Happy Birthday, Neil Wagner
It’s the birthday of 2002 Eden Prairie High School graduate Neil Wagner, born in Minneapolis in 1984. Wagner pitched for North Dakota State for three seasons before signing with Cleveland in 2005.
He made his major league debut pitching for the Oakland Athletics against Cleveland on August 30, 2011. He pitched five innings over six games with the Athletics that season. He made it back to the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, getting into 36 games in 2013, and 10 in 2014.
Wagner pitched three scoreless innings over four appearances against the Twins, holding them to 1-for-11 (.091). Chris Colabello hit a seventh-inning double for the Twins’ only hit off Wagner in the second game of a doubleheader at Target Field on April 14, 2014. The next inning, Blue Jays pitchers combined to give up six runs on EIGHT walks and just one hit.
Happy Birthday, Bob Gebhard
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher and front office exec. Bob Gebhard, born in Lamberton, Minnesota in 1943. The Twins drafted Gebhard out of the University of Iowa in the 44th round of the very first amateur draft in 1965. That summer he went 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA for the St. Cloud Rox.
Gebhard pitched professionally for 11 years, including 30 relief appearances for the ’70-’71 Twins, and two innings with the ‘74 Expos. He was a player/coach with the Expos’ Triple-A club in ‘74 and ’75, Minor League Field Director and pitching coach from ’76-’81, part of the major league coaching staff in ’82, and Director of Minor League Operations through 1986.
Andy MacPhail brought Gebhard home to Minnesota in 1987, hiring him as Director of Major League Personnel. Here’s a fun remembrance MacPhail shared of Gebhard’s first season back in Minnesota: “Literally we had just won the world championship and Bob Gebhard turns to me and goes ‘Damn, Andy, we won this thing. We were just trying to get organized!’”
He assumed the title of Vice President of Player Personnel in ‘88. Following the 1991 World Series, Gebhard became General Manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies, who began play in 1993. He hired ’87 Twins World Series hero Don Baylor as manager, signed first baseman Andres Galarraga the day before the ’92 Expansion Draft, and pulled off a trade for slugger Dante Bichette immediately following the draft. He signed Larry Walker in the spring of ’95, and that year, just the team’s third in existence, the Rockies won the NL West. The following season the Rockies won the NL’s first-ever Wild Card spot. Gebhard resigned from the Rockies on August 20, 1999 amid speculation that he was about to be fired.
Gebhard served in the St. Louis Cardinals front office from 2000-2004, and as Vice President, Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Diamondbacks from 2005-2016. Gebhard received the Roland Hemond Award from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) in 2012 in recognition of his contributions to the community of professional baseball scouts.
Gebhard makes his home in Centennial, Colorado.
Happy Birthday, Michael Restovich
It’s the birthday of former major league outfielder Michael Restovich, born in Rochester, MN in 1979. Restovich was named Minnesota High School Baseball Player of the Year in 1997, his senior season at Rochester Mayo. That June he was selected by the Twins in the second round of the amateur draft. The Twins’ first-round draft choice that year was a Virginia high schooler named Michael Cuddyer.
Restovich hit .369 in 76 games between the Rookie League Elizabethton Twins and Class-A Fort Wayne Wizards in 1998. In 1999 he hit .312 with 19 HR and 107 RBI for the Class-A Quad City River Bandits. He made his major league debut on September 18, 2002.
Restovich’s first major league hit was a ninth-inning pinch-hit home run in a 14-4 Twins loss at Comiskey Park on September 21. Future-Twins closer Jon Rauch started the game and earned the victory for Chicago despite giving up lead-off home runs to David Ortiz and Corey Koskie in the second and fourth innings. Koskie hit a second lead-off homer in the sixth off of reliever Mike Porzio. Brad Radke had an uncharacteristically bad day, allowing six earned runs on nine hits in just three innings.
Restovich went on to play parts of six major league seasons with the Twins (’02-’04), Rockies (’05), Pirates (’05), Cubs (’06), and Nationals (’07). He made 297 plate appearances over 152 games, hitting .239 with 28 walks, six home runs, and 21 RBI.
January 4, 2002
Gardenhire Named Manager
The Twins announce former third base coach Ron Gardenhire as the 12th manager in team history, succeeding Tom Kelly, who, after the team’s first winning season in nine years, announced his retirement on October 12, 2001. TK was the longest tenured manager or head coach in all of professional sports at the time of his retirement.
The Twins won the AL Central in each of Gardy’s first three seasons, and in six of his first nine. They only advanced past the divisional round, however, in Gardy’s first season of 2002. After five runner-up finishes, he was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010. He managed the Twins for 13 seasons before being fired on September 29, 2014, having amassed 1,068 wins, just 72 shy of TK’s team record of 1,140.
After serving as Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach in 2017, Gardy will manage the dumb Detroit Tigers in 2018.
January 5, 1935
Birthdate of Earl Battey
It’s the birthdate of five-time All-Star, and three-time Gold Glove catcher Earl Battey, born in Los Angeles in 1935.
Battey saw limited playing time with the Chicago White Sox from 1955-’59. Then, on April 4, 1960, the White Sox traded Battey and Don Mincher to the Washington Senators for 1957 AL home run leader Roy Sievers. Battey broke out that season, winning his first of three consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and even garnering some AL MVP votes.
Battey scored the first walk-off run in Twins history on April 22, 1961, scoring on a Zoilo Versalles sac fly.
He retired after the ‘67 season having caught 831 games in a Twins uniform. That stood as the club record until Joe Mauer surpassed him on August 27, 2012.
In 1980 Battey enrolled at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, FL, graduating summa cum laude in just 2½ years. After graduation he became a high school teacher and baseball coach in Ocala, FL.
Earl Battey passed away on November 15, 2003. He was just 68 years old. He was inducted as the 13th member of the Twins Hall of Fame in 2004.
January 5, 2009
Pohlad Passes Away
Longtime Twins owner Carl Pohlad passes away at home in Edina. He was 93 years old.
Pohlad grew up dirt-poor in West Des Moines, Iowa. After high school he played football at Compton Junior College in southern California. The entertainer Bing Crosby saw Pohlad play and recruited him to his alma mater, Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. While in school, Pohlad earned a little extra money boxing in clubs along the West Coast. He dropped out of school his senior year to focus on his lucrative side job of selling repossessed cars.
Pohlad was drafted into the Army in 1942 and served as an infantryman man during World War II in France, Germany and Austria. He was wounded in battle and awarded two Bronze Stars, an Oak Leaf Cluster, and three Purple Hearts. After the war Pohlad partnered with his brother-in-law, taking control of Marquette Bank in Minneapolis in 1949, just three years out of the Army. Pohlad took sole control of the bank after his brother-in-law’s death several years later. He branched out from there, establishing a web of banking, bottling, real estate and other companies.
In 1984 the billionaire financier bought the Twins from original owner Calvin Griffith for a cool $38 million, almost certainly preventing the team from leaving Minnesota. Ever the shrewd businessman, Pohlad was a frugal owner, always looking to maximize value. Rather than spending big money on acquiring, or even retaining marquee talent, Pohlad emphasized building a team from the ground up through a farm system that is still regarded as one of the best in the game. His prudent approach paid dividends with World Series championships in 1987 and 1991.
You can say a lot about Carl Pohlad. Here’s one thing: Carl Pohlad, the son of a dirt-poor Slovak immigrant who grew up to be the second wealthiest man in Minnesota, never retired.
January 5, 2011
Blyleven Elected to Hall of Fame
On his 14th ballot, Twins all-time strikeout leader (2,035) Bert Blyleven is elected to the Hall of Fame with the support of 79.7% of voters. He was inducted on July 24 alongside Roberto Alomar and 27-year GM Pat Gillick.
The Twins selected the Dutch-born, SoCal-raised Blyleven out of high school in the third round of the ’69 draft. Bert made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 at age 19. He would pitch for 22 seasons, 11 in Minnesota (‘70-’76, ‘85-’88), amassing 149 wins in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat’s 190 (including one as a Senator). In addition to the ’87 Twins, Bert was a member of the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates. He was an All-Star in 1973 and ’85.
Bert pitched three one-hitters with the Twins, two in 1973 and another in 1974 (only one of those, incidentally, was a shutout). He pitched a no-hitter in his final game as a Texas Ranger on September 22, 1977. His 3,701 career strikeouts rank fifth in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton.
Blyleven was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on June 1, 2002, and his number 28 was retired on July 16, 2011.
January 6, 1923
Birthdate of Red Hardy
It’s the birth date of Minneapolis South High School graduate Red Hardy, born in Marmarth, ND in 1923. He began his professional career in 1942 with Eau Claire of the Class C Northern League before enlisting in the US Navy. After pilot training at Camp Croft in South Carolina, he saw active duty during World War II.
After receiving his discharge, Hardy enrolled at the University of St. Thomas for whom he pitched in the spring of ‘46, once losing a 13-inning complete game 3-2 to the University of Minnesota. After the college season, he resumed his pro career briefly with the Minneapolis Millers, and then the St. Cloud Rox, for whom he went 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA.
Hardy eventually made it to the majors in 1951, pitching 1 1/3 innings over two appearances with the New York Giants. He passed away on August 15, 2003 at age 80.
For a more thorough picture, read Terry Bohn’s SABR BioProject article on Red Hardy.
January 6, 2004
Molitor Elected to Hall of Fame
1974 Cretin High School grad and Golden Gophers all-time great Paul Molitor is elected to the Hall of Fame alongside legendary closer Dennis Eckersley, both on their first ballots. Molitor appeared on 85.2% of ballots, meaning a staggering 75 members of the BBWAA were complete ignoramuses.
The two-time All-American Molitor was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the third overall pick in the 1977 draft behind Harold Baines and Bill Gullickson, who, incidentally, was born in Marshall, MN, but attended high school in Joliet, IL. In 1978 Molitor was runner-up to Detroit’s Lou Whitaker for American League Rookie of the Year.
Molitor set a World Series record with five hits in Game 1 of the ‘82 Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won in seven games. The Cards’ Albert Pujols tied that record, going 5-for-6 with six RBI, three home runs, and four runs scored in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series.
Molitor stole second, third, and home consecutively in the first inning vs. Oakland on July 26, 1987. Forty-one players have pulled that off a total of 51 times in MLB history, 12 since 1940. The feat was accomplished four times in the ’80s, twice in the ’90s, once in the ’00s, and, most recently, by Dee Gordon in 2011 and Wil Myers in 2017. The Twins’ Rod Carew did so on May 18, 1969.
Molitor hit for the cycle vs. the Twins at the Metrodome on May 15, 1991, tripling on Kevin Tapani’s first pitch of the game, and homering off Tapani to complete the cycle. Despite the 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, the Twins would salvage their ‘91 season.
In total he played 15 seasons for Milwaukee before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays following the ‘92 season. In ‘93, at age 37, Molitor had his first 100-RBI season, collecting 111. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1993 World Series, hitting .500 (12-for-24) with two home runs and 10 runs scored, tying the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977.
Molitor signed with the Twins for the 1996 season, when, at age 39, he hit .341, drove in 113 runs, and led the league with a career-high 225 hits. He tied Rod Carew and Tim Teufel’s team record with five runs scored on April 24, 1996 (later matched by Luis Rivas on June 4, 2002). Molitor tripled for his 3,000th hit on September 16, 1996, exactly three years to the date after 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfieldcollected his 3,000th off Molitor’s Hall of Fame classmate Dennis Eckersley.
The 40-year-old DH went 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double, three RBI, and three runs scored on July 25, 1997. On September 3-4, now 41 years old, he homered in back-to-back games.
He stole his 500th base on August 8, 1998, joining Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Lou Brock, and Rickey Henderson in the 3,000 Hit/500 Stolen Base Club. Ichiro joined the club in 2016. Molly retired following the ‘98 season.
Molitor was introduced as the 13th manager in Twins history on November 4, 2014. On November 14, 2017, just one year removed from the worst season in club history, Molitor became just the second Hall of Fame player to be named Manager of the Year. Baltimore’s Frank Robinson received the award in 1989.
Molitor was the second of three St. Paul natives elected to the Hall of Fame. 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield was inducted in 2001 alongside Kirby Puckett. 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris will be inducted this coming July.
Fun Fact: Paul Molitor went 33-for-103 (.320) vs. Jack Morris, including a home run on September 20, 1987.
January 7, 1982
Twins Acquire Mario Look-Alike
The Twins trade Class-A prospects Scotti Madison and Paul Voigt to the Dodgers for center fielder Bobby Mitchell and pitcher Bobby Castillo, owner of one of the all-time Top 5 greatest mustaches in Twins history. Castillo won 13 games for the Twins in 1982. That would have led the team in six of the past ten seasons (2008, ’11-’13, and ’15-’16).
Who do you think had the best (or worst) mustache in Twins history?
January 8, 1991
Carew Elected to Hall of Fame
Seven-time AL Batting Champ Rod Carew becomes the 21st first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected alongside Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins. Remarkably, a staggering 42 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America did not vote for Carew. The Veterans Committee elected former second baseman Tony Lazzeri and owner/promoter Bill Veeck, father of Mike Veeck, who in 1993 founded the current incarnation of the St. Paul Saints with Bill Murray and lawyer Marv Goldklang.
Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone on October 1, 1945. When he was 14 his family immigrated to New York, where he would be discovered by a Twins scout playing semi-pro ball in the Bronx rather than high school ball. The Twins signed Carew in 1964 at age 18, and he made the major league club in 1967 at age 21.
Carew had the first five-hit game in Twins history on May 8, 1967, going 5-for-5 with a double.
He made the AL All-Star team his rookie season, beginning a string of 18-consecutive All-Star selections. He was an All-Star every year of his career but the last, 1985.
He was named the American League Rookie of the Year, receiving 19 of 20 first-place votes. There have been five AL Rookies of the Year in Twins History: Tony Oliva in 1964, Carew in ‘67, John Castino (co-winner) in 1979, Chuck Knoblauch in 1991, and Marty Cordova in 1995. Bob Allison won the award as a member of the 1959 Washington Senators.
Carew was a terror on the basepaths. On May 18, 1969 he stole second, third, and home consecutively off the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich. César Tovar led off the bottom of third with a single. Then, with Carew at the plate, Tovar was balked to second and stole third. Perhaps distracted by Tovar, Lolich walked Carew. Then, with Harmon Killebrew at the plate, the Twins executed a double steal, with Carew swiping second as Tovar stole home. With Killebrew still at bat, Carew stole third and home to tie the game. Killebrew ultimately struck out, and the Twins went on to lose the game 8-2.
Carew is one of just 12 players since 1940 to achieve this feat. Paul Molitor pulled it off on July 26, 1987.
Carew stole home 17 times in his career. The single-season record is eight, set by Ty Cobb in 1912. Carew stole home for the seventh time of the season on July 16, 1969. American League pitchers finally got wise to his game, however, and he did not pull it off again the rest of the season. He did, however, add a tenth-inning walk-off steal of home on September 1, 1970. Current Twins manager Paul Molitor, incidentally, stole home 10 times in his career. Dan Gladden did it three times.
Carew hit for the first of 10 cycles in Twins history on May 20, 1970. The others are César Tovar (1972), Larry Hisle (‘76), Lyman Bostock (‘76), Mike Cubbage (‘78), Gary Ward (‘80), Kirby Puckett (‘86), Carlos Gómez (‘08), Jason Kubel (‘09) and Michael Cuddyer (‘09).
On September 9, 1976 Carew hit a pinch-hit grand slam. It was just his seventh home run of the season, but his third grand slam, tying Bob Allison’s single-season team record, set in 1961. Kent Hrbek later hit three grand slams in 1985, Puckett in ‘92, and Torii Hunter in 2007.
1977 was a magical season for Carew. On June 26 (Rod Carew Jersey Day, incidentally), he went 4-for-5 to raise his average to .403. He scored a team record five runs in the game, while Glenn Adams collected a team record eight RBI. Carew’s record of five runs would be matched by Tim Teufel in 1983, Molitor in ‘96, and Luis Rivas in 2002. Adams’ record eight RBI were matched by Randy Bush in 1989.
Carew led the majors with 239 hits and a .388 AVG in 1977, and was named American League MVP. He was the third of five Twins to receive the award (Versalles ‘65, Killebrew ‘69, Morneau ‘06, Mauer ‘09).
On February 3, 1979 the Twins traded Rod Carew to the Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens and Paul Hartzell. It had become increasingly clear that team owner Calvin Griffith had no intention of ponying up for the future Hall of Famer. And even if Griffith could have afforded him, it was unlikely that Carew would have played for Griffith again after the owner’s Lion’s Club dinner remarks in Waseca on September 28.
On August 4, 1989, Carew connected for his 3,000th hit off Twins lefty Frank Viola. He was the 16th member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and the first born outside of the United States mainland (Roberto Clemente was born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico).
1985 was Carew’s final season. After failing to receive a suitable contract offer for the ‘86 season, he officially announced his retirement on June 2 with a career AVG of .328. Owners had colluded against him and other free agents, essentially agreeing not to offer other teams’ free agents contracts, thereby helping each other retain their own talent while keeping salaries low. In 1995 Carew was awarded $782,035.71 in damages for his lost wages.
The Twins retired Rod Carew’s number 29 on July 19, 1987. The Angels had retired his number in ‘86.
He was inducted as a charter member of the Twins Hall of Fame along with Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Calvin Griffith on August 12, 2000.
January 10, 1984
Killebrew Elected to Hall of Fame
In his fourth damn year of eligibility the Baseball Writers’ Association of America finally elects Harmon Killebrew to the Hall of Fame, along with Luis Aparicio (sixth ballot), and 1965 World Series nemesis Don Drysdale (10th ballot). Veterans Committee selections Rick Ferrell and Pee Wee Reese would also be inducted with the class of ’84.
The Senators signed the 17-year-old Idahoan in 1954 as a so-called “Bonus Baby,” which required them to keep the kid on the major league roster his first two seasons. He got into just 47 games during those two years, making 104 plate appearances. He did hit the first four of his 573 career home runs in 1955. He then spent the majority of the next three seasons in the minors. Washington’s patience would pay huge dividends. In 1959, his first season as a full-timer, Killebrew tied for the league lead with 42 home runs and drove in 105 runs.
Killebrew collected the first regular season hit in Twins history leading off the fourth with a single off Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day 1961. Bob Allison hit the Twins’ first home run later in that game, but Killebrew would have the distinction of hitting the first inside-the-park home run in Twins history vs. the White Sox at Met Stadium on July 4th. Later in the game, trailing the White Sox by two with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Julio Becquer hit a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam.
Killebrew was known throughout his career not just for the sheer quantity, but also the mammoth quality of his home runs. Facing future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on August 3, 1962, Killebrew hit a monster home run over the roof and out of Tiger Stadium. Killer was the first of four to accomplish this feat of strength, the others being Frank Howard, Mark McGwire, and Cecil Fielder. On June 3, 1967 he hit perhaps his most famous homer, a prodigious blast at Met stadium eventually estimated by a physics professor at 522 feet.
Killebrew was the 1969 American League Most Valuable Player after leading the majors with 49 home runs and 140 RBI. Not surprisingly those are both Twins single-season records. He also hit 49 in ‘64.
Killebrew set another team record by homering in five consecutive games on two separate occasions during the Twins’ 1970 Division Championship season. Rookie Marty Cordova tied that record in just his 23rd major league game on May 20, 1995. Brian Dozier homered in five straight in 2016, including a three-home run game on September 5. Killebrew hit 41 homers during that 1970 season. It would be the Twins’ last 40-home run season until Dozier hit 42 in 2016, forty-frickin’-six years later. So much for the Steroid Era in Minnesota.
Harmon hit his 500th and 501st home runs on August 10, 1971. All told, he would hit 573, fifth-most in baseball history at the time of his retirement, behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. He is still 12th all-time. 38-year-old Adrian Beltre, and 34-year-old Miguel Cabrera are sitting on 462.
After he refused Calvin Griffith’s contract offer, the Twins released Killebrew on January 16, 1975. To this day nobody has played more games in a Twins uniform. The Kansas City Royals quickly signed the Killer on January 24. The Twins officially retired his #3 before a game vs. KC on May 4, 1975. As long as so many fans were there to honor him anyway, Harmon went ahead and homered in the first inning. On September 18, he hit his 573rd and final home run off the Minnesota Twins’ Eddie Bane.
Harmon Killebrew passed away on May 17, 2011 after a brief battle with esophageal cancer. He was just 74 years old. To put a silver lining around an otherwise sucky situation, the Twins were in town to play the Diamondbacks, and able to attend Harmon’s funeral on May 20. Bert Blyleven spoke at the service, and Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Frank Quilici, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Ron Gardenhire, and Paul Molitor served as pallbearers. The Twins held a public memorial at Target Field six days later. In addition to an All-Star lineup of Twins past and present, the event was attended by Commissioner Selig and Hank Aaron.
January 11, 1973
AL Adopts DH
In an effort spearheaded by Oakland Athletics’ owner Charlie Finley, American League owners vote 8-4 in favor of adopting the designated hitter. Tony Oliva would hit the first regular season home run by a DH off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter on Opening Day (April 6, 1973).
January 12, 1898
Birthdate of Rip Wade
It’s the birthdate of 1916 Denfeld High School grad Richard “Rip” Wade, born in Duluth in 1898 (120 years ago). Wade played outfield in 19 games, and pinch-hit in 14 more for the 1923 Washington Senators, going 16-for-69 (.232), with 14 RBI and eight runs scored.
Duluth’s Wade Stadium is named after Rip’s dad, Frank.
January 12, 2013
Ryan Receives Genovese Award
Twins GM Terry Ryan receives the George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation’s 10th annual “In The Spirit of the Game” Sports and Entertainment Spectacular in Los Angeles. The Foundation created the award in honor of the legendary SoCal scout in 2003.
Ryan’s relationship with the Twins began in 1972 when they drafted the Janesville, WI native in the 35th round. The lefty went 10-0 with a 1.70 ERA at Class A Wisconsin Rapids in ‘73. After an arm injury, however, he struggled at Double-A Orlando until being released in June 1976.
Ryan joined the Mets as a scouting supervisor in 1980. In 1986 he returned to the Twins organization as scouting director. He ascended to vice president of player personnel in 1991, and became GM following Andy MacPhail’s departure to the Chicago Cubs after the ‘94 season. Ryan served as GM for 13 years before resigning on October 1, 2007. He remained with the Twins as an adviser while Bill Smith took over as GM. After Smith’s firing following the 2011 season, Ryan returned to his former post. He was fired on July 18, 2016, midway through the worst season in franchise history.
Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail hired Terry Ryan as a special assignment scout on November 30, 2016.
Happy 64th Birthday, Steve Comer
It’s the birthday of 1972 Minnetonka grad, Golden Gophers all-time great, and former major league pitcher Steve Comer.
Comer was a four-year starter at the University of Minnesota, and still holds school records with 30 wins and 25 complete games. He went on to pitch parts of seven major league seasons with the Rangers (‘78-’82), Phillies (‘83), and Cleveland (‘84), compiling a record of 44-37 with 13 saves, 4.13 ERA, and a 1.445 WHIP in 176 games (83 starts). He averaged 3.1 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.
January 15, 2014
West Central HOF Inaugural Class Announced
The Kandiyohi County Historical Society and Willmar Rails announce the seven-member inaugural class of the West Central Baseball Hall of Fame, headlined by Mike Kingery and Blix Donnelly.
Also included was St. Paul Central grad Howie Schultz, who played for the Willmar Rails from 1950-’54 following a six-year major league career. Schultz played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1943 until being traded to the Phillies early in the ‘47 season after it became abundantly clear that a young man named Jackie Robinson was more than capable of holding down the position.
Fun Fact: The 6’6” Schultz was rejected for military service during World War II because he was too tall.
Mike Kingery graduated from Atwater High School in 1979, and was signed by the Royals that summer. He made his major league debut seven years later on July 7, 1986 and went on to play 819 major league games over parts of 10 seasons with Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Colorado, and Pittsburgh. A career .268 hitter, Kingery’s best year by far was the strike-shortened ‘94 season when, at age 33, he hit .349 over 105 games with the Rockies.
Kingery hit .290 in 24 games vs. the Minnesota Twins, including a home run off Les Straker on July 29, 1987. That same season he hit two home runs off 1973 Highland Park High School graduate Jack Morris.
Sylvester “Blix” Donnelly graduated from Olivia High School in 1932. He spent the next two years working and playing townball. He caught a break in ‘34, receiving an invitation to a three-day baseball school at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis, and began his pro career the following season in Superior, WI. He was traded to Duluth for the ‘36 season where he went 11-19 with 232 strikeouts in 214 innings.
Donnelly’s minor league exploits, including a 19-K game and three no-hitters, are thoroughly laid out in Gregg Omoth’s essay (https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0e703c1d) in the Stew Thornley-edited Minnesotans in Baseball (available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Minnesotans-Baseball-Stew-Thornley/dp/1932472800). Perhaps his best minor league season was 1941 when he went 28-6 with Class C Springfield, setting a Western Association record with 304 strikeouts.
After nine minor league seasons, Donnelly made the Cardinals out of Spring Training in 1944. He came up big for the Cards in an all-St. Louis World Series, pitching perfect eighth and ninth innings in Game 1, and holding the Browns scoreless while striking out seven in the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings of Game 2 to earn the win. The Cardinals won the Series in six games. Over 1,000 people crammed into the Olivia Armory to honor the World Series hero on October 24, 1944 at an event broadcast by WCCO’s Halsey Hall and Cedric Adams.
Donnelly went on to pitch eight seasons in the majors, including 14 appearances with the 1950 National League Champion Phillies. He passed away in 1976 at age 62. Cancer sucks.
January 16, 1899
Birthdate of Showboat Fisher
It’s the birthday of Albany (MN) High School alumnus and 15-year pro ballplayer George “Showboat” Fisher, born in Wesley, IA (maybe) in 1899. The Fishers moved to a farm near St. Anna, MN when George was just a few months old.
tAfter gaining notoriety with area townball teams, Fisher began a 15-year professional career with the Minneapolis Millers in 1919. He made it to the majors with the Senators in 1923, getting into 18 games over two seasons. He didn’t make it back to the big leagues until 1930, when he had a career-year, hitting .374 with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. Despite the breakout season, he was back in the minors the following year. He made one more trip to the show, getting into 18 games (one start) with the 1932 St. Louis Browns.
Stew Thornley biographed Showboat Fisher for the 2009 book Minnesotans in Baseball. http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/863b44ae His essay includes an anecdote about Fisher being beaned by Hartford pitcher Lou Gehrig in 1932.
Fisher opened a tavern on the shore of Middle Spunk Lake in Avon, MN in 1932. Garrison Keillor was a co-owner of Fisher’s Club from 2005-2012. I’ve never been there, but I’ve never met a fried walleye I didn’t like.
January 16, 1975
Twins Release Killebrew
Unable to agree to terms on a new contract, the Twins release 38-year-old slugger Harmon Killebrew. To this day nobody has played more games in a Twins uniform. The Kansas City Royals quickly signed the Killer eight days later. The Twins officially retired his #3 while the Royals were in town on May 4, 1975. Harmon homered in the first inning of that game. On September 18, he hit his 573rd and final home run off the Twins’ Eddie Bane.
His 573 homer ranked fifth-most in baseball history at the time of his retirement, behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. He hit 84 with the Washington Senators, 475 in a Twins uniform, and 14 in his only season as a Kansas City Royal.
Killebrew was elected to the Hall of Fame on January 10, 1984. He was the first of eight former Twins players elected. Can you name the other seven?
January 16, 1986
Twins Acquire Billy Beane
The Twins trade career minor leaguer Pat Crosby and rising star Tim Teufel to the Mets for Joe Klink, Bill Latham, and 1980 first-round draft pick Billy Beane.
Beane played in 80 games (47 starts) for the Twins in ‘86, going 39-for-183 (.213), with three home runs and 15 RBI. He was a September call-up in 1987, getting into 12 games, all but two of which he entered in the seventh inning or later. Beane was traded to Detroit at the end of Spring Training 1988 for pitcher Balvino Galvez, who never made it back to the majors.
Joe Klink made his major league debut with the Twins on April 9, 1987, getting into 12 games before being sent down to Double-A Orlando. Junk Wax Era card collectors will be most familiar with Klink as a member of the ‘90–’91 Athletics.
Tim Teufel, who finished fourth in ‘84 AL Rookie of the Year balloting, one place behind teammate Kirby Puckett, went on to play nine more seasons with the Mets and Padres. He went 4-for-9 with a home run in the 1986 World Series in which the Mets beat Buckner’s Boston Red Sox in seven games.
January 16, 2011
Winfield & Puckett Elected to Hall of Fame
Former Twins Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield are elected to the Hall of Fame, both on their first ballot. Winfield appeared on 84.47% of ballots (435 of 512). Puckett appeared on 82.14% of ballots (423).
It was the fourth time that former teammates were elected by the writers in the same year. The previous occurrences were Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane (1947), Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford (1974), and Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez (2000). Subsequent occurrences are Gary Carter and Eddie Murray (2002), Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux (2014), and Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson (2015). Former teammates Jack Morris and Alan Trammell will be inducted together with the class of 2018, but they were elected by the Veterans Committee, not the writers.
Winfield was the first of three Hall of Famers to graduate from St. Paul high schools over a six year span. Each played briefly for the Twins. Winfield graduated from St. Paul Central in 1969, Jack Morris from Highland Park in 1973, and Paul Molitor from Cretin in ‘74. Winfield and Molitor both played at the University of Minnesota.
Eight former Twins players have been elected to the Hall of Fame, five on their first ballot: Rod Carew (1991), Steve Carlton (1994), Winfield and Puckett (2001), and Paul Molitor (2004). Harmon Killebrew was elected his fourth ballot in 1984, Bert Blyleven on his 14th ballot in 2011, and Jack Morris by the Veterans Committee this year.
Kirby Puckett is the only Hall of Famer to play his entire career with the Twins. Carew, Killebrew, and Blyleven played more games with the Twins than any other team.
Happy Birthday, T.J. Bohn
It’s the birthday of 1998 St. Louis Park graduate and former major league outfielder T.J. Bohn, born in St. Louis Park in 1980.
After stints at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Iowa State, and Bellevue University in Nebraska, Bohn was taken by the Mariners in the 30th round of 2002 draft. He made his major league debut with the Mariners at age 26 on August 22, 2006. He got into 18 games with the Mariners that season, going 2-for-14 (.143) with two walks. .
Two years later he made it back to the majors with the Phillies, getting into 14 games early in ‘08 season, mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement. He made only five plate appearances, but his two hits gave him a .400 AVG.
T.J. Bohn joined the Macalester College (St. Paul) baseball coaching staff in 2014.
Happy Birthday, Camilo Pascual
It’s the birthday of Twins all-time great Camilo Pascual, born in Havana in 1934. Pascual’s curveball is legendary. Ted Williams once said he had the “most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years.”
Pascual came up with the Senators in 1954. He led the majors in shutouts in 1959, ‘61, and ‘62. He led the AL in complete games in 1959, ‘62, and ‘63, and in strikeouts each season from 1961-’63. Pascual’s teammate and 1954 Sebeka High School grad Dick Stigman, incidentally, was third in the AL in complete games and strikeouts in ‘63.
Pascual was sensational in the Twins’ first four seasons in Minnesota. He pitched back-to-back shutouts three separate times during the Twins’ inaugural 1961 season, and once again in ‘62. On July 19, 1961 he struck out 15 Angels in a five-hit shutout at L.A.’s Wrigley Field.
Pascual pitched a three-hit shutout on September 30, 1962 (Game 163) to become the first 20-game winner in Twins history. He won 21 games in 1963.
On April 27, 1965 he hit the only grand slam by a pitcher in Twins history. He had also hit a grand slam on August 14, 1960, the Senators’ last season in Washington.
The Twins traded Pascual to the new Senators for second baseman Bernie Allen on December 3, 1966. He would stick around the big leagues for five more seasons with the Senators, Reds, Dodgers, and Cleveland, pitching his last game on May 5, 1971 at age 37.
Following his playing career, Pascual became a scout. Perhaps his most prominent signing was Jose Canseco. Working for the Dodgers in 1996, he signed new Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
Camilo Pascual was inducted as the 24th member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on July 14, 2012.
Camilo’s brother Carlos pitched two games for the Washington Senators in 1950.
January 21, 1914
Birthdate of Blix Donnelly
It’s the birthdate of 1932 Olivia High School graduate and 1944 World Series hero Sylvester “Blix” Donnelly. He spent his first two years out of high school working and playing townball. He caught a break in 1934, receiving an invitation to a three-day baseball school at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis, and began his pro career the following season in Superior, WI. He was traded to Duluth for the ‘36 season where he went 11-19 with 232 strikeouts in 214 innings.
Donnelly’s minor league exploits, including a 19-K game and three no-hitters, are thoroughly laid out in Gregg Omoth’s essay (https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0e703c1d) in the Stew Thornley-edited Minnesotans in Baseball (available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Minnesotans-Baseball-Stew-Thornley/dp/1932472800). Perhaps his best minor league season was 1941 when he went 28-6 with Class C Springfield, setting a Western Association record with 304 strikeouts. He also led the league in innings pitched, complete games, and wins despite being traded late in the season to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he pitched another three games.
After nine minor league seasons, Donnelly made the Cardinals out of Spring Training in 1944. He came up big for the Cards in an all-St. Louis World Series, pitching perfect eighth and ninth innings in Game 1, and holding the Browns scoreless while striking out seven in the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings of Game 2 to earn the win. The Cardinals won the Series in six games. Over 1,000 people crammed into the Olivia Armory to honor the World Series hero on October 24, 1944 at an event broadcast by WCCO’s Halsey Hall and Cedric Adams.
Donnelly went on to pitch eight seasons in the majors, including 14 appearances with the 1950 National League Champion Phillies. He passed away in 1976 at age 62.
January 21, 1922
Birthdate of Sam Mele
It’s the birthdate of Sam Mele, born in Astoria, NY in 1922. Mele played 10 major league seasons, including 1949–’52 with Calvin Griffith’s Washington Senators. In 1961, the Twins’ first season, Griffith made Mele the second manager in team history, succeeding Cookie Lavagetto. Mele led the Twins to the 1965 World Series, which they lost in a thrilling seven-game series vs. Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Overall the team went 524-436 under Mele before he was succeeded by Cal Ermer during the 1967 season.
Mele’s year of birth was listed as 1923 during his playing days, a trick that was suggested by his major league uncles Tony and Al Cuccinello. These days we associate fibbing about one’s age with Dominican players like Roberto Hernández (Fausto Carmona). Miguel Sanó’s true age was a huge source of controversy prior to the Twins signing him, as documented in Ballplayer: Pelotero (2011). But it’s hardly a new trick. Other than Sam Mele, Hall of Famers Rube Marquard, Phil Rizzuto, and Pee Wee Reese also lied about their age, as did 3x All-Star Hal McRae, who finally came clean in 1987 at age 41 (not 40).
Sam Mele passed away May 1, 2017. He was 95 years old.
Happy Birthday, Dick Stigman
It’s the birthday of 1954 Sebeka High School graduate and seven-year major leaguer Dick Stigman, born in Nimrod, MN in 1936.
Stigman signed with Cleveland out of high school. He was an All-Star during his 1960 rookie season. On April 2, 1962, the Twins acquired Stigman from Cleveland for Pedro Ramos in the first major trade in team history.
Pedro Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a complete-game three-hit shutout vs. Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961.
Stigman won 27 games in his first two seasons with the Twins, including a three-hit shutout on April 18, 1963. His 15 complete games and 193 strikeouts that year were third in the AL. His teammate Camilo Pascual led the league in both categories. Stigman’s production declined by 1965, and he did not pitch in the seven-game World Series vs. Los Angeles.
The Twins traded Stigman to the Red Sox on April 6, 1966. It would be his final major league season.
Stigman spoke at the Halsey Hall SABR Fall Chapter Meeting on November 4, 2017. The Spring Chapter Meeting is scheduled for April 21 in Minneapolis.
January 24, 1881
Birthdate of Hank Gehring
It’s the birthdate of former professional spitballer Hank Gehring, born in St. Paul in 1881. His parents had immigrated from Switzerland with six children just a few years earlier. Hank was the second of three Gehring kids born in St. Paul. The family lived in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.
Hank played 11 seasons of professional baseball. The spitball specialist was a pretty good hitter, too, often playing the outfield on days he wasnt pitching, and other times being used a pinch-hitter.
He got his start in pro ball with the St. Paul Saints in 1901. Pitching for the Duluth White Sox, he no-hit the Superior Longshoremen on June 21, 1904. Playing for the Wichita Jobbers in 1905, he led the Class C Western Association with 32 wins, 10 shutouts, and 264 strikeouts. At the plate he led the league with nine home runs. He played with the Minneapolis Millers in 1906, and began the 1907 season with the Des Moines champs before being called up to the Washington Senators, where the 26-year-old pitcher made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter on July 16. He pitched in 15 games for the Senators that season. He was there to witness the major league debut of a 19-year-old kid named Walter Johnson, who Senators scouts had discovered pitching in the semipro Southern Idaho League.
Gehrings numbers were respectable during his first big league season, but what really impressed people was his veteran-like composure. He earned a spot on the 1908 team, but after pitching just five innings over three games, he returned home to the St. Paul Saints where he remained through 1911.
Gehrig was set to pitch for the Kansas City Blues in 1912, but tragically died of kidney failure (uremia) on April 18. He was just 31 years old. Though his death was strongly felt throughout the midwest, newspaper coverage was scant on account of the Titanic having sunk in the North Atlantic just three days earlier. He was eulogized in Sporting Life, and the St. Paul Saints and Kansas City Blues held a benefit game on May 27, donating the entire Lexington Park gate proceeds to Gehrings widow and eight-year-old daughter. The game drew the largest weekday crowd of the season.
Gehring is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in St. Paul.
January 24, 1975
Royals Sign Killebrew
The Kansas City Royals sign free agent slugger Harmon Killebrew, eight days after he was released by Minnesota. .
The Twins retired Harmon’s #3 when the Royals were in town on May 4, 1975. Harmon homered in the first inning of that game. On September 18 he took the Twins’ Eddie Bane deep for his 573rd and final career home run, fifth-most in major league history at the time. He hit 14 in a Royals uniform.
After four ballots, Killebrew was finally elected to the Hall of Fame on January 10, 1984. He wears a Twins cap on his plaque in Cooperstown.
Happy Birthday, Kerry Taylor
It’s the birthday of 1989 Roseau grad Kerry Taylor, born in Bemidji, MN in 1971. The Twins signed Taylor as a free agent out of high school. He was taken by San Diego in the 1992 Rule 5 Draft, and made his major league debut with the Padres on April 13, 1993 at age 22. He pitched 68 1/3 innings over 36 games that season, including seven starts, compiling an 0-5 record, 6.45 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and averaging 5.9 strikeouts and 6.5 walks per nine innings. He made one start in the middle of the ‘94 season, giving up four runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. At the plate, he went 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts.
Taylor continued to pitch in the Padres organization through the 1997 season, in the Tigers organization in ‘98, for independent Atlantic City in ‘99, and in the Blue Jays organization in 2000. He did manage to connect for seven hits over three seasons with Triple-A Las Vegas.
These days Taylor is a regional sales manager at Ziegler Caterpillar in Fergus Falls.
January 25, 1991
Twins Sign Pagliarulo
In a move that manager Tom Kelly had lobbied hard for, the Twins sign free agent third baseman Mike Pagliarulo. The signing was made possible by Gary Gaetti opting out of his contract on November 7, 1990. Gaetti’s production was on the decline, hitting .259 in 1989, and .229 in 1990. Gaetti stuck around the majors, however, hitting 35 home runs with Kansas City in 1995, and playing his final game in 2000 at age 41.
Pagliarulo started 112 games at third base for the ‘91 Twins, with Scott Leius starting most of the rest. Leius played in 109 regular season games total, entering many as a late-inning defensive replacement for Pagliarulo. Pags homered in the ‘91 ALCS, while Leius homered in the World Series.
January 25, 2013
Guardado and Mee Elected to Twins Hall of Fame
The Twins announce that “Everyday” Eddie Guardado and longtime public relations man Tom Mee have been elected to the team Hall of Fame.
Guardado pitched for the Twins from 1993-2003, and briefly in 2008 after being re-acquired from Texas in exchange for Mounds View grad and current St. Paul Saints pitcher Mark Hamburger. Guardado pitched in 648 games in a Twins uniform. That’s the most in team history, and it’s not even close. Rick Aguilera is next on the list, 158 games back. Guardado tied for the major league lead with 83 appearances in 1996. He led the American League with 45 saves in 2002.
Calvin Griffith hired St. Paul Saints PR man Tom Mee in 1960, before the team had even moved to Minnesota. Mee served as the Twins’ director of media relations for 30 years, retiring from that post on May 31, 1991, and succeeding current Star Tribune digital sports editor Howard Sinker as the Twins’ official scorer. Baseball historian Stew Thornley is the current official scorer.
January 26, 2012
Dave St. Peter announces that the Twins will retire Tom Kelly’s number 10.
January 27, 2012
Pascual Elected to Team Hall of Fame
Legendary Cuban pitcher Camilo Pascual is elected as the 24th member of the Twins Hall of Fame.
Pascual came up with the Washington Senators in 1954. He was sensational in the Twins’ first few seasons in Minnesota, leading the majors in shutouts in 1961 and ‘62, and leading the American League in complete games in 1962 and ‘63, and in strikeouts from 1961 to ‘63.
Pascual pitched back-to-back shutouts three separate times during the Twins’ inaugural 1961 season, and once again in 1962. Also in 1962, he became the first 20-game winner in Twins history. He won 21 games in 1963.
In 1965 he hit the only grand slam by a pitcher in Twins history. He had also hit a grand slam during the Senators’ final season in Washington.
Pascual was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame during a ceremony on July 14, 2012.
January 27, 2017
MacPhail and Cuddyer Elected to Twins Hall of Fame
Andy MacPhail and Michael Cuddyer are elected as the 29th and 30th members of the Twins Hall of Fame.
MacPhail began his career as a baseball executive in the Cubs organization in 1976. The Twins hired his as vice president of player development in 1984, and promoted him to general manager in 1985. He led the Twins to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, and was named Executive of the Year by the Sporting News in 1991. Following the strike-shortened 1994 season, MacPhail became president and CEO of the Chicago Cubs, with whom he remained for 12 seasons. He succeeded Hall of Famer Pat Gillick as Phillies president following the 2015 season.
Andy’s dad Lee was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. He grandpa Larry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
The Twins drafted Michael Cuddyer out of high school with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 1997 draft. He made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2001.
Cuddyer was the tenth and most recent Twin to hit for the cycle, doing so on May 22, 2009. On August 23, 2009 he became the only player in Twins history to homer twice in the same inning.
Michael Cuddyer was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on August 19, 2009. Andy MacPhail was inducted on August 20.
Happy Birthday, Gary Mielke
It’s the birthday of former Rangers reliever Gary Mielke, born in St. James, MN in 1963. The sidearmer made three appearances with the Rangers in 1987, and another 76 between 1989 and ‘90.
David Greisen contributed a thorough entry on Mielke to the SABR BioProject (click here). I’ll paraphrase.
Gary went to school in St. James through eighth grade, after which the Mielkes moved to North Mankato, and Gary enrolled in Mankato West High School. He earned three letters in baseball at West, and was All-State his senior season (1981). He was also a starting forward on the basketball team his junior and senior seasons.
Despite his success in high school, he received zero scholarship offers. He wound up attending local Division II Mankato State, and even there he didn’t make varsity until the middle of his sophomore season (1983).
Greisen’s SABR BioProject entry includes a badass anecdote from Mielke’s junior season. He was hit by a liner in Grand Forks, breaking his nose and fracturing his cheekbone. Nonetheless, he made his next scheduled start five days later vs. the rival Gophers, earning a suspenseful complete-game 3-2 win.
He was sensational his senior season, not allowing a single run in North Central Conference play, and putting together a 27-inning scoreless streak overall.
The Rangers selected Mielke in the 26th round of the 1985 draft. He made his major league debut on August 19, 1987 at age 24, starting the top of the seventh with the Royals beating the Rangers 10-6 in Texas. The first batter he faced, Frank White, homered. Mielke went on to induce groundouts from the next four Royals hitters.
Three of Mielke’s favorite major league memories are being on hand for Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout in 1989, and his sixth no-hitter and 300th win in 1990. Mielke was such a Ryan fan, in fact, that his son, born three days after Gary’s first major league win, is named Tyler Nolan Mielke. The Mielkes later had a daughter, Chelsea.
Gary threw his final major league pitch on September 30, 1990, inducing an inning-ending double play from Mark McGwire.
Gary Mielke still lives in North Mankato. He has even done some umpiring there over the years. He was inducted into the Minnesota State Mavericks Hall of Fame in 1999.
January 28, 1985
Met Stadium Demolished
Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Twins and Vikings from 1961 to 1981, is demolished. The stadium originally opened in 1956 as the home of the Minneapolis Millers. The final game at Met Stadium was played on December 20, 1981, a 10-6 Vikings loss vs. Kansas City. The gametime temperature was 10 degrees with a -8 windchill.
Twins official scorer and prolific baseball historian Stew Thornley wrote about Met Stadium for the 2015 book A Pennant for the Twin Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins. The book is available on Amazon, but you can read Thornley’s article on the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) website (here).
January 29, 2016
Hunter and Gordon Elected to Twins Hall of Fame
Twins President Dave St. Peter announces that Torii Hunter and John Gordon will be the 27th and 28th members of the Twins Hall of Fame.
Gordon spent 25 years in the Twins radio broadcast booth, originally joining Herb Carneal in 1987, and retiring at the end of the 2011 season.
Torii Hunter spent 12 of his 19 major league seasons with the Twins, originally coming up in August 1997 at age 22. While in a Twins uniform Hunter won seven of his nine career Gold Gloves, made two of his five All-Star appearances, and hit 214 of his 353 home runs (sixth-most in Twins history). Hunter’s three grand slams in 2007 tied the team’s single-season record (Bob Allison ’61, Rod Carew ’76, Kent Hrbek ’85, Kirby Puckett ’92). Hrbek and Hunter, incidentally, both hit their third on August 15. Don Mattingly set the MLB record with six grand slams in 1987.
Please enjoy John Gordon’s iconic call of Kirby Puckett’s 10th-inning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dig7fkSg6EY
Happy Birthday, Caleb Thielbar
It’s the birthday of 2005 Randolph High School graduate and former Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar, born in 1987. Both of Caleb’s parents lettered in baseball at Randolph HS. His mom, Janet (Johnston), was the Rockets’ starting shortstop in 1976. His dad Calvin was the assistant coach of that team.
In addition to baseball, Caleb Thielbar excelled in basketball at Randolph HS. He was the second-leading scorer in school history, and number one in three-pointers and free-throw percentage at the time of his graduation.
He went on to pitch four season at South Dakota State University, and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 draft. He was released by Milwaukee in December 2010. He pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 2011, striking out 62 batters in just 49 ⅔ innings (43 appearances). On August 18 he became the first-ever Saints player signed by the Minnesota Twins.
Thielbar rose rapidly through the Twins system, and made his major league debut on May 5, 2013 at age 26, beginning a historically successful rookie season. He did not allow a run in his first 17 big league appearances. He earned his first win on June 1, pitching a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with the Twins trailing the Mariners 4-2. The Twins mounted a comeback in the bottom of the inning, culminating in Joe Mauer scoring from first on a Ryan Doumit walk-off triple.
Thielbar finally allowed his first run on July 8, giving up a solo homer to Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist. He finished the season 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.826 WHIP over 48 appearances (46 innings pitched).
He appeared in 54 ballgames in 2014, posting a 3.40 ERA. He appeared in just 6 games in 2015 before being claimed off waivers by the Padres on August 8. He has not pitched in the majors since.
Thielbar returned to the St. Paul Saints in 2016, going 5-2 with a 2.39 ERA over 64 innings (42 appearances). He went 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 0.761 WHIP in 22.1 innings (17 appearances) with the Saints in 2017. His contract was purchased by the Detroit Tigers on January 23, 2018.
Patrick Reusse wrote a great article about Thielbar prior to his rookie season with the Twins (here).
Happy Birthday, Scott Erickson
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher Scott Erickson, born in Long Beach, CA in 1968. The Twins drafted Erickson out of Arizona State in the fourth round of the 1989 draft. It was the fourth time he had been drafted.
Erickson made it to the majors midway through the 1990 season, finishing strong with a 5-0 record in September. He went 12-2 with a 1.39 ERA in the first half off the 1991 season, and was named starting pitcher of the All-Star Game. Erickson, however, was unable to pitch due to injury, so manager Tony LaRussa handed the ball to fellow Twin Jack Morris in his stead. Morris wore black socks and his pants low in the style of Erickson. Erickson wound up going 20-8 for the ‘91 World Series Champion Twins, tying for the major league lead in wins and finishing second to Roger Clemens for the American League Cy Young Award.
After a solid ‘92 season, Erickson lost a major league-worst 19 games in 1993. ‘94 was arguably an even worse season for Erickson, though he did no-hit the Brewers at the Metrodome on April 27th. He rebounded after being traded to the Orioles during the ‘95 season, and would ultimately prove to be one of the more durable pitchers of the ‘90s, pitching an American League-leading 251.1 innings in 1998, and winning 73 games between 1995 and ’99.
February 2, 2008
Twins Trade Santana
The Twins due the prudent thing and trade 2004 and 2006 Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitchers, all of whom were duds. Gomez showed sparks but never lived up to his potential in Minnesota, though he did score one of the most exciting runs in team history on October 6, 2009. Less than a month later he was traded to Milwaukee for former and future All-Star J.J. Hardy. Gomez, for his part, would go on to consecutive All-Star seasons for Milwaukee in 2013 and ‘14.
After three very good seasons in New York, Santana missed all of the 2011 season. He went 6-9 in 21 starts in 2012, pitching his final major league game on August 17, 2012 at age 33.
The Twins announced that Santana had been elected to the team Hall of Fame on January 19, 2018.
February 2, 1996
Coldest Day in State History
The state record low temperature of -60 is recorded near the town of Tower. I was on a sixth-grade class field trip, staying in pretty rustic cabins just a few miles away at the Laurentian Environmental Center in Britt.
Former Pioneer Press sportswriter Jim Caple got married that day in Eagan! Don’t feel too bad for the couple, though; it was only -32 in the Twin Cities, a full two degrees warmer than the metro record of -34 set in January 1936.
Caple wrote for the Pioneer Press from June 1989 to February 2000.
The temperature in Tower on February 8—six days later—was 48; a swing of 108 degrees!
February 3, 1979
Twins Trade Carew
The Twins trade seven-time American League batting champ Rod Carew to the Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens, and Paul Hartzell. It had become increasingly clear that team owner Calvin Griffith had no intention of ponying up for the future Hall of Famer. And even if Griffith could have afforded him, it was unlikely that Carew would have played for Griffith again after the owner’s infamous, off-the-rails ramblings at a Lion’s Club dinner in Waseca on September 28. Griffith was quoted in the Star Tribune as having said “I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here … We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking white people here.”
Read Nick Coleman‘s original October 1, 1978 article (click here).
February 3, 1987
Twins Acquire Terminator
The Twins trade pitcher Neal Heaton, 1980 first-round draft pick catcher Jeff Reed, 19-year-old future major league pitcher Yorkis Perez, and career minor league pitcher Afredo Cardwood to the Expos for backup catcher Tom Nieto and 1985 and ‘86 All-Star closer Jeff Reardon. Reardon would save 31 regular season games for the ‘87 Twins, plus three postseason games, including Game 7 of the World Series. Reardon surpassed Rollie Fingers as major league baseball’s all-time saves leader in 1992 with his 342nd save. His 367 career saves currently rank 10th all-time. Stupid Jonathan Papelbon passed him in 2016. Joe Nathan is eighth on the list with 377. Heaton, for his part, won a career-high 13 games for the Expos in 1987.
The Twins career leaders are Nathan (260), Rick Aguilera (254), Glen Perkins (120), Eddie Guardado (116), Ron Davis (108), and Reardon (104).
Please enjoy this video of Reardon saving the fifth and final game of the 1987 ALCS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWv8G0wp8Sk
Happy Birthday, Ben Hendrickson
1999 Bloomington Jefferson grad and former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Hendrickson was born in St. Cloud on February 4, 1981.
Milwaukee chose Hendrickson in the 10th round of the ’99 draft. He was the second of three Jefferson Jaguars drafted out of high school, and the first of those high school draftees to make it to the majors… so far. 2015 graduate Jake Irvin was drafted by the Twins in the 37th round, but opted to attend the University of Oklahoma. The 6’6” pitcher is currently a junior.
The Twins drafted Kent Mariska out of Jefferson in the 40th round of the 1974 draft. The speedster didn’t advance past Appalachian League rookie ball, though.
Though not drafted out of high school, another Jefferson alumnus has made it to the majors. Steven Edlefsen was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 16th round of the 2007 draft out of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Edlefsen made it to the majors with the Giants in 2011 and 2012, appearing in 27 games overall.
I always find people’s paths to the majors interesting. Despite being drafted out of high school, Hendrickson doesn’t exactly dominate the Bloomington Jefferson record books. He tied the school record with 17 strikeouts in a game vs. Eagan in 1998. His 71 strikeouts in 1998 and 65 in ’99 are third and fifth-best in school history. His 1998 ERA of 2.01 is eleventh-best in school history. There have been four no-hitters and 13 one-hitters in school history; none by Hendrickson. He did, however, pitch a two-hitter vs. Bloomington Kennedy in 1998. He also had two career shutouts: one vs. Eagan in 1997, and another vs. Wayzata in 1998.
Ben Hendrickson made his major league debut in Los Angeles on June 2, 2004 at age 23. He gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings, picking up the loss. He made nine starts and one relief appearance that season, finishing with a 1-8 record. His only major league win came in Milwaukee on September 4, 2004, when he held the Cincinnati Reds to two runs on seven hits over six innings.
Hendrickson spent the entire 2005 season at triple-A where he went 6-12.
He made it back to the majors in 2006, making three starts and one relief appearance. He made his final major league appearance on May 20, 2006 in Milwaukee vs. his hometown Minnesota Twins. After giving up a leadoff single to Lew Ford and walking Luis Castillo, he gave up consecutive RBI hits to Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau before he was pulled, having given up five runs without recording an out. A sixth run was charged to him before the inning was over.
Hendrickson hung around pro ball for three more seasons, spending time in the Royals and Rays organizations before being signed by the Twins on February 17, 2009. He made nine relief appearances for triple-A Rochester, giving up nine runs on 18 hits and nine walks over 10.1 innings before being released on June 19.
A few noteworthy things jumped out at me while perusing Hendrickson’s Baseball Reference page:
• With former Twin Todd Walker on base, Hendrickson gave up one of Sammy Sosa’s 609 career home runs on July 29, 2004.
• He held slugger Adam Dunn 0-for- 5 with a walk and three strikeouts. Dunn was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame this past November.
• Larry Walker was 1-for- 6 with a walk and a strikeout vs. Hendrickson. Walker appeared on 34.1% of Hall of Fame ballots in 2018, his eighth year of eligibility.
• Hendrickson got two major league hits, the first coming off the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano on July 29, 2004.
Happy Birthday, Al Worthington
It’s the birthday of former Twins stopper Al Worthington, born in Birmingham, AL in 1929.
The Twins purchased the 35-year-old pitcher’s contract from the Reds on June 26, 1964, the same day that Twins pitcher Gerry Arrigo took a no-hitter vs. Chicago into the ninth at Met Stadium. Arrigo would complete a one-hit shutout of the Sox. Worthington, meanwhile, would appear in 41 of the Twins’ 81 remaining games, posting a 1.37 ERA.
Worthington was the first Twin to save 20+ games, going 10-5 with 21 saves and a 2.13 ERA during the Twins’ 1965 American League championship season.
Worthington was the first Twin to lead the league in saves with 18 in 1968 at age 39. The others to do so were Ron Perranoski in 1969 and 1970, Mike Marshall in 1979, and Eddie Guardado in 2002. (Note: saves weren’t an official stat until 1969)
With the Twins hosting the Senators on August 9, 1967, Worthington was involved in what must be one of the greatest relief pitcher duels in major league history. The Twins pieced together a 7-0 lead through six innings, but Washington tied it in the seventh with a two-out, seven-run rally.
Worthington and Senators reliever Darold Knowles both entered in the eighth. Worthington went 8.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two singles and two walks, at one point retiring 17 consecutive Senators. For the sabermetrically inclined, Worthington’s performance scored a WPA (Win Probability Added) of 1.176, the most valuable relief performance in Twins history (per Chris Jaffe’s August 27, 2012 Hardball Times article).
Knowles, meanwhile, pitched 10 scoreless innings, allowing three singles and two walks while striking out 10. The walks came back-to-back with one out in the 11th to the pitcher Worthington and Zoilo Versalles, putting the winning run on second with César Tovar and Tony Oliva coming up. Knowles, however, got Tovar to fly out to center, and Oliva to pop out to the catcher. Knowles performance scored a WPA of 1.231, the most valuable relief performance in Senators/Rangers history.
Despite a combined 18.2 innings of relief work, neither pitcher factored in the decision. After the Senators scored two in the top of the 20th, Sandy Valdespino led off the bottom of the inning with a single. As remarkable of a game as this was, here’s my favorite part: with two out in the bottom of the 20th, pitcher Jim Kaat pinch-hit for shortstop Jackie Hernandez, representing the tying run! Kaat flew out to right to end the game, but still, when’s the last time you heard of a pitcher pinch-hitting in a situation like that?
Happy Birthday, Mark Hamburger
It’s the birthday of 2005 Mounds View High School graduate and Mesabi Range Community and Technical College alumnus Mark Hamburger, born in St. Paul in 1987.
Hamburger was signed by the Twins as an amateur free agent on June 19, 2007, and was traded to Texas for “Everyday” Eddie Guardado on August 25, 2008. Guardado had previously pitched for the Twins from 1993 to 2003. Including the nine games in 2008, Guardado pitched in 648 games for the Twins, the most in team history by a mile. Rick Aguilera is next on the list, 158 games back. Guardado loves to say that he was “traded for Hamburger.”
Hamburger made his major league debut on August 31, 2011 at age 24, pitching a perfect ninth inning in a 4-1 loss vs. Tampa Bay. Overall, Hamburger pitched eight innings over five appearances with the Rangers, giving up four runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six.
He earned his only major league win in his final game, on September 26, 2011. Leading the Angels 1-0 in Los Angeles, Hamburger replaced C.J. Wilson to start the bottom of the third. After three scoreless innings, he gave up a one-out double to Torii Hunter in the sixth. After getting Vernon Wells to pop out for the second out, Hamburger was replaced by Darren Oliver. Mike Trout singled home Hunter, and Oliver walked Bobby Abreu with the bases loaded before getting out of the inning, with the Rangers still clinging to a 3-2 lead and Hamburger in line for the win. The Rangers went on to win 4-3 with Neftali Feliz earning the save.
After struggling at triple-A Round Rock in 2012, the Rangers put Hamburger on waivers. He was claimed by the Padres on June 25, 2012, but didn’t fare much better at triple-A Tucson, so was put on waivers again and claimed by the Astros on July 21. He was released by Houston the following winter.
Hamburger pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 2013, starting 21 games, going 6-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 1.403 WHIP. He averaged seven innings per start. The Twins signed him on September 4, 2013.
The Twins had previously signed Saints pitcher Caleb Thielbar following the 2011 season. The Twins probably felt particularly good about signing a Saints pitcher in September 2013, as Thielbar had been sensational for them that season, not allowing a run in his first 17 major league appearances, ultimately going 3-2 over 48 appearances (46 innings pitched), with a 1.76 ERA and 0.826 WHIP.
After two seasons at triple-A Rochester, however, the Twins granted Hamburger free agency on November 6, 2015.
Hamburger returned to the Saints, where he went 12-6 in 2016, and 13-6 in 2017. He is expected to pitch for the Saints again in 2018.
He also pitched for the Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League during the winter of 2016-’17, and 2017-’18. He has previously pitched in the Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, and Mexican Pacific Winter Leagues.
February 5, 1991
Twins Sign Morris
The Twins sign free agent pitcher Jack Morris to a one-year, $3.7 million contract, making the 1973 Highland Park grad the second-highest paid player, and highest paid pitcher in the American League. Morris had previously been the highest paid pitcher in the league in 1987 and ‘88, and would be again in 1993.
The uncharacteristic opening of the purse strings paid dividends for the Pohlads, as Morris won 18 regular season games, and four more in the postseason, including the legendary 10-inning shutout of Atlanta in Game 7 of the World Series.
1991 was his only season as a Twin. He signed with the Blue Jays on December 18.
Morris was elected to the Hall of Fame alongside former Tigers teammate Alan Trammell by the Veterans Committee on December 10, 2017. The Tigers drafted Trammell in ‘75, and Morris in ‘76. They both made their major league debuts in 1977.
Morris was the fourth Minnesotan elected to the Hall of Fame, and the third from St. Paul. The three St. Paul Hall of Famers all graduated from local high schools within six years of each other: Dave Winfield (St. Paul Central, 1969), Morris (Highland Park, 1973), and Paul Molitor (Cretin, 1974).
February 6, 1998
Twins Trade Chuck Knoblauch
The Twins trade All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanan, Danny Mota and three million dollars of George Steinbrenner’s cold hard cash. There had been speculation for several years that the struggling Twins would deal hot commodity Knoblauch, and eventually he himself demanded to be traded to a contender.
Knoblauch was coming off a stretch of four sensational seasons in which he made three All-Star teams, hitting .318 and stealing 188 bases. His 127 OPS+ over that stretch was three points better than Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.
The trade would ultimately go down as a win-win. Knoblauch was uneven as a Yankee. We all know about his struggles throwing the ball to first base. He continued to swing a solid stick, though, and the Yankees won the World Series in each of his first three seasons in New York.
Cristian Guzman, meanwhile, was the Twins’ starting shortstop for six seasons, leading the league in triples three times. He never realized his full potential, but Twins fans sure saw some sparks from the speedster.
Milton jumped straight into the starting rotation, giving the Twins five solid seasons, highlighted by a no-hitter on September 11, 1999. Another highlight came on April 15, 2001 when Milton struck out eight of the first 10 White Sox he faced.
Buchanan played 143 games with the Twins between 2000 and 2002. He hit one of the Twins’ five home runs on Opening Day, April 1, 2002. The Twins are the most recent of five American League teams to hit five home runs on Opening Day. The previous four were the Yankees in 1932, Red Sox in 1965, Brewers in 1980, and Cleveland in 1995. The Mets set the major league record with six Opening Day home runs in 1988.
Mota made four relief appearances for the Twins late in the 2000 season, his only stint in the majors.
February 8, 1925
Birthdate of Milt Nielsen
It’s the birthdate of Milt Nielsen born 93 years ago in Tyler, MN (in Lincoln County, between Marhsall, MN and Brookings, SD).
He started three games in center for Cleveland in 1949, going 1-for-11 with one run scored. He played in 16 games for Cleveland in 1951, pinch-running ten times, and pinch-hitting six times, going 0-for-6. He didn’t play in the field at all.
Nielsen played a total of nine professional seasons from 1946 to 1954, all in the Cleveland organization.
He passed away in Mankato on August 1, 2005 at age 80, and was laid to rest at Resurrection Cemetery in St. Peter.
1927 Yankees bench player Julie Wera was born in Winona, MN on February 9, 1902.
Wera joined Winona’s top amateur baseball team, the Peerless Chains, sponsored by the Peerless Tire Chain Company, in July 1921, when he was just 16 years old. The 5-foot-7, 155-pound speedster was recruited to play semi-pro ball in Wausau, WI in 1924, where he caught the attention of the St. Paul Saints. On December 21, 1926, the Saints traded Wera to the New York Yankees for $40,000 and two players to be named later (per Baseball Reference).
Wera was the only rookie to make the Yankees out of camp in 1927. The 25-year-old made his major league debut on April 14, 1927, pinch-hitting for Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt versus Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. He grounded out.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of Wera’s career came on the Fourth of July in an auspicious doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. A crowd of 74,000—the largest crowd ever to attend a baseball game to that point—saw the Yanks demolish the second-place Senators, winning the first game 12-1 and the second 21-1. Wera replaced Joe Dugan at third base in the seventh inning of Game 2, and in the bottom of the inning he clouted a two-run homer off Nats lefty Bobby Burke, a rookie like Wera. It would be the only homer of Wera’s major league career.
The ‘27 Yankees are regarded by many as the greatest baseball team ever assembled. 32-year-old Babe Ruth swatted 60 home runs, while the team went 110-44 (.714), winning the American League pennant by a margin of 19 games. Wera, for his part, got into 38 games (19 starts), going 10-for-42 (.238) with a walk, eight RBI, and seven runs scored.
He suffered a gnarly knee injury in a late-season play at home, and was not a part of the World Series, in which the Yankees swept the Pirates. He did, however, receive the same $5,782 portion of the winners’ purse as Ruth, Gehrig, and the rest of the gang. Nice bonus, considering that Wera’s 1927 salary was $2,400.
Hampered by the knee injury, Wera was back in the minors with St. Paul in 1928. He did make it back to the Yankees for five games in 1929, going 5-for-12 (.417).
In total, Wera played 13 seasons of professional baseball, wrapping up his career in 1937 with the Crookston (MN) Pirates, a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate in the class-D Northern League.
Julie Wera died of a heart attack at his home in Rochester, MN on December 12, 1975. He was 73 years old.
Jerome Christenson wrote a great, succinct profile of Wera for the Winona Daily News on October 13, 2016 (click here).
For a more thorough picture, including a great anecdote about Lou Gehrig making a surprise visit to the Rochester Piggly Wiggly to see his old friend Wera, read J.G. Preston’s SABR BioProject essay (click here).
Happy Birthday, Max Kepler
It’s the birthday of Twins outfielder Max Kepler, born in Berlin, Germany in 1993.
Playing Cleveland at Target Field on August 1, 2016, Kepler became the fifth player in Twins history to hit three home runs in a game. The previous four were Bob Allison (1963), Harmon Killebrew (1963), Tony Oliva (1973), and Justin Morneau (2007).
Kepler’s three-home run game opened the floodgates. Brian Dozier joined the club on September 5, 2016, Eddie Rosario on June 13, 2017, and Byron Buxton on August 27, 2017. So while the first four three-home run games in Twins history came over a span of 8,875 games, the next four came over a span of just 188.
Kepler’s three-home run game was the beginning of a historic three-game stretch for the team as a whole. Mired in the worst season in franchise history, the Twins hit a team record 19 extra-base hits over a two-game span.
They set a milestone in the third game of the series by putting up 10 runs in three straight games against the same team for the first time. The Twins had scored 10 runs in three straight games before, but never against the same team. They would lose the fourth game of the series 9-2.
February 11, 1985
Hrbek Cashes In
The Twins sign 1978 Bloomington Kennedy High School grad Kent Hrbek to a new five-year, $6 million contract, making Hrbie the first player in team history scheduled to make a million dollars a year. I say “scheduled” because Hrbie’s annual salary wouldn’t actually exceed $1 million until the 1986 season, and the Twins traded for Bert Blyleven, making well over $1 million a year, during the 1985 season.
Hrbek celebrated by going ice fishing outside his Lake Minnetonka home.
Hrbek was coming off of what would be the best season of his career in 1984, hitting .311 with 27 home runs and 107 RBI. He finished runner-up in American League MVP balloting to Detroit closer Willie Hernandez, who also won the AL Cy Young Award. Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry came in third in MVP balloting and second in Cy Young balloting. Quisenberry finished second or third in Cy Young balloting four straight seasons from 1982 to 1985.
Next time you see Hrbie, ask him how he feels about pitchers receiving MVP votes.
Happy Birthday, Brian Denman
It’s the birthday of 1974 Richfield High School graduate and University of Minnesota alumnus Brian Denman, born in Minneapolis in 1956.
Denman was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1978 January secondary phase. The 6’4″ right-handed pitcher was a hot prospect in the Red Sox organization, winning 30 games in his first two minor league seasons, and 51 between 1978 and ‘82. Denman made his major league debut on August 2, 1982 at age 26, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings to earn the win in Oakland. 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral grad Tom Burgmeier earned the four-inning save. (Noticing these cool little connections makes Baseball Reference game logs some of the best reading there is)
Denman made nine starts during his only big league season, going 3-4 with a 4.78 ERA, only striking out nine in 49 innings of work.
He only lasted 2/3 of an inning in his second-to-last start, giving up six runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk against the Yankees at Fenway. He was again relieved by Burgmeier.
Denman made one heckuva recovery, pitching a six-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on October 2, his final major league start.
He played two more seasons in the Red Sox organization, and 1985–’86 with the Tigers’ triple-A Nashville Sounds.
In addition to being an all-time great baseball player at Richfield, Denman was a standout member of the Spartans’ 1972 state champion and ’73 and ’74 state runner-up basketball teams. These days Denman makes his home in Buffalo, NY.
Happy Birthday, Cole De Vries
It’s the birthday of 2003 Eden Prairie graduate, University of Minnesota alumnus, and former Twins pitcher Cole De Vries, born in St. Louis Park in 1985.
De Vries played three seasons for the Gophers before signing with the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2006. He made his major league debut on May 24, 2012 at age 27, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk over five innings in an 11-8 loss to the White Sox in Chicago. It was a rude welcome to the big leagues as A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios each took him deep. Mauer and Morneau homered for the Twins, for what it’s worth.
De Vries made 17 appearances (16 starts) in 2012, compiling a 5-5 record with a 4.11 ERA. He earned the win in his second and third big league starts, but did not win again for almost two months before winning his final three starts of the season.
De Vries made it back to the majors in September 2013, struggling through two relief appearances and two starts, giving up 18 runs on 22 hits over 15 innings. He pitched in Venezuela that winter, with similar results.
The retired pitcher still lives in Eden Prairie, and works in commercial real estate.
Happy Birthday, Don Arlich
It’s the birthday of 1961 St. Paul North graduate and former Houston Astros pitcher Don Arlich, born in Wayne, Michigan in 1943.
Arlich went 15-0 for the 1961 State Champion North High Polars, a team that also featured Twins curator Clyde Doepner.
Arlich signed with Houston out of high school. He made his major league debut on October 2, 1965 at age 22, starting the second-to-last game of the season versus the St. Louis Cardinals at the Astrodome. He held the Cardinals to two runs on five hits and a walk over six innings, and was in line for the win before St. Louis rallied against the Houston bullpen.
Arlich made it back to the majors in July 1966, making seven relief appearances, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on eleven hits and four walks over four innings pitched.
He stuck it out in the minors until 1969, playing his final two and a half seasons in the Braves’ organization.
February 16, 1897
Birthdate of Paul Castner
It’s the birthdate of St. Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights) graduate, World War I veteran, Notre Dame legend, and former White Sox pitcher Paul Castner, born in St. Paul.
According to biographer Bill Lamb, baseball was Castner’s third-best sport after football and hockey. He played fullback at Notre Dame under legendary coach Knute Rockne, blocking for the Gipper.
He made six relief appearances for the 1923 White Sox, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on 14 hits and five walks over 10 innings pitched. He never struck out a major league batter.
Read Bill Lamb’s thorough and fascinating SABR BioProject essay on Castner (click here).
February 16, 1973
Twins Announce Thompson’s Leukemia Diagnosis
The Twins announce that 26-year-old infielder Danny Thompson has been diagnosed with chronic granulocytic leukemia. Doctors say that the disease is in an early stage, and should not affect Thompson for about five years.
The Twins drafted Thompson out of Oklahoma State in 1968 in the first round of the June Secondary Phase. He made his major league debut on June 25, 1970 at age 23 and never went back down to the farm. He played in 630 games over seven seasons with the Twins.
Thompson was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith in 1976. Griffith refused to give the infielder a fair price, insisting that no other team would even offer a contract to someone with cancer. So on June 1, 1976 he was packaged with Bert Blyleven and shipped to Texas in exchange for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, and pitchers Bill Singer, and Jim Gideon. Thompson struggled in Texas.
He passed away at the Mayo Clinic on December 10, 1976, just 69 days after playing his final major league game. He played in 98 games between Minnesota and Texas in the final year of his life. He was just 29 years old.
Happy Birthday, Josh Willingham
It’s the birthday of former Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, born in Florence, AL in 1979.
The Twins signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract on December 15, 2011. It was the richest free agent deal in team history at the time according to SABR member John Swol‘s awesome site, TwinsTrivia.com. Willingham led off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to center on April 21, 2012 in St. Petersburg, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games. It was the longest streak to begin a Twins career, and tied with Kirby Puckett‘s 1994 streak for the longest to begin a season in team history.
Willingham had a career year in 2012, hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, and winning a Silver Slugger Award alongside fellow AL outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton.
Happy Birthday, Kevin Tapani
It’s the birthday of Twins all-time great Kevin Tapani, born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1964. He grew up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he quarterbacked the Escanaba Eskymos to the Class 1A state championship as a senior in 1981. Escanaba didn’t have a high school baseball team, just a Legion team that played about 15 games in June and July.
Tapani walked on at Central Michigan University where he pitched from 1983 to ’86, going 23-8 as the team won three consecutive Mid-American Conference titles. He pitched a no-hitter vs. Eastern Michigan on April 22, 1986.
Tapani was selected by the Athletics in the second round of the 1986 draft. He went to the Mets as part of a three-team, eight-player trade on December 11, 1987. He was called up when Doc Gooden went down with an injury, and made his major league debut on July 4, 1989 at age 25, relieving Bob Ojeda with two out and runners on second and third in the bottom of the first. He balked home a run before throwing his first major league pitch. He recovered, however, pitching 4 ⅓ innings and allowing just the one run on two hits and three walks. He put the ball in play off Houston’s Mike Scott in his first big league at-bat, lining out deep down the right field line according to Baseball Reference’s game log.
The Twins acquired Tapani on July 31, 1989 as part of perhaps the greatest trade in team history when they sent 1987 World Series MVP and ‘88 AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola to the Mets for David West, Rick Aguilera, Tapani, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage (as a player to be named later).
Tapani won 75 games for the Twins between 1989 and 1995. He had double digit wins of each of his five full seasons in Minnesota.
Tapani had his best season as a Twin in 1991, going 16-9 with a 2.99 ERA, 3.49 FIP (thank you, Mike Pagliarulo and Greg Gagne), 1.086 WHIP, and averaged five strikeouts and 1.5 walks per nine innings. He actually led the ‘91 team with a 6.8 WAR (as calculated by Baseball Reference). May 15, 1991 at the Dome, however, was not one of his better games, as the Brewers’ Paul Molitor tripled on his first pitch of the game and proceeded to go 5-for-5, hitting for the cycle.
He outdueled Tom Glavine in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series, giving up two runs on seven hits and no walks over eight innings. Scott Leius’s solo homer gave the Twins the lead in the bottom of the eighth, and Rick Aguilera slammed the door in the top of the ninth. He lost to Glavine in Game 5 in Atlanta, leaving after giving up four runs in the fourth. The loss put the Twins on the brink of elimination heading home for Game 6. We all know how that story ends.
On July 31, 1995, six years to the day after he came to Minnesota in the Viola trade, Tapani and Mark Guthrie were traded to the Dodgers for four players including Ron Coomer. He went on to pitch for the White Sox in 1996, and the Cubs from 1997 to 2001. He won 19 games for the Cubs in 1998, and hit his first major league home run off his former Twins teammate Denny Neagle. He hit another homer in 2000.
Tapani still lives in the Twin Cities. He recently spent several seasons as a baseball coach at Providence Academy in Plymouth.
February 19, 1876
Birthdate of “Home Run” Joe Marshall
It’s the birthdate of “Home Run” Joe Marshall, born in Audubon, MN in 1876. Marshall broke into professional baseball in the Red River Valley League in 1897. Despite his 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame, Marshall was one of the preeminent minor league sluggers of the Deadball Era. He led all of organized baseball with 25 (officially) or 26 home runs for the San Francisco Pirates in 1903. The Boston Americans’ Buck Freeman, by comparison, led the major leagues that season with just eight round-trippers.
Despite his success at lower levels, Marshall performed poorly in two brief major league stints, first in 1903 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and again in 1906 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Terry Bohn wrote about Marshall for the SABR BioProject (click here).
And CLICK HERE for some interesting blog posts by Jeff Bozovsky, author of Divorcees, Barmaids, and Cranks: The 1897 Red River Valley League.
February 19, 1912
Birthdate of Dick Siebert
It’s the birthdate of Richard “Dick” Siebert, born in Fall River, MA in 1912. In the summer of 1923 the Sieberts moved to Cass Lake, MN where Dick’s dad pastored Immanuel Lutheran Church. In 1926 the family moved to St. Paul where the elder Siebert had accepted a teaching position at Concordia College. Dick graduated from Concordia Academy High School in 1928.
Dick Siebert played in six games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932, and two games in 1936. He was drafted by the Cubs in the 1936 Rule 5 Draft, and purchased by the Cardinals prior to the 1937 season. In May 1938 he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics where he finally saw regular playing time from 1938 to 1945. In 1941, a good season for offense, he hit .334 with a career-high 79 RBI. He was an American League All-Star in 1943.
In total he played in 1,035 major league games across parts of 11 seasons, hitting .282 with 32 home runs.
Siebert is best known in Minnesota, of course, for coaching the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1948 to 1978, winning three NCAA championships (1956, ‘60 and ‘64), and 12 Big Ten titles, with only three sub-.500 seasons.
Dick Siebert passed away on December 9, 1978. He was just 66 years old. The U of M renamed its ballpark “Siebert Field” on April 21, 1979.
Rich Arpi wrote a thorough essay on Siebert for the Halsey Hall SABR book Minnesotans in Baseball. That book can be found on Amazon, but Arpi’s essay is available through the SABR BioProject (click here).
February 19, 1985
Twins Acquire Smalley, Again
The Twins trade first baseman Randy Johnson and outfielder Ron Scheer to the White Sox for infielder Roy Smalley. Randy Johnson, who originally came up with Chicago in 1980, had last played in the majors with Minnesota in 1982. He would not make it back to the show. Ron Scheer would never make it past Double-A.
The Twins had originally acquired Smalley in the 1976 trade that sent Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson to the Texas Rangers. Smalley’s first stint with the Twins was highlighted by his 1979 All-Star campaign. On April 10, 1982 he was traded along with St. Cloud State alumnus and proprietor of Serum’s Good Time Emporium in Anoka, Gary Serum, to the New York Yankees for pitchers Ron Davis, Paul Boris, and a minor league infielder named Greg Gagne. In July 1984, the Yankees offloaded Smalley to the White Sox in exchange for players to be named later, one of whom wound up being Doug Drabek, who after just one season the Yankees shipped off to Pittsburgh where he won the 1990 NL Cy Young Award.
One of the highlights of Smalley’s second stint with the Twins—other than winning the 1987 World Series, of course—was becoming the first player in Twins history to homer from both sides of the plate on May 30, 1986. Four players have done so since: Chili Davis (October 2, 1992), Ryan Doumit (July 22, 2012), Kennys Vargas (August 11, 2016), and Jorge Polanco (August 29, 2017). Here’s a fun story that Roy Smalley related to me on Twitter: “It just so happened that right after Doumit did it Chili was in town with the A’s and I was there for FSN. We took a great picture together . . . We also each signed three baseballs with the dates we hit the HR’s — one for each of us — which I’m proud to have. Only three Twins to have done it.” This, of course, was before Vargas and Polanco joined the club.
Roy Smalley retired following the Twins’ 1987 World Series Championship season.
February 20, 1987
Twins Acquire Al Newman
The Twins trade minor league pitcher Mike Shade to the Montreal Expos for infielder Al Newman. Shade would never make it to the majors. Newmie, meanwhile, played an important role on the Twins’ 1987 and 1991 World Series Championship teams.
Newman played in 110 games in 1987, starting 75, splitting time pretty evenly between second base and shortstop. One of my all-time favorite “fun facts,” however, is that he also started two games as the 1987 World Series champions’ designated hitter. Newman hit exactly one career home run, that coming on July 6, 1986 as a member of the Montreal Expos off Atlanta’s Zane Smith. Atlanta cleanup hitter Bob Horner hit four home runs in that game, with the fourth coming off Jeff Reardon with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Reardon popped out the next batter, Ken Griffey, to secure the save. The Twins acquired Reardon in a trade with Montreal on February 3, 1987.
Newman played in 118 games for the ‘91 Twins, starting 56, once again mostly splitting time between second and short, with four starts at third, one in left, and one as first baseman.
Newman is one of eight players to play for both the ‘87 and ‘91 Twins, and one of seven to play in both World Series. Allan Anderson did not play in either Series. Anderson, who posted the lowest ERA in the American League in 1988 and won 33 games between 1988 and ‘89, was just getting his feet wet in 1986 and ‘87, and was on his way out in ‘91. The other six Twins to play in both World Series are Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Dan Gladden, Greg Gagne, Gene Larkin, and Randy Bush.
Newman became a free agent following the 1991 season. He signed with the Reds, was released in April, and ultimately wound up playing with the Texas Rangers in 1992, his final season. It just so happened that Texas was in town on April 11, 1992 when the Twins got their rings.
Happy Birthday, Charley Walters
It’s the birthday of 1965 Edison High School graduate Charley Walters, born in Minneapolis in 1947. The Twins signed Walters out of their annual open tryout at Met Stadium after his senior year of high school.
Walters went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA for the 1967 Northern League champion St. Cloud Rox. He broke camp with the Twins in 1969 at age 22, and made six appearances between April 11 and May 14. Over his first five outings (5.1 innings) he held opponents scoreless on just three hits and a walk. He struggled in his final major league appearance versus Baltimore, giving up four runs on three hits and a walk over 1.1 innings. The Orioles would go on to sweep the Twins in the 1969 American League Championship Series. Minnesota’s own Jerry Koosman and the “Miracle Mets” beat Baltimore in the World Series four games to one.
Walters pitched in the Senators/Rangers organization from 1970 to ’72. He has been a sportswriter at the Pioneer Press since 1975.
Stew Thornley wrote about Walters for the Halsey Hall SABR book Minnesotan in Baseball (click here).
Happy Birthday, Dave Maurer
It’s the birthday of 1993 Apple Valley graduate Dave Maurer, born in Minneapolis in 1975.
The Padres drafted Maurer in the 11th round of the 1997 Amateur Draft. He made his major league debut on July 22, 2000 at age 25. He pitched 14.2 innings over 14 games that season, picking up his only big league win on September 22 in Los Angeles. He made only three appearances for the Padres in 2001. After brief stints in the Reds and Athletics organizations, Maurer made it back to the majors with Cleveland late in the 2002 season, pitching in two games, both against the Minnesota Twins. He took his only major league loss at the Metrodome on September 25, giving up a twelfth-inning walk-off home run to David Ortiz.
Maurer made three appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. They did not go well.
In total, Maurer appeared in 22 major league games, pitching 22.1 innings over parts of four seasons.
Happy Birthday, Wayne Hattaway
It’s the birthday of longtime Twins organization equipment manager, trainer, and clubhouse attendant Wayne “Big Fella” Hattaway, born in Mobile, Alabama in 1940. Wayne got his first job in baseball in 1952 at age 12, serving as bat boy for his hometown Mobile Bears. He worked as the Bears’ equipment manager from 1956 to 1962. He became part of the Twins organization in 1963, when the Dallas Rangers became a Twins Triple-A affiliate (for one season only). Below is my best attempt at piecing together his long Twins career:
1962-1963: Dallas Rangers (Triple-A) equipment manager
1964-1971: Charlotte Hornets (Double-A)
1972-1973: Lynchburg Hillcats (Class A) equipment manager
1974: Reno Silver Sox (Class A) equipment manager
1975-1985: Orlando Twins (Double-A) trainer
1986-?: Orlando Twins/Sun Rays equipment manager
2002-Present: Minnesota Twins clubhouse attendant/assistant
I understand that Hattaway is still around as a pre-game clubhouse assistant for most home games.
Remarkably, the 1985 All-Star game at the Metrodome was the first major league game that he attended in his life! It was his 23rd season in the Twins organization. He came close in 1969, Hattaway told the Orlando Sentinel in 1985 (click here). Farm director George Brophy told Hattaway that if the Twins beat the Orioles in the ALCS, they would fly him to Minnesota for the World Series. Unfortunately Baltimore swept Minnesota in three games that year and again in 1970.
Ron Gardenhire brought Hattaway up to the big league club when he became manager in 2002. Hattaway was known for maintaining a loose atmosphere in the clubhouse. One of his favorite techniques, apparently, was making fun of players. In the midst of a bad slump, he said to Torii Hunter “you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a boat.”
Stew Thornley shared another good line that Hattaway used on a Twins player after a bad game: “hey, don’t worry about it. We don’t blame you. We blame the scout who signed you.” Patrick Reusse likes what Hattaway would say while administering the pregame arm massage to the starting pitcher: “see you in the second inning, big fella.”
A source shared a locker room observation of the Big Fella, but this is a family-friendly website.
I just today came across this really cool looking piece including an audio interview with Hattaway on John Swol‘s TwinsTrivia.com (click here).
Happy Birthday, Dana Kiecker
It’s the birthday of 1979 Fairfax High School and 1983 St. Cloud State graduate Dana Kiecker, born in Sleepy Eye in 1961.
Kiecker was chosen by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 1983 Draft. He made his major league debut on April 12, 1990 at age 29, pitching four innings of relief in a Red Sox loss at Tiger Stadium.
Kiecker pitched in 50 major league games for Boston between 1990 and ‘91, making 30 starts, compiling a 10-12 record with a 4.68 ERA.
He made two starts at the Metrodome in 1990. He gave up a home run to Dan Gladden on his second pitch of the game on May 27. He recovered to pitch seven strong innings, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk before being relieved by Jeff Reardon. Twins rookie Kevin Tapani, however, was better. After putting runners on second and third to start the game, Tapani struck out the next three batters, including cleanup hitter Tom Brunansky, to get out of one heckuva jam. He went on to hold the Red Sox to just one run over seven innings. Rick Aguilera earned the six-out save.
He made his second Metrodome start on July 5, opposing Scott Erickson in his third big league game. Kiecker allowed two runs on five hits and four walks over 5.2 innings, taking a no-decision in a 7-4 Red Sox loss.
He gave up a three-run home run to fellow southwest Minnesotan Terry Steinbach in the top of the first on September 3, 1990. That blow knocked Kiecker out of the game, having given up five runs to Oakland while only recording two outs.
Jim Eisenreich and Kiecker are the only pair of St. Cloud State alumni to play against each other in the major leagues. Eisenreich went 4-for-8 with a walk and two doubles versus Kiecker between 1990 and 1991. They were teammates at St. Cloud in 1980, along with Bob Hegman, who played half an inning in the field for the Kansas City Royals on August 8, 1985.
“Dana Kiecker Street” is home to the Fairfax townball field. I’ve never been there, but it is allegedly a particularly beautiful ballpark.
You can hear Kiecker on St. Paul Saints broadcasts this summer.
February 26, 1933
Birthdate of Johnny Blanchard
It’s the birthdate of probably the most famous backup catcher in baseball history, Johnny Blanchard, born on February 26, 1933 in Minneapolis.
Blanchard attended Minneapolis’s De LaSalle and Central High Schools, playing football, basketball, and baseball.
He got a thimble of coffee with the Yankees in 1955, playing in the second game of a doubleheader on the final day of the season.
He made it back to the majors in 1959, where he would remain for the next seven seasons, making a nice little career of backing up Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. He would appear in five World Series as a Yankee. The highlight of his career came in the 1961 World Series when he hit .400 with two home runs as the Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds in five games. Blanchard would earn a second ring in 1962.
He tied a major league record by homering in four consecutive at-bats in 1961. Of course in true “Suber Sub” fashion, those four consecutive at-bats came over a six-day span. Blanchard hit a game-winning two-out pinch-hit grand slam at Fenway Park on July 21, 1961. He hit another pinch-hit homer the next day, and then sat out the next three games. He made a rare start on July 26 vs. the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium, homering in his first two at-bats and flying out to the wall in his third.
Blanchard played 18 games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington between 1961 and ’65, going 13-for-51 (.255) with seven walks, and three home runs. He hit .222 with seven home runs in 38 games against the Twins overall.
Blanchard was a featured guest at Halsey Hall SABR meetings on October 24, 1992 and October 18, 2008.
He died of a heart attack at North Memorial in Robbinsdale on March 25, 2009. He was 76 years old.
2018 will be John’s son Paul Blanchard‘s 22nd season as head baseball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. He has been known to make guest lecturer appearances on campus, sometimes even passing around his father’s World Series ring.
George Rekela wrote about Johnny Blanchard for the book Minnesotans in Baseball (click here).
Happy Birthday, Bob Hegman
It’s the birthday of 1976 Sauk Rapids-Rice graduate, St. Cloud State all-time great, former Royals second baseman, and current Twins scout Bob Hegman, born in Springfield, MN in 1958.
Hegman improved steadily at the plate during his four years at St. Cloud State, hitting .203 in 1977, .288 in 1978, .372 in 1979, and .381 in 1980. He was 24-for-24 in stolen base attempts over his final three seasons at St. Cloud.
He was also a four-year starting point guard on the Huskies basketball team.
Hegman was selected by the Royals in the 15th round of the 1980 draft, and reported to their Gulf Coast League team in Florida. He returned to St. Cloud in the offseason and graduated with a degree in Business Management in 1981.
Hegman got into his only major league game on August 8, 1985 at age 27, entering as a defensive replacement in the top of the ninth of 10-3 win over Chicago. He did not get the ball hit to him, and did not get an at-bat. Sound familiar? Longtime Chisolm doctor “Moonlight” Graham‘s major league career also consisted of half an inning in the field on June 29, 1905.
I asked Mr. Hegman about the circumstances of his brief stint in the majors. He (specifically his glove) was called up when 1978 first-round draft pick Buddy Biancalana was hampered by an injury, and sent back to Omaha the moment Biancalana was healthy.
The Royals went on to win the 1985 World Series. No, Hegman did not receive a ring.
In total, Hegman played seven seasons of professional baseball. He joined the Royals front office as an assistant to the Scouting and Player Development Directors in September 1986. In 1992 he was named Director of Minor League Operations, a position he held for ten years. He became an Advance Scout for the Twins in 2003 before moving into his current position of Professional Scout (evaluating pro players) in 2008.
Hegman has made his home in the Kansas City area since 1986.
1956 National League All-Star Rip Repulski also attended Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.
Happy Birthday, Denard Span
It’s the birthday of former Twins center fielder Denard Span, born in Tampa, FL in 1984.
Even though it doesn’t say so on the Twins’ website (see for yourself), Span tied Ken Landreaux‘s team record and the major league record with three triples at Target Field on June 29, 2010. He went 4-for-4 with a walk, five RBI, and two runs scored in an 11-4 win over Detroit. Jim Thome hit his 572nd home run in the game.
February 28, 1887
Birthdate of Joe Fautsch
Joe Fautsch was born in Minneapolis on February 28, 1887. He got into one major league game with the Chicago White Sox on April 24, 1916 at age 29, going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter.
According to Baseball Reference, he played for the Red Wing Manufacturers in 1910, and the Winona Pirates in 1913 and ’14.
He passed away in New Hope on March 16, 1971 at age 84, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Minneapolis.
If you have any knowledge about Joe Fautsch to share, please leave a comment, or email Matt@TwinsAlmanac.com.
February 28, 1909
Birthdate of Lefty Bertrand
Lefty Bertrand was born in Cobden, MN on February 28, 1909. Bertrand attended St. Mary’s High School in Sleepy Eye. Baseball Reference lists him as having attended St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, but I believe that is a mistake.
Bertrand got into one major league game with the Phillies on April 15, 1936 at age 27, pitching the final two innings of a 12-4 loss to the Boston Bees. He gave up two runs on three hits (including a home run), and two walks while striking out one. That’s still a better major league record that fellow St. Mary’s alumnus Fred Bruckbauer, who gave up three runs without recording an out in his only outing with the Twins on April 25, 1961.
If you’re looking for a Twins connection in Bertrand’s only big league outing, he gave up a single to Sam Mele‘s uncle Tony Cuccinello.
Lefty Bertrand broke into pro ball with the Class D Northern League Brainerd Muskies in 1933. That team moved to Brandon, Manitoba on June 27 and became the Grays. In 1934 he was back with the reformed Brainerd-Little Falls Muskies. Winona native Julie Wera, who played some third base for the ’27 Yankees, wrapped up his pro career with the Northern League Crookston Pirates in 1937.
As with Joe Fautsch (or anyone/thing else on the Almanac, for that matter), if you have knowledge to share, please get in touch.
March 2, 1916
Birthdate of Mickey Rocco
It’s the birthdate of St. Paul Central alumnus and former Cleveland first baseman Mickey Rocco, born in St. Paul in 1916. In addition to baseball, Rocco also played basketball, and was a violinist in the St. Paul Central school orchestra according to biographer Gregg Omoth.
After spending time in the Pirates, Braves, White Sox, Dodgers, and Tigers organizations, Rocco made his major league debut with Cleveland at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on June 5, 1943 at age 27. He went 2-for-4 with a triple, double, RBI, and run scored in a 6-5 loss to the Athletics. He started 107 of Cleveland’s remaining 114 games that season (they played 153 total).
Rocco led the American League and tied for the major league lead with 653 at-bats in 1944. As a townball player, myself, I think this is a really cool stat. I’m always trying to find ways to get some swings in, including supervising 6 AM high school practices so that maybe I’ll get a few pitches at the end. How cool would it be to be able to say you got more at-bats than anybody else in the American League?
In total, Rocco played 440 games over four seasons with Cleveland, with his final major league game coming on June 24, 1946 at age 30. He hit .258 with 30 home runs. He stuck it out in the minors through 1952.
He remained active in baseball, coaching various Twin Cities teams throughout the ’50s and ’60s. According to biographer Gregg Omoth “a Rosetown team he coached won the Minnesota Legion championship in 1965.”
Mickey Rocco passed away on June 1, 1997 at age 81. He was laid to rest at Roselawn Cemetary in Roseville.
For a much more thorough picture of Rocco, read Gregg Omoth’s biography, originally published in the SABR book Who’s on First: Replacement Players in World War II (click here).
Happy Birthday, Mike Johnson
It’s the birthday of 1969 Faribault High School graduate and former San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Johnson, born in Slayton, MN in 1951. Johnson was signed by Cincinnati Reds scout Bill Clark out of his annual tryout camp at Bell Field in Faribault.
Johnson made his major league debut versus Atlanta on July 25, 1974 at age 23, entering with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless game. He induced an inning-ending ground ball from Davey Johnson.
He walked Darrell Evans leading off the bottom of the tenth, and Dusty Baker bunted Evans up to second. The Padres then intentionally walked Mike Lum to set up a potential inning-ending double play. It was not to be, however, as Rowland Office came through with a walk-off single. After pitching a 1-2-3 top of the tenth, Tom House—throwing guru to the stars, including Nolan Ryan and Tom Brady—earned the win for Atlanta.
In total, Johnson pitched 21.1 innings over 18 relief appearances, giving up 13 runs (11 earned) on 29 hits and 15 walks while striking out 15. He went 0-2 with a 2.063 WHIP and 4.64 ERA.
It was his final season of professional baseball. He returned to Faribault where he pitched for the Lakers townball team.
Happy Birthday, Terry Steinbach
It’s the birthday of 1980 New Ulm High School graduate, Golden Gopher all-time great, and three-time American League All-Star Terry Steinbach, born in New Ulm in 1962.
Here’s a fun story: the Gophers moved hotshot Edina third baseman Greg Olson to catcher to make room for up-and-coming New Ulm third baseman Terry Steinbach. Steinbach was later converted to catcher in the Oakland A’s organization to make room for third baseman Mark McGwire. McGwire, of course, ultimately wound up at first base while Olson and Steinbach each developed into All-Star major league catchers.
Steinbach made his major league debut in Cleveland on September 12, 1986 at age 24. With Oakland trailing 8-2, Steinbach entered as a defensive replacement for Mickey Tettleton in the bottom of the sixth. He led off the top of the seventh with a home run off Greg Swindell in his first big league at-bat. Steinbach and Swindell would be teammates with the Twins in 1997 and ’98.
1976 Park Center grad Tim Laudner also homered in his first major league game on August 28, 1981.
After being maligned by the press as an unworthy starter in 1988, Steinbach homered in his first All-Star at-bat. He later hit a sacrifice fly to lead the American League to a 2-1 victory and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The AL only carried two catchers in the game, the other being Tim Laudner. Steinbach was also an All-Star in 1989 and 1993.
Steinbach hit an Opening Day grand slam when I was in fourth grade (1994). I know this because Mel Allen told me so on This Week in Baseball. I commemorated the event with a crayon drawing that stayed on the fridge for a few months.
Steinbach played for the Twins his final three season, from 1997 to 1999. He caught Eric Milton‘s no-hitter at the Metrodome on September 11, 1999. He had previously caught Dave Stewart’s no-hitter while playing for Oakland in Toronto on June 29, 1990.
Altogether Steinbach played 14 major league seasons, hitting .271 with 1,453 hits and 162 home runs.
Steinbach coached the Wayzata High School baseball team from 2008 to 2012. The Twins hired him as bench coach for the 2013 season, succeeding Steve Liddle. He was not retained when Paul Molitor took over as manager in 2015. He was a coach for the Northwoods collegiate summer league Willmar Stingers in 2016 and ’17.
Happy Birthday, Glen Perkins
It’s the birthday of 2001 Stillwater Area High School graduate, Golden Gophers all-time great, and former Twins closer Glen Perkins, born in St. Paul in 1983.
After redshirting in 2002, Perkins played for the Gophers in 2003 and 2004, going 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA, 13 complete games, two shutouts and 230 strikeouts in 216.1 innings. Perkins set a new Gophers single-season strikeout record in 2003 with 117 in 105.1 innings. He gave his own record a run for it’s money in 2004 with 113 strikeouts in 111.1 innings. Those innings pitched, incidentally, were the second and fifth most in school history. Perkins was named the 2004 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year.
The Twins drafted Perkins in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2004 draft. He made his major league debut in September 2006 at age 23, the same season as fellow Gopher Jack Hannahan. He made the American League All-Star team in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15, saving 30+ games each of those three seasons.
Hampered by a labrum injury, Perkins only made 10 appearances between 2016 and 2017. He retired in January 2018.
In total, he pitched in 409 major league games (44 starts) over parts of 12 seasons. His 120 saves rank third in Twins history behind Joe Nathan and Rick Aguilera, and four saves ahead of Eddie Guardado.
March 3, 1895
Birthdate of Joe Jaeger
It’s the birthdate of former Cubs pitcher Joe Jaeger, born in St. Cloud in 1895. Jaeger made two relief appearances with the Cubs in September 1920 at age 25, giving up six runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks.
Jaeger passed away on December 13, 1963 in Hampton, IA. He was 68 years old.
Happy Birthday, Bob “Rocky” Johnson
It’s the birthday of 1954 Edina-Morningside grad and 11-year major league middle infielder Bob “Rocky” Johnson, born in Omaha in 1936. Johnson’s father had grown up in the Twin Cities and the family returned to Minneapolis in December 1947.
Johnson, who signed with the Detroit Tigers out of high school, made his major league debut with the Kansas City Athletics on April 19, 1960 at age 24, drawing a walk as a pinch-hitter.
In total, he played 874 major league games over parts of 11 seasons with the Kansas City Athletics, Senators, Orioles, Mets, Reds, Braves, Cardinals, and Oakland A’s, hitting .272 with 628 hits and 44 home runs. He played 71 regular season games for the eventual 1966 World Series Champion Orioles.
He singled off Jack Kralick in his first two major league at-bats in Minnesota on July 25, 1961. He played 75 games against the Twins overall, hitting .283 with five home runs, including two each off Jim Kaat and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate Dick Stigman.
Johnson earned a reputation as a proficient pinch-hitter over the course of his career. He strung together six consecutive pinch-hits in 1964, an American League record he owned for 17 years before Bill Stein broke it in 1981.
Johnson, who lives in St. Paul these days, was inducted into the Edina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
Stew Thornley wrote about Johnson for the Halsey Hall SABR book Minnesotans in Baseball (click here).
Happy Birthday, Jack Hannahan
It’s the birthday of 1998 Cretin-Derham Hall grad, Golden Gophers all-time great, and eight-year major leaguer Jack Hannahan, born in Minneapolis in 1980.
Hannahan was the 2001 Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits, runs scored, home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage.
The Tigers selected Hannahan in the third round of the 2001 draft. He made his major league debut in Kansas City on May 25, 2006 at age 26, going 0-for-6 in a 13-8 Tigers win. At least he didn’t strike out.
In total, he played 614 games over parts of eight seasons with the Tigers, Athletics, Mariners, Cleveland, and the Reds, hitting .231 with 29 home runs.
One of those home runs came on June 8, 2011 with two out in the bottom of the ninth off Twins closer Matt Capps, tying the game 2-2. Ben Revere drove in Drew Butera in the tenth to salvage the win for Minnesota.
Hannahan played with the LG Twins in Seoul, South Korea in 2015.
Happy Birthday, Jerry Ujdur
It’s the birthday 1975 Hermantown High School graduate, and University of Minnesota all-time great Jerry Ujdur, born in Duluth in 1957.
Ujdur made the Hermantown varsity team as an eighth grader. In 1975 he met Dick Siebert halfway in Hinckley to audition for the legendary Gophers coach. He would win 27 games as a Gopher, second only to 1972 Minnetonka High School grad Steve Comer‘s 30.
Ujdur made his major league debut in Detroit on August 17, 1980 at age 23, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk over 2.1 innings in relief of Mark Fidrych in a 9-3 Rangers win. Fergie Jenkins earned the victory for Texas.
He made his first major league start three days later in Milwaukee, holding the Brewers to three runs (two earned) on eight hits, a walk, and a strikeout over six innings pitched to earn his first win. 1974 Cretin High School graduate and former Golden Gophers teammate Paul Molitor had three infield groundouts versus Ujdur.
He made 53 major league appearances (40 starts) over parts of five seasons with Detroit (1980–’83) and Cleveland (1984), going 12-16 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.953 WHIP. He best season by far was 1982, when he went 10-10 with seven complete games, a 3.69 ERA and 1.230 WHIP. 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris won 17 for Detroit that season, for a total of 27 wins from Minnesota natives.
Though he only pitched in 53 major league games, Ujdur had some pretty impressive numbers against several Hall of Fame hitters. Eddie Murray went 0-for-11 with two walks versus Ujdur, Carlton Fisk went 0-for-10 with a walk, Molitor went 2-for-14 with a walk, and 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson each went 1-for-9 with two walks.
March 5, 2006
Puckett Suffers Stroke
Twins legend Kirby Puckett suffers a massive stroke at the home he shares with his fiancé in Scottsdale, AZ. Old friend Ron Washington, in camp with the Athletics nearby, was one of the first at his bedside. Ken Griffey Jr. also rushed to his side, while former teammates including Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek made their ways to Arizona.
Puckett faced personal struggles following the abrupt end to his career. “That’s what really hurt him bad, when he was forced out of the game,” Hrbek told the Associated Press. “I don’t know if he ever recovered from it.”
One of those personal struggles was his weight, which had visibly spiralled out of control. “We would tell him. But he enjoyed life. He enjoyed the size he was. That’s who he was,” Jacque Jones told ESPN from Cubs camp in Mesa, AZ. “You can’t do anything about it until he decides to change. Hopefully, he’ll pull through this, and it’ll be like a call for him to change some things in his life.”
March 6, 1973
Hisle Becomes First DH in MLB History
In an exhibition game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, Larry Hisle becomes the first Designated Hitter in major league history. Back on January 11, American League owners had voted 8-4 in favor of adopting the DH, and in this game Hisle made them look like geniuses, hitting two home runs and driving in seven. The Yankees’ Ron Blomberg was the first DH to bat in a regular season game.
The Twins’ Tony Oliva hit the first regular season home run by a DH on April 6 (Opening Day) off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley spearheaded the effort to adopt the DH.
March 6, 2006
Puckett Passes Away
A day after suffering a massive stroke, Kirby Puckett passes away at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. After unsuccessful emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, friends and family were notified that the end was near. Many people rushed to be with Kirby in his final hours, including former teammates Ron Washington, Shane Mack, and Kent Hrbek. Another friend who rushed to the hospital and was reportedly at his bedside when he passed was Ken Griffey Jr.
“There’s certain people that you owe it to, for the things they’ve done for you, no matter where you are,” Griffey told the Los Angeles Times. “He was that important to my family. It was for the things he said to me, not for the way he played.”
Kirby Puckett was just 45 years old, the second-youngest person to pass away after having already been enshrined in Cooperstown. Lou Gehrig was just 37.
March 7, 2013
Hicks Has Himself a Day
Coming into Spring Training it was unclear whether or not 2008 first-round draft choice Aaron Hicks had a legitimate chance of making the Opening Day roster. He made a strong case for himself on this day, going 4-for-5 with three home runs, six RBI, and a stolen base versus the Phillies in Clearwater. He would indeed make his major league debut on Opening Day, batting leadoff and playing center field.
Happy Birthday, John Butcher
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher John Butcher, born in Glendale, CA in 1957.
The Twins acquired Butcher along with pitcher Mike Smithson and minor league catcher Sam Sorce from Texas in exchange for Gary Ward on December 7, 1983.
Butcher pitched a remarkable one hour and 55 minute complete-game shutout on April 21, 1985.
The Twins were on a nine-game losing streak, falling to 2-9 on the season entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when Butcher hurled the 81-pitch gem, allowing three hits, but facing just 28 batters. Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5, driving in the Twins’ only two runs. It was the beginning of a 10-game winning streak.
Speaking of efficient pitcher performances, Carlos Silva needed just 74 pitches to beat the Brewers at the Metrodome on May 20, 2005, allowing just five hits including a solo home run. That game, however, lingered on for 2 hours and 27 minutes as the Twins put up seven runs, with Nick Punto going 4-for-4 with an RBI and run scored.
Happy Birthday, Mark Salas
It’s the birthday of former Twins catcher Mark Salas, born Montabello, CA in 1961.
The Twins acquired Salas from the Cardinals in the December ‘84 Rule 5 Draft, and traded him to the Yankees for knuckleballer Joe Niekro on June 6, 1987.
Today Salas is the White Sox bullpen catcher. Yes, really.
Happy Birthday, Terry Mulholland
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher Terry Mulholland, born in Uniontown, PA in 1963.
Kirby Puckett homered off Mulholland in the 1993 All-Star Game en route to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The Twins purchased Mulholland’s contract from Seattle on April 2, 2004 at age 41. He pitched in 39 games in 2004, starting 15, including an 8-4 win in Arizona on July 3 to become the third pitcher in major league history to beat all 30 teams. He made 49 relief appearances for the Twins in 2005.
Bartolo Colón beat the Diamondbacks at Target Field on August 20, 2017 to become the 18th pitcher to record a win against all 30 teams.
Francisco Liriano will join the club with a win against the Marlins, and Ervin Santana will join with a win against the Brewers. The Brewers come to Target Field May 18-20, and the Twins travel to Milwaukee July 2-4.
March 11, 1961
First Game in Twins History
1950 Winona graduate and 2x All-American Golden Gopher tailback Paul Giel starts the first game in Twins history, an exhibition against the Tigers at Tinker Field in Orlando. The Tigers won 4-1.
Pedro Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout versus Berra, Mantle, Maris, and the gang at Yankee Stadium on April 11. Camilo Pascual started the Twins’ first home game on April 21, a 5-3 loss to the new expansion Washington Senators.
March 12, 2006
Puckett Memorial Service
15,000 fans, family, and friends including Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew, Dan Gladden, Al Newman, Ron Gardenhire, Tom Kelly, and more pay tribute to Kirby Puckett in a moving memorial service at the Metrodome. Mudcat Grant sang “What a Wonderful World.”
Happy Birthday, Johan Santana
It’s the birthday of Twins all-time great Johan Santana, born in Tovar, Venezuela in 1979.
With the first pick in the 1999 Rule 5 draft, the Twins selected Cleveland pitcher Jared Camp. The Marlins selected 20-year-old Santana from the Astros with the second pick. In a prearranged deal, Twins GM Terry Ryan then traded Camp to the Marlins for Santana plus cash money.
Camp never made it to the majors. Santana, on the other hand, posted a 93-44 record over eight seasons with the Twins, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006, the latter unanimously.
Santana was part of a remarkable stretch for Twins baseball, during which they won the Central Division four out of five seasons from 2002 to 2006 (and again in 2009 and ‘10, after Santana’s departure).
That great run of baseball, of course, was made possible by great pitching. From July 5 to 7, 2004, Brad Radke, Santana, and Kyle Lohse threw three consecutive shutouts versus the Royals at the Metrodome. The Twins outscored the Royals 25-0 over the three-game series.
Santana entered the record books three times on September 24, 2004, winning his 13th straight decision, breaking the team record set by Radke in 1997. He also became the first Venezuelan 20-game winner in major league history, and broke Bert Blyleven’s team single-season strikeout record. Bert K’ed 258 in 1973. Santana took a no-decision in his final start of the season, finishing with a league-leading 2.61 ERA, 0.921 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched), and 265 strikeouts en route to winning his first Cy Young Award.
The Twins lost the 2004 Division Series 3-1 to the Yankees, but it certainly wasn’t Santana’s fault. He pitched seven shutouts innings in Game 1, as the Twins beat Mike Mussina and the Yankees 2-0. He gave up one run over fine innings in Game 4, leaving with the lead, but the Twins eventually lost 6-5 in 11 innings.
In 2005 Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA, led the league with a 0.971 WHIP, led the majors with 238 strikeouts, and finished third in Cy Young balloting to 21-game winner Bartolo Colón and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. For the sabermetrically inclined, Santana’s WAR (wins above replacement) was 7.2, whereas Colón and Rivera’s were each 4.0 (per Baseball Reference).
In 2006 Santana led the majors with a 2.77 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 245 strikeouts, and 19 wins (tied with Chien-Ming Wang), and won his second Cy Young Award, this time by unanimous decision. It was his third consecutive season leading the league (or majors) in strikeouts and WHIP.
Santana set a team record on August 19, 2007, striking out 17 Rangers in just eight innings on a Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome. He did not issue a walk or allow a run, and gave up only two hits, both to steroid-addled Sammy Sosa. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth as the Twins won 1-0 on a Michael Cuddyer home run leading off the second.
Twins GM Terry Ryan did the prudent thing on February 2, 2008, trading Santana to the Mets, who promptly signed him to a six-year, $137.5 million extension. In return the Twins received Carlos Gomez, and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Gomez hit for the eighth cycle in Twins history on May 7, 2008, and scored one of the most exciting runs in team history in the bottom of the 12th of Game 163 on October 6, 2009. Humber pitched a perfect game for the White Sox on April 21, 2012.
After three very good seasons in New York, Santana missed all of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.
He came back in 2012, and pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1 versus the Cardinals at home in Queens. He pitched his final major league game just over two months later on August 17 at age 33. Plenty of people, including Mets manager Terry Collins, have wondered if it was wise to let Santana complete his 134-pitch no-hitter. Santana, for his part, has no regrets.
On January 19, 2018, Twins president Dave St. Peter announced that Santana had been elected to the team Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on August 4.
He appeared on just 2.4% of Hall of Fame ballots in 2018, his first year of eligibility. Because failed to garner at least 5% of the vote, he will not appear on future ballots.
March 14, 1880
Birthdate of Lou Polchow
It’s the birthdate of Lou Polchow, born in Mankato, MN in 1880. Polchow pitched one major league game for the Cleveland Bronchos on September 14, 1902 at age 22, giving up five runs on nine hits and four walks over eight innings in a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader. The Bronchos lost the first game 2-1.
Polchow pitched 10 seasons in the minors (1900–1904, 1906–1910). He passed away on August 15, 1912 in Good Thunder, MN. He was just 32 years old.
Happy Birthday, Butch Wynegar
It’s the birthday of 2x Twins All-Star catcher Butch Wynegar, born in York, PA in 1956.
He became the youngest Twin to appear in an All-Star game as a 20-year-old rookie in 1976, pinch-hitting for former Twins pitcher Luis Tiant. Wynegar drew a walk in the 7-1 American League loss.
Wynegar finished second to Detroit’s Mark Fidrych in 1976 AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
The Twins traded Wynegar and pitcher Roger Erickson to the Yankees for diddly squat on May 12, 1982, just one day after trading bona fide big leaguers Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong to the Angels for minor league pitcher Mike Walters, an unproven Tom Brunansky, and $400,000 cash. Though the Brunansky deal worked out very well in retrospect, both trades were seen at the time as cheap cost-cutting measures taken by Twins owner Calvin Griffith.
March 14, 1960
Birthdate of Kirby Puckett
It’s the birthdate of Ten-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner Kirby Puckett, born the youngest of nine children in 1960. He grew up in Robert Taylor Homes, the same Chicago public housing project as Mr. T.
Puckett was an All-American third baseman at Calumet City High School in Chicago.
After high school he got a good job at a local Ford plant, installing carpeting in Thunderbirds. After unexpectedly losing that job, however, he attended a free agent tryout in Chicago, and was offered a scholarship to play at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, where he was converted to an outfielder. Puckett’s father passed away during his year at Bradley, and he transferred to Triton Junior College for the next season to be nearer to his widowed mother. Meanwhile, he played in a collegiate league that summer, where he caught the attention of Twins assistant farm director Jim Rantz, who was at a game watching his son playing for the other team.
The Twins selected the stocky, 5-foot-8 outfielder in the first round (3rd overall) of the January 1982 draft, but he did not sign. That spring he hit .472 with 16 home runs (including four in one game) in 69 games for Triton, en route to being named Region IV Junior College Player of the Year. His performance convinced the Twins to up their offer. He signed and reported to Elizabethton where he hit .382 and was named Appalachian League Player of the Year by Baseball America. Not a bad year!
In 1983 he played for the Single-A Visalia Oaks where he was named California League Player of the Year. He skipped Double-A and started the 1984 season with the Triple-A Toledo Mudhens.
He made his major league debut in Anaheim on May 8, 1984 at age 24, going 4-for-5 with a run scored as the Twins beat the first-place Angels 5-0. Frank Viola pitched a four-hit shutout. Puckett was the sixth player in American League history to debut with a four-hit performance. He went 16-for-33 (.485) with one walk over his first seven games.
Twins catcher Wilson Ramos also went 4-for-5 in his major league debut on May 2, 2010. He went 3-for-4 the next day, making him just the third player in major league history with seven hits in his first two games, and the first since the Cubs’ Coaker Triplett in 1938.
Puckett led the Twins with 14 stolen bases, and tied for the lead with 5 triples his rookie season. In 1985 he led the team with 21 stolen bases and 13 triples.
On May 2–3, 1986, Puckett led off back-to-back games in Detroit by homering on Jack Morris and Walt Terrell’s first pitch of the game.
He hit for the sixth cycle in Twins history in a 10-1 win versus Oakland at the Metrodome on August 1, 1986. Bert Blyleven had a decent day, too, pitching a two-hitter, tying a team record with 15 strikeouts (since broken), and becoming the tenth player in major league history to reach 3,000 strikeouts. The next Twins cycle wouldn’t come until Carlos Gomez in 2008 (22 years later).
After not homering his rookie season, and hitting only four in 1985, Puckett hit a career-high 31 home runs in 1986. He would hit 83 from 1986 to 1988. According to Stew Thornley‘s SABR BioProject essay, Puckett was the first player in major league history to go homerless in a season (minimum 500 at-bats) and later hit 30.
On Opening Day 1987, Puckett went 3-for-5 with a home run, double, two RBI, two runs scored, and robbed Oakland’s Mickey Tettleton of a home run in the top of the tenth of a 5-4 Twins win.
After being lectured by Tony Oliva to be more aggressive with his bat (per Stew Thornley‘s essay), Puckett had a weekend for the ages on August 29-30, 1987 in Milwaukee, going 10-for-11 with four home runs, two doubles, six RBI, and seven runs scored. He went 6-for-6 in the August 30 game, and robbed Robin Yount of a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth. He also collected six hits in an 11-inning game on May 23, 1991, becoming just the fourth player in major league history with two six-hit games, and the first since 1935.
After struggling in the 1987 ALCS, Puckett went 10-for-28 (.357) with two walks, one double, one triple, three RBI, and five runs scored in the World Series. He scored four runs in Game 6, tying a World Series record.
On September 16, 1988, Puckett doubled home Tommy frickin’ Herr and Randy Bush to become the fourth player in major league history to reach 1,000 hits in his first five seasons.
He had eight four-hit games in 1988, tying the Twins record set by Rod Carew in 1977. Puckett finished the season with a career-high .356 batting average, the highest American League batting average for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio hit .357 in 1941. Left-handed hitting Wade Boggs won the AL Batting Championship that year with a .366 average.
Puckett set a team record with four doubles on May 13, 1989. He set another team record with his 74th multi-hit game on the final day of the 1989 season, finishing with a major league-leading .339 average with 215 hits, making him one of eight players to lead their league in hits for three consecutive seasons (Tony Oliva led the AL in hits from 1964 to ’66). 1989 was Puckett’s third season with 215+ hits, making him the ninth of eleven players in major league history with three such seasons. That offseason the Twins signed Puckett to an epic new three-year, $9-million contract.
He went 9-for-21 (.429) with a walk, two home runs, five RBI, and four runs scored en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the 1991 American League Championship Series.
He had one of the most memorable performances in baseball history in Game 6 of the World Series, going 3-for-4 with a stolen base, three RBI, and two runs scored in a dramatic 4-3, 11-inning win. He tripled home Chuck Knoblauch and scored on a Shane Mack single to give the Twins a 2-0 first-inning lead. He made one heckuva catch in the third inning, put the Twins up 3-2 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, driving in Dan Gladden, and singled and stole in the eighth. He led off the bottom of the 11th with probably the most famous walk-off home run in baseball history off Charlie Leibrandt. “Touch ’em all, Kirby Puckett!”
He went a combined 7-for-8 with four RBI and six runs scored in World Series Game 6’s. Overall, he hit .309 with five home runs in 24 postseason games.
He tied a team record with three grand slams in 1992, including two over a six-day span (May 29, and June 3). The other Twins to hit three grand slams in a season were Bob Allison (1961), Rod Carew (1976), Kent Hrbek (1985), and Torii Hunter (2007). Puckett finished the 1992 season with a 7.1 WAR (wins above replacement), second only to his 7.7 in 1988, and finished runner-up to Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley in AL MVP balloting. (Kent Hrbek finished runner-up to Detroit closer Willie Hernandez in 1984). Puckett tested the free agent market following the ’92 season, but chose to resign with the Twins at a discount.
Puckett finished the 1992 season with a major league-leading 210 hits, becoming the 15th of 19 players in major league history with five or more 200-hit seasons.
Puckett started the 1994 season with a 15-game hitting streak, and hit safely in 24 of the first 25 games. He went 5-for-6 in the fourth game of the season (April 8) to join the 2,000 Hit Club.
His 1995 season was ended prematurely when he was struck in the face by a 2-0 Dennis Martinez fastball in the bottom of the first on September 28.
The 36-year-old superstar appeared poised for a big year in 1996, hitting .344 in Spring Training, when, on the last day of camp, he woke up unable to see out of his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma and placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career. Four surgeries did nothing to improve his vision, and he official announced his retirement on July 12.
At the time of his retirement his .318 career average was the highest for a right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio. He is still the Twins’ all-time hits (2,304) and doubles (414) leader.
The Twins named Puckett executive vice president of baseball on November 16, 1996.
Puckett was elected to the Hall of Fame along with 1969 St. Paul Central graduate, Golden Gophers all-time great, and former Twins teammate Dave Winfield on January 16, 2001, both on their first ballots. They were inducted in Cooperstown on August 5 alongside Veterans Committee selections Bill Mazeroski and Negro League pitcher Hilton Smith, who, following his legendary Kansas City Monarchs career, played semi-pro ball in Fulda, MN in 1949 and ’50.
In early 2002 it was revealed that Tonya Puckett (who Kirby married following the 1986 season) was seeking a divorce, citing disturbing instances of abuse over the years.
In September 2002 a woman accused Puckett of dragging her into the men’s room and groping her at a suburban Twin Cities restaurant. He was acquitted of felony charges in early 2003, but with all the ugly news piling up, his sterling reputation was irreparably tarnished.
Puckett, whose weight had reportedly ballooned to well over 300 pounds, suffered a massive stroke at the home he shared with his fiancé in Scottsdale, AZ on March 5, 2006. Old friend Ron Washington, in camp with the Athletics nearby, was one of the first at his bedside, while former teammates including Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek made their way to Arizona. After unsuccessful emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, Puckett passed away on March 6. Ken Griffey Jr. was reportedly at his bedside when he passed.
Kirby Puckett was just 45 years old, the second-youngest person to pass away after having already been elected to the Hall of Fame. Lou Gehrig, elected by a special vote following his final season, was just 37.
Happy Birthday, Mickey Hatcher
It’s the birthday of former Twins outfielder Mickey Hatcher, born in Cleveland, OH in 1955.
The Twins acquired Hatcher from the Dodgers along with a pair of minor leaguers for Ken Landreaux near the end of Spring Training on March 30, 1981.
Hatcher went 4-for-5 in a 10-1 Twins win over Oakland at the Metrodome on April 28, 1985. He had gone 5-for-5 the previous day, giving him nine consecutive hits, tying Tony Oliva’s team record established in 1967. Todd Walker matched the feat in 1998.
The Twins released fan-favorite Hatcher on March 31, 1987 to make room for Dan Gladden, who they had acquired in a trade with the Giants for two minor league pitchers and a player to be named later, who would turn out to be Bemidji native and 2x Gophers Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year Bryan Hickerson. Hatcher was still owed $650,000 for 1987 and a $100,000 buyout clause for the ‘88 season. It was the most expensive contract the Twins had eaten up to that point.
Hatcher returned to Los Angeles where he played four more major league seasons.
Happy Birthday, Rick Renick
It’s the birthday of former Twins player and coach Rick Renick, born in London, OH in 1944.
Renick was the first of six Twins to homer in their first major league at-bat, doing so off Detroit’s Mickey Lolich at Met Stadium on July 11, 1968. The Twins won the game 5-4. The five Twins to homer in their first big league at-bats since Renick are Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, Andre David, Luke Hughes, and Eddie Rosario, who homered on the first pitch.
Renick hit one of twelve pinch-hit grand slams in Twins history on June 30, 1970. It was the Twins’ second pinch-hit grand slam of the season, the most in team history. Rich Reese hit the first one on June 7. Reese, in fact, hit 25% of the pinch-hit grand slams in team history, one each in 1969, 1970 and ‘72.
Rick Renick was the third base coach for the Twins’ 1987 World Series champion team.
March 17, 1906
Birthdate of Hy Vandenberg
It’s the birthdate of Minneapolis Roosevelt and South alumnus Harold “Hy” Vandenberg, born in Abilene, KS in 1906. When Hy was four his father died from tuberculosis, and his mother moved the surviving members of the family to Minneapolis.
Vandenberg would appear in 90 major league games, going 15-10 with five saves during seven seasons spread out over an 11-year period with the Red Sox, Giants, and Cubs.
According to Bill Nowlin‘s SABR BioProject essay, the 6-foot-4 right-hander began his professional career with the Minneapolis Millers right out of high school, though he does not appear in the statistical record until pitching for the Bloomington, IL Cubs in 1930 at age 24. He bounced around the minors, going back and forth between Bloomington, Minneapolis, and elsewhere before ending up in Syracuse in 1935 where he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox.
He made his major league debut with the Red Sox on June 8, 1935 at age 29. He gave up 12 runs in just 5 1/3 innings overall. Vandenberg didn’t exactly think it was a fair audition, however, as those 5 1/3 innings came in three relief appearances spread out over a six-week period.
Vandenberg next appeared in the majors in 1937, making one start with the New York Giants, giving up seven runs over eight innings in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He appeared in six games for the Giants in 1938, and two in 1939, spending most of his time with their Jersey City farm team.
He finally earned his first major league win on April 24, 1940 (almost five years after his MLB debut), allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks in a 5-2 Giants win in Philadelphia. The New York Times described the complete game victory as an “elegant mound triumph.” He made three starts and ten relief appearances in total in 1940.
Vandenberg did not pitch in the major again until re-emerging with the Cubs in 1944, going 7-4 with two saves and a 3.63 ERA over 35 games (nine starts). He had only accumulated 25 appearances over his first five major league stints combined.
Vandenberg held out into the 1945 season, training at the University of Minnesota. Once he did report to the Cubs, however, he matched his success from the year before, going 7-3 with two saves and a 3.49 ERA over 30 games (seven starts). The Cubs made it to the World Series, losing to the Tigers in seven games. Vandenberg provided solid relief pitching in Games 4, 5 and 7, holding the Tigers scoreless on just one hit and three walks in six innings pitched.
Despite coming off his two most successful seasons, the Cubs released Vandenberg during Spring Training 1946. Possibly dispirited, he performed poorly in the minors with Oakland and Milwaukee. In 1947 his contract was purchased by Oklahoma City, but he chose instead to leave professional baseball and pitched for the Springfield, MN team in the amateur Western Minor League.
Following his playing career, Vandenberg worked as an engineering technician for the Hennepin County Highway Administration (per biographer Bill Nowlin). Hy Vandenberg died from cancer at his home in Bloomington, MN on July 31, 1994. He was 88 years old.
Happy Birthday, Robb Quinlan
It’s the birthday of 1995 Hill-Murray graduate and 3x Gophers MVP Robb Quinlan.
As a junior in high school, Quinlan set a state record by reaching base in 86 consecutive plate appearances, attracting national media attention.
Quinlan attended the University of Minnesota where he hit .325 as a freshman, .363 as a sophomore, .408 as a junior, and .413 as a senior. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named the Gophers’ Richard “Chief” Siebert Most Valuable Player in 1997, ’98, and ’99. His 92 total bases in 1998 is still a Big Ten record. He was the Big Ten player of the year as a senior in 1999, graduating as the conference’s career hits leader. As of last check (March 2018), he was still the Gophers’ career leader in at-bats, hits, home runs, doubles, triples (tied), total bases, RBI, and runs scored.
The summer after his junior year, Quinlan played for the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League, hitting .353 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI en route to being named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Quinlan was drafted by Angels in 10th round in 1999. He was a stud in 2002, his fourth professional season, being named the Angels’ Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .333 with 31 doubles, 13 triples, 20 home runs, and a league-leading 112 RBI for Triple-A Salt Lake. From May 29 to June 20 he went on a 21-game hitting streak during which he hit .440. On May 12, 2002 he went 5-for-5 with two home runs and eight RBI vs. Edmonton. On July 28 he went 5-for-6, hitting for the cycle with two home runs and eight RBI vs. Colorado Springs. The Angels won the World Series in 2002. Quinlan, however, would not make his major league debut until July 25, 2003 at age 26.
He played in 458 major league games over eight seasons (2003-2010), all with the Angels. Despite being a career .276 hitter, he never played in more than 86 games in a single season.
He went 9-for-41 (.220) with two walks in 20 career games versus the Twins. He hit his 25th and final major league home run off Francisco Liriano in a 6-3 Angels win in Anaheim on July 24, 2009.
Robb’s older brother Tom Quinlan was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 27th round out of Hill-Murray in 1986 (he was also drafted by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round). He went 9-for-58 (.155) with five walks and 26 strikeouts in 42 major league games spread out over a seven-year period with the Blue Jays (1990 and ’92), Phillies (1994), and Twins (four games in 1996).
Joel Rippel wrote a great essay on Robb Quinlan for the SABR BioProject (click here).
March 17, 1992
Twins Trade for Smiley
Having lost 1991 World Series MVP Jack Morris to Toronto, the Twins trade former Golden Gopher Denny Neagle and Midre Cummings to Pittsburgh for 1991 All-Star John Smiley, who happened to be celebrating his 27th birthday that day.
I was in third grade at the time and remember being pretty excited about the Twins picking up Smiley, whose 20 wins in 1991 matched Tom Glavine, Scott Erickson, and Marshall, MN-born Bill Gullickson for the major league lead. Smiley, who finished third in NL Cy Young balloting in ’91, went 16-9 with a 3.21 ERA and a career-high 5.0 WAR (wins above replacement) for the Twins in 1992. But after just the one season he was off to Cincinnati where he would make a second All-Star team in 1995.
Denny Neagle, meanwhile, put together a respectable thirteen-year major league career, making All-Star teams in 1995 as a Pirate, and 1997 as a Brave. He led the National League with 20 wins in 1997, and finished third in Cy Young balloting to Pedro Martinez, and teammate Greg Maddux.
Midre Cummings spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors, including 77 games with the Twins in 2000.
March 18, 1977
Twins Sign Zahn
The Twins sign free agent pitcher Geoff Zahn. The lefty, who had won a total of six games during his first four years in the majors, recorded double-digit wins in each of his four seasons in Minnesota, going 53-53 from 1977 to 1980.
Zahn earned a complete game 8-1 victory over the Angels in the Home Opener at Met Stadium on April 22, 1980. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson, and Roy Smalley each homered, but the most noteworthy thing about this game is that it was a balmy 89 degrees at first pitch! That fun meteorological fact is courtesy of Halsey Hall SABR member John Swol‘s great site TwinsTrivia.com.
Zahn one-hit Toronto at Met Stadium on June 6, 1980, with John Mayberry singling in the seventh for the Blue Jays’ only hit.
Happy Birthday, Fernando Rodney
It’s the birthday of three-time All-Star and new Twins closer Fernando Rodney, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1977. The 15-year veteran has held Twins hitters to a .214 average in 57 games. In nine appearances at Target Field, Twins hitters have gone 1-for-22 with three walks and seven strikeouts against Rodney.
He has only given up three home runs to Twins hitters: Justin Morneau (9/25/03 and 5/11/07), and Joe Mauer (4/28/07). Former Red Sox DH David Ortiz is the only other player with two homers off Rodney.
It is also, incidentally, the birthday of Corky Miller, born in Yucaipa, CA in 1976. The catcher went 0-for-12 in five games with the Twins in 2005. He played 216 major league games over parts of 11 seasons overall.
Nothing Happened Today
Nothing happened today, unless you count the births of Paul Powell in San Angelo, TX in 1948, and Tim Corcoran in Glendale, CA in 1953. The two hit a combined .171 in 42 total games with the Twins. Powell went 5-for-31 as a rookie in 1971. Corcoran, who played parts of nine seasons in the majors, went 9-for-51 for the Twins in 1981.
Happy Birthday, Brad Hand
It’s the birthday of 2008 Chaska High School graduate and 2017 National League All-Star Brad Hand.
His senior season at Chaska the 6-foot-3 lefty went 8-2 with two saves, allowing only six earned runs in 68 innings for a 0.61 ERA. At the plate he hit .352 with eight home runs and 24 RBI. That summer he was drafted in the second round (52nd overall) by the Florida Marlins.
Hand made his major league debut on June 27, 2011 at age 21 in Miami versus Atlanta. He walked the first big league batter he faced, Jordan Schafer, who would play for the Twins in 2014 and ‘15. The second batter he faced was Adrian Gonzalez, who struck out swinging. Hand would allow only one hit over six innings. That one hit, however, was a solo home run by Adrian Gonzalez leading off the fourth in an eventual 1-0 Atlanta win.
Hand’s first major league win came in his fifth start, on July 7 at home versus Houston as he held the Astros scoreless on two hits and three walks over seven innings in a 5-0 victory.
Hand only pitched in one game in 2012, giving up seven runs on six hits and six walks in the first 3 ⅔ innings of a doubleheader in Washington on August 3. He appeared in only seven games in 2013. He pitched in a combined 70 games between 2014 and ’15 with mediocre results.
Then, during the first week of the 2016 season, Hand was claimed off waivers by the Padres. That season he led the majors with 82 appearances, posting a 2.92 ERA and 1.108 WHIP. How cool is that? How do you think he introduced himself to people that winter? “Hi, I’m Brad. I pitched in more major league baseball games last season than anyone else.”
He was even better in 2017, posting a 2.16 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, earning 21 saves, and making his first All-Star team. He also made his first two career appearances versus the Minnesota Twins, pitching 2 1/3 perfect innings. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer to save a 3-0 Padres win in San Diego on August 1. He got the last out of the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth at Target Field on September 13. The Twins won on a Eddie Rosario walk-off home run in the tenth.
As a batter, Hand has five major league hits, all with the Marlins, including hits off All-Stars Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg. I’m sure he’d want me to mention that he did hit three home runs as a minor leaguer.
Happy Birthday, Tim McIntosh
It’s the birthday of 1983 Hopkins High School graduate and University of Minnesota alumnus Tim McIntosh. After three seasons with the Gophers, McIntosh was taken by the Brewers in the third round of the 1986 draft.
McIntosh made his major league debut in Milwaukee in a game versus the Minnesota Twins on September 3, 1990 at age 25, going 0-for-3 as Mark Guthrie hurled a shutout. Fellow Minnesotan Paul Molitor went 0-for-4 in the game.
On September 28, with the Yankees leading the Brewers 6-1, McIntosh entered the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement for catcher B.J. Surhoff. McIntosh led off the bottom of the eighth, and hit a home run for his first major league hit, and his only hit in five games during the 1990 season.
He was a September call-up in 1991, going 4-for-9 with a home run in his first two games. He played only as a defensive replacement, however, in five subsequent games, making only two plate appearances. McIntosh, in fact, only started 25 of the 71 major league games he played in, and 20 of those starts came in 1992 when he played in a total of 35 games, collecting 14 of his 21 career hits while batting .182.
McIntosh appeared in one game as a late-inning defensive replacement for Milwaukee in 1993 before being claimed off waivers by the Montreal Expos on April 14. He played in 20 games for the Expos, collecting two hits and zero walks in 21 plate appearances for an .095 batting average. He became a free agent after the season and was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He spent the 1994 season with Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .338 with 18 home runs. After the 1994 season, his contract was purchased by the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan where he hit just .220.
In February 1996, McIntosh signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees. He played in three games for the big league club that season. He appeared in his final major league game on June 12, 1996 at age 31, entering in the ninth as a defensive replacement at third in a 7-4 Yankee loss in Toronto.
Happy Birthday, Cristian Guzmán
It’s the birthday of former Twins shortstop Cristian Guzmán, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1978.
The Twins acquired Guzman along with Eric Milton, Brian Buchanan, Danny Mota and $3 million of George Steinbrenner’s cold hard cash in exchange for four-time All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch on February 6, 1998. Guzmán was the Twins’ starting shortstop for six seasons (1999-2004), leading the majors in triples three times, including a Twins record 20 in 2000. He was an All-Star in 2001, hitting .302, though only playing in 118 games, his lowest total as a Twin. He made a second All-Star team when he hit .316 for the Washington Nationals in 2008. Guzmán spent 11 seasons in the majors altogether, playing his final games with Texas in 2010.
March 21, 1970
Twins Trade Gzrenda and Walters for Alyea
The Twins trade pitchers Joe Grzenda and 1965 Minneapolis Edison High School graduateCharley Walters to the Washington Senators for outfielder Brant Alyea.
Alyea’s career had gotten off to an Eddie Rosario-esque start, homering on his first major league pitch on September 12, 1965.
His Twins career, too, got off to a hot start, tying a Twins record with seven RBI in support of Jim Perry on Opening Day. He went on to drive in 20 runs in the Twins’ first 11 games, with a remarkable 19 of those RBI coming in Jim Perry’s first four starts. Alyea matched the single-game RBI record again on September 7, 1970, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and driving in all seven Twins runs in a 7-6 win. It was the beginning of a streak of nine games in which Alyea would collect at least one RBI, knocking in 17 total between September 7 and September 13 (two doubleheaders).
Glenn Adams established a new record with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Randy Bush matched that on May 20, 1989.
Read more about 7+ RBI games in Twins history.
Though Walters didn’t make the same splash in the major as Alyea, his story is nonetheless interesting. The Twins signed Walters out of their annual open tryout at Met Stadium in 1965. He went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA for the 1967 Northern League Champion St. Cloud Rox. He broke camp with the Twins in 1969 at age 22, and made six appearances between April 11 and May 14. He held opponents scoreless over his first five appearances (5.1 innings) on just three hits and a walk. He struggled in his final major league appearance versus Baltimore, giving up four runs on three hits and a walk over 1.1 innings.
Walters has been a sportswriter at the Pioneer Press since 1975. Stew Thornley wrote about Walters for the Halsey Hall SABR book Minnesotans in Baseball (click here).
March 21, 2010
Nathan Needs Tommy John
The defending Central Division champion Twins announce that 4x All-Star closer Joe Nathan needs Tommy John surgery. He had saved a career-high 47 games the previous season.
6-foot-11 righty Jon Rauch saved 21 games for the 2010 Twins. On July 29, the Twins traded catcher Wilson Ramos and minor league pitcher Joe Testa to the Nationals for closer Matt Capps, who had been the winning pitcher at the All-Star game on July 13. Capps saved 16 games down the stretch as the Twins won their second consecutive Central Division championship, and sixth in the last nine seasons. The Twins were swept by the Yankees in the Division Series.
Nathan came back in 2011, pitching 48 games and surpassing Rick Aguilera as the Twins’ all-time saves leader (260). Following the season he signed with Texas where he was an All-Star in 2012 and 2013.
March 22, 2010
Mauer Gets Paid
2001 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, three-time batting champion, and 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Joe Mauer signs an eight-year, $184 million extension during a press conference at the Twins’ Spring Training facility in Ft. Myers, FL. The contract, which locked the hometown kid up through 2018, was the fourth-richest in major league history at the time.
March 23, 2015
Molitor and Sanberg Face-Off
The Paul Molitor-managed Twins lose 3-0 to Ryne Sandberg’s Phillies. It is believed to be the first time that current Hall of Famers have managed against each other. Such an occurrence has never happened in the regular season.
March 24, 1988
Twins Trade Beane
The Twins trade outfielder Billy Beane to the Tigers for pitcher Balvino Galvez. Beane, who was the Mets’ first-round draft choice in 1980, played 80 games with the Twins in 1986, and 12 games in 1987. He went 1-for-6 over six games with the Tigers in 1988. He played in 37 games with Oakland in 1989.
Galvez, who pitched 10 games for the Dodgers in 1986, never made it back to the majors.
The Twins had originally acquired Beane from the Mets on January 16, 1986 in a five-player trade featuring Tim Teufel.
Billy Beane was the General Manager of the Athletics from 1998 until after the 2015 season when he was promoted to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations.
March 25, 1874
Birthdate of Bill Carney
It’s the birthdate of Bill Carney, born in St. Paul in 1874. He played outfield in his only two major league games with the Chicago Cubs on August 22, 1904 at age 30, going 0-for-7 in a doubleheader.
He played 16 professional seasons altogether, as both a pitcher and outfielder, including stints in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Carney passed away July 31, 1938 at age 64. He is buried at Grandview Cemetery in Hopkins.
March 25, 1983
Twins Trade Butera
The Twins and Tigers swap catchers, with Minnesota sending Salvatore Butera to Detroit for minor leaguer Stine Poole and cash money.
Sal had made Twins history on May 29, 1982, throwing out four baserunners in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees at home in the Dome.
The Twins re-signed Butera as a free agent on May 22, 1987.
Sal and Drew Butera are the only father-son combination to play for the Twins. They have pretty impressive big league pitching résumés, too. Sal did not allow a hit in his two major league pitching appearances. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning for Montreal in 1985. In 1986 he pitched a scoreless ninth for the Cincinnati Reds, walking one and striking out one.
Drew, meanwhile, pitched a hitless bottom of the eighth for the Twins on May 20, 2012, walking one Brewer and striking out Carlos Gómez. Playing for the Dodgers, he pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth versus the Marlins on May 14, 2014.
While playing with the Dodgers in 2014, Drew pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning versus the Miami Marlins. Altogether, major league hitters have gone 3-for-15 (.200) with a walk in five games versus Butera.
March 26, 1989
Twins Trade Atherton for Castillo
The Twins trade relief pitcher Keith Atherton to Cleveland for corner outfielder Carmelo Castillo.
The Twins had originally acquired Atherton from Oakland on May 20, 1986. On May 28 he was one of a Twins record five pitchers to work the eight-run eighth inning in a 14-8 loss to Toronto at the Metrodome on May 28, 1986.
He made 59 regular season appearances, and three postseason appearances in 1987. He relieved Frank Viola in the bottom of the sixth of Game 4 of the ALCS with the Twins up 4-2 but with the tying run on first. He gave up a RBI single to Dave Bergman, moving Darrell Evans up to third representing the tying run. After Mike Heath bunted Bergman—representing the go-ahead run—up to second, Atherton was relieved by Juan Berenguer. Then, with Lou Whitaker at the plate, Tim Laudner made the play of the series, throwing to Gary Gaetti to pick Evans off third. The Twins escaped the inning clinging to a 4-3 lead, ultimately winning the game 5-3 to take a 3-1 Series lead.
After Viola held the Cardinals to one run on just five hits over eight innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Atherton pitched a perfect top of the ninth for a 10-1 Twins win.
He entered Game 5 in the bottom of the seventh with the Twins trailing 3-0. After grounding out pitcher Danny Cox to start the inning, he walked speedster Vince Coleman, and balked him to second before giving way to Jeff Reardon. Coleman then stole third, and scored on an Ozzie Smith infield single. The Cardinals went on to win 4-2, taking a 3-2 Series lead.
1989 would be Atherton’s final major league season.
Carmelo Castillo had played seven seasons in Cleveland, averaging 66 games a year. After playing 94 games with the Twins in 1989, and 64 in 1990, his major league career fizzled out early in the 1991 season, going 2-for-12 over nine games. He played his final big league game on May 9.
Happy Birthday, Tom Quinlan
It’s the birthday of 1986 Hill-Murray graduate Tom Quinlan, born in St. Paul in 1968. Tom was a “Mr. Hockey” finalist his senior season at Hill-Murray. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round, and Toronto Blue Jays in the 27th round out of high school.
He made his major league debut on September 4, 1990 at age 22. His first at-bat was cut short when current White Sox Executive Vice President was caught try to steal second, ending the inning. Quinlan struck out leading off the following inning. He doubled off Frank Tanana in his next at-bat for his first major league hit.
Quinlan hit his only big league homer while playing for the Phillies on May 29, 1994 off Doug Drabek, who would make his only All-Star team that season despite winning 22 games and the NL Cy Young Award in 1990.
Quinlan only faced his hometown Twins once, pinch-hitting for Kelly Gruber on September 4, 1992 in Toronto, going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Paul Abbott.
Altogether, Quinlan appeared in only 42 games over parts of four seasons. He was briefly a Minnesota Twin in 1996, going 0-for-6 in his final four major league games.
Tom’s brother Robb Quinlan had one of the greatest careers in Gophers history, and went on to play parts of eight seasons with the Angels. Read about Robb here: TwinsAlmanac.com/RobbQuinlan.
Happy Birthday, Michael Cuddyer
It’s the birthday of 2x All-Star, 2013 National League Batting Champion and current Twins Special Assistant Michael Cuddyer, born in Norfolk, VA in 1979.
The Twins drafted Cuddy in the first round (9th overall) in 1997 out of high school. He made his major league debut on September 23, 2001 at age 22 in a 4-2 loss to Cleveland at the Metrodome. He walked in his first at-bat, struck out, and doubled, all off five-time All-Star Chuck Finley.
On September 21, 2005, Cuddyer went 4-for-4 with three doubles, a home run, four RBI, and two runs scored in a 10-4 Twins win in Oakland, tying the team single-game record of four extra-hits established by César Tovar on May 21, 1967, and matched by Kirby Puckett in 1987 and ’89, Rich Becker in 1996, and Corey Koskie in 2001.
Cuddyer hit eight grand slams in his career—five with the Twins (including his second career home run), and three with the Rockies. He hit two grand slams in a four-day span on June 7 and June 10, 2006.
He homered leading off the second for the Twins’ only run of the game in Texas on August 19, 2007 as Johan Santana struck out a team record 17 in just eight innings. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth, saving a 1-0 win.
Cuddyer hit for the tenth and most recent cycle in Twins history in an 11-3 win over Milwaukee at the Metrodome on May 22, 2009. The first nine cycles were hit by Rod Carew (1970), César Tovar (‘72), Larry Hisle (‘76), Lyman Bostock (‘76), Mike Cubbage (‘78), Gary Ward (‘80), Kirby Puckett (‘86), Carlos Gómez (‘08), and Jason Kubel (April 17, 2009). Cuddyer hit for a second cycle playing with the Rockies on August 17, 2014, becoming one of just three players to hit for the cycle in both the American and National League. The other two were Bob Watson and John Olerud. Remarkably, Olerud hit just 13 triples during his 17-year major league career.
Cuddyer became the only player in Twins history to homer twice in the same inning on August 23, 2009 in Kansas City. The game was tied 1-1 when Cuddyer led off the seventh with a homer. Delmon Young, Denard Span, and Orlando Cabrera combined to drive in five more runs before Cuddyer came up again, this time with Joe Mauer on first, and homered for the second time in the inning. The third place Twins would go on to win 10-3. Every game truly mattered in 2009, as the Twins finished the 162-game schedule in a tie with Detroit. We all know what happened next.
Cuddyer collected the first regular season RBI in Target Field history, singling home Denard Span in the first inning on April 12, 2010.
Cuddyer, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Frank Quilici, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, Ron Gardenhire, and Paul Molitor served as pallbearers at Harmon Killebrew‘s funeral on May 20, 2011 in Arizona.
Cuddyer hit an 0-2 double off the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner as part of eight-straight hits to start the game on June 21, 2011, tying the major league record. Bumgarner struck out Twins pitcher Carl Pavano on three pitches for his first and only out of the inning. He was pulled after Ben Revere doubled for his second hit of the inning, giving the Twins a 8-0 lead.
On July 25, 2011, Cuddyer became the first Twins position player to pitch since John Moses in 1990. After professional pitchers had given up 20 runs to the Rangers, Cuddyer pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth.
Cuddyer signed with the Rockies prior to the 2012 season. He won the National League batting title with a .331 average in 2013. Former Twins teammate Justin Morneau joined Cuddyer in Colorado for the 2014 season, and won the NL batting crown with a .319 average.
Michael Cuddyer was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on August 19, 2007, the day before former general manager Andy MacPhail.
Happy Birthday, Jake Esch
It’s the birthday of 2008 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate Jake Esch, born in St. Paul in 1990. The Marlins drafted the 6-foot-3 righty in the 11th round in 2011 out of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Esch made his major league debut on August 31, 2016 at age 26, making the start in New York against Bartolo Colón and the Mets. After inducing a groundout from four-time All-Star José Reyes, Esch struck out Asdrúbal Cabrera and Yoenis Céspedes swinging for a 1-2-3 first inning. That may have been the peak of his major career career so far. He started the second by walking Curtis Granderson and giving up a two-run home run to Wilmer Flores. He was pulled after 4.1 innings having given up the two runs on seven hits and three walks.
He made three starts in total in 2016, pitching just 13 innings, giving up eight runs on 17 hits (four home runs) and six walks while striking out 10.
He was selected off waivers by the Padres on March 31, 2017. He made one relief appearance for the Padres in 2017, walking both batters he faced on April 12 at Coors Field.
Esch is currently a free agent.
March 27, 1973
Perry Okays Trade to Tigers
37-year old pitcher Jim Perry okays a trade to Detroit for pitcher Danny Fife and cash money.
The Twins had originally acquired Perry—who finished runner-up to Washington’s Bob Allison in 1959 AL Rookie of the Year balloting—from Cleveland in exchange for Jack Kralick on May 2, 1963. Kralick had pitched the first no-hitter in Twins history the previous season, on August 26, 1962.
Perry was used as both a starter and reliever during his first five season in Minnesota, including the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.
He played one heckuva game at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 1968—the Twins’ third game of the season—pitching a four-hit shutout and homering in the top of the ninth. Teammate Jim Kaat pitched a shutout and homered in the same game twice in his career.
Perry won 20 games in 1969 as the Twins won the American League West pennant. He won two games against the Seattle Pilots on July 20. First he earned the win in a game resumed in the 17th inning from the day before. Then he pitched a shutout in the regularly scheduled game.
1970 was the first season Perry was used exclusively as a starter, and he was used extensively, leading the league with 40 starts, and tying for the major league lead with 24 wins en route to winning the first Cy Young Award in Twins history.
Perry played ten seasons in Minnesota altogether. He is fifth in Twins history in both wins (128) and innings pitched. He was inducted into the team Hall of Fame on June 11, 2011.
Danny Fife, meanwhile, came up with the Twins in August 1973. After three quality outings, things got pretty ugly pretty fast. His major league career ground to a halt in April 1974, giving up 11 runs on 10 hits and four walks in just 4.2 innings pitched over four games.
March 27, 2005
Bob Casey Passes Away
World War II veteran and the only public address announcer in Twins history Bob Casey passes away at the VA in Minneapolis as a result of complications of liver cancer and pneumonia, which he had contracted while visiting Twins Spring Training earlier in the month despite his poor health. He was 79 years old.
Casey, who was universally liked and respected, developed relationships with many players over the course of his career, one of whom was Alex Rodriguez. When A-Rod learned of Casey’s condition from Twins broadcasters John Gordon and Dan Gladden, he called Casey in the hospital.
From Mark Sheldon’s story for the team website:
Casey was hoping to work part-time for a 45th season and announce his retirement in June when Rodriguez and the Yankees were scheduled to be in town.
“He spoke a lot, but it was hard to understand him,” Rodriguez said of the final conversation with Casey. “His son was kind of translating what he was trying to say. His son told me that Puckett and myself were his favorites, and that he wanted to go out this year in June … (and) have me take him out there and throw out the first pitch. It was very emotional.”
Casey was eulogized at St. Olaf Catholic Church on March 30, 2005, and laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Dan Gladden, Jack Morris, John Gordon, and Dave St. Peter served as pallbearers. Also in attendance were Carl Pohlad, Roy Smalley, Juan Berenguer, Tim Laudner, and Scott Leius.
If you ask me, the Twins should find a way to incorporate Casey’s Kirby Puckett intro into every Target Field home game. And maybe his “No Smoking” proclamation. Maybe overdub Kent Hrbek saying “Target Field” instead of “Metrodome.”
March 28, 1996
Puckett Wakes Up with Vision Problem
36-year-old superstar Kirby Puckett appears poised for a big year, hitting .344 in Spring Training, when, on the last day of camp, he wakes up unable to see out of his right eye. He would be diagnosed with glaucoma and, one day later, placed on the 15-Day Disabled List for the first time in his career.
Quoting directly from a New York Times article from March 31, 1996:
“Kirby Puckett’s blurry vision is being caused by a partial blockage of a blood vessel in his right eye, and the Minnesota outfielder will miss the season opener, the Twins said Friday after placing him on the 15-day disabled list … retroactive to Thursday, making him eligible to return April 12. During that time, he will undergo treatment and will be able to work out with the club. Matt Lawton, who went 2 for 4 with a run batted in in Puckett’s place Friday, will start against the Tigers tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, four surgeries did nothing to improve Puckett’s vision, and he officially retired on July 12.
Read the Twins Almanac’s complete profile of Puckett.
Happy Birthday, Mike Kingery
It’s the birthday of 1979 Atwater High School graduate Mike Kingery, born in Saint James, MN in 1961. When he was six months old the Kingerys moved to Atwater where Mike’s father was proprietor of the Atwater Bowling Center.
Kingery signed with the Royals as an amateur free agent on August 27, 1979. He made his major league debut in Kansas City on July 7, 1986 at age 25, going 2-for-4 in a 8-1 loss to the Orioles. He would go on to play 819 major league games over parts of 10 seasons with Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Colorado, and Pittsburgh. A career .268 hitter, Kingery’s best season by far came at age 33 in Colorado during the strike-shortened 1994 season when he hit .349 over 105 games.
Kingery hit .290 in 24 career games versus the Minnesota Twins, including a home run off Les Straker on July 29, 1987. That same season he hit two home runs off 1973 Highland Park High School graduate Jack Morris.
Kingery and Blix Donnelly headlined the seven-member 2014 inaugural class of the West Central Baseball Hall of Fame in Willmar.
Mrs. Johnson and I swung into the Moose Lake Dairy Queen a few summers ago, and were interested to see a poster for “The Kingery Family,” a travelling singing and ministry troupe. Turns out Mike and his wife Chris are parents of EIGHT children. In addition to his minstrel work, Mike Kingery operates the Solid Foundation Baseball School in Grove City, MN.
March 30, 1981
Twins Trade Landreaux for Hatcher
The Twins trade Ken Landreaux to the Dodgers for Mickey Hatcher and a pair of prospects. They had acquired Landreaux and three prospects from the Angels two years earlier in exchange for Rod Carew.
Landreaux made Twins history twice during the 1980 season. He compiled a Twins record 31-game hitting streak from April 23 to May 30. Then, on July 3, he tied the modern major league record (since 1900) with three triples in a 10-3 home victory over Texas. Denard Span matched that record on June 29, 2010.
Landreaux made his lone All-Star team in 1980 despite actually having one of his least productive seasons, posting a -0.2 WAR (per Baseball Reference).
Hatcher made Twins history on April 28, 1985, going 4-for-5 in a 10-1 Twins win over Oakland at the Dome. He had gone 5-for-5 the previous day, giving him nine consecutive hits, tying the team record established by Tony Oliva in 1967. Todd Walker matched the feat in 1998.
Hatcher, who had become a real fan-favorite, was released near the end of Spring Training 1987.
March 31, 1971
Twins Release Tiant
Luis Tiant posted double-digit wins his first five seasons in Cleveland, including 21 in 1968, with a league-leading 1.60 ERA and 0.871 WHIP. Detroit’s Denny McLain led the majors with 31 wins, while St. Louis’s Bob Gibson led the majors with a 1.12 ERA and 0.853 WHIP. Quite a season for pitchers.
Tiant tied for the major league lead with 20 losses in 1969, while still posting a 3.3 WAR.
The Twins acquired Tiant and Stan Williams from Cleveland in exchange for Dean Chance, Ted Uhlaender, Graig Nettles, and Bob Miller on December 10, 1969.
Tiant pitched in only 18 games for the Twins in 1970, going 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.349 WHIP, and 1.2 WAR. He was released by the Twins on March 31, 1971, signed by Atlanta on April 16, and released again on May 15 before finally signing with the Red Sox May 17.
After one of the worst seasons of his career in 1971, Tiant posted double-digit wins the next eight consecutive seasons, including three seasons with 20+ wins.
Thirty-one years later the Twins released David Ortiz, but that’s a story for another Almanac.
March 31, 1987
Twins Acquire Gladden, Release Hatcher
The Twins release fan-favorite Mickey Hatcher and acquire the much more dynamic Dan Gladden from San Francisco in exchange for two prospects and a player to be named later, who turned out to be 1982 Bemidji grad and Golden Gophers all-time great Bryan Hickerson.
Hatcher was still owed $650,000 for 1987, and had a $100,000 buyout clause for 1988. It was the most expensive contract the Twins had eaten to date, but it would prove to be a prudent business decision, as Gladden would be a key contributor to the only two World Series championship teams in Twins history.
A major appeal of Gladden was his game-changing speed. A newspaper headline the morning after the trade read “Popularity Sacrificed for Steals,” a motivation confirmed by Twins executive vice president Andy MacPhail, who said that “the reason we got him is he gives us speed. He can steal bases. He’s a good turf player.” Hatcher, who had been with the Twins since 1981, and peaked in ‘84, was a pretty one-dimensional player. “He just didn’t fit in,” Tom Kelly said; “there’s no place for him to play on this team. We have better athletes. We didn’t need him as a designated hitter or a pinch hitter, either.”
The Gladden trade was the third significant move of the 1987 offseason. In February the Twins had acquired Jeff Reardon and Al Newman in separate trades with Montreal. They would trade for Joe Niekro on June 6, Dan Schatzeder on June 23, Steve Carlton on July 31, and Don Baylor on September 1.
April 1, 2002
Twins Hit 5 HRs on Opening Day
The Twins tie an American League Opening Day record with five home runs in Kansas City. Jacque Jones hit a solo and three-run home run, while David Ortiz, Brian Buchanan, and Torii Hunter each hit solo shots in a 8-6 Twins win.
The Twins are the most recent of five AL teams to hit five homers on Opening Day. The Mets set the major league Opening Day record with six home runs against the Expos in 1988. The major league record for home runs in any game is 10, by the Blue Jays against the Orioles in 1987 (full list on Baseball Almanac).
April 1, 2007
Carneal Passes Away
Legendary Twins radio broadcaster Herb Carneal passes away at age 83. Carneal spent 44 years calling Twins games, joining Ray Scott and Halsey Hall in 1962, the Twins’ second season in Minnesota. He received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 1996. He and Jim Kaat comprised the sophomore class of the Twins Hall of Fame, inducted on July 7, 2001.
On a personal note, when I was in elementary school I won a drawing at Hardee’s (true story) and got to spend an inning in the booth with Herb Carneal and John Gordon.
Happy Birthday, Tom Johnson
It’s the birthday of former Twins reliever Tom Johnson, born in St. Paul in 1951. Johnson graduated from St. Paul’s Murray High School (now a middle school) in 1969, the same year that Dave Winfield graduated from St. Paul Central. Both players accepted scholarships to play for coaches Dick Siebert and Jerry Kindall at the University of Minnesota, but Johnson backed out at the last minute and signed a professional contract with the Twins.
Johnson made his major league debut at Met Stadium on September 10, 1974 (age 23), starting the top of the 14th in relief of 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral graduate Tom Burgmeier. The Twins had a 4-1 lead entering the ninth when White Sox catcher Brian Downing hit a three-run homer off Bill Campbell to tie it up (Campbell had a historic ’76 season with the Twins, which he parlayed into a big pay day with the Red Sox following the season). Each team scored in the 11th and 13th innings for a 6-6 tie. Johnson struck out the first batter he faced, Eddie Leon. He gave up a single to the second batter, Jorge Orta. During the next at-bat, Johnson had Orta picked off first but made a throwing error, allowing Orta to advance to second. Orta later came around to score, with the run being unearned, despite the error being on Johnson himself. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the inning, Eric Soderholm reached on a two-out single, and scored on a Tony Oliva double. Johnson came back out to pitch a 1-2-3 top of the 15th. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Goose Gossage walked Rod Carew, who stole second, and scored on a Larry Hisle walk-off single, giving Johnson the win over future Hall of Famer Gossage.
Johnson also earned the win in his second appearance three days later (September 13), again with Carew scoring the walk-off run, this time with a home run leading off the 10th. He pitched in both halves of a doubleheader on September 14, earning a save in Game 1. He pitched seven innings total in four appearances in 1974, giving up just four hits and no walks (0.571 WHIP).
After making 18 appearances in both 1975 and ’76, Johnson had the best season of his career in 1977, going 16-7 with 15 saves, 3.13 ERA, and 1.357 WHIP in 71 games (146.2 innings pitched).
He struggled during 18 appearances in 1978, his final major league season.
Read Jim McKernon‘s SABR BioProject essay on Johnson (click here).
April 2, 1962
Twins Trade Ramos For Power and Stigman
It what is commonly considered the first major trade in team history, the Twins trade Pedro Ramos to Cleveland for four-time All-Star Vic Power and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate and 1960 All-Star Dick Stigman.
Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961.
He was involved in an interesting piece of Twins history on May 12, 1961, as he and Angels pitcher Eli Grba traded homers off each other. Grba homered off Ramos in the top of the fifth to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Ramos returned the favor in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. He added a two-run single in the sixth, and the Twins held on to win 5-4, with the pitcher driving in the final three runs.
Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 40 appearances (15 starts) in 1962. 1963 was his best season. He pitched a three-hit shutout in his second start of the season on April 18, and went on to post a 15-15 record in 33 starts. That’s just three no-decisions! He posted career-bests with a 3.25 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 15 complete games, and 193 strikeouts, finishing third in the American League in the latter two categories (Camilo Pascual led the league in both). Pedro Ramos, incidentally, was second in the AL with a 1.067 WHIP, and 8.237 strikeouts per nine innings in 1963.
April 2, 2010
First MLB Game at Target Field
The Twins and Cardinals play an exhibition game at Target Field, the first major league game at the new ballpark. Center fielder Denard Span had himself a day, collecting the stadium’s first hit (a triple, of course), first home run, and first run scored.
Jacque Jones, attempting a comeback with the club, pinch-hit and received a memorable standing ovation. I sure wish the Twins would make this kind of footage available. If they want to monetize it, fine, but don’t just keep it in the damn vault!
April 3, 1982
First MLB Game in the Dumb Dome
The Twins and Phillies play an exhibition game at the Metrodome, the first major league game at the new ballpark. After Pete Rose collected the Dome’s first base hit, 1978 Bloomington Kennedy graduate Kent Hrbek hit the first AND second home runs in Metrodome history, powering the Twins to a 5-0 win.
April 3, 1997
Old Man Grand Slam
40-year-old Twins DH Paul Molitor hits a grand slam off Detroit’s Willie Blair at home in the Dome, driving in Todd Walker, Chuck Knoblauch, and Rich Becker.
It is the third and final grand slam of the 1974 Cretin High School graduate’s career. The second came off Minnesota’s Dave Stevens on July 5, 1994. The first came way back on April 22, 1981.
41-year-old Dave Winfield hit a grand slam at the Metrodome on April 4, 1993. I believe he is the oldest Twin to do so.
Atlanta’s Julio Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam on June 27, 2005 at age 46. Playing for the Mets, he became the oldest player to hit a home run off the Diamondbacks’s Randy Johnson on May 4, 2007 at age 48.
April 4, 1990
Twins Trade Pomeranz for Ortiz
The Twins trade future-KARE11 anchor Mike Pomeranz to the Pirates for Junior Oritz and minor league pitcher Orlando Lind.
Oritz, who wore number 0, hit .335 (57-for-170) in 71 games (47 starts) in 1990. He is best remembered at Scott Erickson‘s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. He hit .209 in 61 regular season games (41 starts), and went 1-for-8 in six postseason games.
Mike Pomeranz never made it to the majors. These days he works in San Diego, doing, among other things, Padres pre- and post-game broadcasts.
April 5, 2004
Wuertz Makes MLB Debut
1997 Austin High School graduate Michael Wuertz strikes out the first two batters he faces in his major league debut, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth in a 7-4 Cubs win in Cincinnati.
Wuertz made 426 relief appearances over eight seasons with the Cubs and Athletics.
April 5, 2014
Gardenhire Wins 1,000th
Brian Dozier homers on the second pitch of the game, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory in Cleveland for Ron Gardenhire’s 1,000th managerial win. The milestone victory didn’t come without a new gray hair, however, as 2001 Stillwater grad Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth before securing the Kyle Gibson win.
Happy Birthday, Bert Blyleven
It’s the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland in 1951. He grew up in Garden Grove, CA, and was drafted by the Twins out of high school in the third round in 1969.
After only 21 minor league starts, Blyleven made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 (age 19) at RFK Stadium versus the Ted Williams-managed Senators. After Tony Oliva drove in César Tovar in the top of the first, staking the youngster to a 1-0 lead, Blyleven gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Lee Maye. He recovered, striking out the second batter for the first of 3,701 career K’s, and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just the one run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Tovar put the Twins back on top 2-1 in the fifth, driving in Frank Quilici. Ron Perranoski pitched the final two innings, saving the first of Blyleven’s 287 major league wins (currently 27th all-time).
Blyleven earned a 7-1 complete game victory over the Brewers on July 12, 1972 for the 1,000th win in Twins history. Remarkably, he also earned the 2,000th win in Twins history on September 25, 1985.
Only July 31, 1972, Blyleven gave up two inside-the-park home runs at Met Stadium to Chicago’s Dick Allen, who went on to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award that season. The next player to hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game was Greg Gagne at the Metrodome on October 4, 1986, doing so in his first two at-bats. He tripled in his third at-bat. Remarkably, Blyleven was on the mound for that game, too. More on Blyleven’s ’86 season later.
On May 23, 1973, Blyleven pitched a one-hit shutout versus the Royals at Met Stadium. He would pitch two more one-hitters on September 26, 1973, and July 4, 1974, but the first was the only shutout of the three. Jim Kaat also pitched a one-hitter in 1973.
1973 was Blyleven’s best season, posting his only 20-win season (with 17 losses), with a career-best 2.52 ERA, major league-leading 2.32 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and a major league-leading nine shutouts in a staggering 325 innings pitched (Wilbur Wood led the majors with 359.1 innings pitched). He pitched back-to-back shutouts twice in 1973 (and once in 1971). His 25 complete games, nine shutouts, and 325 innings pitched are still Twins records. He finished the season with 258 strikeouts, a team record that would stand for 31 years until Johan Santana K’ed 265 in 2004 (Nolan Ryan led the majors with 383 K’s in 1973, 125 more than Blyleven’s team record!). Blyleven made his first of two career All-Star teams in ’73.
Blyleven earned an 11-inning 1-0 win in Milwaukee on August 27, 1975. Craig Kusick tied a major league record with three hit-by-pitches in the game. Blyleven earned a remarkable 15 1-0 complete game wins in his career.
Blyleven was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith early in the 1976 season. With trade rumors swirling, Blyleven walked off the mound after the top of the ninth on May 31 trailing the Angels 3-1. Some of the 8,379 fans in attendance, frustrated by Blyleven’s refusal to sign Griffith’s latest contract offer, gave the pitcher grief, singing “bye, bye, Bertie.” Before he got to the dugout, Blyleven, visibly angry, looked to the stands and gave someone—possibly hecklers, but likely Griffith himself—the ol’ one-finger salute.
The next day, June 1, Blyleven was traded along with Danny Thompson to the Rangers for four players, including Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage, and $250,000 cash.
Blyleven wasn’t the only player involved in the trade that had bad blood with Griffith. Contract negotiations between Danny Thompson and the owner were also at a standstill. Griffith refused to give the infielder, who had been diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 1973 season, a fair price, insisting that no other team would offer someone with cancer a contract at all. Thompson struggled in Texas, and passed away that December.
Blyleven pitched a two-hit shutout at Met Stadium in his first game against the Twins on July 26, 1976.
He pitched a no-hitter in his final start as a Ranger on September 22, 1976. The Rangers sent him to the Pirates as part of a four-team, 11-player trade on December 8. Not until the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers during the 2015 season would another pitcher be traded after pitching a no-hitter in his final game with a team.
Blyleven made his second postseason with the Pirates in 1979 (he had pitched two innings of relief in the ALCS as a rookie in 1970). He earned a complete-game 1-0 win over the Reds in the third and decisive game of the NLCS in Pittsburgh. Johnny Bench homered for the Reds’ only run. Blyleven started Game 3 of the World Series in Baltimore, leaving after six in a 2-2 tie. The Pirates went on to win 3-2 on a Manny Sanguillen RBI single in the ninth. Down three games to one and trailing 1-0 in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, Blyleven entered in relief in the sixth and held the Orioles scoreless on just three hits over the final four innings of the game. The Pirates rallied for a 7-1 win, sending the Series back to Baltimore where they won both games.
Blyleven was traded with Manny Sanguillen to Cleveland following the 1980 season. He won 19 games with Cleveland in 1984, finishing third in AL Cy Young balloting. He finished third again in 1985, when, playing for both Cleveland and Minnesota, he led the AL with 24 complete games, five shutouts, 206 strikeouts, and 293.2 innings pitched. After making his second All-Star team that summer, the Twins reacquired Blyleven on August 1 in exchange for four players, including former first-round draft pick and future All-Star Jay Bell, who would become the 11th player to homer on his first major league pitch on September 29, 1986. The Twins’ Andre David had also homered on his first MLB pitch on June 29, 1984, as did Eddie Rosario on May 6, 2015.
The Twins put on one heckuva show at the Metrodome on August 1, 1986, as Blyleven two-hit the A’s, striking out a team record 15 (broken by Johan Santana with 17 strikeouts in just eight innings on August 19, 2007), becoming just the tenth player in major league history with 3,000 strikeouts. One of Oakland’s two hits, not surprisingly, was an Alfredo Griffin homer in the eighth. Kirby Puckett, meanwhile, hit for the seventh of ten cycles in team history, and the first at the Dome. Twins won 10-1.
On September 13, 1986, Blyleven set a team record by giving up five home runs in a 14-1 loss to the Rangers at the Metrodome. Carlos Silva tied that record with five home runs allowed on August 22, 2006.
On September 29, 1986, Blyleven gave up his 46th home run of the season, breaking Hall of Famer Robin Roberts’ 30-year-old single-season record. He would give up 50 altogether, while notching 17 wins and pitching an American League-leading 271.2 innings.
Blyleven was solid again in 1987, going 15-12 in 37 starts, pitching 267 innings. He did, however, again lead the majors with 46 home runs allowed. He beat Jack Morris in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and earned the win the fifth and decisive game in Detroit.
He held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings as the Twins won Game 2 of the World Series 8-4. He took his only postseason loss in his final postseason appearance, giving up three runs over six innings as the Cardinals won Game 5 4-2 to take a 3-2 Series lead. The Twins, of course, won Games 6 and 7 back in Minnesota. Altogether, Blyleven went 5-1 in eight career postseason games (six starts), with a 2.47 ERA and 1.077 WHIP.
Blyleven tied a major league record by hitting four Cleveland batters on April 22, 1988, giving up seven runs in just 4.2 innings. That wasn’t the worst thing that happened that day, though. After the game, the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals for clubhouse cancer Tommy frickin’ Herr.
Blyleven notched his 250th major league win on June 19, 1988. Of his eventual 287 wins, 149 came in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat‘s 190 (including one as a Senator). Blyleven holds Twins records with 141 complete games and 29 shutouts. For comparison, Brad Radke pitched 37 complete games.
1988 was a rough season overall, though, as Blyleven led the majors with 17 losses. After the season he was sent to the Angels as part of a five-player trade that brought Paul Sorrento to Minnesota.
Blyleven came roaring back in 1989, going 17-5 with a league-leading five shutouts. He finished fourth in Cy Young balloting and was named AL Comeback Player of the Year.
1992 was his final major league season. He was 41 years old. He retired with 3,701 strikeouts, fifth-most in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and 1987 teammate Steve Carlton.
Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, his fourteenth year on the ballot. The Twins retired his number 28 on July 16, 2011.
April 6, 1973
Oliva Hits First HR by DH
With Rod Carew aboard in the top of the first on Opening Day, Tony Oliva hits the first regular season home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley who spearheaded the movement for the AL to adopt the DH.
Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his 25 complete games of the season as the Twins won 8-3.
April 6, 1982
First Regular Season Game at Dome
The Twins opened the 1982 season versus Seattle at home in the dumb new Dome. 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate Jim Eisenreich, making his major league debut, had the honor of being the first Twins batter to the plate. He grounded out to short. Two batters later right fielder Dave Engle homered for the first regular season hit in Metrodome history.
Gary Gaetti was thrown at at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat. He put the ball over the fence in his next two at-bats, going 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored in an 11-7 Twins loss.
April 6, 1993
Winfield Homers in Twins Debut
1969 St. Paul Central graduate Dave Winfield (age 41) homers in his Twins debut, a 10-5 loss to the White Sox at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett also homered in the game.
Winfield signed with the Twins after winning a World Series in his only season with the Blue Jays. He had been sensational in 1992, hitting .290 with 26 home runs, 33 doubles, 92 runs, and 108 RBI, finishing fifth in American League MVP voting (Dennis Eckersley won the award, with Kirby Puckett coming in runner-up).
It was certainly exciting to have him in Minnesota, but his production was pretty pedestrian, hitting .270 with 21 home runs, 27 doubles, 72 runs, and 76 RBI in 143 games for a 0.2 WAR (wins above replacement). He hit another 10 of his 465 major league home runs in 77 games with the Twins in 1994. He wrapped up his 22-year Hall of Fame career with Cleveland in 1995.
April 7, 1970
Alyea Has Record-Setting Opening Day
In his first game as a Twin, outfielder Brant Alyea ties the team record with seven RBI, powering Jim Perry to a 12-0 shutout on Opening Day in Chicago. He went on to drive in 20 runs in the Twins’ first 12 games, with a remarkable 19 of those RBI coming in Perry’s first four starts. Incidentally, Jim Perry won the AL Cy Young Award in 1970, perhaps thanks in part to Alyea’s run support.
Pretty hot start to his Twins career. His Senators career got off to a hot start, too, homering on his first major league pitch on September 12, 1965.
Alyea matched the team single-game RBI record on September 7, 1970, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and driving in all seven Twins runs in a 7-6 win over the Brewers at Met Stadium. It was the beginning of a team record nine-game RBI streak.
Glenn Adams established a new team record with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Rod Carew also made Twins history that day, going 4-for-5 with a walk and a team record (since tied) five runs scored, raising his season average to .403.
Randy Bush tied Adams’ team record with eight RBI on May 20, 1989.
April 7, 1984
Morris Pitches No-Hitter
Playing for the Tigers, 1973 Highland Park (St. Paul) graduate Jack Morris pitches a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago.
He got into a jam in the fourth, walking the first three batters before inducing a P-C-1B double play from DH Greg Luzinski, playing in his final major league season. Morris then struck out Ron Kittle to end the inning. He walked six White Sox batters altogether in the 4-0 Tigers win.
As luck would have it, the Saturday afternoon game was broadcast in Minnesota as NBC’s Game of the Week.
KARE11’s Jeff Passolt (currently with KMSP) was actually at the game, being in town for the North Stars versus Blackhawks playoff series.
Morris also pitched three one-hitters in his career, including against the Twins on August 21, 1980. See all four of these games on Baseball Reference.
April 7, 1987
Hrbek Hits Walk-Off in Opener
After tying the game with his second RBI groundout in the eighth, Kent Hrbek hits a walk-off single in the tenth to give the Twins a 5-4 Opening Day win over Oakland at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett homered and doubled in the game.
April 8, 1988
Gladden Has Hot Home Opener
Dan Gladden goes 4-for-5 with two home runs, four RBI, and three runs scored including a steal of home for a 6-3 win over Toronto in the home opener. Gladden homered to lead off the Twins’ half of the first, and knocked out another in the eighth. With Kent Hrbek batting in the seventh, Gladden stole home off David Wells. It was the first of three times that Gladden would steal home in his career. He would do so again later in the 1988 season, and once more in 1989. He was caught trying to steal home five times in his career. Rod Carew stole home 17 times in his career. Paul Molitor stole home 10 times.
Gladden had also gone 4-for-5 in the Twins’ previous game in New York.
April 8, 1994
Puckett Collects 2,000th Hit
After striking out in his first at-bat, Twins right fielder Kirby Puckett collects five-straight hits, including his 2,000th hit with an opposite-field single driving in Pat Meares in the bottom of the third. Trailing 8-4 in the bottom of the eighth and Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound, Chuck Knoblauch hit a two-run double, and Puckett a two-run single in consecutive at-bats to tie the game, giving Eckersley his first blown save of the season. After Oakland took a 10-8 lead in the top of the tenth, Puckett drove in Knoblauch with a double, but the Athletics held on for a 10-9 win. Altogether Puckett went 5-for-6 with a double, 4 RBI, and a run scored in the game. 1980 New Ulm graduate and Golden Gophers all-time great Terry Steinbach homered in the game for Oakland.
Puckett retired with 2,304 hits, the most in Twins history. Joe Mauer needs 100 to pass Rod Carew (2,085) for second in team history.
April 9, 1995
Allison Passes Away
Twins all-time great Bob Allison passes away from the effects of ataxia, a rare, incurable disease that affects nerve cells in the brain. He was just 60 years old.
Read Gregory H. Wolf‘s SABR BioProject biography of Allison, which first appeared in the 2015 book A Pennant for the Twin Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins.
April 9, 2000
Twins & Royals Go Back-to-Back-to-Back
Already up 6-0 entering the top of the sixth in Kansas City, Corey Koskie leads off the inning with a single. Ron Coomer, Jacque Jones, and Matt LeCroy then proceed to hit three consecutive home runs on four total pitches. Coomer homered again in the seventh, again with Koskie on base.
Eric Milton retired the first 20 batters in order and had a two-hit shutout going into the eighth. After retiring the first two batters, including former Twin David McCarty, Milton allowed two hits before being relieved by Eddie Guardado. Guardado gave up an RBI single and then back-to-back home runs to Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye before being relieved by Hector Carrasco who surrendered the Royals’ third consecutive home run to Mike Sweeney. It was the first game in major league history in which both teams hit back-to-back-to-back home runs.
The Twins are one of seven teams to have hit four consecutive home runs, with Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, and Harmon Killebrew doing so to start the top of the 11th in Kansas City on May 2, 1964.
The Twins set an American League record by hitting five home runs in a single inning on June 9, 1966, also against Kansas City, but this time at home in Bloomington, with Rich Rollins, Zoilo Versalles, Tony Oliva, Don Mincher, and Harmon Killebrew homering off three different Athletics pitchers.
Four National League teams have hit five home runs in an inning between 1939 and 2006, all four against the Cincinnati Reds.
April 9, 2010
Drew Butera Makes MLB Debut
Catcher Drew Butera makes his major league debut in Chicago, making him and his dad Sal the first father-son duo in Twins history. Drew went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a sac bunt in a 4-3, 11-inning Twins win.
April 10, 1968
Chance Pitches Opening Day Shutout
Dean Chance pitches a four-hit shutout, and Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison hit solo homers off Senators pitcher Camilo Pascual for a 2-0 Opening Day win in Washington.
April 10, 1971
Powell Homers for First MLB Hit
In his first major league start, 1969 first-round draft pick Paul Powell hits an eighth-inning homer for his first hit, giving the Twins an insurance run in a 5-3 win in Chicago. It would be his only major league homer.
Powell had gotten into two prior games as a pinch-runner, scoring both times.
The Twins’ Andre David hit a two-run home run on his first major league pitch against Jack Morris on June 29, 1984. Like Powell, his first major league hit was also his only home run.
April 10, 1982
Twins Deal Smalley, Acquire Gagne
The Twins trade Roy Smalley and 1975 Alexandria High School graduate Gary Serum to the Yankees for Ron Davis, Paul Boris, and Greg Gagne.
Davis, who had been an All-Star in 1981, was one of the game’s first setup men, combining for a potent 1-2 punch with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage. Davis still holds the Yankees record for consecutive strikeouts in a game with eight on May 4, 1981. Doug Fister established a new American League record with nine consecutive K’s on September 27, 2012. The major league record belongs to Tom Seaver with 10 straight on April 22, 1970.
Davis was never in All-Star form in Minnesota, however. He tied a single-season record with 14 blown saves in 1984, a dubious feat not matched since. Four pitchers had blown 14 saves in a season prior to Davis, including Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers in 1976, and Bruce Sutter in 1978. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, incidentally, holds the record with six seasons with 10+ blown saves, followed by Rollie Fingers and Jeff Reardon with four each.
Davis’s incompetence as Twins closer is often overstated, but there’s no denying that his struggles took a mental toll on the team. When he was traded to the Cubs in August 1986, a party broke out on the team’s charter flight from Anaheim to Seattle, led by Kirby Puckett. Kent Hrbek said it was like the team had been exorcised of a demon. Hrbie conceded in retrospect that the team didn’t handle the situation too well. He personally really liked Davis. Harmon Killebrew, who was on the flight as a TV analyst, said it was one of the strangest scenes he’d ever seen.
Though Davis was the object of the Twins’ desire at the time, Greg Gagne would obviously emerge as the key figure in this transaction. He didn’t make his major league debut until 1983, and even then only played 12 games between the ‘83 and ‘84 seasons before becoming a fixture at shortstop from 1985 to 1992. He was a key component of the Twins’ 1987 and 1991 World Series Championships.
The Twins had originally acquired Roy Smalley in the 1976 trade that sent Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson to the Rangers. In July 1984 the Yankees offloaded Smalley to the White Sox in exchange for players to be named later, one of whom wound up being Doug Drabek, who, after just one season, the Yankees in turn shipped off to Pittsburgh where he would win the 1990 Cy Young Award. The White Sox traded Smalley back to Minnesota in 1985. He retired after the 1987 season.
Gary Serum was born in Fargo, and grew up in Alexandria, MN. He played two and a half major league seasons with the Twins from 1977 to ‘79. Despite posting a 9-1 record between Double-A and Triple-A in the Yankees organization, 1982 was Serum’s final professional season.
April 10, 1992
Mack Leadoff Home Run in Home Opener
In the Twins’ first at-bat at the Metrodome since Gene Larkin‘s walk-off in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Shane Mack hits a leadoff home run. Altogether he went 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored in the 7-1 win over the Rangers (now featuring Al Newman).
Mack posted a career-high 6.5 WAR in 1992, second on the team that season to Puckett’s career-high 7.1. Mack’s 3.6 WAR in 1991 was second-best to Kevin Tapani‘s 6.8.
April 11, 1925
Birthdate of Bob Casey
The inimitable Bob Casey was born in Minneapolis on this date in 1925. Casey was the only public address announcer in Twins history until his death in 2005. He also worked for the Minneapolis Millers, Lakers, and the Vikings.
The decorated World War II veteran is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
April 11, 1961
First Regular Season Game in Twins History
In the first regular season game in Twins history, Pedro Ramos pitches a three-hit shutout versus Whitey Ford and the eventual 1961 World Series champions at Yankee Stadium. Ramos held Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris to a combined 1-for-11, with Berra singling in the first. Maris, of course, would go on to establish a new single-season home run record with 61 that year. Moose Skowron and the pitcher Ford had the Yankees’ other two hits. Ramos did not allow a baserunner after the fifth inning.
Ramos and Ford were locked in a scoreless duel until Bob Allison led off the seventh with the first home run in Twins history. Ramos himself drove in Earl Battey and Reno Bertoia with a single to center later that inning, knocking Ford out of the game. Bertoia homered in the eight, driving in Battey. Killebrew added a sac fly in the ninth, driving in Zoilo Versalles to give the Twins a 6-0 Opening Day win. They went 5-1 on the road before coming to Bloomington to play their first home game in front of a crowd already deep in the throes of pennant fever. They lost the home opener 5-3 to the new expansion Senators, and finished their inaugural season 70-90, seventh in the American League.
5-1 record before playing their first home game in front of a crowd already deep in the throes of pennant fever. They would lose their first game in Bloomington, however, 3-5 to the new Senators, and finish their inaugural season 70-90, 7th place in the America League.
April 11, 1971
Kaat Pitches 11-Hit Shutout
Jim Kaat pitches a shutout in Chicago despite giving up 11 hits and a walk. At the plate he went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored. The Twins turned two double plays in the 6-0 win.
The team record for hits in a shutout is 13 by Mudcat Grant on July 15, 1964. There have been two other 11-hit shutouts in Twins history: Rick Lysander on August 1, 1983, and Carlos Silva on August 3, 2004.
April 11, 1977
Terrell Sets Double Play Record
The Twins pull out a 12-3 win at the Kingdome in their first-ever game against the Mariners, despite 1964 Waterville graduate Jerry Terrell hitting into a team record three double plays. Jose Morales tied Terrell’s record on May 17, 1980.
April 12, 1926
Birthdate of Walt Moryn
It’s the birthdate of 1944 Harding High School graduate Walt Moryn, born in St. Paul in 1926.
Moryn played 785 major league games over eight seasons with the Dodgers (1954–’56), Cubs (1956–1960), Cardinals (1960–’61), and Pirates (1961). His teammates included Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, and Roberto Clemente.
He hit 101 home runs, including six off Robin Roberts. He had nine multi-home run games. He hit three on May 30, 1958, including a walk-off home run against Sandy Koufax, who entered the game in the ninth. Moryn made his only All-Star team in 1958, though he did not get into the game.
Moryn is best remembered by Cubs fans for making a dramatic shoestring catch in left for the final out of Don Cardwell’s no-hitter on May 15, 1960. Biographer Art Mugalian points out that Moryn had spoiled a no-hitter earlier in the season, hitting a two-out pinch-hit home run in the eighth off Sam Jones at Candlestick Park on April 16. Jones completed the one-hitter for a 6-1 Giants win.
Moryn passed away on July 21, 1996 in Winfield, Il. He was 70 years old.
Read Art Mugalian’s SABR BioProject biography of Walt Moryn.
April 12, 1965
Home Opener Starter Airlifed
Jim Kaat, Dick Stigman, Rich Rollins, and Bill Bethea are marooned at their homes in Burnsville—the wrong side of the flooded Minnesota River—and have to be taken by helicopter to and from Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington for the home opener versus the Yankees.
Kaat gave up four runs on five hits and a walk over nine innings, and hit a two-RBI double. After Bob Allison got to third on an E7 leading off the 11th, the Yankees intentionally loaded the bases. They got to the first two outs on a shallow pop fly and strikeout, but César Tovar came through with a walk-off single to center off Pedro Ramos. Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout against the Yankees in New York.
April 12, 2005
Twins Win on Stewart Walk-Off
After Torii Hunter drives in Jason Bartlett to tie the game in the eighth, the Twins beat the Tigers 5-4 on a Shannon Stewart walk-off ground-rule double off Troy Percival in the ninth. According to Halsey Hall SABR member John Swol‘s great site TwinsTrivia.com, Percival had not allowed an earned run versus the Twins in over 40 innings going back to 1995.
April 12, 2010
First Regular Season Game at Target Field
Carl Pavano and the Twins beat the Red Sox 5-2 in the first regular season game at Target Field. Red Sox leadoff hitter Marco Scutaro singled to center for the new stadium’s first regular season hit. With Dustin Pedroia batting, however, Scutaro was thrown out trying to steal second. Pedroia doubled on the next pitch (d’oh!). Pavano escaped the first unscathed. He gave up only one run in the game, on a David Ortiz RBI double in the fourth.
After Jon Lester walked Denard Span leading off the bottom of the first, Orlando Hudson collected the Twins’ first hit at the new ballpark. After Mauer and Morneau made the first two outs, Michael Cuddyer collected the new stadium’s first RBI, driving in Span with a single to left. Jason Kubel then drove in Hudson, giving the Twins a 2-0 first-inning lead. Joe Mauer hit an RBI double in the second, and an RBI single in the fourth. Kubel hit Target Field’s first regular season home run leading off the seventh. Jon Rauch retired Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Adrian Beltre in order to save the 5-2 Twins win.
April 13, 1858
Birthdate of Bill Barnes
It’s the birthdate of former major league center fielder Bill Barnes, born in Shakopee in 1858. Barnes played for the St. Paul White Caps, who in 1884 played nine games as a replacement team in the Union Association, which, despite only existing for one season, is generally considered a major league. The White Caps played all of their Union Association games on the road.
April 13, 1962
Home Opener Snowed Out
In just the second year of major league baseball in Minnesota, the Twins’ home opener versus the Los Angeles Angels is cancelled due to six inches of snow.
April 13, 1968
Perry Pitches Shutout, Hits Homer
Jim Perry has a heckuva day, pitching a four-hit shutout, and hitting a ninth-inning home run in a 6-0 Twins win at Yankee Stadium.
Jim Kaat pitched a shutout and hit a home run on July 24, 1963, and October 1, 1970.
April 13, 1991
Winfield Has 5-Hit, 3-HR Game vs. Twins
Playing for the Angels, 1969 St. Paul Central graduate and Golden Gophers all-time great Dave Winfield goes 5-for-6 with three home runs, a double, six RBI, and four runs scored in a 15-9 win at the Metrodome. Angels third baseman Gary Gaetti went 4-for-6 with a double and RBI.
April 14, 1927
Wera Makes MLB Debut
25-year-old Winona native Julie Wera makes his major league debut with New York at Yankee Stadium, pinch-hitting for Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt against Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. He grounded out.
Wera played 38 games at third base for the vaunted ‘27 Yankees. He hit his one and only big league homer during a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1927 in front of a then-record crowd of 74,000.
Wera did not play in the 1927 World Series in which the Yankees swept the Pirates. He did, however, receive the same $5,782 portion of the winners’ purse as the rest of his teammates, which included Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Nice bonus, considering that Wera’s ‘27 salary was reported to be $2,400.
April 14, 1983
Snow Collapses the Dome
The largest April snowstorm in Twin Cities history (at the time) forces the postponement of a game versus the California Angels. The decision to postpone the game was made the night before out of concern that the Angels would not be able to arrive in Minnesota in time. Travel concerns were a moot point, however, as damage from the storm caused the Metrodome roof to collapse about twelve hours after the decision to postpone. The spring storm dumped 13.6 inches of snow on the metro. That record was eclipsed when 14.9″ of snow forced the postponement of three games on April 13, 14, and 15, 2018.
April 14, 2016
Worst Start in Twins History
The Twins are swept by the White Sox in their home-opening series, falling to 0-9 on the season, the worst start in the franchise’s 116-year history. It was the worst start by any major league team in 13 years, going back to the epically awful 2003 Tigers who finished 43-119.
The Braves would also fall to 0-9 later that day, and finish the season 68-93. Minnesota, meanwhile, would finish 59-103, the worst record in Twins history. It was remarkably not the worst season in franchise history, however. The 1904 Washington Senators finished 38-113 (.252 winning %).
April 15, 1947
Robinson Breaks Color Barrier
Jackie Robinson breaks major league baseball’s longstanding color barrier, starting at first base and batting second for the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field.
St. Paul Central and Hamline alumnus Howie Schultz replaced Robinson at first in the top of the ninth. Schultz had played for the Dodgers since 1943. After it became abundantly clear that Robinson had first base under control, the Dodgers sold Schultz’s contract to the Phillies on May 10.
Schultz played in the major until 1948. Later, he was a member of the 1951–’52 NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers. Vikings legend Bud Grant had played off the bench for the Lakers the previous two seasons, winning a championship in 1949–’50. Grant was a heckuva baseball player, too.
April 15, 1979
Twelve Twins Get Hits
Twelve different Twins get a hit (20 total), 11 score a run, and 10 collect an RBI in a 18-6 win in Seattle. Minnesota native Jerry Koosman enjoyed the run support, as he himself gave up six runs on 12 hits and a walk, earning a complete-game victory, improving to 2-0 on the season.
April 15, 1998
Eisenreich’s Last Home Run
Playing for the Florida Marlins, 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate and St. Cloud State Hall of Famer Jim Eisenreich hits his final major league home run, a two-run game-winner off Curt Schilling, driving in current Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
April 15, 2000
Ripken Gets 3,000th
Cal Ripken Jr. becomes the 24th player to reach 3,000 hits in a 6-4 Orioles win at the Metrodome. Ripken entered the game sitting at 2,997, having collected one hit the night before in a wild 10-9 Twins win. Trailing 4-9, the Twins had scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Eddie Guardado secured the save, retiring Ripken for the final out of the game.
On this night, Ripken had already gone 2-for-3 when he came up in the seventh with the game tied, two out, and Albert Belle on third. The Twins brought in Hector Carrasco to face the Iron Man. Catcher Matt LeCroy gave up a passed ball on Carrasco’s first pitch, allowing Belle to score the go-ahead run. Ripken stroked Carrasco’s second pitch for a line-drive single to center, becoming just the seventh player in major league history to collect both 400 home runs and 3,000 hits.
Former Twin Mike Trombley earned the save for Baltimore. Noteworthy in retrospect is the fact that Midre Cummings pinch-hit for the number nine batter Torii Hunter.
After his milestone hit, Ripken was greeted by base coach Eddie Murray, who had himself collected his 3,000th hit off Mike Trombley at the Metrodome in 1995. The following season, Murray became just the third person in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez have since joined the club.
1969 St. Paul Central graduate and Golden Gophers all-time great Dave Winfield collected his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome in 1993. Twenty-nine players have collected 3,000 hits in the 146-year history of Major League Baseball. Three of those reached the milestone at the Metrodome in a period of seven years. It is also noteworthy that of the 29 members of the 3,000 hit club, two (Winfield and Paul Molitor) were born in St. Paul just five years apart.
April 15, 2001
Milton Ks Eight of First 10
Hosting the White Sox, Eric Milton gets off to a hot start, striking out the side including Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Milton goes on to strike out eight of the first 10 batters he faces.
Milton completed seven innings, holding the White Sox to just two runs on a Thomas homer in the sixth, one of 521 he hit in his career, tied with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 19th all-time. LaTroy Hawkins earned the save in the Twins 4-3 victory, their sixth straight, improving to 9-2 on the season.
April 15, 2017
Santana Pitches One-Hit Shutout
Ervin Santana one-hits the White Sox on a Saturday afternoon at Target Field, improving to 3-0 on the season.
Chicago’s only hit was a third-inning single by catcher Omar Narváez. Santana pitched with a comfortable lead all afternoon, as the Twins scored five in the bottom of the first. Robbie Grossman added a RBI single in the eighth for a 6-0 Twins win.
Santana made his second All-Star team in 2017, and finished the season 16-8, tied with Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for the major league lead with five complete games and three shutouts.
Here is a list of all the one-hitters in Twins history on Baseball Reference, courtesy of TwinsTrivia.com’s John Swol.
April 16, 1961
First Grand Slam in Twins History
Bob Allison hits the first grand slam in Twins history in the top of the first in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader in Baltimore. The Orioles’ Chuck Estrada, who had tied for the league lead with 18 wins the previous season and would win 15 in 1961, walked three straight to start the game, filling the bases for the cleanup hitter Allison. After giving up a double to Jim Lemon, Estrada was pulled, ultimately being responsible for five runs. Relief pitcher John Papa didn’t fare much better, issuing consecutive two-out bases-loaded walks before Dick Hall, the third pitcher used by Baltimore in the six-run first, got the final out.
Allison added a three-run homer in the sixth, establishing a Twins single-game record with seven RBI in the 10-5 win. That record was matched four times before being broken by Glenn Adams with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Randy Bush also had eight RBI on May 20, 1989.
Read more about 7+ RBI games in Twins history.
In addition to being the first in Twins history, Allison’s grand slam was significant in two more ways. It was the first of three he hit in 1961, still tied for the team single-season record with Rod Carew (1976), Kent Hrbek (1985), Kirby Puckett (1992), and Torii Hunter (2007).
Additionally, it was the first of eight grand slams the Twins hit during their inaugural 1961 season. That is still the team record. The other Twins to hit grand slams in 1961 were Dan Dobbek, Harmon Killebrew, Julio Becquer (a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam on the fourth of July), Ted Lepcio, and Bill Tuttle.
April 16, 2016
ByungHo Park hits a prodigious 462-foot blast over the batter’s eye at Target Field.
April 17, 1968
Harmon Killebrew homers and doubles in a 13-1 Twins win over Washington, improving to 6-0, the best start in team history.
April 17, 1970
Playing for the Oakland A’s, 1954 Edina-Morningside grad Bob “Rocky” Johnson hits his 44th and final major league home run off the Twins’ Jim Kaat.
April 17, 1977
Twins First baseman Rod Carew caps off a seven-run second-inning rally with a two-out, four-run triple. Carew scored on an error when the pitcher missed the cutoff.
April 17, 1979
Angels ace Nolan Ryan pitches a four-hit shutout as the Twins lose their home opener 6-0.
April 17, 2009
Kubel Completes Cycle with Grand Slam
Down 9-4 to the Angels in the bottom of the eighth, the Twins score three on Mike Redmond and Denard Span hits. After Brendan Harris (who homered earlier in the game) strikes out for the second out of the inning, the Angels, still clinging to a two-run lead, intentionally walk Justin Morneau to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who is a home run shy of the cycle. Kubel hits the 0-1 pitch out of the park, completing the Twins’ seven-run eighth inning rally. Joe Nathan retires the Angels in order in the ninth to save the 11-9 Twins win.
It was the ninth of ten cycles in Twins history. The previous eight were Rod Carew (5/20/70), César Tovar (9/19/72), Larry Hisle (7/4/76), Lyman Bostock (7/24/76), Mike Cubbage (7/27/78), Gary Ward (9/18/80), Kirby Puckett (8/1/86), and Carlos Gómez (5/7/08). Michael Cuddyer hit for the tenth and most recent cycle in Twins history just over a month later on May 22.
Two players had previously completed the cycle with a grand slams. Interestingly, they were both shortstops: Tony Lazzeri in 1932, and Miguel Tejada in 2001.
April 17, 2010
Mauer Receives MVP Award
Joe Mauer receives his 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award in a pregame ceremony at Target Field prior to a game against the Royals.
After missing the first 22 games of the 2009 season with a lower back injury, Mauer homered on his first swing back from the disabled list. He went on to hit 11 home runs and drive in 32 runs in the month of May. He set career-highs with 28 home runs and 96 RBI on the season, and won his third AL batting title with a .365 average, the best by a catcher in major league history.
The Twins won the Central Division in 2009 with a dramatic 12th-inning walk-off win in Game 163 versus Detroit, but were swept by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
After receiving his trophy, Mauer went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the game. Jim Thome homered. Tied 5-5 in the seventh, Orlando Hudson led off the bottom of the inning with a home run, giving the Twins a 6-5 win.
April 17, 2014
Eight-Walk Eighth Inning
After being snowed out the previous night, the Twins and Blue Jays played a frigid doubleheader on April 17. The Twins won Game 1 by a score of 7-0. The 31° gametime temperature was the coldest for a Twins home game at the time. The temperature was up to 42° by the start of Game 2.
The Twins trailed 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth. They would score four runs before getting their first hit, and ultimately score six on just one hit in the inning. Blue Jays pitcher Steve Delebar walked Josmil Pinto and Chris Hermann to start the inning. Eduardo Núñez then dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt, moving the tying run into scoring position. That was completely unnecessary in retrospect, as Sergio Santos (replacing Delebar) and J.A. Happ combined to walk the next five Twins batters. Three runs scored on Santos wild pitches, and a fourth run scored when Happ walked Chris Colabello with the bases loaded. Finally, after having already scored four runs, the Twins got their first hit of the inning, a two-run Jason Kubel single to right. Josmil Pinto then walked for the second time in the inning before the Blue Jays finally got the final two outs. Glen Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, securing a 9-5 Twins win.
April 18, 1896
Birthdate of Rip Conway
St. Thomas alumnus Rip Conway was born in White Bear Lake on this date in 1896. Conway got into 14 major league games as an infielder and pinch-hitter for the Boston Braves in 1918.
April 18, 1912
Spencer Makes Only MLB Appearance
Hack Spencer, who was born in St. Cloud and grew up in the Minneapolis area, makes his one and only major league appearance with the St. Louis Browns, allowing two runs on two hits in the final 1.2 innings of a 12-7 loss to the White Sox.
The Browns finished the season 53-101. The only American League team with a worse record was the New York Highlanders. They changed their name to the Yankees the next season, and went on to win 27 World Series, including at least two in each decade from 1920 to 2010, except for the ’80s in which they won none. The Yankees have not won a World Series in the current decade, if that makes anyone feel better.
Happy Birthday, Jim Eisenreich
It’s the birthday of 1977 St. Cloud Tech grad, St. Cloud State all-time great, and 15-year major leaguer Jim Eisenreich, born in St. Cloud in 1959.
Eisenreich’s SCSU career overlapped with future major leaguers Bob Hegman and Dana Kiecker.
The Twins selected Eisenreich in the 16th round of the 1980 draft. He made his major league debut playing center field and batting leadoff on Opening Day 1982 (age 22). His Twins career never got off the ground, however. He played in just 48 games over three seasons, hampered by uncontrollable tics and jerks. He was misdiagnosed with agoraphobia, “the fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment.”
He did not play in 1985 or ‘86. He was selected off waivers by the Royals on October 2, 1986. It wasn’t until he was with the Royals that Eisenreich was correctly diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. With this newfound understanding of his condition, he was able to get his baseball career back on track. He played 44 games with the Royals in 1987, and 82 in 1988. He averaged 131 games per season between 1989 and 1992, hitting .286 over that four-year span.
He hit .341 over 59 career games against the Twins, his best average versus any American League team. He hit .405 in 63 career games against the Dodgers.
Eisenreich signed with Philadelphia prior to the 1993 season, and hit .324 over his four seasons there (1993–1996). He hit .361 in 1996, the highest Phillies average since Smokey Burgess hit .368 in 1954.
Eisenreich played in two World Series, first with the 1993 Phillies, and then with the 1997 Marlins. He hit clutch home runs in both Series. The Phillies lost to the Blue Jays. The Marlins beat Cleveland.
Playing for the Marlins on April 15, 1998, Eisenreich hit his final home run off former Phillies teammate Curt Schilling. It was a two-run game winner, driving in current Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
Eisenreich was involved in a blockbuster trade on May 14, 1998, as the Marlins dealt him, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, and prospect Manuel Barrios to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. 1998 would be Eisenreich’s final major league season.
I’m always interested in Minnesotans facing each other in the major leagues. A cursory search of Baseball Reference shows that Eisenreich homered off 1973 Highland Park graduate Jack Morris on August 13, 1987, and off 1981 Mankato West grad Gary Mielke on August 14, 1990.
On July 15, 1990, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and double versus 1979 Fairfax grad and former St. Cloud State teammate Dana Kiecker at Fenway. It was the first time that SCSU alumni played against each other in the majors. In total, Eisenreich went 4-for-8 with a walk and two doubles versus Kiecker between 1990 and ‘91.
Read Scot Johnson’s thorough SABR BioProject biography of Eisenreich.
April 18, 1963
Stigman Pitches Three-Hit Shutout
1954 Sebeka graduate Dick Stigman pitches a three-hit shutout as the Twins beat the Angels 3-0 at Met Stadium in two hours and one minute.
1963 was Stigman’s best season. He won 15 games, and finished third in the American League with 193 strikeouts and 15 complete games. Teammate Camilo Pascual led the AL with 202 K’s and 18 complete games (tied with the Yankees’ Ralph Terry). Sandy Koufax led the majors with 306 strikeouts.
April 18, 1964
Oliva’s First HR is Game-Winner
Tied 6-6 in Washington, Tony Oliva leads off the top of the tenth with his first career home run. Jerry Zimmerman drove in Bob Allison for an insurance run as the Twins won 8-6.
April 18, 1969
After starting the season with a four-city road trip, Tom Hall pitches a two-hit shutout as the Twins beat the Angels 6-0 in their home opener.
April 18, 1976
Trailing 4-2 in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, Lyman Bostock and Butch Wynegar hit their first major league home runs off Catfish Hunter, giving the Twins a 5-4 win.
Wynegar, who turned 20 a month earlier, was the youngest player to homer in Twins history.
April 18, 1979
Angels first baseman Rod Carew goes 4-for-4 with two doubles in an 11-6 win over the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium.
Happy Birthday, Frank Viola
It’s the birthday of Twins all-time great Frank Viola, born in East Meadow, NY in 1960.
While at St. John’s, Viola was involved in perhaps the greatest college baseball game ever played, pitching 11 shutout innings to earn the win at Yale in the first-round of the NCAA tournament on May 21, 1981. Yale’s Ron Darling had pitched 11 no-hit innings before St. John’s second baseman Steve Scafa led off the 12th with a bloop single. Scafa stole second and third, and, with runners on the corners, stole home on the back end of a double steal/rundown play. Reliever Eric Stampfl pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the twelfth to secure the St. John’s win.
The Twins drafted Viola in the second round less than three weeks later. The Twins’ first pick (11th overall) was Arizona State third baseman Mike Stodders. The ten players selected ahead of him all made it to the majors. He did not. The Rangers selected Ron Darling ninth overall.
After just 25 games in the minors, Viola made his major league debut opposing Dennis Martinez and the Orioles at the Metrodome on June 6, 1982, at age 22. After four shaky but scoreless innings, Viola gave up three runs in the fifth before being pulled. The teams played to a 5-5 tie through nine innings, and the Orioles won it in 12 on a two-run Eddie Murray homer off new Twins’ closer Ron Davis, driving in former Twin “Disco” Dan Ford.
Viola had a breakout season in 1984. He pitched a four-hit shutout in Anaheim on May 8. This significance of this game? A 24-year-old center fielder wearing number 34 went 4-for-5 that day in his major league debut. Viola went 18-12 on the season and finished sixth in AL Cy Young balloting. He went on to win 93 games over the five seasons from 1984 to ‘88.
Viola gave up former Twin Rod Carew’s 3,000th hit on August 4, 1985.
He went 17-10 during the 1987 regular season, but, more importantly, he went 2-1 in the World Series, garnering Most Valuable Player honors.
His best individual season was 1988. From April 26 to May 10 he pitched 29 consecutive scoreless innings, the third-longest streak in Twins history. He made his first All-Star team in ‘88 en route to winning a major-league leading 24 games and the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was a noteworthy year for two other Twins pitchers. Alan Anderson led the AL with a 2.45 ERA, and Bert Blyleven tied with fellow Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for the major league lead with 17 losses.
On July 31st, 1989, the Twins traded Viola to the New York Mets for pitchers Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage. It was arguably the most successful trade in Twins history. The only other contender is the A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser trade on November 14, 2003.
Viola made the National League All-Star Team in 1990 and ‘91. He won 20 games in 1990 and finished third in NL Cy Young.
He signed with the Red Sox prior to the 1992 season where he was reunited with former Twins teammate Jeff Reardon who became the major leagues’ all-time saves leader that season. After two successful seasons in Boston, Viola pitched just 15 games over his final three seasons with the Red Sox, Reds, and Blue Jays.
Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame alongside Carl Pohlad in 2005.
He has worked as a pitching coach in the Mets organization since 2011, and is currently the pitching coach of their triple-A Las Vegas 51s.
April 19, 1970
Oliva Sets RBI Streak Record
Twins right fielder Tony Oliva drives in center fielder César Tovar with a sac fly in 6-3 Twins win in Oakland. It’s Oliva’s tenth consecutive game with an RBI dating back to October 1, 1969. That stood as the longest RBI streak in Twins history until Kirby Puckett collected an RBI in 11-straight games from September 15 to 25, 1988.
Happy Birthday, Joe Mauer
It’s the birthday of 2001 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, first overall draft pick, three-time American League batting champ, 2009 AL Most Valuable Player, and six-time All-Star Joseph Patrick Mauer, born in St. Paul in 1983.
No other American League catcher has ever won a batting title. The last National League catcher to win a batting title was 1986 Hall of Fame inductee Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Mauer’s .365 batting average in 2009 is the best by a catcher in major league history.
He entered the 2018 season needing just 99 hits to pass Rod Carew for second-most in Twins history, trailing only Kirby Puckett. He had 160 hits last season.
April 19, 1988
Niekro Called for Three Balks
After Yankees speedster Rickey Henderson leads off the game with a single to center, Joe Niekro is called for back-to-back balks, advancing Henderson to second and third. He probably would have scored from first on Don Mattingly’s double, anyway. Henderson hit another single in the second, this time driving in 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield and catcher Don Slaught. Niekro was promptly called for his third balk of the game, moving Henderson up to second. He scored on a Bob Meacham single through the left side of the infield.
After Mike Pagliarulo hit a two-run homer to extend the Yankees lead to 7-0 in just the second inning, Tom Kelly went to the bullpen. Juan Berenguer, Keith Atherton, and Jeff Reardon held the Yankees scoreless the rest of the game. Still trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Twins pulled to within one on RBI hits by Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky, but with Mark Davidson on third representing the tying run, Kent Hrbek lined out to the first baseman Mattingly to end the game.
April 20, 1903
Bender Makes Debut
19-year-old Crow Wing County native Charles Albert Bender makes his major league debut with the Philadelphia Athletics, pitching six innings in relief, earning the win over the Boston Americans’ Cy Young. Seven days later he pitched his first shutout, opposing New York Highlanders Hall of Fame pitcher Clark Griffith. Griffith went on to own the Washington Senators until his death in 1955 when his son Calvin took over. Calvin, of course, moved the Senators to Minnesota in 1961.
Bender became the first Minnesotan inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1953. He was the only Minnesotan enshrined in Cooperstown for 48 years until 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield was inducted in 2001, alongside Twins all-time great Kirby Puckett, and Negro Leagues legend Hilton Smith, who pitched for the semi-pro Fulda, MN team in 1949.
Happy Birthday, Dan Smith
It’s the birthday of 1987 Apple Valley grad and former Rangers pitcher Dan Smith, born in St. Paul in 1969.
The Rangers selected Smith in the first round (16th overall) of 1990 draft out of Creighton University. There was a strong Minnesota presence in the 1990 draft. The Reds selected Gophers great Dan Wilson 7th overall, and the Astros selected Tom Nevers 21st overall out of Edina High School. Two Cretin-Derham Hall players were drafted: future Florida State and Carolina Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke by the Blue Jays in the second round, and Mike Vogel by the White Sox in the seventh round. The Twins selected Jamie Ogden out of White Bear Lake in the third round. The Athletics selected 1987 Brainerd grad Todd Revenig out of Minnesota State, Mankato in the 37th round. Revenig made two relief appearances with Oakland in 1992, and retired with a 0.00 major league ERA. The Twins selected 1986 New Ulm grad Brian Raabe out of the University of Minnesota in the 41st round (1,063rd overall). Raabe played 17 major league games over three seasons with the Twins, Mariners, and Rockies. He is currently the head baseball coach at Bethel.
Dan Smith made his major league debut in Texas on September 12, 1992 (age 23), opposing 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris and the eventual World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Devon White led off the game with a ground ball single and promptly stole second. Roberto Alomar bunted White over to third, and Joe Carter drove him in with a sac fly. Welcome to the big leagues, right?! Smith induced a pop out from 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield for the final out.
Smith loaded the bases in the second inning and Devon White cleared them with a three-run double. The four runs were all Toronto would need as they beat the Rangers 4-2. For what it’s worth, Smith did strike out Devon White in the fourth inning for his first major league strikeout.
Smith pitched 14 innings over four games (two starts) in 1992, compiling an 0-3 record. He made it back to the majors with the Rangers in 1994, making 17 relief appearances. He earned his only major league win on June 8, his second appearance of the season.
April 20, 1973
Blyleven Tough-Luck Loss
Bert Blyleven strikes out 13 in Arlington, but loses 1-0. The Rangers’ Jim Spencer singled in the bottom of the ninth, moved to second on a passed ball by Twins catcher Randy Hundley, and scored on Jim Fregosi’s two-out walk-off single to left. The run was unearned. Rangers pitcher Steve Hargan held the Twins to two hits and three walks.
April 20, 1994
Puckett Season-Starting Hit Streak
Right fielder Kirby Puckett goes 1-for-4 with two RBI off Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez in a 6-5 walkoff win, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games, still tied with Josh Willingham (2012) for the longest streak to start a season in Twins history. In Willingham’s case, it was his first 15 games in a Twins uniform.
April 21, 1961
First Home Opener in Twins History
Having started their inaugural season 5-1, the Twins came home to Bloomington to play the expansion Washington Senators. Only 24,606 fans attended the first home opener, 6,000 short of a sell-out despite a gametime temperature of 63 degrees.
The teams were tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth when the Senators scored two off Ray Moore for a 5-3 win.
April 21, 1985
Butcher Pitches Speedy Shutout
The Twins had lost nine a row, falling to 2-9 entering the Sunday series finale in Oakland when John Butcher hurled a remarkable three-hit, 81-pitch* shutout. Butcher faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum (caught stealing and ground ball double play). The game was over in 1 hour and fifty-five minutes.
Leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett went 3-for-5 with two RBI in the 2-0 victory. It was the beginning of a 10-game winning streak.
*Pitch count according to John Swol‘s great site TwinsTrivia.com.
April 21, 2007
Nineteenth Straight Steal
In the 17th game of the season, Alexi Casilla steals second for the Twins’ 19th-straight successful stolen base attempt to start the season. Torii Hunter was caught attempting to steal in the eighth, ending the streak.
Joe Nathan protected the 7-5 lead in the ninth, striking out three-straight Royals, all looking.
April 21, 2012
Willingham Extends Record Hit Streak
Josh Willingham leads off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to center, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games. The Twins lost to the Rays 4-1, but Willingham’s hit set a new record for longest streak to begin a Twins career, and tied Kirby Puckett (1994) for the longest streak to begin a season in team history.
Willingham had a career year in 2012, hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, and winning a Silver Slugger Award alongside fellow AL outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton.
April 22, 1961
First Walk-Off in Twins History
In just the second home game in team history, the Twins and new expansion Senators played to a 4-4 tie through nine. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the tenth, Zoilo Versalles drove in Earl Battey with a sac fly to center for the first walk-off win in Twins history, improving to 6-2 on the season.
April 22, 1980
Eighty-Nine-Degree Home Opener
After the Twins began the season with a 12-game west coast road trip, they returned to Bloomington for a balmy 89-degree home opener against the Angels.
Geoff Zahn allowed just one run on six hits over nine innings. Hosken Powell, Ron Jackson, and Roy Smalley each homered in the 8-1 Twins win.
April 22, 1986
Tapani Pitches No-Hitter
Central Michigan University senior Kevin Tapani pitches a no-hitter at Eastern Michigan for a 10-0 win the second game of a Tuesday doubleheader. Central Michigan would go on to win their third-straight MAC title.
Tapani was a walk-on at Central Michigan. His high school in Escanaba, MI did not have baseball team, although he was a state champion quarterback.
April 22, 1988
Twins Day Goes From Bad to Worse
Bert Blyleven gives up seven runs on nine hits and four hit batters in just 4.2 innings. Four of those runs came on a grand slam by Cleveland right fielder Cory Snyder. Center fielder Joe Carter added a grand slam of his own off Keith Atherton in the 11-6 Cleveland win.
To add insult to injury, after the game the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals for clubhouse cancer Tommy frickin’ Herr.
April 23, 1863
Birthdate of Lou Galvin
Lou Galvin was born in St. Paul on this date in 1863. He went 0-2 in three starts with the 1884 St. Paul White Caps of the Union Association (generally considered a major league).
April 23, 1961
Pitcher Kralick Delivers Twins’ Only RBI
In the final game of the Twins’ first-ever home series, Jack Kralick pitches a four-hit shutout and drives in Billy Gardner in the fifth for the Twins’ only run in a 1-0 win over the new expansion Senators. The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season.
April 23, 1980
Landreaux Begins Record Streak
Ken Landreaux begins his team record 31-game hitting streak by breaking up Angels pitcher Bruce Kison’s no-hitter with a one-out double in the ninth. California held on to win 17-0.
April 24, 1996
Five-RBI Game for Molitor and Myers
Twins DH Paul Molitor and catcher Greg Myers collect five RBI each in a 24-11 Twins win at Tiger Stadium.
Molitor went 2-for-5 with a home run, walk, reached on two fielder’s choices, and scored five runs. Myers went 5-for-6 with three runs scored.
The Twins jumped out to a 6-1 lead after two innings, but had used three pitchers by the end of the third, and trailed 10-7 at the end of four innings. But they kept adding on, outscoring the Tigers 17-1 over the final five innings. They scored in every inning except the fourth.
April 25, 1883
Birthdate of Russ Ford
Minneapolis Central alumnus and seven-year major leaguer Russ Ford was born in Brandon, Manitoba on this date in 1883. The Ford family immigrated to the United States when Russell was three years old, eventually settling in Minneapolis.
At age 27, Ford had one of the all-time great rookie seasons in baseball history with the New York Highlanders in 1910, going 26-6 with a 1.65 ERA and 0.881 WHIP. He won 22 games in 1911, for a total of 48 in his first two full seasons. He won 99 major league games altogether, pitching for the New York Highlanders/Yankees, and Buffalo Buffeds/Blues from 1909 to 1915.
Read T. Kent Morgan and David Jones‘ SABR BioProject biography of Russ Ford.
April 25, 1885
Birthdate of Hack Spencer
Hack Spencer was born in St. Cloud on this date in 1885. He grew up in the Minneapolis area. He made his one and only major league appearance for the St. Louis Browns on April 18, 1912, allowing two runs on two hits in the final 1 2/3 innings of a 12-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Read Bob Tholkes‘ SABR BioProject biography of Hack Spencer.
April 25, 1961
Fred Bruckbauer Has Career ERA of Infinity
With the Twins trailing 7-2 after three in Kansas City, 22-year-old St. Mary’s High School (Sleepy Eye, MN) graduate Fred Bruckbauer makes his major league debut, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before being pulled without recording an out. The Twins went on to lose 20-2.
Unfortunately, this was Bruckbauer’s only major league appearance, making his career ERA infinity.
Fred Bruckbauer was born in New Ulm. New Ulm native Doc Hamann also had a career ERA of infinity, giving up six runs without recording an out in his only major league appearance with Cleveland on September 21, 1922.
April 25, 1989
Molitor Has 2-HR Game vs. Twins
1974 Cretin High School graduate and Golden Gophers all-time great Paul Molitor homers on Twins starter Roy Smith’s second pitch of the game, and reliever German Gonzalez’s first pitch of the eighth inning. The Brewers won 10-4 for the first of Bryan Clutterbuck’s two major league wins.
April 26, 1986
Dome Deflates, Twins Collapse
With the Twins beating the Angels 5-1 in the bottom of the eighth on a stormy night in Minneapolis, a tear causes the Metrodome roof to deflate. The L.A. Times described the scene, with “80-m.p.h. winds tearing holes in the fiberglass dome and whipping through the stadium, sending speakers and light standards swaying on their cables like yo-yos in a wind tunnel… Above the third base line, a geyser of water shot through a drainage hole in the roof, dousing a handful of spectators.” Remarkably, the roof was re-inflated with the game only being delayed nine minutes. The Twins went on to score once more in the eighth, with Mickey Hatcher driving in Steve Lombardozzi with a sacrifice fly for a 6-1 lead going into the ninth.
Frank Viola gave up a leadoff double to Brian Downing and a two-run home run to George Hendrick before giving way to closer Ron Davis, still up 6-3. Davis gave up a single and two-run home run to the first two men he faced. With one out he walked pinch-hitter Reggie Jackson, representing the tying run. After striking out Bobby Grich for the second out, Ron Davis gave up a go-ahead, two-run homer to Wally Joyner, who had made his major league debut less than three weeks earlier. Tom Brunansky, Roy Smalley, and Gary Gaetti went down in order in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 Twins loss.
April 27, 1903
Bender Pitches First Shutout
After earning a win over Boston’s Cy Young in his major league debut, 19-year-old Crow Wing County native Charles Albert Bender makes his first start, pitching a shutout versus the New York Highlanders, opposing Hall of Fame pitcher Clark Griffith, the father of former Twins owner Calvin Griffith. Bender became the first Minnesotan inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953.
April 27, 1965
Pascual Hits Second Grand Slam
Before even climbing the mound, Camilo Pascual hits the only grand slam by a pitcher in Twins history, staking himself to a 7-0 first-inning lead in Cleveland. He went on to pitch a heckuva game, allowing just two hits and two walks in an 11-1 Twins win.
Pascual hit his first grand slam in the Senators’ final season in Washington, on August 14, 1960 in a 5-4 win in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Senators won the second game 6-3 in 15 innings.
April 27, 1969
Killebrew Hits 400th
With two out in the top of the first of an afternoon game in Chicago, Harmon Killebrew hits his 400th career home run. Rod Carew hit a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Twins a 4-3 win.
This was a fun boxscore to read. The top of the Twins lineup that afternoon went Tovar, Carew, Killebrew, Oliva, Alison.
All told, Killebrew hit 573 home runs, fifth-most in baseball history at the time of his retirement. He hit 84 as a member of the Washington Senators, 14 as a Kansas City Royal in 1975, and 475 in a Twins uniform.
April 27, 1994
Erickson Pitches No-Hitter
Scott Erickson pitches the first no-hitter in Metrodome history as the Twins beat the Brewers 5-0. It is the third of five no-hitters in Twins history, and the first since Dean Chance in 1967.
Erickson, who had led the American League with 20 wins and finished second in Cy Young balloting in 1991, was coming off a ‘93 season in which he led the league with 19 losses and 266 hits allowed.
April 28, 1985
Hatcher Ties Oliva’s Consecutive Hits Record
Mickey Hatcher goes 4-for-5 in a 10-1 Twins win over the Athletics at the Metrodome. He had gone 5-for-5 the previous day, giving him nine consecutive hits, tying Tony Oliva‘s team record set in 1967. Todd Walker matched the feat in 1998.
April 28, 2010
Hughes Homers in First At-Bat
Leading off the top of the third, Australia native Luke Hughes lifts Max Scherzer’s 2-2 pitch to right for an opposite field home run in his first major league at-bat.
Hughes had originally come up to bat in the second, but Delmon Young was thrown out attempting to steal third for the third out of the inning. The Tigers won the game 11-6.
Six Twins have homered in their first major league at-bat: Rick Renick, Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, Andre David, Hughes, and Eddie Rosario.
Between August 26 and September 20, 1981, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner, and Gary Gaetti each homered in their first major league game.