Happy Birthday, Neil Wagner
It’s the birthday of 2002 Eden Prairie graduate, North Dakota State closer, and 12-year pro pitcher Neil Wagner, born in Minneapolis in 1984.
I wrote brief blog post about Wagner. It’s a quick three-minute read:
Happy Birthday, Greg Swindell
It’s the birthday of 17-year major leaguer and 1989 All-Star Greg Swindell, born in Fort Worth, TX in 1965. He was the Twins’ best bullpen arm in 1997, leading the team with a 3.58 ERA and 1.098 WHIP. (’97 was his only full season with the Twins.)
’97 teammate Terry Steinbach (New Ulm ’80) homered off Swindell in his first major league at-bat on September 12, 1986.
Swindell made 64 appearances with the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
January 3, 1897
Birthdate of Pete Turgeon
Pete Turgeon was born in Minneapolis on this date in 1897.
He got into three games (one start at shortstop) with the 1923 Cubs, going 1-for-6 with a run scored altogether. The Cubs lost all three games he played in.
Happy Birthday, Bob Gebhard
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher and front office executive 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 with the Twins between 1970 and ‘71, 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 1976 to ’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 1988. 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 to 2004, and as vice president, special assistant to the general manager of the Diamondbacks from 2005 to 2016. He 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. He was named Minnesota High School Baseball Player of the Year in 1997—his senior season at Rochester Mayo. The Twins made him their second-round draft pick that June (their first-round draft choice was Virginia high schooler 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 home runs and 107 RBI for the class-A Quad City River Bandits.
Restovich made his major league debut on September 18, 2002. His first major league hit was a ninth-inning pinch-hit homer 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 home runs to David Ortiz and Corey Koskie leading off the second and fourth innings. Koskie hit a second homer leading off the sixth off 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 (2002–’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.
Fun Fact: Restovich and 1997 Austin graduate Michael Wuertz would have played against each other a handful of times in high school, and presumably on summer teams as well. I know Restovich homered off Wuertz in high school at least once. Wuertz spent eight seasons in the majors with the Cubs and the Athletics, but the two never met on the big stage.
Happy Birthday, Charlie Manuel
It’s the birthday of baseball lifer Charlie Manuel, born in West Virginia in 1944. He spent parts of six seasons in left field with the Twins, hitting .198 with four home runs over 242 games between 1969 and 1972.
After 19 games over two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Manuel moved on to a very successful six-year career in Japan. He averaged .319 with 41 home runs per year over the four seasons from 1977 to 1980.
Manuel spent five seasons managing in the Twins system, ending with the 45-96 triple-A Portland Beavers, which included Ron Gardenhire and Billy Beane.
He managed the Phillies to back-to-back World Series, winning it all in 2008.
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.
There’s a lot you can say about Pohlad, the son of a dirt-poor immigrant who grew up to be the second-wealthiest man in Minnesota. Here’s one thing: he 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 was teammates in high school with fellow major leaguer and World War II vet Don Wheeler).
Hardy 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 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 essay 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.
Happy Birthday, Allan Anderson
It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher Allan Anderson, born in Lancaster, OH in 1964. He pitched for the Twins during both the 1987 and 1991 regular seasons, but did not appear in either postseason. I was a rookie in 1986, and only pitched 12.1 innings in the majors in 1987. He was on his way out in 1991. He peaked in between the Twins’ two World Series championship seasons, winning 16 games in 1988, and 17 in 1989 (both top 10 in the American League).
His league-leading 2.45 ERA in 1988 is the best in Twins history. He had not led the league all season, but when Teddy Higuera fell .008 points behind on the second-to-last night of the season, Anderson skipped his final start.
He led the American League with 1.646 walks per nine innings in 1988, and 1.860 in 1990.
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.
Who do you think had the best (or worst) mustache in Twins history? Comment at the bottom of the page.
January 7, 1993
Veteran Blyleven Signs
22-year veteran Bert Blyleven signs on for a potential third stint with the Twins. He competed for a spot in the rotation in spring training, but was beat out by Willie Banks and Pat Mahomes (Mike Trombley made the team out of the bullpen).
January 8, 1991
Carew Elected to Hall of Fame
Seven-time American League batting champion Rod Carew becomes the 22nd 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.
More on Carew’s career here:
January 8, 1991: Carew Elected to Hall of Fame
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.
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 graduate Richard “Rip” Wade, born in Duluth in 1898. 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 13 saves and a 1.78 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 Birthday, Steve Comer
It’s the birthday of 1972 Minnetonka graduate, 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, a 4.13 ERA, and 1.445 WHIP in 176 games (83 starts). He averaged 3.1 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.
With his grandmother listening on the radio from a hospital room, Comer made his first major league start in Minnesota (not his ML debut) on August 23, 1978, shutting out the Twins on six hits and a walk for a 2-0 Rangers win.
Altogether he made 16 appearances (10 starts) against the Twins, going 4-5 with three saves with a 3.95 ERA and 1.401 WHIP (2-3 with three saves in games played in Minnesota).
He was Cleveland’s major league pitching coach in 1987, his pupils including Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Phil Niekro, former Twin Ken Schrom and future Twin Greg Swindell. Bobby Bonds was Cleveland’s hitting coach, and former Twins player (1962–’64) and manager (1980–’81) Johnny Goryl was third base coach.
Comer was the pitching coach for the double-A Orlando Twins in 1988, where one of his pupils was 1983 Coon Rapids graduate Jeff Satzinger. 1981 Brainerd graduate Gary Borg played first base for the team.
January 15, 1975
Twins Release Killebrew
Calvin Griffith grants Harmon Killebrew his release so that he may sign with the Royals, with whom he has reached an agreement to be their designated hitter. Griffith’s latest offer was $50,000 for Killebrew to be a coach and pinch hitter, but it was Harmon’s desire to play one more season as a full-time player.
The Twins retired Killebrew’s number 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.
To this day, nobody has played more games in a Twins uniform
At the time of his retirement, his 573 home run ranked fifth in MLB history, behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, former Minneapolis Miller Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. He trailed only Babe Ruth in American League history, and was the league’s most prolific right-handed home run hitter.
In his fourth year of eligibility, Killebrew was finally elected to the Hall of Fame on January 10, 1984.
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 graduate Howie Schultz, who played for the Willmar Rails from 1950 to ’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-foot-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 (interestingly, Lamberton, MN native Bob Gebhard was general manager of the Rockies at the time).
Kingery hit .290 in 24 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 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 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-strikeout game and three no-hitters, are thoroughly laid out in Gregg Omoth’s essay in the Stew Thornley-edited Minnesotans in Baseball: SABR.org/bioproj…
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
Albany (MN) High School alumnus and 15-year pro ballplayer George “Showboat” Fisher was born in Wesley, IA (maybe) on this date in 1899. The Fishers moved to a farm near St. Anna, MN when George was just a few months old.
After 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.
After being out of the majors for five seasons, Fisher went 8-for-9 with a walk in the first two games of the 1930 season with the Cardinals, becoming the second of just five players since 1908 with at least four hits in each of his team’s first two games (Ira Flagstead 1926, Wade Boggs 1994, Dante Bichette 1998, and Emilio Bonifacio 2014). Bonifacio had nine hits over the first two games. (See the list from Baseball Reference‘s Play Index).
1930 was Fisher’s best season, going 95-for-254 (.374) in 92 games (59 starts) with the National League Champion Cardinals. He made two pinch-hitting appearances in the World Series, going 1-for-2 with a double. The Philadelphia Athletics won the series in six games. Pine City, MN native Rube Walberg was a member of that team.
Despite the breakout season, Fisher 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. 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, 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 was hitless in four games with the Twins (and had just three hits in 17 major league games overall) entering play on April 29, 1986, when he went 5-for-5 with a walk and his first career home run in a 14-11 Twins loss at Yankee Stadium. The five hits were 7.6% of the 66 hits the former first-round draft pick collected over parts of six major league seasons, and more than he would get total during four of those seasons.
Altogether, Beane got into 80 major league games (47 starts) in 1986, going 39-for-183 (.213), with three home runs and 15 RBI.
He was a September call-up in 1987. He got into his first game on September 4, entering as a defensive replacement in right in the top of the 11th of a 1-1 game against the Brewers. He came to the plate with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th, and connected for a walk-off single to center off Dan Plesac, driving in Gary Gaetti (Plesac made his first of three straight All-Star appearances in 1987). The win extended the Twins’ AL West lead over Oakland to three games.
Beane got into 12 games in 1987, entering in the seventh inning or later in all but two.
He 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 and 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). 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.
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). Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected by the Veterans Committee (not the writers) in 2018.
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.
Nine former Twins players have been elected to the Hall of Fame, six on their first ballot: Rod Carew (1991), Steve Carlton (1994), Winfield and Puckett (2001), Paul Molitor (2004), and Jim Thome (2018). Harmon Killebrew was elected his fourth ballot in 1984, Bert Blyleven on his 14th ballot in 2011, and Jack Morris by the Veterans Committee in 2018.
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 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 average.
T.J. Bohn joined the Macalester College (St. Paul) baseball coaching staff in 2014.
Happy Birthday, Anthony Bemboom
It’s the birthday of 2008 Sauk Rapids-Rice graduate Anthony Bemboom. The catcher made his major league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays at home versus the Yankees on May 12, 2019, at age 29. He went 0-for-2 before being pinch hit for, but he must know something about calling pitches, because Rays starter Blake Snell had 10 strikeouts through the first four innings. The Yankees ultimately won 7-1.
Bemboom got into just three games with the Rays, going 3-for-5 (.400), before going down with an injury. In July his contract was purchased by the Los Angeles Angels, who had originally drafted him in 2012.
He got into his first game with the Angels on August 11, 2019, entering as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth of a 4-4 tie in Boston. He threw out Mookie Betts attempting to steal second that inning. He got his first at-bat with the Angels in the top of the 10th, connecting for a two-out game-winning ground-ball single through the right side.
Bemboom is the third Sauk Rapids-Rice graduate to make it to the majors, following 1946 graduate Rip Repulski and ’76 grad Bob Hegman (who played half an inning in the field for the 1985 World Series champion Royals).
Bemboom was the first Minnesotan* position player to make their major league debut since outfielder Jamie Hoffmann (New Ulm ’03) came up with the Dodgers in 2009. (*Ike Davis, Steve Lombardozzi, and Michael Reed were born in Minnesota, but grew up elsewhere).
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 to ’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 to 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 three-time 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 in Minneapolis on November 4, 2017.
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 graduate 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.
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. Scott Leius played in 109 games, but only started 52 (mostly at third, I would assume). Leius went 11-for-25 (.440) with five walks as a pinch hitter, for an on-base percentage of .533.
Pags homered in the ‘91 ALCS, while Leius homered in the World Series. Quite a combo for the champs.
January 25, 2013
Guardado and Mee Elected to Twins HOF
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.
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 HOF
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 Cooperstown 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).
Tom Mee is the first of three generations of professional baseball players.