1975. "Do The Hustle." Studio 21. Saturday Night Live. "Saturday Night Fever." Leisure suits. Hip-huggin' synthetic double-knit baseball uniforms. The provocative, green and plaid jumpers worn by my female classmates at St. Wenceslaus Elementary. And..."Disco" Danny Ford, a true sign of his times, joined the Minnesota Twins out of spring training.
Dan, seen here gettin' his groove thing on to Parliament Funkadelic, was a talented, if not always attentive outfielder for our Twins.
He goes down in Twins lore as the guy who one day slowed down on the basepaths between third and homeplate, high-steppin and elbows pumping for maximum effect (for the ladies, apparently). He then turned and watched the next baserunner make his way home on a basehit (Jose Morales). The problem? In doing so, he allowed himself to be passed on the basepath by the oncoming teammate. According to the baseball rules book, that second baserunner should be ruled "out" - and so it went down.
Managing the Twins was the tougher than nails Gene Mauch, known for his steely stare when things weren't going well by him, and for knowing the rule book better than the umpires. If he'd been cast instead of Charlton Heston to play Moses, he'd likely have found loopholes to circumvent the Ten Commandments, a prototype of the modern trial lawyer.
Check the card of Mauch from 1978, in one of his light-hearted moments. Imagine this as his reaction to the baserunning folly crime above.
According to no less an expert witness as Roy Smalley, here's what transpired after Ford's un-triumphant boogie to the dugout: "Ford...get dressed and go home!," said Mauch through clenched teeth, not wanting to look at the abomination standing before him. "What are you talking about?" said Ford, walking towards Mauch. "I can't stand to look at you. Go get dressed and go home. Get the hell out of here." So, Ford indeed left as requested, and thus the nickname "Disco Dan" was born.
Right after his dirty deed. ..Danny just being Danny. And those White Sox
vintage knickers! Richard Olsenius/Star Tribune Minneapolis-St.Paul
Danny did go on to redeem himself, assumming one of the most incredible closed batting stances ever seen in history, while playing for two pennant winners in subsequent years. He was a major factor in the 1979 California Angels pennant year, and clubbed a homer against the Philadelphia Phillies and Steve Carlton (for Baltimore) in Game 3 of the 1983 World Series.
I remember standing near the players entrance at Met Stadium (aerial photo) with my cousin before a game in '77, when we spied Ford making his way from the players lot. In roaring past two young autograph hounds, he displayed far more speed in evading us than he did on the famous play described earlier. And in the process, certainly looking every part the disco dancin' lovin' young man he was cracked up to be. But a breathtaking brush with fame for me, nonetheless!