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: 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 3-9

There’s no off-day this week, but there have been a few notable games and events in Twins history during this week and since I didn’t have anything better to do after Sunday’s game, I thought I would share a few of the more noteworthy items with you.

May 3 has been relatively uneventful but in 1986, leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett homers off of Walt Terrell’s first pitch of the game. Not a big deal, I know, especially since the Twins lose the game to the Tigers 7-4. But it’s the second night in a row that Puck hit a HR on the game’s first pitch, having done so the game before off of future Twin Jack Morris.

May 4 has been a bit more eventful for the Twins:

1975: The Twins retire Harmon Killebrew’s #3 in a ceremony before Killer takes the field as a Kansas City Royal against the Twins. Killebrew expresses his appreciation by hitting a home run off of Vic Albury in the first inning.

1982: The Twins’ most famous sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome, Jim Eisenreich, removes himself from a game in Boston due to taunts from the Sox fans in the cheap seats.

1984: What goes up must come down… eventually. Dave Kingman of the A’s launches a ball up through one of the drainage holes in the Metrodome roof and is awarded a ground rule double. The ball is found by a Metrodome worker the next day, who drops it down to the field where the Twins OF Mickey Hatcher is waiting for it. Hatcher drops it.

1999: The Twins’ victory number 3,000 is recorded in an 8-4 win over the Evil Empire.

May 5, 2005 (aka 05/05/05) brings Twins fans (and especially Batlings) the Best. Cupcake Day. Ever as the Twins score 5 runs in the 5th inning to beat the Tribe, 9-0.

(I could have also listed Luis Tiant’s remarkable 2 hit, 9 walk, 5.2 inning effort in 1970, but on the off chance any current Twin pitcher might read this, we don’t want them to get the idea that’s how they’re supposed to pitch, even though El Tiante won the game to go 5-0 for the season.)

On May 6, 1978, the Twins entered the day having lost 14 of their previous 16 games and Roger Erickson had given up a 5-run third inning to the Orioles, resulting in a 5-1 deficit entering the 9th inning in Baltimore. The Twins, led by Rod Carew’s bases-loaded triple (yes, this was back when the Twins actually got hits with bases loaded), scored 7 runs in the top of the 9th to take an 8-5 lead. Tom Johnson coughed back up 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th before getting a double play ball out of Lee May to end the game in an 8-7 win for the Twins.

May 7 has seen a couple of interesting events in Twins history:

1995: The Twins and Indians play for 6 hours and 36 minutes before the Tribe finally wins 10-9 in 17 innings.

2000: Tom Kelly becomes the first Twins manager to reach 1,000 wins.

2008: Carlos Gomez leads off the game with a HR and then hits for the cycle in a 13-1 win over Ozzie’s BitchSox.

May 8 was a meaningful date for a trio of Hall of Famers:

1967: Rod Carew collects five hits for the Twins… the first Twin to accomplish the feat.

1968: Catfish Hunter beats the Twins 4-0. Technically, his Oakland A’s team beat the Twins, but since Hunter not only pitched a perfect game against Minnesota, but also drove in 3 of the A’s 4 runs, it’s safe to say he pretty much beat the Twins by himself. Less than 6,300 fans were in attendance at the game in Oakland.

1984: Kirby Puckett collects four hits in his Major League debut as the Twins beat the Angels 5-0 (something that wouldn’t be accomplished by another Twin until today’s debut by Wilson Ramos).

Wrapping up the week, there are only a couple of noteworthy games on May 9:

1961: The Orioles’ Jim Gentile hits a grand slam home run in the first inning against the Twins. Then, just to prove it was no fluke, he hit another grand slam in his next at bat, in the second inning. Only 3 players in MLB history had hit grand slams in back-to-back ABs prior to Gentile. He also added a SAC fly to set a single game RBI mark with 9 RBI for the game.

2003: Rick Reed was injured so Ron Gardenhire turns to lefty Johan Santana as his sacrificial lamb to face off against Pedro Martinez (who had struck out 12 Twins in their previous meeting) and the Red Sox. The result is a 5-0 shutout… for the Twins. Santana went just 5 innings and was aided by LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero and Eddie Guardado, to complete the shutout. Not one who’s easily impressed, Gardenhire sends Santana back to the bullpen and uses Johan only as a spot starter vs. a couple of NL teams during interleague play until he’s given a spot in the rotation in July. He performed pretty well after that.

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

Twins’ prospects rip former Cy Young winner!

I confess. I’m not a fan of the former Twin starting pitcher that started for the Mets in their spring training game against the Twins today. It’s fine with me if my fellow Twins fans want to continue to worship him, even if I don’t agree with it. Just don’t expect me to fawn over his greedy, overpaid, New York loving, butt. :)

So, having said that, you might imagine that I rather enjoyed watching the game today in Port St. Lucie (is there really a St. Lucie?)  You would be right.

I don’t wish any sort of serious life-threatening evil to befall this particular former Cy Young winner. I’m not that kind of person. Do I hope he wins more Cy Young awards? No. Do I hope he ever reaches the playoffs with the Mets? No. Do I hope the investment the Mets made in him turns out to be the biggest waste of money since Barry Zito? Absolutely. I wish him and the Mets all the luck in the world… all the really, really BAD luck. And given the length of the Mets’ DL the last year or so, my wishes seem to be right on the mark.

But back to today’s game. Yes, I realize it’s only spring training. Yes, I realize this pitcher seldom pitches real well in spring training (and as Twins fans came to realize over the years, “spring training” generally runs through April and in to May for this particular pitcher).

So, here are some pictures from some of my favorite moments during the Twins’ win over the Mets on Friday:


Mets’ pitcher #57 delivers a pitch to Brendan Harris as Denard Span taunts him from 1B.


Too much of a stud to be DH’d for, this former Twin Cy Young pitcher grounds out meekly.


Twins 3B prospect Danny Valencia strolls toward home plate after taking the Mets’ multi-bajillion dollar pitcher “yard.” Manager Ron Gardenhire punished Valencia for homering off of the former Cy Young winner by demoting him to Rochester after the game.


Twins Prospect Wilson Ramos rounds 3B after launching a HR off of a former Twin Cy Young winner


The “best pitcher in baseball” delivers with Twins Delmon Young and Danny Valencia at the corners. Both would eventually score.


The official line was worse than the scoreboard showed as #57 left the mound… 2 more runners he left on base would score.