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: 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 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.

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