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”.

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”.

Off-day History Lesson: April 26-May 2

I’m a bit of a history buff. I love reading about history. I love watching movies with at least a basis in history. So leading up to this baseball season, it should come as no surprise that any time I’ve ventured in to a bookstore, I’ve walked out with at least one book about baseball’s history.

That’s not to say I always read those books… at least not right away. In fact, I admit I bought two copies of Fay Vincent’s, “We Would Have Played For Nothing.” Obviously, I thought it would be a good book during a visit to a book store… twice.

Bob Showers’, “The Twins at the Met” is a terrific “coffee table” book for old timers like me who have so many great Metropolitan Stadium memories. Reading through it is like reliving every summer of my youth and my teen age years.

A year or two ago, I read “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Minnesota Twins”, by Steve Aschburner and found myself literally laughing out loud in public more than once and Jim Thielman’s “Cool of the Evening: the 1965 Minnesota Twins” is must reading for every Twins fan who remembers the 1965 Championship season.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I really enjoyed Joe Posnanski’s, “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”. In fact, I’d put that at the very top of my favorite “baseball books” list.

All of this is just leading me to today’s off-day rambling (hey, at least I’m not ranting about Bud Selig again!). I bought “162-0: The Greatest Wins in Twins History”, by Dave Wright, over the weekend. Mr. Wright’s premise is to go in to detail about the best (in his view) Twins victory that took place on most every date during a baseball season, from Ron Gardenhire’s first victory as the Twins’ manager on April 1, 2002 to Jack Morris’ 1-0 gem in game 7 of the 1991 World Series on October 27 of that year.

I’ve read enough to catch myself up to date in the season, but I’m trying not to read ahead too far. I’m enjoying reading a few days, corresponding with where we’re at in this season. Sometimes the game chosen by Wright to represent a particular date is unique because of something special one of the players did or because of something peculiar that happened during the game, but they all have one thing in common… a Twins victory. You have to love a book with 162 stories, all with happy endings! (Actually, it’s 167 stories, since Wright had to include last season’s game 163 plus four World Series victories!)

A Monday “off day” seems like a good day to provide a glimpse of the week ahead, April 26-May2… throughout Twins history. As you might imagine, not all of the interesting games the Twins played on a given date in history were captured in Wright’s “162-0″, so I’ve done a bit of web-searching to supplement the information in his book.

April 26 has been pretty uneventful, it turns out (unless you count April 26, 1986 when a game against the Angels was delayed when winds ripped a hole in the Metrodome roof.

Maybe April 27 is a better day to start with. We may find more eventful dates as we go forward with this (assuming I feel inspired to do this again some time), but until we do, April 27 presents a very interesting group of games.

Here’s what happened on April 27 in the year…

1961: 74 year old Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch before the first home game of the new LA Angels as they hosted the Twins. It was Cobb’s last visit to a ballpark prior to his death.

1969: Camillo Pascual hit a grand slam home run in the Twins’ 11-1 win over the Indians. What’s the big deal about that? Pascual was a pitcher for the Twins and this was the only grand slam home run ever hit by a Twins pitcher.

1969: Harmon Killebrew hit his 400th career home run over the BitchSox (yes, even in 1969, I’m sure the southsiders were bitches.)

1980: The Twins hand pitcher Geoff Zahn a 10-0 lead over the A’s in the first inning, but he doesn’t record a win. Zahn was removed after giving up 8 runs in less than five innings. Doug Corbett gets the win as the Twins outscore the A’s 20-11.

1994: Scott Erickson, after losing three straight games and seeing his ERA rise to 7.48, throws the third no-hitter (and the first in 27 years) for the Twins as they blank Milwaukee 6-0.

By comparison, April 28 has been relatively uneventful. In fact, the most eventful game on that date in Twins history was met with a collective sigh as they managed to beat the Orioles 4-2 in 1988… as the Orioles set a new AL record for consecutive losses at 21 games.

April 29 has seen a couple of interesting games.

1962: The Twins swept a doubleheader from Cleveland and, in the second game, they tied a MLB record by hitting six solo home runs… two by Johnny Goryl and one each by Bill Tuttle, Zoilo Versalles, Lenny Green and Don Mincher.

1970: Relief pitcher Stan Williams saved a 1-0 win over the Tribe for the Twins and Jim Kaat… without any Indian completing a plate appearance. With Tony Horton on 2B, Vada Pinson fouled off Williams’ first pitch. Before the next pitch, Williams (who had pitched the prior four seasons for Cleveland) picked Horton off 2B to end the game. Horton was not the first runner Williams had ever picked off. In fact, he had picked off Roberto Clemente once and Stan Musial twice in his career.

It may not seem like much, but given the problems the current Twins have had with the Yankees, Brad Radke’s 2-1 win over the Evil Empire on April 30, 2001 is something to celebrate, even now. Radke gave up only 6 hits, with the sole run being a Tino Martinez HR. Doug Mientkiewicz drove in both Twins’ runs, one with a solo HR.

May 1 has seen a couple of notable pitching performances from members of the organization’s Hall of Fame (and one memorable hitting performance by a future member of that HoF).

1988: Frank Viola shut out the RedSox 2-0 at Fenway Park. It was the first complete game thrown by a lefty against the RedSox in Fenway in over four years.

2005: The Angels beat the Twins 2-1 at the Dome, marking the first loss by Johan Santana in 20 starts, going back to the prior year. Santana had gone 17-0 during that span.

2009: After missing all of Spring Training and the month of April with a bad back, Twins catcher Joe Mauer makes a triumphant return when he drives a Sidney Ponson fastball over the left field wall for a home run in his first plate appearance of the season. The Twins beat the Royals 7-5.

The Twins have been busy boys on May 2 throughout their history as well.

1963: The Twins picked up Jim Perry from the Indians. Perry would win the Cy Young award in 1970.

1964: The Twins enter the top of the 11th inning in their game vs. Kansas City tied 3-3. Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew rip four consecutive home runs and the Twins win 7-3. Only two teams, prior to Minnesota, had gone back to back to back to back.

1967: It was 32 degrees at game time, the coldest start of any game played at Metropolitan Stadium, before the Twins beat the Yankees 13-4 in a game that lasts less than two and a half hours.

1992: They weren’t consecutive this time, but once again the Twins hit four home runs in one inning as Shane Mack, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Randy Bush ‘go yard’ in the 5th inning vs. the Evil Empire. The Twins win 7-6.

2001: Over 40 fans are ejected from the Dome after umpires pull the Yankees off the field during the Twins’ eventual 4-2 win. The fans had been throwing objects at former Twin Chuck Knoblauch.

Kind of a lot of excitement for this year’s group of Twins to live up to this week, isn’t it?

-JC