Sunday, August 28, 2011

Most Bizzare Twins Fielding Play: Brant Alyea on April 25, 1970

In the early season of 1970, new Twins outfielder Brant Alyea was the flavor of the month.  He had been acquired in the off-season from Ted William's Washington Senators; dare I say it, he was "Mr. En Fuego" that April, so hot that Twins fans were just busting down the turnstiles to get a look at Calvin Griffith's latest trade steal. Which was good, since he and the organization were dealing with a backlash from said fans angry about the sacking of Billy Martin as manager.

1970 Topps Card
Earl Wilson was a top-flight starter for the Red Sox and Tigers in the 1960's. Paul Ratliff was one of the average, fill-in catchers who populated the Twins roster in the period between Earl Battey and Butch Wynegar. He'd been in the Twins system since 1962.

                                                                 Big Brant!
 Alyea, 29 at the time, has gone down in Twins baseball lore for his starring role in the strangest fielding play ever during that '70 campaign. For your perusal this piece...

The superstitious Leo Cardenas
(see Classic Twins story)
1970 Wheeldon Super Value
From Dave Smith: May 1997 Baseball Retrosheet newsletter 

"How about a strikeout with the batter being retired K-7-6-7? In the game of April 25, 1970, [Jim Kaat struck out] Tiger pitcher Earl end the seventh inning in the Twin Cities. Or so it appeared to everyone except Detroit third base coach Grover Resinger. He saw that Twins catcher Paul Ratliff trapped the pitch in the dirt, did not tag Wilson for the strikeout, and rolled the ball to the mound. Resinger told Wilson to start running as most of the Twins entered the dugout. Earl got to first easily and headed for second. Since no one interfered with him, he started for third. By this time, Brant Alyea, who was trotting in from left field, heard Resinger shouting at Wilson. Alyea hustled to the mound but had trouble picking up the ball. Wilson headed for home where Twins Leo Cardenas and Ratliff had returned. Alyea finally picked up the ball and threw to Cardenas. Wilson turned back to third but was tagged out by Alyea for a K-7-6-7. Rookie catcher Ratliff was charged with an error. After the game, Detroit catcher Bill Freehan said "If Alyea had been hustling, Earl might have made it [home]. Tell him [Alyea] to start coming in and off the field a little quicker." The aftermath of the story is that Wilson pulled a hamstring muscle running the bases and had to leave the game."  [same description (plus Alyea biographical info) of play at Baseball Reference].

Today, Alyea joins Johnny Briggs and Joe Mauer
in the Twins all-time sideburns Hall-of-Fame.

(1970 Wheeldon Super Valu portrait)

In case you missed Freehan's meaning in Smith's piece, he was slyly intoning that had Alyea charged into the dugout from left field with Pete Rose-style gusto, he never would have been in the position to pick up the ball and make the inning ending play with Cardenas. Instead, his lollygagging proved a fortunate circumstance for the Twins. The lamentable part of this episode to me is the fact that even though the game was televised locally and being videotaped, the twins broadcast team went to commercial immediately after the apparent strikeout of Wilson. And without an actual newspaper wire photo, I have to rely on my imagination to picture Paul Ratliff standing by home plate near Cardenas, idly scratching his nether regions while the craziness transpired. His presence in the lineup that day was to give George Mitterwald a day off, in any event.

As said, Alyea had one HELL of a month that April with the Twins. In fact he was Hotter than Hell, to quote those American rock poets of KISS (the difference being, his services were for the Twins and Griffith, and not, well, Satan). Of course, big league clubs had ways even then about spreading the word about a player, what pitches they're hitting well, their tendencies to swing or not in a given ball/strike count. Well...things apparently caught up with Alyea soon enough. His coach turned back into a pumpkin, and teams were again throwing him a curveball, or some pitch that didn't neccessarily stay on a straight plane for him to hit. In his defense, he didn't really get all that many starts as a "regular," what with the Twins use of several players to man left field. Hard to stay sharp, much less remain on a hot streak! So, it was back to being a career .255 hitter (BBRef stats, 1965-69). But he undeniably had his career month that April, no taking that away!

May 9, 1970 TSN

See his April stats: for awhile, Twins fans could forget about Billy can click on any date to get additional game info and boxscore minutae. Hit the "back" button on your browser to circle back to the list for other games (season totals in black, bottom).

As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, would say: "...And the count rides along." - TT
                           Getting some ribbies, first day as a Twin

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ben Again! Revere Evokes Images of Kirby Puckett & Bo Jackson, August 22, 2010

Sometimes I think Ben is just a cartoon character like Bugs Bunny,
who can defy the law of physics with otherworldly prowess. And that
one day I'll wake up only to discover I dreamed the whole she-bang.
Ben Revere is fast becoming a household name. His catch off Vladimir Guerrero (MLB Video) of the Baltimore Orioles is his latest of several remarkable highlights in his rookie year.  It was hit off of Carl Pavano (as usual), and is evoking memories of Bo Jackson, what with his famous "wall walk" catch in old Yankee Stadium.  Not to downgrade Kirby Puckett's excellent catch in the 1991 World Series (game 6), but this one by Ben is definitely a notch ahead on the difficulty scale.

The minions at MLB video preface clip with a 15-second commercial. Those creeps.

 Of course, for sheer drama, no one will ever replace Puckett. His homerun to end
Game 6 in 1991 is  encoded in the majority of Minnesota sports fans' DNA:

Perhaps someday, like the Kennedy assassination video, MLB will agree
to release this clip to the general bloggin public. When they determine we're ready for it.
As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, used to say: "...And the count rides along." - TT

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remembering Ted Uhlaender: August, 1968 Sporting News Feature!

For what did my brothers and I love Texas Ted Uhlaender? Let me count the ways: his hustling approach, his excellent bat and glove, his ever-so-distinctive name, that tobacco-engorged cheek...what wasn't there to love for a baseball purist? I hope this sharp piece on him by St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press writer Arno Goethel gives you some idea of who or what T.U. was all about. He was a throw-back sort, who went on to coach with the Indians after his playing days.

Tejas Ted intently receives tutelage from Tony-O

Go to this link for full page of  below Sporting News piece

Uhlaender comes home at the Met against Russ Gibson and
the Boston Redsox in a July 16, 1968 game. Sox pitcher Gary Bell 
backs up the play in top frame. Ted knocked the ball loose to score!

The Dec. 10, 1969 trade of Uhlaender, Greg Nettles, Dean Chance and Bob Miller to the Cleveland Indians for former all-star Luis Tiant and Stan Williams seemed a great one for the Twins - that is, it was, until El Tiante came down with a bad arm. All the Twins could do then was bring up some kid named Bert Blyleven to take Tiant's place. For all the young curveballer did for the Twins in 1970 and beyond, it still didn't prevent us from missing the sight of Teddy tracking down flyballs in center!
As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, used to say: "...And the count rides along." - TT

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Met Stadium: Pictorial, 1955 - 1970 Part 2

"Hello! My name is 'Rod Carew,'
the '69 AL Batting Champ"

Rootin' out the soybean and alfalfa

THAT is one helluva big mound (right)

With miles to go before they slept

Could swear this is the same moonscape where Armstong landed

When it was just a game, when it all started!
No second deck in left - & NO  RF foul seating at all!

Little did we know...the habit of being in contention
was about to end!

At the time these photos were published, the Met was still a very lively, inviting place to attend an outdoor baseball game.  A vibrancy, an expectation of success hung in the air during those late 1960's and early '70s, like the omnipresent Schweigert hotdog aroma, Hamms Beer and cigar smoke. They were an integral part of the mix, as much as watching Bob Allison and Rich Reese loft shots into the bleachers in batting practice. It was a carryover from the giddy period of relocation from Washington, D.C. The park's atmosphere would degrade over the next few years, as the frugal Calvin Griffith (see MPR obit link) neglected to perform even basic upkeep of the ballpark. Sherry Robertson, the Twins Director of Minor Leagues, tragically died in 1970; with that, the team's farm system went into decline. The talent pool slowed to a trickle, and so, too, did the crowds that had flocked to the Met.  A shame. The stadium was only 25 years old at the time the Twins abandoned it after the 1981 season ('81 roster, results), and could have functioned much longer with some TLC. 

The best dogs on God's Green Earth
As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, put it: "...and the count rides along." - TT

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Met Stadium: Pictorial, 1955 - 1961 Part 1

Click on any of these photos for a larger view, in this pictorial summary of Metropolitan Stadium's first few years.
Aerial view, 1955 - Cedar Ave. running diagonal through mid - photo.
Winter, 1955
Construction workers, 1956
Met Stadium home team dugout, 1956
View from south east, ca. 1956
1960 - note absence of bleachers in left, right, foul territories.
Cedar Avenue and the 494 cloverleaf is in the background.
Inaugural season for the Twins, 1961. Lower pavillion in place in left,
 bleachers in right. Right Field foul would be completed during 1961, 
left field upperdeck in 1965.
Pre-1965 field panorama

A well-done history of The Met can be found at SABR biographies / articles section.
As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, would say: "...and the count rides along." - TT

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ben Revere: Making a Pitch To Be Future Centerfielder

I've already posted this video of Ben Revere's catch from the August 17, 2011 game against Delmon Young to another site, but think it deserves a place at Classic Minnesota Twins also!

Revere just seems to have that special factor that you don't see every day! He has filled in remarkably for Denard Span, since early June, when the veteran went down with a concussion on a play at home against the Royals. My favorite story regarding Revere is the day earlier this season when Denard was praising Revere for his quick first step in tracking flyballs, rating him over and above everyone else in that aspect - including himself. "And don't any of you people tell him I said that!," said Span, who, of course, turned to see Revere beaming with pleasure a few feet away, taking it all in. "Dont listen to any of that," Span protested in mock dismay.

Watch for the expression from young Mr.Revere after his webgem ride!

It gives pain to see Denard go through such a prolonged period of uncertainty and recoup post concussion. Speaking for all Twins fans, we'd like nothing better to see him doing his thing again, but soon.  That said, I think we're going to see this guy Ben in centerfield for the Twins for a long, long time. Because , you know: Nothing runs like Revere!

When a guy is making fielding plays reminiscent of Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, it warrants a second look.

As our old buddy at the mic, Mr. Herb Carneal would say:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

May 9, 1997: Kirby Puckett On David Letterman

There is so much that is remarkable and poignant about this clip: that Kirby is both funny and relatively WCCO (CBS affilitate) anchorman Don Shelby is actually funny in the breaking news inserts...the genuine affection the Minnesotans in the studio audience had for Engelbert Kirbydink...seeing David Letterman in the period before he became crabby and partisan. It reminds me how much has changed in 15 years...

For context, this airing ocurred less than one calendar year after Kirby's traumatic, premature retirement, when glaucoma robbed him of the sight in his right eye. I know that Bob Dylan said "Don't Look Back." Yet, to submit for your approval, you can gleen how much you've lost or gained in doing so. Yours to decide. Either way, it's nice to see Kirby smile and laugh (see 1:38 mark, etc.)

As our good old friend at the mic (Herb Carneal) would say:
"...and the count rides along." - TT

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blyleven & The Great 1973 Cy Young Robbery (Gif)

(Dan Johnson at The Expansion Years site created this gif)

Our guy Bert, complete with tongue protrusions (1972 gif photo). You really owe it to yourself to check out  his '73 game-by-game numbers at Baseball Reference. Among the things that stand out for me were his innings pitched, strikeouts, 1-0 games, shutouts, et. al.
1973 ★ 20 17 .541 2.52 40 40 0 25 9 325.0 296 109 91 16 67 258 1321 156 2.32 1.117 7.1 3.85
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/15/2016.
The "only" stats (see chart) Bert topped the leader boards were in:

 Wins Above Replacement -WAR - (9.9!! - that is for pitchers AND batters)

- Shut Outs (9)
- Strike Out / Walk Ratio (3.85...Mickey Lolich next at 2.709!)
- Adjusted ERA+ (156)
- Adjusted Pitching Wins (5.2)
- Adjusted Pitching Runs (47)
- FiP (2.32)

...and he was second in:

- Walks & Hits / IP (1.117)
- Strike Outs (258)
- Walks/9 (1.855)
- ERA 2.5

His run support from his Twins teammates was a maddening issue in 1973. While Minnesota was first in the league in batting (.270, 4th in runs scored) they left their bats home in a huge proportion of his starts - there were SIXTEEN (of 40 total starts - 40%) games in which they scored 2 runs or less for Blyleven. Sadly his ERA in those games was an otherwise excellent 2.99; he went 4-12 during those contests, pitching complete games in 10 of them.

Now, we hold parades (and rightfully so) for the likes of Mike Trout (7.9 WAR last year, 9.7 in '13, 10.8 in '12) for his nuanced dominance. Blyleven really falls into that category as well.  Clayton Kershaw (7.5) and Corey Kluber (7.4) are also current points for comparison in that stat, as MVPs and Cy Young Award winners. A common citation by writers unfamiliar with Blyleven is that he wasn't dominant in the Ryans and Palmer mode. Well, if a WAR near ten, 9 shutouts, and 25 complete games and 258 strikeouts isn't dominant enough, kindly show me what was, please.

With all that in mind, his placing 7th in the '73 Cy Young voting (Jim Palmer took home the big bacon)is beyond ridiculous. And, for the love of God, even Jim Colburn got more pub & votes than Blyleven, to heap on the absurdity. I'll leave it up to you to check the gazillion other categories in which he placed in the top ten. The lack of recognition is important later in the context of Blyleven's career, as it removes a bullet point from his resume for BBWA Hall Of Fame voters reviewing his credentials.

In another era of statistical analysis, he WOULD have been awarded the Cy Young.

A 2009 article by Rich Lederer serves up a sparkling analysis of why The Dutchman was robbed of the honor for his '73 showcase season (Lederer background link)! One reason I believe he was bypassed was the fact that the Twins lost so many games in which he pitched "quality" ballgames, 6 innings or more, while giving up 3 or fewer earned runs. To wit, he lost 8 one run games that year. EIGHT, my good lords and ladies. Pardon, but I thinketh the voters erred mightily in overlooking this.

That detracted from a record which may have totaled 26, 27 wins instead of his merely excellent 20. Throw in the fact that he was an emotional guy, not one to hold his tongue in check, thus earning a repution (unfairly) of being immature, or just a "thrower," as opposed to a "mounds craftsman" (see "Greg Maddux, professor). He would give up the go-ahead dinger, lose by a run, and the talking heads would wag "He's just good enough to lose. Hmmnph. Not elite. " The lords of baseball: a snooty, testy bunch! Whatever.

Never mind that the punchless Twins had scored only one or two runs in a boatload of his starts. It was his character flaw that had caused him to lose the ballgame for the TC guys, went the logic. Nevertheless, Bert coasted into the Hall of Fame this year, with much credit due to the above-mentioned  Mr. Lederer. He wrote tirelessly for years, in online pieces such as "It's All Dutch To Some" (2005), that helped to turn the tide in favor of Blyleven's candidacy. Once deferred, justice restored. 

Now, if we could just right that goofy 1973 Cy Young voting result... 

As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, quipped:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Everlasting Impressions in Gif, July 2011

Today's post is a Twins smorgasbord of gif images, one of my newest photographic fixations. Each of the scenes below easily rank among the most famous in the short history of Target Field. They were moments of incredible joy in this season of angst, poor play, and suspect front office / on-field managerial decisions.

That aside, witness Ben Revere's stumbling, bumbling, but ultimately successful jaunt to third during the Friday, July 15th game against the Royals. He would eventually score the Twins only run in that game.  We sat in perfect view of Ben rounding second from our perch in the Legends Club section. See the smiling visage of third base coach Steve Liddle as the modern day Dick Van Dyke pulls in to station. See the full video at, with Kris Attebury's play-by-play.

Goofiness aside, this is a perfect illustration of Revere's penchant to
overslide the base; you'd swear he never heard of a popup slide.

That same weekend, in the Sunday, July 17th contest Jim Thome gave us his own take on "The Natural." His mammoth shot (career number 596) into the upper deck in right field produced this gaping reaction from Delmon Young...Jim's resolute, Bunyan-esque expression...the fans' reaction behind the Twins dugout...this is just an all-time Twins classic moment! See Dick Bremer's call at MLB.Com.

I count myself fortunate to have witnessed the above two plays in person, with old friends!
They were originally presented at Twinkietown, by Jesse Lund

Now, flash back nearly one calendar year...

One of the more humorous sights for me is the spectacle of grown, macho men whole-heartedly laying hands on one another in moments of sheer joy. It is summer, the season has moved into its middle portion, and the moon is high. Inhibitions have disappeared, and the need to punch your friend in the ass reigns unchecked. A bottle of red wine, a soft jazz cd playing in, I digress...this spectacle features Carl Pavano unleashing his famous right sucker punch (pitch?) on Orlando Hudson's derriere. The You Tube video gives some idea of the hysteria, if not much visual of the errant throw from Alex Rios from rightfield that allowed O-Dawg  to score the the winning run.

No word on whether the Stash Man had recently rented the Malcolm McDowell classic, "Caligula."


This transpired immediately following the Twins first Target Field walk-off hit (by Delmon Young), on July 18, 2010. Denard Span (#2) appears oblivious to the mayhem, while Nick Punto's (#8) expression seems to turn from exhilaration to "NO...STOP IT!!!"

It is in the revisiting of happy, inventoried memories that feelings of depression are conquered.
As good, old Herb Carneal would say "...and the count rides along." - TT