Sunday, May 22, 2011

Al Worthington: Book Excerpt, 2004 Autobiography


Al Worthington, in his Reds period
Use the Table of Contents to discover info from book on old Al "Red" Worthington. (BBRef.). This very good man was the Twins first consistent relief stopper, on a consistent basis. That statement distinguishes him from Bill Dailey, for instance, who had one great year (1963). Trust me, the story of how he almost died as a young boy from pneumonia is enough to make anyone with kids of their own cry.

As Herb Carneal would have said: "...and the count rides along." -TT

Harmon: A Special Memory From His Career

This post is another segment in the Classic Minnesota Twins salute to Harmon Killebrew, the All-Time Greatest Twin! It's a scrollable page from the Sept., 1995 edition of Baseball Digest. Very enjoyable!  You can even go to the table of contents for this particular issue (by scrolling up to the beginning), and then clicking on the link of the issue's stories and various features. Read it all, if you like! Look for the author of this story link, Mike Blake, and you're there!

Shine on Harmon! As Herb Carneal put it: "...and the count rides along." - TT

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend! Harmon Killebrew: 1936 - 2011

In honoring Harmon Killebrew, give a listen to these soundfiles from Minnesota Public Radio, published on May 17, 2011 (ADDED, JAN. 7, 2012):

Harmon Killebrew, batting at Met Stadium, 1970
[To] the great will be missed but never forgotten. The world changes and goes by without so much as a thought about the past, but baseball is the one constant; it has brought this country through many a tough time. Pure, simple and forever enjoyable to those who see it for what it is, a game.

 - Mark Hanson, St. Peter, Minn.

For all of us who admired this truly fine man, this is a sad day. That is merely an understatement.  I'm pleasantly amazed at the outpouring of affection in the print media, television, and the internet for Harmon. Very fitting...I hope these thoughts and early impressions of Harmon serve you well. May they serve as a storehouse of memories, as we move forward in the days ahead!

Here's a famous episode of "Homerun Derby," that wonderfully popular show that aired on January 30, 1960. It was the fourth show ever in the series, filmed after the 1959 season. It pitted the young Harmon against the great Mickey Mantle. No - I won't tell you who won!

I wish all the great blessings and the comfort of God be conferred upon Harmon's family this day. A friend posted a wonderful music video about Harmon a short time ago.  I think you may like it.

The Killer: at spring training, Tinker Field,
Orlando, Florida, in the 1960's

As Herb Carneal put it: "...and the count rides along." - TT

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harmon Killebrew: Life And Its Unfairness

PLEASE NOTE: Frequent visitors may notice the sidebar gadgets (videos, list of posts, photos, etc.) have done gone AWOL. They've been in and out, like bad TV reception.  I'm working to reacquaint Blogger with the notion of customer service, and hope to restore the navigational features soon!

The finest, like Harmon Killebrew, leave a glowing path of hope and blessings behind them, there to encourage us long after they've gone. We follow their path with a renewed belief in the goodness of other people, elevating their needs and concerns above our own.

1969 Topps Card

 Honestly, there's not much more I'm up to saying right now, this cold morning on the day after Harmon  announced he was resigned to his fate. He is entering hospice care five months after the initial diagnosis of his esophageal cancer.  I hope I can add a few words, concerning the first time I ever saw Harmon Killebrew play baseball.  Coming shortly is an entry in the continuing Twins Game of The Week series at this site. It will conjur the sights, sounds and smells of the July 29, 1969 Twins doubleheader vs. Detroit. A snapshot taken during the greatest year of a gentle man they called The Killer.

                                                  Doctor Discusses Killebrew, Hospice Care:

Keep the faith, fellow Twins and baseball fans! Brighter days of hope are coming!

So long for now everybody.
As Herb Carneal would say: "...and the count rides along." - TT

Saturday, May 7, 2011

1961 Minnesota Twins Team Photo

Just going by this photo, you'd swear Italians were ruling baseball in the early 1960's. Ray Crump (front row, far right) looks as if he's 14 years old. And he just may have been. Owned a souvenir shop just outside the Metrodome for a long time. Pretty sure this photo was shot at Tinker Field, the Minnesota Twins first spring training home, in Orlando Florida.  A story out there that Jim Kaat was asked "What does the 'TC' stand for on your caps." "Twenty Cuban's" was his tongue-in-cheek response. Another joke that circulated: how does a team win with a Lemon leftfielder, a Green centerfielder, and a Battey catcher?

NOTE: click image to get an unobstructed view of the team photo!

As Herb Carneal used to say: "...and the count rides along." - TT


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

25 Best Pitched Twins Games Ever: Francisco Liriano's No Hit Gem Joins The List

Heimlich Manuever applied
to Liriano, who's just 
swallowed his disbelief.

On Tuesday night, May 3, 2011, Francisco Liriano did not allow any hits to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, in his 1-0 victory.  That makes it just the fifth no-hitter (Baseball Ref. game stats ) for the Minnesota Twins in their fifty-plus years of existence (see others in chart below).  It made me curious to see where it rated in terms of the best pitching starts in Minnesota Twins history. My search for answers began with finding the finest statistical seasons of the best Twins to ever toe the rubber, i.e, "Camilo Pascual's career year of 1963." From there, it was narrowed to "Which games from the Curveballer's big year stood out?"  That led to choosing a measurement to rank the best starts: Game Scores.

I hope the following has some interest for you. I personally like the historical aspect.
Feel free to add your comments!

This Wikipedia link contains a really nice capsule summary of every Minnesota Twin & Washington Senator no-hitter, including the very first spun by Walter Johnson

Game Scores

For objectively ranking the efficiency and effectiveness of a pitcher's starting performance, baseball's venerable statistics poindexter Bill James created the "game score" point method.  I like it a lot for its objectivity.  The playing of the game may be tweaked over time ( see "steroid use, impact upon offensive output," "evolution of taller pitchers," favorable ballpark factors," etc.), but it uniformly rates the performances with the same statistical info for Twins pitchers across six decades. It takes into account game data such as strikeouts, runs, innings pitched, hits allowed, runs allowed, etc. (see "Sabermetrics" link in sidebar for greater detail of method). The method gives us an idea where Francisco Liriano's start ranks in comparison to some of the all-time greatest pitching performances in Twins history.
The Top 25 (Links after date brings you to Baseball Reference description of game)
I'll go ahead and state the obvious.  Francisco's game was nowhere near the best start in Twins history.  It's not even the best overall game in his career - - you have to go back to his July 2, 2006 win over the Milwaukee Brewers for that.  But he definitely put himself in select company. One has to hope he jumped a hurdle in his pothole-laden road of 2011.

Honorable mention:
I remember listening to Luebber's game. Mesmerizing, it was. But, I decided not to list it among the top 25, with reservations.  Though it was very notable for the reason that Luebber carried a no-hitter through 8-2/3 innings, two consecutive hits, plus an error (see play by play account) convinced Twins Manager Gene Mauch that Luebber was gassed.  And with uber fine closer Bill Campbell in the 'pen, who could fault the move? Additionally, Luebber ( like Francisco Liriano's no-hitter) had a lousy strikeout/walk ratio of 2/2. His removal from the best game of his career, plus his sub-80 game score, eliminates him from The List. Luebber's love of the baseball lifestyle, as opposed to the actual craft of of pitching, held no sway with me in the decision to not include him.

Koosman's omission is harder yet for me to justify. The List, after all, can only have 25 picks ( a number written in blood by the Baseball Gods ). I may yet waffle and insert him in place of one of the other choices in the list.  His "aLI," or average leverage index (amount of pressure he faced, owing to the strength of the Yankee batting order and game situation) approaches that faced by Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. In the end, quibbling over details like this was like shaving layers off an onion.  

We can't get bogged down in statistical ennui and nebulousness.  So, I went instead with the other Koosman game listed. Had to...Jerry's one of our own, don't ya know.

Jerry has always been very proud

that fans  fall all over themselves
to buy his rookie card.  Nobody has the
heart to tell him...
Additional Thoughts

There are several reasons why this event can be rated the most bizarre reversal of fortune in history for a Minnesota Twins pitcher. Here's a couple:
  • Liriano's sublimely awful performance in 2011 to date: his ERA went down to 6.61, from 9.13 after his previous start against the Tampa Bay Rays. I had attended that game (see post on that game experience). The Rays had a near cycle in the first inning, less a homerun; he game up two doubles, two singles, a triple, and a walk - 4 runs out of the chute. Granted, Frankie was pitching under some very cool, even snowy conditions. But Tampa's starter and winner, Wade Davis, faced the same adversities, allowing only two hits in 6+ innings.  As an eyewitness, I had the impression the 27-year old wanted out of the game from the start. Liriano's game line: 3 IP, 83 Pitches, 7 ER, 4 BB. 4 K Game Score: 19
  • Twins team performance in April. 2011: in the first, putrid month of play, the Twins as a team were 9 W - 17 L. They scored 82 runs, and gave up 139 (differential of 57 runs, an MLB worst). Throw in too that they were the last team this year to score 5 or more runs in a game, and reach double figures in wins. Worse then the Padres? Oh yes. Worse than the most impotent, offensive team of 2010. The pitching staff (see stats link) had a 5.06 ERA, gave up 31 HR, averaged 3.5 BB/Game...these are just the low lights, without mentioning fielding errors, baserunning follies, missed or poorly relayed signs.
The maxim "Win as a team, lose as a team" proves disgustingly true here.  But the Baseball Gods can evidently be kind to such a sad-ass collection, and suddenly bestow the golden touch as is their wont.

Part of the national discussion of the game, I noticed, placed the focus on a disputed play in the bottom of the 8th inning, at first base. Camera shots revealed that first base ump Paul Emmel missed the out call at first on the 5-4-3 double play attempt at first. The runner, Gordon Beckham should have been awarded first, as 1st baseman Justin Morneau missed the tag. Commentaries seemed to chime: "Liriano got a gift," or "It was pretty cheap," as if the game and no-hitter hinged on this single play.
Enough space to drive a
truck through, no.  But enough 
to fit a breadbox in the gap, si.
However, this play turns out to be an irrelevancy: Beckham would not have been given a base hit anyway, as his reaching base would have been ruled a 5-4 fielder's choice, with the hitless streak still intact. Again, I repeat: it was NOT a hit. A no-hitter is a no-hitter. Kudos to you, Mr. Francisco Liriano!!!

So, quit your whining, Twins naysayers. We part company now by saying"...And the count rides along" - TT
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shelter From The Storm: The Target Field "Snow Game" - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things got surreal and left-of-center
at Target Field the other night. 
To wit: naked frat guy
Some Context...A Rare Occurrence at Classic Minnesota Twins!
Wednesday was a rather big,news day in foreign affairs. An Afghan air force officer, possibly a Taliban agent, gunned down 9 Americans...Libyan and Syrian security forces continued the abhorrent murdering of their own citizens...Ominously, from the West Bank, came news that the rival Palestinian forces of Fatah and Hamas were unified, to the dismay of their mutual enemy Israel...Over in Britain, the lid was bubbling over with anticipation over the British royal wedding, in all its pomp and over-the-top circumstance...A catastrophic series of super-cell tornadoes decimated areas in 6 U.S. states, killing nearly 300 people...Meanwhile, the news of President Barack Obama's release of his long form birth certificate took a stranglehold on national media outlets, with the intention of squashing the long-standing debate over the President's country of birth. 

Good luck with all that.

The National Anthem from Wednesday night.  View gives idea of Minneapolis skyline,
and that of the main grandstand and distinctive canopy.  I filmed by left field foul pole.

And with the hurricane of events encircling us, where did 36,714 Minnesotans go to escape the turmoil? Why, to our state's favorite new sports toy, Target Field, of course! Our little jewel on the prairie is but a virtual preschooler in the pantheon of Major League Baseball parks.  What can I say? Life is to be lived.  To be enjoyed.

Game time temp was about 40 degrees.
Then the snow started in the 2nd inning.
A cold breeze of f  Lake Nokomis began
to blow. To hades with the warm chocolate!
It's a cold one for the birthday boy.
It was my buddy Al's birthday, in a matter of hours, anyway. And wouldn't ya know it...the wondrous Hand of the Baseball Gods reached down to hand us free tickets...thank you, friends, demigods! Their loss, our gain.  

Against this background of mirth and narcissism is this truth, that is no secret in Minnesota: the Twins are on  (ahem!) hard times.  And how! As this is posted, catcher Joe Mauer, second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and left fielder Delmon Young are each on the disabled list.  Rumour has it, even trainer Rick McWane has a powerful case of the yips (overthrew a container of Advil to Ron Gardenhire).

Wound-licking, groaning. Sad-ass blues music. Ohhhhhh-Nellie!

Compounding that stress is the continuing, uncertain return to form of first baseman Justin Morneau (concussion), and star reliever Joe Nathan (Tommy John elbow ligament surgery). Their slapstick, error-prone replacements, and under performing veterans (COUGH!-Alexi Casilla) are currently transforming the once-proud Minnesota Twins into the laughing stocks of baseball...this is just a natural fact, provable by the scientific method if you will. Sure as the cock crowed three times for Pistol Pete in Jerusalem, the boys in home pinstripes layed one, horrific, rotten egg for us to inhale.  An 8-2 loss. And the count rides along...

That crap notwithstanding, I'll trot out an old saying, modified for the occasion: a bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day at work.  Target Field, no matter what your attitude towards sports commercialism and stadium politics, is one HELL of a good place to be, even for a bad baseball game!

Please don't pull an Elvis and fire upon your computer monitor.
It's only 'Lexi. I consider this video rather pretty, and not only for that clock.

Behold, one of the Twins few bright spots!

I have reason to hope for this team.  Yes, the players' problems with base running, pitching, hitting, throwing, fielding, relaying coaching signals from third, spitting sunflower seeds without emitting saliva about the chops, properly scratching their privates, cussing out bad umpires competently - purt'n near every thing that can be done on, in,  or around a baseball field - are disconcerting, agonizing.  But they are not problems without solutions. The Twins are not a team that is completely, utterly broken. The advent of the sun's warmth, green grass, budding flowers and chirping birds will also (hopefully) coincide with rejuvenated pitching arms, quicker bats, and ballplayers returned to health.
Watch for guy in Santa outfit on monitor, while PA pipes in Christmas music.
All-in-all, owing to the snowy climes, the apocalyptic drubbing of the Twins,
we felt a historical vibe upon leaving the ballpark, as if we'd
escaped Normandy's Omaha Beach together.  I exaggerate not.
Those things failing, there's always the June amateur player draft, games on the radio, summer barbecues long, reflective walks around the area lakes, and hoping for next season . 

Plus, the magic of the Classic Minnesota Twins blog for you to read.  You can count on that!
As good, ol" Herb Carneal would say: "And the count rides along..." TT

Tony Oliva, the kid from Cuba

Don't mess with the gods.