Three “Golden Era” Twins on HOF Ballot

On the heels of Bert Blyleven’s induction in to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, three more former Twins have renewed chances to join Bert, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett in Cooperstown. Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant have been nominated for consideration by the Baseball HOF’s new “Golden Era Committee”.

Tony Oliva

The Committee, made up of 16 voters consisting of executives, veteran media members and existing HOF members, will be choosing from among ten players and executives that made their greatest contributions to the game of baseball between the years 1947 and 1972.

The committee will be meeting during MLB’s winter meetings in December and each member can vote for anywhere from zero to five candidates. It takes being included on 75% of ballots cast to gain election. This committee will be holding similar elections just every three years, so anyone who doesn’t gain election this year will have to wait another three years just to find out if they’ll be considered again. Given the age of most of these guys, that could literally be a lifetime.

Jim Kaat (photo: S. Grile/Palm Beach Post)

Oliva, Kaat and Tiant are joined on the ballot by Ron Santo, Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and Allie Reynolds. For a fan in his mid-fifties like me, those names bring back a flood of memories and it’s hard to believe that none of them are in the HOF already.

Luis Tiant

Interestingly, the three former Twins all played together, along with Blyleven, Carew and Killebrew, on the 1970 team that won the AL West Division. Think of that for a moment… it could very well turn out that the 1970 Twins included SIX future Hall of Famers!

At a time when many of us are trying to figure out how the Twins should rebuild their roster in an effort to regain some level of competitiveness, take a look at some of the numbers that members of that 1970 team put up:

Tony Oliva: .325/.364/.514 .878 OPS, 23 HR, 107 RBI in 157 games.

Harmon Killebrew:  .271/.411/.546 .957 OPS,  41 HR, 113 RBI in 157 games.

Rod Carew:  .366/.407/.524 .930 OPS, 4 HR, 28 RBI, in just  51 games.

And just to prove they weren’t the only guys hitting the ball…

Cesar Tovar: .300/.356/.442 .798 OPS, 10 HR, 54 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 161 games.

The pitchers had some pretty decent seasons, too:

Jim Kaat: 14-10, 3.56 ERA, 34 starts, 4 complete games, 230.1 IP

Bert Blyleven: 10-9, 3.18 ERA, 25 starts, 5 complete games, 164 IP

Luis Tiant: 7-3, 3.40 ERA, 17 starts, 2 complete games, 92.2 IP

Not bad, but not one of those pitchers was even the ace of that staff in 1970. That honor went to…

Jim Perry: 24-12, 3.04 ERA, 40 starts, 13 complete games, 278.2 IP… and a Cy Young Award.

Congratulations to Tony-O, Kitty-Kaat and El Tiante on their nominations and here’s hoping the voters recognize that all three of these guys are deserving of the honor to stand with their peers as among the best to ever play the game.

- JC

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

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

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

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

So now, on to this week’s memories:

July 11 has seen a couple of notable events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back at July 16…

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

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

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

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

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

Twins History Lesson: 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.