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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Requiem For A Second Baseman (Or, How Steve Lombardozzi Rammed His Head Into Dan Gladden's Fist!)

[Updated Thursday, May 9, 2013]

Very likely, the most ill-advised decision in the annals of Twins pugilism ocurred on July 21, 1988. That was the morning that "Lombo," aka Steve Lombardozzi, decided to "discuss" matters with teammate Dan "Wrench" Gladden, in the aftermath of the previous night's 9-7 loss (BBRef box) to the Red Sox in Boston.

The simple disparity between nicknames on the Toughguy Meter should have been somewhat of a tipoff to young Stephen, don't you think?

Lombo had been lifted for pinch hitter Kelvin Torve in the 6th inning of the Wednesday night game at Fenway. This was particularly frustrating to Lombo, as he was playing before family and friends in his homestate, and taken out in a close game (5-3 at the time) against Roger Clemens.

Also bearing on the situation, Lombardozzi was unhappy regarding his limited playing time after the Twins acquired Tommy "Get Me The Hell Out Of Minnesota" Herr in an early season trade.

What a go-getter that young fellow was! Truly, one of the team's worst trades on record, especially when considering that they parted with popular outfielder Tom Brunansky.  Without Bruno, the Twins may not have gone on to play and win the '87 World Series! The reluctant Twin Herr may have set the team whirlpool usage record, if not the "most muscles pulled" record, needing stints on the bench for recovery.
Nice airbrushed helmet, Tommy

In any event, Lombo was viewed by a number of Twins as being selfish, and not a "team guy" when he sulked over his misfortune. He and Gladden, a vocal fellow, had words following his exit from the game in the clubhouse, or on the team charter back to Minnesota that night.

Later, the next morning, imprudent wisdom or the spirit of Jersey Joe Walcott  inspired Stevo to make a call on Gladden's suburban estate. I'm not saying the two had a cerebral, dignified discussion...but judging from the scratches and bruises and cracked ring finger on Gladden, in addition to the whopping steak Lombo had over his eye upon reporting to the home clubhouse that afternoon, it's fair to say they found a way to sort through their problems as only real men do. Twins manager Tom Kelly, who saw the storm building for about a week, said "It's probably better that it happened." TK was most likely correct: boys will be boys.  Case closed.

Perhaps matters in Vietnam would have consumated much more favorably from the U.S. perspective had  they not insisted on mollycoddling the Communist regime at the Paris Peace Talks in 1973. Would a similar testosterone-laden approach, a well-timed haymaker by "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger, resulted in better diplomacy?

We'll never know, but it cleared matters enough that no residual bitterness was evident when the two Twins met again at the 20 year anniversary gala of the 1987 World Series championship!

Lombardozzi was traded to the Houston Astros the next spring, and decided to call it a career after spending most of the 1990 season in the minors at age 30. "I just felt like I had lost a step," he said. "I was a below-average Major League hitter but I was an above-average defensive player, and ... It's hard to believe, but when you turn 30, 31, you just start to slow down a little bit. I could feel that I had lost a step, and just really, I wasn't cutting it."

I know how it feels Steve, I know.

Twinkler Out!

Helpful material for Steve Lombardozzi was found at this Washington Times site.
Also, great info From Steve Ashburner's marvelous book: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Minnesota Twins : Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Minnesota Twins History
AND...for yet more good, not-so-clean fun, visit Coffeyville Whirlwind's post regarding the 1969 Billy Martin brawl with Dave Boswell.

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