Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All Star Moments: Rod Carew & His 2 Triples, July 11, 1978


1978 Topps card of the guy previously honored in a blog post in July, 2010

July, 1978: It was the last summer of my teenaged life as an unabashed baseball card buyer - the more vital pursuit of discovering girls hadn't taken me over yet; disco music had reached its peak of popularity, and was headed for a fiery backlash shortly - though no one realized it at the time. The Jimmy Carter presidency was mired in an inert pile of goo, as the Chief Executive was exhibiting a maddening inability to get both houses of Congress to work with him. But none of that remotely mattered to me. For me, 1978 was a world of sincerely idolizing '77 MVP Rodney Cline, Charlie Hustle and that oddly thin-yet-amazingly-strong outfielder from Cincinnati named George. The Thin Man was also the '77 National League MVP.

A short time ago tonight, I was remembering those days and long nights of listening to the Minnesota Twins, or watching them on a few, precious televised broadcasts, with my main focus on the guy we referred to around these parts as the "Magician With A Bat." While Rod Carew was throwing out the first ball before tonight's 85th Major League Baseball All Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, I found it very easy to relive those days of fanaticism, and especially those two at bats that united my three favorite players in all of baseball. I kid you not.

The following wire photo scenes recall Rod Carew's 2 triples in the 1978 All Star Game (box). It was the first ever played at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium. I leave you with very little else  hereafter besides this Indiana Gazette news pdf, and this 1978 MLB ASG Video of Carew's triples and my usual, inane asides and private jokes (that I do so well...).


Feel free to come after me, MLB - I confess to the sin of recording the CBS radio broadcast that July 11, 1978 with Brent Musberger and the great Vin Scully. I listened to the replay of it countless times for the call by Vin of Rod's triples - only to record over it later with some Neil Young music (God help me!):

Vin Scully: "We come into this game with the National League enjoying almost complete domination over the American, and, ladies and gentlemen, that is not me exaggerating...the last time the American League won the All Star Game was 1971, and before THAT you have to go all the way back to 1962 -  when John F. Kennedy was President - for the previous time the American League won an All-Star game...that my friends is a long, l-o-o-n-g time ago! And here is Vida Blue's first pitch to Rod Carew..."  No sooner were these words out of Scully's mouth before the first pitch was headed homeward, toward's The Magician's blurring bat.


Carew would immediately score on George Brett's double.




Rod has revealed in multiple, local Twin Cities interviews this past weekend that Pete Rose was notifying (more accurately yelling) to him the fact that he was the very first player in the Game's history to get two triples in the same game. A true "Mr. Tesla, meet Mr. Einstein" meeting of two great hitters still at the top of their games (Rose, you'll remember, had begun his famous 44-game hitting streak on June 14, and kept it up for another two plus weeks after the All-Star Game, finally having his streak clipped by the Braves on August 1).

 

George Foster, not normally a center fielder, was the lucky man who had to hunt down both of Carew's drives in the cavernous San Diego outfield; the first was hit into a late afternoon, sun-drenched and simultaneously shadowy southern California sky, making it doubly hard to track. I am not really sure if this shot was taken after the first or second triple, as both hits and fielding plays look nearly identical. Go ahead and see you can figure it out, re-watch the above video, let me know what you think in the "comments" section.


It was, again, another notch on the NL's victory belt, with Steve Garvey and (then) wife Cyndy getting all the pub for his heroics. Naturally. Mr. and Mrs. Perfect, I believe they were called, with not a small bit of sarcasm. I lived and died with Rod and the Twins, but had to suffer the personal indignity of watching my guy and my league suffer as the Nationals stormed back to get the "W" AND the girl as well.

It was the last All Star Game Rod Carew ever played in the uniform of Minnesota Twins. He was and still is the only player to hit two triples in the All Star Game. Fans from the North Star State would have to wait another 8 seasons (July 15, 1986, box) before another Twin started and got a hit in the big game...a certain, stout, smiling center fielder who was already capturing the hearts of the country. See if you can guess who!

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Twins Brawls (Video): Roger Erickson Vs Bobby Grich April 22, 1978

Of note: this post was largely composed live, during a sunami-like migraine - with little or no editing taking place. If that doesn't qualify me as a throwback gamer, I don't know what will. I had the feeling as if the video's principal actors were putting the hurt on ME, instead of one another at old Metropolitan Stadium. Just a small diversion from the All Star hullabaloo currently engulfing the Minneapolis area.

Left to right: (jackets) Twins Jose Morales, Geoff Zahn, (hatless) Angels starter Frank Tanana; Ron Jackson holds Twins pitching coach and legend Camilo Pascual, while Glenn Borgmann runs interference from the side.


I'd completely forgotten about this melee on Saturday, April 22, 1978 (box) and was it ever. One minute rookie Roger Erickson is tossing an errant one inside, and the next thing you know, the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention is breaking out! Bobby Grich was among the most intense, and valuable second basemen of the 1970's and 80's. He had an excellent OBP, power numbers, besides having one of the nicest, shortest swings (1972 All-Star Game video) you'll ever see. I'd choose him in a minute if compiling a fantasy all-time legends team. His SABR bio packs a pretty good punch *ahem* of info about him.


SATURDAY
The California announcers (Don Drysdale and Al Wisk? Angel fans in the house, a little help?) were correct - Grich looked ready to punch anybody - beer sellers, ticket takers, Calvin Griffith, his own teammates, besides any of the patrons sitting near the Angel dugout throwing beverages and paraphernalia at him that day. That last was my favorite part of the video.

As it was, Twin Rich Chiles came out of nowhere to put a truly huge blind side hit on Grich, while future-Twins Ken Landreaux and Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson was seemingly everywhere . Also easily seen at the fisticuff fiesta is former Twin Lyman Bostock (#10 of Angels), and Twins Tony Oliva (coach, #6), Rod Carew (#29) and shortstop Roy Smalley (#5). The Sporting News (see mischievous Mauch grin in pdf) of May 13, 1978 asserts that is was indeed Carew that got in the quick head jabs on Grich's angry skull as he lay on the ground-some deft, stop-action views confirm that claim. The Grich quotes are doubly interesting as he implicates Twins Manager Gene Mauch as the instigator of the brushback.


And you thought charging the mound was a new thing?

Amazingly, only Grich was tossed out, the game resumed, with '65 Stars Oliva and Pascual being the only people on the premises who may have required any antibiotics or band aids. Welcome to 1970s baseball everyone, where Wild West lawlessness often prevailed (see link, "Disco Demolition"). Lost in the shuffle is this: the-then 21 year old Erickson righted himself to last 8 innings, though losing to the top lefty Tanana. It was his fourth major league start ( see popup stats), and his second against the Angels.

As Herb Carneal so eloquently put it: "So long, everybody!"


Monday, June 9, 2014

Earl Battey 1961 Baseball Digest Feature


Do yourself a favor and check out this link to June 1961 Baseball Digest at my Google Docs with a superb Earl Battey article. Battey was the first Twins player ever to appear on the cover of that magazine, as the Twins first season had just begun in Minnesota just a few weeks earlier.A great piece on the first, great catcher of the Twins, who was named the top catcher on the Twins 40th Anniversary in 2000.

It's from a fantastic, mint edition which I just recently bought off Amazon. I rather fancy it as a historical document, partly because it was published just a month or so into the beginning of the first expansion era in baseball. Besides that, it really is telling as an illustration of sports journalism, circa 1961.

To wit: I truly doubt that any major sports publication today, or any magazine really, would give a damn what I thought about anything, much less pay me for ideas submitted:


[Blurb at left from "Greatest Catches" story - see table of contents in the Google scanned Table Of Contents - I wouldn't mind the money, if the offer from Baseball Digest is still valid..]

You'll notice the date stamp, "MAY 4 - 1961" on the back page, probably denoting when it was received by the store of sale. The story references the Twins first game on April 11, 1961 (BBRef box), which means the interview for the June issue was conducted very shortly after that game before it went to press.

Battey really shows himself to be an incredibly well-spoken young guy (he was 26 in 1961). I mean, this story is really chock full of intelligent, cogent, and insightful responses. The BD staff writer, Charles Dexter, included quite a few long, thoughtful quotes which made it seem at times as if Battey himself wrote the article in the first person.

My favorite sections were his insights into Twins pitchers like Camilo Pascual, Jack Kralick and Pedro Ramos, and how they comported themselves in the lockerroom. I'm only a little surprised not seeing any references to Jim Kaat. Probably indicates where the big lefty was in the staff's pecking order as the season was beginning.

An ironic section on page 15 mentions that Earl had John Roseboro as a neighbor in Compton, California at the time. Of course, all good Twins fans know that Roseboro eventually replaced Earl as the Twins everyday catcher, in 1968, after Earl and Ron Perranoski came in the Versalles/Grant trade. You can read about Earl's post-career at this SABR bio article from 2009.

I included the table of contents in the scan, plus the revised Twins and Yankees rosters as of '61 May, in addition to those for the first two expansion teams in MLB history, the California Angels and the new Washington Senators. I kid you not! If you see any articles you would like pdf scans to read, just let me know. I can try to email you a copy.

There are some nice pluses in the magazine.
See if you can recognize some of the names
of the Twins coaches (or others)
in the chart below! Yeah, just a tad jumbo, but it wasn't 
displaying well at large size!


NOTE: Check out the back side of the magazine at the end of the scan: a full-color advertisement. Rather cool!

You can get a short sample of the older Earl, at this
You Tube video from 1986 I posted a while ago. You get
some idea of the understated, but warm manner
of the man. Fairly engrossing, if I might say so.

I conclude in my best Herb Carneal-ese: "So long everybody!"

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bizzarre Fielding Video: The Metrodome's First Triple Play May 29, 1982


  • Six men in a box. Nettles retreats to 1st as Gaetti
    is arriving with ball. Lenny Faedo (12) wonders just what his
    role is in the play, while Ron Washington points at Murcer.

  • For you kids at home, score this one as a 1-2-5-3-1 triple play. "Holy Cow!," as Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto exclaimed (though Twins oldies like to credit Halsey Hall (sound file) with originating the phrase).

    The crazy play as seen in the video occurred on May 29, 1982 at the brand new H.H.H. Metrodome (humorously cynical Deadspin review). Minnesota and the Yankees were scoreless in the 2nd inning, with righthander Terry Felton on the mound for Minnesota. The weekend series against New York was the fourth homestand for the Twins at the new facility. They were in the midst of an inglorious 14-game losing streak.

    Baserunning Comedy


    The Yankees had put runners on first (Graig Nettles) and second (Bobby Murcer) with no outs. Roy Smalley then struck out on a wide 3-2 pitch from Terry Felton, with Murcer attempting to steal third base. Rifle-armed Sal Butera (right photo) threw to Gary Gaetti so far ahead of baserunning Bobby that he tried returning to second. Problem was, former Twin Nettles was standing on the bag by then (ooops!) as part of the hit and run play. He retreated back to first. 

  • Gaetti uselessly tagged Murcer after the rundown before throwing to Kent Hrbek to catch Nettles...then, Murcer, the smart ballplayer of many great years, inexplicably went back to third! Hrbek threw to Felton at third to complete the triple play, with zany left fielder Mickey Hatcher backing up the bag. None of this would ultimately matter, as the Yankees pulled off a 6-4 win with two runs in the ninth.



Trivial Trivia

Felton (see Michael Rand 2010 story update) was 0-8 coming into the game, and got a no-decision after Brad Havens came in to blow the lead in the sixth inning. He would lose another 5 to finish his career with an 0-16 record.


Bobby Murcer (left, BD photo)was the last of the 1960’s Mickey Mantle New York Yankees remaining on the roster. He, in fact, had been tabbed as the heir apparent to the Mick - always a “great” thing that, heaping expectations on a young player. The Oklahoman was good enough to earn 3 straight top-ten MVP finishes early in his career. He had been traded even up to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in the 70’s, and had also been a Cub; New York brought him back in 1979 as a part-time player.


Craig Nettles, playing the role of Fred Astaire in his sashay back to first, would go on to several more fine seasons. He was profiled earlier at this blog (“The One That Got Away.”). Former Twin Roy Smalley had been a Yankee for less than two months, while Butch Wynegar was in pinstripes for just over two weeks after six seasons as a Twin. Of the three, only Roy would again know the joys of playing regularly on the Dome's carpeted cement pile, the lucky guy, after his 1985 trade back to the Twins.

The young Twins of 1982 represented a completely different era from the teams that had occupied Met Stadium from 1961 to 1981. Even in losing, they were thoroughly entertaining. One could see the talent in the young Gaettis, Brunanskys, Laudners, etc., and the smoke wafting out of the runway of the dugout (pregame heaters) but one knew that growing pains would be the rule for some time out. Kent Hrbek was already the star of the team, building a case (link to stats coming into that game) for inclusion on the '82 All-Star team.

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Friday, May 9, 2014

Twins Killers: Diamond Jim Gentile's Two Grandslams At The Met, May 9, 1961


"I was just trying to get a hit both times as I hate to leave a man on third base." - Diamond" Jim Gentile 



On today's date, Tuesday, May 9, 1961 (BBRef.), Gentile hit two grand slams versus the Twins in a 13-5 shellacking at Metropolitan Stadium, in Bloomington, Minnesota. This game marked the very first game ever for the Baltimore Orioles in Minnesota after the Washington franchise moved to The North Star State. In the world of pop music, Del Shannon's Runaway was Number 1 in the U.S. Hit Parade. Three days previous, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard had become the first American to travel into space, to an altitude of 116 statute miles, at a landing point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. And perhaps equally fascinating to baseball fans was the legendary home run race between Yankees Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who would finish first (61) and second (54), respectively, in the first year of expansion in Major League Baseball. A good trivia question: can you name who finished (tied) for third place in that race?

BACKSTORY
Jim Gentile had been buried in the Brooklyn/L.A. Dodger farm system for an unbelievable EIGHT seasons (1952-59), during which time he hit 208 home runs! His minor league totals have to be seen to be believed! The only thing blocking his path to the majors was the presence of long-time, beloved Dodger first baseman slugger and All-Star, Gil Hodges. His late arrival at age 25 (March, 1960) in Baltimore to finally become a regular player is the primary reason his place in Major League Baseball history is not more prominent. His background as a Dodger gets some treatment in this fine article "Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Jim Gentile: The Story of Baseball's 1961 Sensation." It goes into detail about his delayed start that goes beyond the scope of this post. One of the story's revelations is that Roger Maris was mistakenly credited for one extra RBI in a July 5th game - significant because without it, it meant he and Gentile had actually tied for the AL RBI lead at season's end.

As it was he only hit 179 homers in 9 seasons, with a 162 game average of 31. He hit 20 HR, and had 51 BB in 342 plate appearances, while collecting 59 RBI versus the Twins for his career; that was good for a .257/ .365 /.507 /.872 line in 91 games.

 The game marked the appearance of four future baseball Hall of Fame players and anagers, and was played before 4,514 fans. With 18 runs, 21 hits, 12 walks, and 6 relief pitchers the game clocked in at 3:10 under sunny, cool, 47 degree skies.

Minnesota fans at this post's publishing date most assuredly can relate to such maddening disconnects and variability of spring weather.

Regardless, I had never heard of this game, (being the young and spry spring chicken I am) until about 8 years ago, when a coworker of mine asked me if I had ever heard of Gentile's feat; the same friend had attended that game while on an outing as a school patroller. It was just a little bit before my time began as a Twins fan, and I had to know more about it. I couldn't locate any records to corroborate his story; I was evidently not aware of the existence of on-line sites such as Baseball Ref. and Retrosheet. What an ignorant, savage world I lived in...

THE GAME
Baltimore right fielder and future Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog had walked to lead off the game; he advanced to third by center fielder Jackie Brandt's double. Then, another future Hall of Famer, third baseman Brooks Robinson, took first on Ramos's second walk of the inning. It was then that Diamond Jim smoked a fastball for bomb number one over the center field fence off right hander Pedro Ramos, 410 feet just to the right of center. To this day, Gentile maintains he didn't hit it very well, implying that the wind helped the ball carry.

[Click schedule above for larger size] Herb Carneal was in the broadcasting booth that day - calling the game for the Orioles.  He'd joined their team in '57, wouldn't arrive in Minnesota until 1962. 


"Taking a healthy, home run cut!" - Racine Journal
May 10, 1961. Very Jim Thome-like in its violence.


Gentile's #4 would later be worn by another,
noteworthy Oriole - Hall of Fame Manager 

See above Gentile photo with story at Brownsville Herald, May 10, 1961

After Ramos allowed a single to Oriole starter Chuck Estrada with one out in the second, he walked Herzog again, and was removed in favor of reliever and Winona (Minn.) native, Paul Giel. Jackie Brandt topped one, which Giel fielded and threw wildly for an error at second, attempting to force out Herzog, allowing Estrada to score on the play. Giel had to have been completely aware who was coming up, but despite that he still gave Robinson his second free pass in as many innings to bring up the Diamond Man. Same result: on his very next swing, Gentile caught Giel's high change up, and cleared the bases with another cannon shot - this time 410 feet, deep into the right field bleachers (the right field line was 329 feet in 1961; the power alley in right center was 365 - it must have had looked gargantuan to the 4,514 in attendance). And just as they had in the first, the same quartet scored to put the game away! His 8th inning sac-fly scored Brandt - the third time Gentile had driven him home - giving him nine RBI on the day. His slams drew him even with Mantle in the early home run race at nine.

Curiously following Gentile at number 5 in the Baltimore batting order was yet another Hall of Famer and former Dodger. Dick Williams was no all-star as a player; he would make The Hall purely on the strength of his managing acumen. To wit, he did not reach base once in that ballgame. In fact, he was doing his darnedest to stay above the Mendoza Line; he entered play that day batting .203. Meanwhile, Gentile had been lighting it up in the first 22 games of the season, with a .338/.476/.738 line - good for a whopping OPS of 1.215 (see stats link). Oriole Manager Paul Richards (fascinating SABR bio link) didn't even bother to protect Gentile in the lineup with other, better choices like catcher Gus Triandos (perennial MVP candidate), or shortstop Ron Hansen (1960 AL All-Star/Rookie of The Year). Richards was regardly universally as the genius baseball mind in that era, much like Gene Mauch would be a few years later; in this isolated instance, at least, his lineup sequence just didn't add up for me. Now, as if I haven't deadened your mind already with links to stats and news accounts, here's another one: a funny little piece about Gentile and Manager Richards in this Sporting News short, from July 19, 1961. 



Kingsport (TN) Times, May 10, 1961, Would have been nice if
the UPI photographer had actually gotten Brooks Robinson and
Whitey Herzog (run-scorers with Gentile and Brandt) into the frame, instead of Ron Hanson. Coulda-shoulda-woulda, I guess.

Also of interest was yet another Hall of Famer playing in that game - Harmon Killebrew. The Killer, obviously not wanting to be left out of the fun, went deep in his last at bat in the ninth to deep left field. As it was his sixth blast ever wearing a Twins uniform, he was continuing his own blistering pace (BBRef popup stats) since coming back from an injury. He and Gentile would end up in a tie in the 1961 homer race with 46. Twins right fielder Bob Allison also went deep twice - but he only had a paltry 3 RBI's for his 3 for 4 afternoon, in contrast to Mr. Gentile (San Antonio Express news PDF) .

POSTSCRIPT
If you check Diamond Jim's splits in that 1961 season (BBRef popup stats) against the Twins and the other AL teams, you'll note he took the ugly stick to nearly everyone that year. His favorite victim was the L.A. Angels pitching staff; his 1.441 OPS came on the strength of 9 homers, 3 doubles, 15 singles, 25 rbi's, and an amazing .409 BAbip! His line against Minnesota was a still-whopping .327/.426/.691 for a 1.117 OPS, with 6 home runs, and 23 rbi's.  Overall, he had 46 homers, 141 rbi's, 96 walks, batted .302, and only struck out 106 times. So, I don't expect I'll knock you over with a feather with surprise if I say 1961 was his career year.

1961 Topps Gentile card

An online article from summer, 2013, at MASN Sports Network shows Gentile in gracious form, discussing his great 1961 season, in addition to praising current Oriole first baseman Chris Davis for his home run exploits. He sounds thoroughly at peace with his career and place in Oriole history. 

After 1963, he would go on to play for several more American and National League clubs, adding value wherever he went, though never coming close to equaling that magical 1961 season. As if anyone could. But for legions of Twins fans, he is known today as the very first Twins Killer.

To quote the great Twins broadcaster:
"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Game Of The Week: First Home Opener In Minnesota Twins History, April 21, 1961



Twins center fielder Lenny Green, up against chain link fence. Later, a concrete 
grandstand would replace cheap bleachers, and the makeshift planking for steps.


The Met parking lot - the former cornfield was only partially 
filled for that very first game in The Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The first Major League Baseball game in Minnesota history took place just four days after the U.S.-led Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. On the day of the game, President Kennedy was receiving communiques from Chairman Khrushchev, with ominous warnings against future interventions in Latin America. Also portentious that week was the Kennedy Administration's promise to the government of Laos to send about 300 U.S.military advisers into combat zones to help turn back communist insurgents in that country and others in the region; a ceasefire was in effect in Laos (Salt Lake Tribune) while the politicos assessed strategy. JFK this week also sent a private memorandum to Vice-President Johnson asking "Is there any space program that promises dramatic results that would represent a victory against the Soviets?" This would be the kick start for the greatest engineering, technical, and scientific undertaking in history - the Apollo program.

(Clover Leaf Twins card, 1961)

Don Mincher is the trivia answer to the
question "Who hit the first Twins regular-season 
home run at Metropolitan Stadium?" For the other 
Twins ballparks, Gary Gaetti (1982, the H.H.H. 
Metrodome) and Jason Kubel (2010, Target Field)  will do. 

Alas, the only sure win that week for Washington was secured by it's brand new American League entry. The Senators's invasion of Twins territory produced a 5-3 win that was decided in the ninth inning (BBRef). It was a sterling, close affair, with standout efforts by Minnesota's Lenny Green, Don Mincher, Camilo Pascual, Senators's slugger Dale Long, Washington starter Joe McClain, and reliever Dave Sisler. The latter escaped a bases-loaded, one out situation against Minnesota in the final frame. 

First, however, it was preceded by a gala welcome home for the Twins players and representatives:


Brainerd Daily Dispatch, April 19, 1961

The parade on Wednesday was joyful...


ABOVE: Don Mincher (left, crewcut) and Ron Henry, in Welcome Home Parade


The University Of Minnesota Marching Band arrives from center field for lineup
 introductions...and stayed lined up in the infield for the National Anthem. Note lack 
of seating in the foul territory behind first base. Construction of seating came to   
a halt when the game commenced, and would resume after the last out.






Note: signature walk-up path not yet constructed, from dugout to homeplate 

The Met as it looked on April 21, 1961 (BBRef), with Camilo Pascual on the mound; watching near the home team dugout were dignitaries such as  AL President Joe Cronin, MLB Commisioner Ford Frick, former NL President Will Harridge, Minnesota governor Elmer L. Andersen, and the mayors of Minneapolis of St. Paul (but not Bloomington Mayor Gordon Miklethun - the home ballpark in the city's limits apparently didn't confer upon him any special status!). Go to The Sporting News of May 3, 1961, and you'll read a rather pessimistic summary by George Moses of the Associated Press. You might think he took his lead from AL club owners still unhappy with Twins owner Calvin Griffith's push to move the franchise out of the nation's capitol. If Moses had taken the time to get the Minnesota fan's perspective (accessible in this account in the Winona (MN) Daily News of April 22, the tone would been much truer to the reality at the ballpark that day. Jim Wallace of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch ("It Wasn't That Bad") also had a nice rebuttal in his column the next day.


FIRST PITCH!
Winona (Minn.) Daily News 4/22/61


That the game only attracted 24,606 was a curious circumstance, however, given the lead-in hoopla. The forecast for that day was for temps in the 50s, with clear skies. It ended up an an overcast day, 63 D., but with no rain. So - what was up? A contributing factor may have been the absence from the starting lineup of Harmon Killebrew, who had pulled his left hamstring muscle running out a grounder in the Saturday, April 15 game at Baltimore (Twins game #4 in the '61 schedule). It was thought he would miss three weeks, but he rested for only two, reappearing in the April 29 game versus the Angels.


Minnesotan's may well have taken the attitude that without a big fly in the offing from Killebrew , the effort just wasn't worth it. Otherwise, I would posit that, despite the joy evident from acquiring a big-league team, rank and file Minnesotans just didn't have it in their mindset to take time off from work in that era, or to pull their kids out of school just to see what we now regard as history. Part of a region's character, you might say.


The Metropolitan Stadium scoreboard during Senator 
Willie Tasby's ninth inning at bat  on that April 21, 1961.

The Sporting News, May 3, 1961

Pascual pitched 8 innings that day, giving up three runs with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts (he would lead the league in that figure, 221). After giving up a long ball to first baseman Dale Long in the first, he appeared to right the ship. When Lenny Green homered to what would later become the right field bullpen to tie the game at 3, the Twins looked poised for a 9th inning rally. It wasn't to be. Washington pushed across 2 in their half of the ninth off trusty, "Old Blue" Ray Moore. Green was also the first Twins player to score in a home game, jogging home unfettered on Mincher's fourth inning bomb over the center field fence.

Yes, a disappointing start, with nary a stampede through the turnstiles - but it wasn't a disaster. The Twins would win the next two games and the series that weekend, Sunday's game being a 1-0 shut out for Jack Kralick. Minnesota would eventually reach that coveted 30,000 attendance figure in game number 34 - a doubleheader on May 21 (BBRef, the 20th & 21 home games) versus Cleveland. Overall, they drew 1,256,723 for the 1961 season, third-most in the AL (of ten teams). Minnesota would go on to become a perennial home attendance leader in the American League, in fact, for the decade of the 1960's.

As Herb Carneal would phrase it: "So long, everybody!"

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. By contrast, the slugger 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

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
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