbage and pitchers Bill Singer and Jim Gideon.

1996: Led by Chuck Knoblauch’s fifth hit of the game and Paul Molitor’s 3-run HR, the Twins erupted for six runs in the 9th inning in a come-from-behind 9-5 win over the Rangers.

Persistence paid off on June 2, 2005, after Johan Santana’s 14 stikeouts in 8 innings were only good enough for a 3-3 tie game when his work was finished. Despite losing Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Nick Punto to injuries during the game, the Twins prevailed in the 13th inning on a Lew Ford double and Jacque Jones single, to win the game 4-3.

On June 3, 1967, Angels pitcher Lew Burdette was about half a dozen games away from the end of his 18-year career when he entered the game in relief and promptly walked Rich Reese. That brought Harmon Killebrew up with Reese on 1B and Rod Carew on 2B. Burdette threw Killer a knuckleball that didn’t knuckle much and Harmon hit the ball 520 feet and cracked a seat in the 6th row of the upper deck in LF at Met Stadium. The seat would later be painted and stand as a reminder of the longest HR in that stadium’s history. In what may have been the closest he ever came to being boastful, Killebrew told reporters after the game, “I got all of it.”

June 4 has seen a couple of games of interest and one critically important event over the years:

1976: In an 8-6 win over the Orioles, Larry Hisle became the third Twin to hit for the cycle.

1982: The 8,000 or so fans attending the Twins’ 6-0 victory over Baltimore celebrated after the game because the win broke the Twins’ 14-game losing streak… and they had each “won” a ticket to a future game for $1, thanks to a pre-game promise by owner Calvin Griffith. But little did they know they had an even bigger reason to cheer. Earlier that day, the Twins signed a certain JuCo player they had drafted in January… Kirby Puckett was headed to Elizabethton.

2002: The Twins set a club record with 10 runs scored in a single inning (batting around before recording a single out) and have four players get four hits, four with at least 3 RBI and four scoring at least 3 runs in their 23-2 win over the Indians. Altogether, the Twins had 25 hits in the game.

June 5 is all about the “kids”:

1970: Despite his manager misspelling his name on the lineup card and his giving up a HR to the first hitter he faced in the Major Leagues (Lee Maye), 19-year-old Bert Blyleven went on to strike out 7 Washington Senators, walk just 1 and give up 4 hits to record the first of his eventual 287 career wins. With Maye scheduled to lead off the 8th inning, manager Bill Rigney had Ron Perranoski relieve Blyleven to start the inning. Good move… Perranoski retired six straight Senators to close out the game.

2001: The Twins made local boy Joe Mauer the first pick of the First Year Player Draft. He would go on to be pretty good at baseball.

Since this feature is labeled “Twins History Lesson”, it’s appropriate that June 6 presented two such lessons through the years, along with a few “firsts”:

1961: The first lesson was learned by Twins Manager Cookie Lavagetto. “If your owner offers you a week’s vacation in June, turn it down.” On June 1, Calvin Griffith gave Lavagetto a week off and made coach Sam Mele the interim manager. By June 23 the move is no longer “interim”.

1965: The second lesson, from Twins backup catcher Jerry Zimmerman: “Any man with a bat in his hands has a chance to hit one out.” Earlier that day, Zimmerman had hit his first career HR. A feat he would accomplish twice more in a career that saw 994 ABs.

1983: The Twins used the first pick in the draft to select pitcher Tim Belcher… who eventually rejected their $125,000 offer. He’s the only first round pick that year who did not sign with the team that drafted him.

1987: The Twins acquired their first knuckleballer, Joe Niekro, from the Yankees for C Mark Salas.

2004: Joe Mauer hit his first MLB home run in a 6-5 win over Detroit in the Dome.

That’s a wrap for this week’s history lesson. Let’s all hope the Twins make all of the late nights and bloodshot eyes we’re going to be enduring to watch/listen to the West coast games this week worthwhile! – 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”.