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Friday, September 30, 2011

Game Of The Week: When Doves and Gary Gaetti Cried - Fri., Sept. 28, 1984

Post Last Updated: April 29, 2013



I shall stab at thee from hell, Jamie Quirk.
1984 Topps
The tickets you see below were printed in anticipation of the Twins reaching the postseason in 1984. You can forgive the Twins Ticket Office for giddiness in their anticipation of a turnstile windfall. The club was only a game and a half out of first place that year when it began the final series of the year against the Indians on Thursday, Sept. 27, in Cleveland. By winning 3 of the 4, the Twins would tie the Royals. A sweep would assure them the Western Division championship, to be matched against the eventual World Series-winning Detroit Tigers.


Al Williams thought bubble:
"So you think pitching to 
Senior Pat Tabler with the 
bases loaded is scary, amigo? 
 I was a Freedom Fighter.
And you disgust me."
The 1984 Twins roster included Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Mickey Hatcher, Tim Tuefel, Dave Engel, Randy Bush, Ron Washington and his skinny roommate, rookie Kirby Puckett. The men on the mound were Mike "The Tall Man" Smithson, John Butcher, Frankie Viola, Ken Schrom, "Freedom Fighter" Al Williams (so-named for his stint with the insurgent militia in Nicaragua) and the closer who seemed to come from a Twain novel, Ron Davis. You can see some very fine vids with these '80's Twins and other Minneapolis personalities at TC Media Now. After the national anthem, these Twins' Metrodome entrances were prefaced by smoke coming out of the tunnel (some last, quick drags), doing a few stretches, and tossing the ball around the infield before the first pitch. Paragons of American virtue, no, but a talented bunch just learning how to win.


The Twins learned the hard way what every farmer & Confucius knows:
"Don't count your chickens until they're hatched." I suspect it would have been
one hell of an accomplishment to get past the Detroit Tigers in the League 
Championship Series. Detroilet flushed everyone that season.

Unfortunately, their date with Cleveland that September has become the series that will live in infamy for Twins fans.  The youthful squad imploded by losing all four games, with Davis tagged the loser of  two.  The most galling was the game-ending walk-off home run the wacky Davis allowed to pinch hitting journeyman, Jaime Quirk in the first game, on Thursday, Sept. 27. Quirk's home run was his only hit AND second RBI of the year (look it up)!! Exhibit "B" from that weekend - and our game of focus -  was the horrendous 11-10 loss the next day, Friday, Sept. 28 (box at BBRef) in which they lost after first cruising to a 10-0 lead in the early going for Sweet Music Viola.  But the purple rain of wretched fate seemed to descend upon the Twins at Cleveland Stadium in that dreadful 6th, which they entered leading 10-2.
New story/Photo above Santa Ana Orange County Register


The Tribe chased Viola with 4 runs before Rick Lysander spelled him, setting up the Julio Franco at-bat. It was a grounder to Gaetti - and with success smiling him in the face, The Rat flinched. He threw the ball in the dirt to Hrbek at first, allowing Jerry Willard to score the 5th run of the inning. Then two more plated before Pete Filson put the tourniquet on matters, inducing a pop fly to Hrbek.  7 runs, 6 hits, 1 error, and 1 seething Twin. Gary Gaetti famously remarked later: "It's hard to throw with both hands around your throat." The hyper-passionate third baseman would get his day of redemption - but this was not it. Davis would come on to give up the tying run on a homer by Joe Carter in the 8th(number two for the day), and he stayed in long enough to walk what would turn out to be the eventual winning run in the 9th, pushed across by a Brett Butler single off Ed Hodge. The Twins were thus eliminated with two games left to play. They then lost on Saturday and Sunday, by scores of 6-4 and 7-4. Season over. 


It was an abysmal ending, a cruel kick to the gut. Or to other sensitive regions. A perfect circumstance, when you factor that "The Karate Kid" was in the top ten of highest grossing films in theatres that weekend!


Truthfully, lots of Twins choked, bombed, folded and fizzled in that loss, maybe the ugliest in the team's history! That 11-10 blown loss was a seminal date in the history of this future-world champion team; the next one on the calendar would be the first game Tom Kelly ever skippered for the Twins (9/12/86); another to follow would be the trading away of the albatross that was Davis (8/13/86) to the Cubs; still another would be the addition of Jeff Reardon and Dan Gladden before the beginning of the 1987 season. The Twins organization in 1984 could take pride in Harmon Killebrew, newly elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The ownership turnover that summer of Calvin Griffith to Carl Pohlad offered a new beginning. And then there was that oddly-shaped rookie center fielder who had begun to capture the imagination of Twins fans...


Lest one forgets, the 1984 Cleveland roster was stocked with some pretty fine, young talent. Any team that had Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Andre Thornton, Twin-Killer Pat Tabler, Rick Sutcliffe, Julio Franco and Brett Butler as emerging players, along with vets Bert Blyleven and Mike Hargrove was, indeed, NOT the Little Sisters of the Poor. The much maligned Davis' blown saves 13 (game logs) dwarfed the next closest candidate of Twins Pitching Goats, Matt Capps (game logs) and his mere 9 in 2011. Just to dredge up some long suppressed memories for you long-time Twins fans...



The Twins would gain a measure of revenge on Joe Carter, but it would take a while. He was neutralized by the Twins pitching staff in the 1991 ALCS, and the team would taste the champagne of two championship celebrations before Carter would reach the promised land in 1992 and '93 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, Gary Gaetti's highlight reel (see You Tube) would be epic three seasons later.


As Herb Carneal would say: "...And the count rides along." - TT

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