The Twins Almanac for April 2nd


• Happy Birthday, Tom Johnson and Denny Hocking
• Twins Trade Ramos for Power and Stigman
• First MLB Game at Target Field 

April 2
Happy Birthday, Tom Johnson

Happy birthday to former Twins pitcher Tom Johnson, born in St. Paul in 1951. He had a stellar season out of the Twins bullpen in 1977, earning 16 wins (all in relief) and 15 saves. Those 16 wins were ninth-most in the American League, and 15 saves were seventh-most. I wonder how many guys have finished top-10 in both wins and saves in the same season. His 71 appearances were second in the AL only to the Yankees’ Sparky Lyle. Johnson even received MVP votes.

Johnson graduated from St. Paul’s Murray High School (now a middle school) in 1969, the same year 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’s MLB debut is an interesting story. It came 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. Each team scored in the 11th and 13th innings for a 6-6 tie going into the top of the 14th.

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 the tying run 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 Goose Gossage in his major league debut.

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. That was it for Johnson in 1974. In four major league appearances he earned two wins and a save. He pitched seven innings, giving up four hits and a walk for a 0.571 WHIP.

In 1975 and ’76, he split time between triple-A Tacoma and the Twins.

1977 was his lone standout season (as noted above).

He struggled during 18 appearances in 1978, his final major league season. Perhaps he been too much of a workhorse the previous season.

Read Jim McKernon‘s SABR BioProject essay on Johnson.

April 2
Happy Birthday, Denny Hocking

Happy birthday to Twins fan-favorite Denny Hocking, born in Southern California on this date in 1970. He played 11 seasons in a Twins uniform, from 1993 to 2003.

Fun Fact: When the Twins drafted him in the 52nd round out of El Camino College in his hometown of Torrance, CA after his freshman year in 1989, Hocking was a right-handed hitting catcher, but they told him he had a better chance of making it to the majors if he became a switch-hitting infielder. 

He had five consecutive three-hit games at single-A Visalia in 1992. (His .331 average was second-best on the Oaks that season behind Marty Cordova‘s .341.) 

Hocking had two five-hit games with the Twins:

• 5-for-6 with three doubles in Detroit on June 27, 1999
• 5-for-6 with two doubles in Oakland on May 18, 2000

The Twins retired number 7 in 2019. 


April 2, 1962
Twins Trade Ramos For Power and Stigman

It what is commonly considered the first major trade in team history, the Twins traded Pedro Ramos to Cleveland for four-time All-Star Vic Power and Nimrod, MN native and 1960 All-Star Dick Stigman on this date in 1962.

Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout opposing Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961. Ramos, himself, knocked Whitey out of that game, with a two-run single in the seventh. 

Ramos 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 Ramos driving in the final three runs.

Minnesota native Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 40 appearances (15 starts) in his first season with the Twins.

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 with Cleveland that season.)

Vic Power won the Gold Glove at first base in each of his three seasons with the Twins, bringing his career total to seven. 

April 2, 2010
First MLB Game at Target Field

The Twins and Cardinals played an exhibition game at Target Field—the first major league game at the new ballpark—on this date in 2010. 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, made a pinch-hitting appearance. Who remembers the standing ovation he received? I still get goosebumps thinking about it. 



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