Former Twins catcher Tim Laudner was born in Mason City, Iowa on June 7, 1958. His family moved to Brooklyn Center when Tim was seven. He graduated from Park Center High School in 1976. He was drafted by the Reds in the 33rd round out of high school, but elected to attend the University of Missouri for three years before being drafted by the Twins in the third round in 1979 (the Twins drafted Randy Bush in the second round).
Laudner set a Southern League record with 42 home runs at Double-A Orlando in 1981. He made his major league debut in Bloomington on August 28, 1981, and homered in his first two games for a total of 44 home runs on the season, leading all of professional baseball. He was just the seventh player since at least 1908 to homer in his first two career major league games.
Laudner was one of three Twins to homer in their major league debut in less than a month. Four days before Laudner’s debut, 1978 Bloomington Kennedy graduate Kent Hrbek hit a 12th-inning game-winning home run off future teammate George Frazier at Yankee Stadium. Gary Gaetti homered in his first major league at-bat on September 20.
Twins fans most enduring memories of Laudner will likely be of the 1987 World Series. After hitting just .191 (with 16 home runs) during the regular season, he was clutch in the World Series, going 7-for-22 (.318) with five walks, a double, home run (Game 2), four RBI, and four runs scored.
Tom Kelly selected him to the All-Star team in 1988. He doubled in his only at-bat (off 1989 NL Cy Young Award winner Mark Davis) and caught the final four innings of the 2-1 American League win. The other AL catcher was 1980 New Ulm graduate Terry Steinbach, who drove in both of the AL’s runs with a homer and sac fly, and was named the game’s MVP. Fun Fact: Both Laudner and Steinbach homered in their major league debuts (Steinbach in his first at-bat).
Laudner had three of his best regular season games against Cleveland, including a career-best six RBI on two separate occasions. He went 3-for-3 with a sac fly, home runs and six RBI in a 7-0 Twins win in Cleveland on July 3, 1985. On April 24, 1988 he drove in six with three-run homers in both the third and fourth innings of a 13-7 win over Cleveland at home in the Dome.
He hit for a career-best 10 total bases, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double in a 5-4 loss in Cleveland on May 7, 1989. Ten total bases is a record for Twins catchers—first accomplished by Earl Battey on July 9, 1961, and twice by Mitch Garver over a 12-day span on April 9 and 20, 2019. The thing is, Laudner was the designated hitter that day, only catching the bottom of the eighth inning.
I love this story involving three Minnesota high school graduates—1979 Edina graduate Greg Olson made his major league debut at the Metrodome on June 27, 1989, pinch-hitting for 1978 Bloomington Kennedy grad Kent Hrbek, and replacing 1976 Park Center grad Tim Launder at catcher, who slid over to first replacing Hrbie.
I think it’s interesting to see how players did against former teammates. Laudner went 4-for-13 (.308) with two walks, two doubles, a home run, and three RBI versus Bert Blyleven pitching for the Angels in 1989.
Near the end of spring training in 1990, Launder announced his retirement at age 31.
Read Laudner’s SABR bio by Stew Thornley ⇨ SABR.org/bioproj/person/029f1c74
Pingback: The Twins Almanac for June – The Twins Almanac