Twins Release Luis Tiant

After just one season in Minnesota, the Twins released Luis Tiant at the end of spring training on March 31, 1971.

1970—Tiant’s sole season in Minnesota—was the middle of a three-year rough patch in his career. He had posted double-digit wins each of his first five seasons in Cleveland, culminating with 21 in 1968 when he led the league with a 1.60 ERA and 0.871 WHIP and came in fifth in MVP balloting.

Keep in mind 1968 was the famed “Year of the Pitcher,” during which 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. 

But then, in 1969, he led the majors with 21 losses, leading to speculation he was pitching hurt.

Following his lackluster ’69 season, the Twins acquired Tiant along with Stan Williams from Cleveland in exchange for Dean ChanceTed UhlaenderGraig Nettles, and Bob Miller.

Tiant got off to a very good start in Minnesota. He was 6-0 through his first 10 starts, but he left that sixth victory early with a sore shoulder and it was subsequently discovered he had a cracked bone in his throwing shoulder. He returned after 10 weeks’ rest, but was much less effective the rest of the season, including in the 1970 ALCS.

Following his release by Minnesota, Atlanta gave Tiant a 30-day trial with their triple-A affiliate, after he which he was released again. Boston then picked him up and assigned him to Triple A, and he pitched his way back to the majors by early June.

Though he had kept his career afloat, 1971 was the third-straight subpar season for Tiant.

No longer able to rely on his fastball, Tiant reinvented himself as a junkballer, leading to a remarkable renaissance in Boston, beginning in 1972 when he led the majors with a 1.91 ERA. Over the five seasons from 1972 to 1976, he averaged 19 wins and received MVP votes in three of those seasons.

Long story short, a player the Twins released became a Red Sox legend.

Thirty-one years later, the Twins released David Ortiz, but that’s a story for another day.

Adding insult to injury, remember the Twins had given up Graig Nettles in that trade to acquire Tiant.

Nettles, of course, went on to become a Yankees all-time great. He was MVP of the 1981 ALCS and to this day has the sixth-most home runs by a third baseman in MLB history.

He started the third-most double plays by a third baseman in MLB history. (Gary Gaetti is number four on that list.)

Nettles and Tiant have the sixth- and seventh-highest career bWARs among players who spent any amount of time in a Twins uniform. 



  1. Pingback: The Twins Almanac for July – The Twins Almanac

  2. Anonymous

    The Athletic recently had a series about “The Black Aces”, a recognition of Black pitchers who had won 20 MLB games in a season. Jim “Mudcat” Grant was the first to do so in the AL, went on to form the club and to write a fine book about it. I had the privilege to meet him in the lower level concourse during a game – and promised I’d get a copy!

    Anyway, seems the membership was limited to American citizens (and one Canadian in Ferguson Jenkins).

    Luis Tiant was a bit sour that as a Cuban, his qualifications for the fraternity were set aside. So it goes.


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