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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Game of The Week: Twins Sweep Pilots On Moonlanding Day: July 20, 1969!

Edited, July 22, 2012
Click for larger image!

Historians were shocked to find this photo, hidden in an attic at the Houston Command Center.As if we didn't know they were covering things up after all these years!L-R: Harmon, Jim Perry (on mound), Buzz Aldrin giving ("steal" sign), Rod Carew, and Jim Kaat (orbiting).


Mr. Perry: finally had breakout season, '69
A wild day in AND out of this world! July 20, 1969 marked the first Nasa moon landing (You Tube video of event). It totally dates me, but I vividly remember watching the grainy satellite images emanating from the moon on our little black and white TV with my parents and brothers that Sunday evening. The Twins game of Saturday,  July 19, 1969 (BRef. box) in Seattle was halted on Sunday morning at 1:00 a.m. It was resumed the next afternoon, before the regularly scheduled game. It clocked in at 5 hours, 41 minutes to play 18 innings. Immediately following this ungodly mess, the Twins had to log another 9 innings ( in 2:10) to nab a 4-0 shutout win for Jim Perry, during which time the Apollo crew safely landed on "The Big Rock." We Twins fans could then wile away some time before astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin  walked on the Lunar surface at 8:56 p.m.

For Minneapolitans only: yes, Dave Mona of Minnesota Football Golden
Gopher repute was once a Twins beat reporter in a galaxy far, far away...and 
his report from Seattle appeared the next day, Monday, July 21, 1969. Sorry - lousy scans.





First game Pilot pitcher Jim Bouton was told by manager Joe Schultz that he was starting against the Twins on Friday, the night before his start. If you check the boxscore, you'll see it wasn't a stellar affair for him. Leo Cardenas and Teddy Uhlaender each hit "moonshots" that would've grazed Armstrong were he already "out of doors."


Bouton's funny description of his performance:
"My main concern was that Carew and Tovar would be stealing on my knuckleball, so we went over the pickoff signs and hoped for the best. It wasn't good enough.  In my first start of the year, on this day of July 19, 1969, A.D., I, James Alan Bouton was creamed."

The man known as "Ass Eyes."
You're missing something if you've never read Boutons "Ball Four" (Amazon link), his terrifically funny expose on his Pilots teammates (Seattle Times story) like Steve Hovley (AKA: "Orbit")  and the 1969 season. The hapless Pilots in 1969 really only had 3 or 4 legitimate all-stars on their roster: Tommy Harper, Tommy Davis, and future stars Mike Marshall and possibly Diego Segui. Marshall would become the Twins top reliever in the late 1970's. Besides him, the former / future Twins factor was quite prevalent on the Pilots: Sandy Valdespino, Gary Roggenburk, Rich Rollins, Ron Clark, Don Mincher and Danny Walton all played either key or marginal roles on the team that season. Of note: a fellow named Jay Thomas Kelly , known more commonly as "Tom" Kelly (the future manager who would lead Minnesota to two world championships) was drafted by the Pilots in the 8th round (no. 22, 178th overall) of the 1968 amateur draft. Kelly would not surface in the majors until May 11, 1975 (see box) with the Twins. Click to see the Pilot team photo.
Tom Kelly, circa 1969

Former Twin, Rich Rollins

The '69 Pilots (team page, BBRef.) finished last (12 team league) in pitching ERA (4.35), fielding (.974), and struck out more than any other club (1,015 whiffs). However, they could claim bragging rights versus the California Angels, who were last in team batting average (.230) to Seattle's 11th place finish (.234). Silver linings can be found wherever you like, I guess.  Meanwhile, the Twins were the offensive juggernaut of the league, leading all clubs in runs scored (790), hits (1,520), batting (.268), and total bases (2,319). Mismatch.

For some of these small pieces, try clicking on the image to get a larger print.


The complete dish on the Sunday, July 20 game is at this link (Baseball Ref. box).


The expansion Pilots would go on to become the Milwaukee Brewers the next season, in 1970. Ironically enough, these illegitimate children of the Pilots would engage in an even longer battle with the Twins - 5:47 for a 22-inning game - on May 12, 1972 (BBRef box). You have to go to this link yourself to find out about THAT affair!

And here is a video of Seattle Pilots home field, where the two games were played: Sicks Stadium. It's hard for me to say if there has ever been a ballpark more aptly named. But Sicks must be on the short list of all-time worst ballparks in modern MLB history. But they sure did have a wonderful team fight song (small doses will suffice, FYI).


That's all for now! Hopefully the news bits made for some good reading! Bonus columns by Minneapolis Star writers Sid Hartman and Dick Cullum are found below...


As good, old Herb Carneal would say "...and the count rides along." - TT


1 comment:

Aase said...

Good God that fight song is awful. From what I remember, the whole story of the Pilots was generally messy-undercapitalized owners, inadequate ball park, indifferent fans (Seattle is funny that way). Nice blog entry!