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.
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 Nanny Fernandez in 1942.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.