"I liked him. He snapped the ball out in left field, a rocket. Really quick feet over there, quick action. A live body, for sure. Took some good rips up there.” Twins Manager Ron Gardenhireon his one-game fill-in Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is normally an infielder, and was purchased from the New York Yankees because of his greater proficiency as a hitter over the incumbent Twins SS, Pedro Florimon. Time is likely ticking on the Florimon Era as the starter.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

1974 Spring Training: Blyleven Taken Deep By Rollins College Player

This post highlights the March 6, 1974 Twins versus the Rollins Tars College spring training game. It was notable for the hitting of Rollins players John Castino (photo, above) and Russ Ricciardeli. Rollins is located in Winter Haven, Florida, and its team had competed with the Major League Twins for several years running by 1974.                                                                                                                          
It was usually the first game played by the Twins in the spring; Twins pitchers and catchers had reported on February 25. It was definitely a spring of change for Minnesota (i.e., see "Woodson, Braun, Hisle On Trade List" newspaper account), and the biggest question mark entering camp was whether Harmon Killebrew could come back after an injury-plagued 1973 season  (see 3/9/74 TSN page 1 and page 2).

Guiding the Rollins squad was coach Boyd Coffee, a solid, no-nonsense baseball man who had previously been a catcher in the Twins farm system in the middle 1960s.  He prepared his teams well, emphasized integrity, following the rules, and advocated accountability to the team (see story with Castino comments). He was an active player as late as 1966 with the Orlando Twins (A-Florida State League - see 1965!), and had been a minor league teammate of future Twins Rod Carew, Tom Hall, Charlie Manuel, and Rick Renick. After retiring from active play at age 28, he then managed the Auburn Twins of the New York-Penn League, from 1968-71, with two first place finishes and one second in four seasons.  His enduring fame in baseball, however, would come as The Tars college coach. His career record was an illustrious 586-419-6, a .582 winning percentage! 

Winona (Minn.) Daily News March 6, 1974

Wilmington (NC) Star: March 7, 1974

In this very same game, the future-Twin Castino collected two singles for the Tars, and presumably opened the eyes of the Minnesota management to his energetic style of play. In 1976, he would be selected number 10 in the 3rd round by Minnesota; a 1979 (co) AL Rookie Of The Year Award awaited him. Russ Ricciardeli is difficult to find on the web for any information, from 40 years ago to the present; it's almost as if he's disappeared from the face of the Earth. He went undrafted after college, and isn't found in the data bases I checked. But wherever he is, he can always feel the warm glow of knowing he took a baseball immortal deep. You can go to John Swol's always excellent Twins Trivia for an audio interview from Nov., 2010 with Johnny C.

It is not inconceivable that amateurs would hit major league caliber starters after a winter of inactivity, especially in the first non-intrasquad game of the year. I do know I was shocked listening to this game live in the spring of '74, as a kid. This was the era when many or most major leaguers still worked at other jobs during the off-season, and didn't maintain workout regimens. But what stands out here are the hits coming off a Hall Of Fame pitcher like Blyleven, and future star Dave Goltz and company.

Bert Blyleven's [Cy Young-worthy] 1973 Season

1973 22 MIN 20 17 .541 2.52 2.32 40 25 9 325.0 296 109 91 16 67 258 156 1.117 AS,CYA-7,MVP-26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/19/2014.

As the great announcer signed off, I likewise say:
"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baseball Digest Feature - Ken Landreaux And His 1980 Hitting Streak

Ken Landreaux hit in 31 straight games for the Twins in 1980, which is still the team record. Brian Harper had hit in 25 games in 1990, followed by Lenny Green's 24 in 1961. John Swol's Twins Trivia site posted an excellent list of the top 45 in team history last July 27.

Below is a Baseball Digest spread on Landreaux from August of '80 - full page version is here at my Google docs page. There is one other pdf newspaper linked below, with facts from the game his streaked ended (May 31, 1980, BBRef.)

An inset box (below) taken from the Hutchinson (KS) News of June 1, 1980, details Landreaux's attitude after the streak was stopped by Baltimore's Scott McGregor with a nice group of quotes, and a list of hitting streaks.

For me, Ken Landreaux was a lot of fun to watch. He had a smooth swing, could take the pitch the other way, and had occasional pull power as a left handed batter. He partially filled the offensive void, if only for one strong season, following the trade of Rod Carew (the transaction which included Ken) to the Angels in February, 1979. Nearly eclipsing the feat in importance was the fact that by then, Kenny's super afro and mutton chops placed him near the top of Minnesota's All-Time Sideburn and Hair-Do Roll Of Fame - and bests Brian Dozier's in overall effect.

                  Indiana (Penn.) Gazette, May 30, 1980

To borrow from the great old broadcaster, I say:
"So Long, Everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Winter Mind's Meandering Towards Spring

Sometime after John Elway and the Super Bowl-bound Bronco's 26-16 dismantling of the New England Patriots, this disjointed piece of reality began to unfold in my brain...Minnesota winters can be truly debilitating, I will maintain.

Behold: the scene from old Metropolitan Stadium's right field bleachers, overlooking the new right field foul territory seating. It's from the July, 1962 cover of the Twins scorecard magazine. Oh, yes - my added effects, in case you were wondering. I think it's delirium.

With Twins Fest 2014 now 5 days away, the REAL trudge towards spring and Twins baseball begins in earnest. That means, at the moment, we're at 77 days, and 19+ hours to the first game at Target Field. Ohhhh, doctor....!

Hope you're doing better waiting than I am, presently. As the old broadcasting professional put it:
"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Friday, January 17, 2014

Social Media: The Old Met In Ruin

Actual Embedded link below - 
 As he finished in the radio booth so many times, I repeat:

"So long, everybody!" (Herb Carneal)

Monday, January 13, 2014

One Gritty Left Hander

I suppose I have done quite enough commentary on the original Twins, especially that core group that traveled as one-time Washington Senators to the Twin Cities of St. Paul  and Minneapolis in 1961. It really did define my life as a twenty-something, being a zealous fan of the pennant and World Series winning teams of 1987 and 1991. And at the moment, I'm preparing a piece on a Twin from the last decade that "got away," but for now...

The career odyssey and skills of Jim Kaat still grab my attention. The photo below was taken during the game of Saturday, August 19, 1961 , at Wrigley Field, the first home of the spankin' new Los Angeles Angels.

Besides the fact that it looks odd to us today in the era of the designated hitter, a pitcher on the base paths as an offensive ballplayer, it is also notable for the grit with with which pitchers like Kaat played the game (newspaper story, hit in face by batted ball, '62). He and other hurlers really were total baseball players, who could also hit, hit with some power, and competently run the bases. Today, it would merit a spot on ESPN's Sports Center highlights recap. If you like my newspaper attachments, here is another of Kaat (Farmington Daily Times July 25, 1962) getting familiar with the turf.

The caption correctly states he is safe while sliding into third, playing a version of the childhood game of leap frog with veteran third sacker Eddie "The Walking Man" YostYost began his career, ironically, in 1944 with the Washington Senators, the original franchise that signed Kaat. Unmentioned is that Kaat was advancing there on a bunt by his second baseman, shy and demure Billy Martin (see photo).

The picture above also reminds me of the sliding injury he suffered while running the bases 11 seasons later, in 1972. He was having a career year when , on July 2, he was injured. While sliding the bases in the 6th inning,  Kaat broke his thumb on his pitching hand (Hardball Times story). It would effectively end his season. Also of irony, this was the last game he would play before the adoption of the designated hitter rule by the American League for 1973. 

For now, I parrot the old master of the mic in saying:

"So long, everybody!" (Herb Carneal)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bert Blyleven Photo: 1972 Yearbook

This photo of young  Bert Blyleven was forwarded to me and others by Twins Twitter historian and local educator @MNTwinsZealot. He had found it right here, at Classic Minnesota Twins blog, which I'd forgotten I'd ever scanned and posted in the nether regions of this page. 

This is what he accomplished in his first full season for the fourth place Twins in '71, who finished 26.5 games back of Oakland:

How's that strike you? He had already become the 1971 Twins staff ace by the numbers over Jim Kaat and Jim Perry. The Brainerd (Minn.) Daily Dispatch gives this impression as well, from an April 13, 1971 report of a Blyleven shutout of Kansas City, with thoughts from Bill Rigney. He also had a legitimate chance to win 20 games, as the Twins lost 5 games in which he gave up 3 runs or less (game logs).

That theme would play out several seasons in succession, and would be (in my opinion), a large factor contributing to Bert failing to record 300 lifetime victories (287-250). Of course, lousy teams in Texas and Cleveland (two of Bert's future employers) would contribute to that fact. I recall somebody, a player, media member playing the naysayer regarding Blyleven's eligibility for the Hall Of Fame, some verbal flatulating about his not being "dominant" enough.

Funny - Don Sutton put in 22 workmanlike seasons (a 20-game winner once, like Bert), knocked no one over with electric stuff, but won 324 games with better clubs. No one ever referred to him as "dominant,"  or being among the best starters of his era. But, he had the all-important W's, see?

If it was good enough for Herb Carneal as a send off, it's good enough for me:

"So long everybody!"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Game Of The Week (Video): Lyman Bostock's 4-4 Night Sept. 21, 1976

NOTE - KEEP Volume low for first 40 seconds, high pitch test signal HUM before it starts!! Starts immediately after you load page - patience - give it time!  

A video I discovered the other night, with the help of my Twitter friend Lord Of The Fries. It is the last 20 minutes of the 13-6 win against the White Sox on September 21, 1976.
Bostock, during his final at-bat
Beautiful beyond words. From seeing that uncomplicated, whippy swing of Lyman Bostock, Larry Hisle settling in under a can of corn in left field, Mike Cubbage (think John Denver in baseball hosiery), and that crazy pitching delivery of Tom Burgmeier from the first base side, to how impossibly unathletic Glenn Borgmann REALLY appeared - all on top of seeing hitless wonder Bob Randall  (4 hits that night) AND hitting wonder Rod Carew bat (hitless that night) - is too much for words. It was when my fandom was in its most innocent stage.
 "My last time up, I was definitely trying to hit a home run [for the cycle] and I almost got it." - Lyman Bostock, Winona Daily News, September 22, 1976 (VIDEO LINK: STARTING WITH BOSTOCK AT BAT)
BONUS: besides getting to see the faux, 1893-era Sox uniforms, you get to hear Harry Caray go completely incoherent at about the 5:30 minute mark, remarks about "Minnesota's proximity to Oakland versus Oakland's to Kansas City." Or some such gibberish. Oh yes - -I will be adding additions to this post on the original Minnesota Lumber Company faster than a psychotic carpenter, rest assured.

I couldn't watch this segment, and Caray's references to the leaders in the batting title race, without thinking about the controversial finish to come days later in the season finale (Oct. 3, 1976)  for Carew and Bostock against Kansas City's George Brett and Hal McRae. Brett won the title (news story pdf) by .001 of a point with a ninth inning inside-the-park home run, which McRae claimed Twins left fielder Steve Brye let drop purposely because of racial bias on the part of Twins Manager Gene Mauch. A story for another time..

Harry Caray, wiseguy: 
"Minnesota has a great shot at finishing second!" LOL! (5:00 mark)

Signing off, in the style of our old broadcasting buddy, Herb Carneal: