Will Past Be Prologue? Part 2 – Lessons to be Learned

Yesterday, I asked readers to endure a recitation of my childhood memories as I looked back at the most exciting Twins season in my memory, 1967. It was Rod Carew’s Rookie of the Year season and, while the Twins ultimately lost out to the Red Sox for the AL pennant, it was followed shortly by a couple of very successful seasons in 1969 and 1970 when Carew helped lead the Twins to the first two AL West Division championships.

Today, I’m going to discuss lessons that I believe should be learned from the years that followed those incredible seasons.

While Carew would never again reach the postseason with the Twins (and would never play in a World Series for anyone), he did have several more pretty amazing years with the Twins. He won six more batting titles to go with the one he won under Billy Martin in 1969. He won an MVP award in 1977, when he put up a 1.019 OPS (long before we knew what OPS was) for a 4th place team.

A sparce crowd at Metropolitan Stadium in 1972 (Photo: Steven R. Swanson)

A sparce crowd at Metropolitan Stadium in 1972 (Photo: Steven R. Swanson)

I missed most of that, though.

By the mid 1970s, I had pretty much tuned the Twins out. I wasn’t the only one, apparently. By 1974, the Twins were averaging just over 8,000 fans for their home games.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith could have gone one of two directions at that point. He had a couple of legitimate stars on his team, Carew and pitcher Bert Blyleven, both in the prime of their careers. He could have chosen to build a better team around them over the next couple of years and make an effort to compete. Charley Finley was starting to disassemble his powerhouse Athletics and the Seitz decision would soon set Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally free of their contracts and open the door to free agency. Griffith’s other option was to trade away Carew, Blyleven and anyone else who might command real money soon and attempt to rebuild his team with young (and inexpensive) prospects. Obviously, Griffith being Griffith, the latter was the only option with any chance of happening.

But what if Griffith had been willing and able to invest, rather than divest? Would the team have improved and brought fans back to the Met? Would the Twins then have been in a better position to command a new stadium of their own rather than being forced to share the Metrodome with the Vikings?

There’s no way to know, of course. What we can and do know, however, is that a lot of fans lost interest in the Twins during the mid to late 1970s. I was one of them.

As I think back through my 52 years of Twinsfandom, that era is probably the stretch when I was the least interested in what was going on with the Twins. I can only distinctly remember three trips to the Twin Cities to watch baseball from the time I graduated from high school in 1974 through the rest of the decade. I think about how many more times I would have watched two future Hall of Famers play baseball if only the owner had shown some kind of commitment to winning. It wasn’t until guys like Puckett, Gaetti, Hrbek and Brunansky developed in to a talented core in Minnesota in the mid 1980s that I got interested enough again to regularly drive up to the Twin Cities for games.

I believe that the people running the Twins now are flirting dangerously with the possibility of history repeating itself.

Those who advocate for the idea of blowing up the roster and rebuilding gradually with the highly touted group of prospects in the organization seem to think that letting the Twins continue to lose close to 100 games over the next year or two is a necessity. We’re told that, if we’re patient, the team will be much improved and be ready to compete by 2014 or 2015.

But do we really believe that Miguel Sano, Kyle Gibson, Eddie Rosario, Alex Meyer and Byron Buxton are going to be ready to win… not just contribute… at the Major League level by then? Maybe Griffith was planning on first round picks like Rick Sofield, Paul Croft and Lenny Faedo being ready to lead the Twins back in to contention by the late 70s, too. Instead, the Twins continued to play in front of more empty seats than filled seats at Met Stadium for several more years and continued to spiral deeper in to oblivion until they won only 60 games in 1982. Even the move to a new indoor stadium couldn’t significantly rebuild the fan base at that point.

What if we’re wrong about the next wave of uber-prospects being ready to seriously compete in the Big Leagues by 2015? What if it takes them longer? What if, like with Hrbek, Gaetti and Viola, this group loses big chunks of games for a few years even after they arrive in Minnesota and it’s 2019 or 2020… or later… before they reach their potential? That’s not exactly unlikely, is it?

The past two years have seemed hellish to Twins fans, but how many people will be watching Twins games at Target Field if the Twins go the better part of a decade or more during which coming even close to a .500 record is unlikely? How many will even be watching on television?

I wish I had watched Rod Carew play baseball more than a handful of times in the 1970s. How many young fans will grow old regretting not showing up to watch Joe Mauer play baseball in his prime because the team wouldn’t put enough talent around him to make a trip to the ballpark worthwhile? How long will it take to get those fans interested again?

Some people will tell us that Griffith had no other choice than the one he made… the advent of free agency was a paradigm shift that he could neither foresee nor afford financially to adapt to. That may be true. I have no way of knowing. But the advent of free agency clearly made owning and operating a competitive Major League Baseball team difficult for all but the wealthiest owners.

Today, I believe Major League Baseball is quite possibly nearing another era of potentially dramatic change in how the business is run. I don’t think any of us can predict, with any certainty, the state of television five years from now. It’s quite possible that it will be significantly different than it is today. The billion dollar media rights deals that large market teams are signing could create even more significant chasms between the “haves” and “have nots” in baseball than the eras of free agency and new stadiums did.

And what happens when cable operators and their subscribers (and potentially even the government) step up and refuse to allow continuance of an environment where subscribers must pay dramatically higher rates for cable television, driven almost solely by the cost of carrying sports programming? If that bubble bursts before teams in middle markets, like Minnesota, get their turn at the trough, the resulting competitive imbalance could last for a generation.

Those issues will have to be addressed by whoever baseball decides will succeed Bud Selig as Commissioner. But in the mean time, the people running the Twins have to be making long term plans for the continued financial viability of their franchise. They probably genuinely believed that a new stadium would allow them to field consistently competitive teams a few years ago when they were lobbying for public financing, but clearly Target Field no longer guarantees anything. MLB’s financial model appears to be taking another dramatic turn and a nice stadium is no longer enough to assure long term solvency, much less competitiveness.

As a result, I believe that the deeper the Twins allow this competitive hole they’re in to get, the greater the risk that we’ll see another 1970s-like loss of interest by the fan base that will simply perpetuate the problem.

I see it as imperative for the Twins to invest enough money in their roster to be competitive EVERY year if they’re going to remain a viable organization in to the future. They must keep fans coming to the ballpark and they absolutely need to make the team valuable enough to cash in on other media revenue streams sooner, rather than later. Doing otherwise risks dooming the franchise to being non-competitive until such time that large market teams finally agree to a more equitable business model… and we know that won’t happen any time soon.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the next crop of kids coming up will hit the ground running and immediately capture the imagination and interest of Twins fans far and wide, leading to the next great golden era of Twins baseball, which will lead to vast riches for the Twins owners and secure the franchise’s future for generations to come.

I just think the odds of that happening are long… too long for the Twins front office to bet the organization’s future on it.

I was 14 years old when Rod Carew’s 1970 Twins won the AL West Division and I turned 31 before my favorite team gave me something to cheer about again in 1987. I hope it won’t be 2027 before kids who cheered on Joe Mauer’s 2010 Central Division Champions get to feel that excitement again.

- 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: 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”.

Twins History Lesson – May 10-16

There are two off days this week (what’s up with THAT?) and I’m not sure what we’ll do to entertain/educate ourselves on Thursday, but tonight we’ll provide the weekly trip down Twins Memory Lane. As usual, 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“.

So let’s see what the Twins have done during this week in their first 49 years of existence.

There have been a few memorable (or at least noteworthy) home runs hit on May 10:

1962: Vic Power and Lenny Green lead off the game with back-to-back home runs off of future Twin Jim Perry, then pitching for Cleveland (who eventually went on to defeat the Twins 9-4).

1982: Gary Ward hits the first grand slam home run for the Twins in their brand new indoor stadium, the HHH Metrodome. (Yes, this means we’re having to wait longer for Target Field to be so initiated!)

2000: The game winning home run on this night was hit by a player only the most avid Twins fans are likely to even remember. Manager Tom Kelly had inserted Midre Cummings as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning, with the Twins trailing the Tribe. The Twins had trailed 8-1 entering that inning and, even after some heroics, still trailed Cleveland 9-7 entering the bottom of the ninth. One run later, still trailing 9-8, with runner Ron Coomer on 1B and two outs, Cummings laced a line drive in to the left field seats for the 10-9 win. (This is why we DON’T leave early, Twins fans!)

The Twins said good bye to two of their best relief pitchers on May 11… 17 years apart.

1982: Doug Corbett is traded along with infielder Rob Wilfong to the Angels for outfielder Tom Brunansky, pitcher Mike Walters and a few bucks in cash (the question, as always, is whether or not the “cash” was the most important part of the deal to owner Calvin Griffith).

1999: The Twins ride eight innings of typically terrific pitching from Brad Radke to defeat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2-1. While nobody was aware of it at the time, closer Rick Aguilera’s 1-2-3 inning to earn the save would turn out to be his last as a Twin. He was traded to the Cubs a week later.

If you’re looking to get your money’s worth out of a game ticket, consider taking the day off and heading to Target Field on Thursday for the game with the BitchSox. May 12 has been “extra inning day” for the Twins in the past:

1972: The Twins drop a 22 inning game to the Brewers, 4-3. (They get their revenge the following day with a 4-2 win over the Brew Crew… in a mere 15 innings.)

1981: A “crowd” of 3,572 showed up to watch the Twins (already11 games out of first place) take on the Red Sox (seems some hockey team called the North Stars was playing game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals that night). Trailing 2-0 going in to the bottom of the 9th, the Twins forced extra frames when Ron Jackson hit a 2-run HR. After Yaz (that’s Carl Yastrzemski to you kids) gave Boston the lead with a sac fly in the 10th, the Twins answered with back-to-back home runs in the bottom half by Mickey Hatcher and Roy Smalley, both hit off of BoSox closer (and former Twin) Tom Burgmeier. (Anyone know if the hockey game was any good?)

2002: The Twins are ready to celebrate an extra inning victory over the Evil Empire when they score 3 runs to take a 13-10 lead in the top of the 14th at Yankee Stadium. The celebration is short-lived, however, as Jason Giambi hits a game winning, walk off, grand slam HR off of Mike Trombley in the bottom half of the inning.

May 13, 1985, may have seen one of the uglier games in Twins history when the Twins blew an 8-0 lead over the Evil Empire (do we see a pattern developing here?) through two innings, capped off by Don Mattingly’s 2-out, 3-run HR off of Twins closer (and we use that term loosely) Ron Davis. The final score is 9-8.

May 14 has seen a couple of peculiar games:

1965: The Twins commit 4 errors and yet still are in a position to pull out a win over the A’s as the teams are tied 3-3 (following a Bob Allison 3-run HR in the 8th) when the Twins hitting in the top of the 9th. After Jerry Kindall singles and Jerry Zimmerman reaches on a catchers interference call, Zoilo Versallales (who would go on to win AL MVP honors that season) fails… twice… to get a bunt down before singling to CF and scoring Kendall with the go-ahead (and eventual winning) run.

2006: This Mothers Day game didn’t finish nearly as postively as Mark Buehrle becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to give up 7 runs in the first inning and still go on to win the game. Luis Castillo also hits in to a triple play during the 9-7 loss to the BitchSox.

May 15, 1976 saw the MLB debut of Twins pitcher Pete Redfern. Redfern spent barely a month in the minors before his first start for the Twins in Anaheim during the second game of a twi-night doubleheader (two games in one evening… and you think staying up to watch ONE west coast game is tough!). The Twins staked Redfern to a 13-0 lead before he gave up his first hit in the sixth inning. Before that inning was over, he had also given up a grand slam HR to Bobby (Barry’s daddy) Bonds. The Twins held on to win 15-5.

May 16 has seen at least two remarkable efforts over the years… one of them by a man who never suited up for the team, but who we all perhaps owe a great debt of gratitude.

1967: Dean Chance throws a 5-hitter and makes the Twins’ lone run, on back-to-back 2nd inning doubles by Bob Allison and Zoilo Versalles, stand up as he retires the last 11 BitchSox he faces and never allows a runner past 2B, defeating Chicago 1-0.

1984: Only 6,346 fans show up to watch the Twins lose 8-7 to the Blue Jays, but thanks to Minneapolis businessman Harvey Mackay’s purchase of an additional 44,166 tickets (at a “Family Day” promotional discount cost of $218,718), the Twins will stay in Minnesota. The purchase was part of Mackay’s plan to assure that the Twins sell the necessary 2.41 million tickets necessary to preclude the Twins from exercising a contractual right to void their Metrodome lease after the season and leave Minnesota.

Finally, since the topic of this post is a “History Lesson”, perhaps this is a good time to cast a glance back to one year ago.

After the games of May 10, 2009, there were actually FOUR teams leading the three AL divisions (since the Central had two teams tied for the lead). Why is it important to look back?

Because despite one of those teams having a 22-12 record, NONE of those four teams made the playoffs in 2009. In fact, that team with the 22-12 record, the Toronto Blue Jays, finished a healthy 28 games out of first place and another, the Kansas City Royals (who were co-leaders with the Tigers after May 10), finished tied for last in the Central, 21.5 games behind the Twins.

It’s a long season, folks, and while it’s fun seeing the Twins uncharacteristically jump out to an early lead, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played.