Friday, September 30, 2011

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

Post Last Updated:  September 28, 2016

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.

I shall stab at thee from hell, Jamie Quirk.
1978 Issue - a K.C. Royals farm team
Al Williams thought bubble:
"So you think pitching to 
Senor 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 (neck and neck with a film from a certain, purplish Minnesota rocker who inspired this post's title)! 
Gardner's bringing in Davis again? 
You can't be serious!"

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...

Brett Butler and Joe Carter, ca. 1984
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

Friday, September 16, 2011

Classic Twins Game of the Week: Dave Winfield's 3,000th Hit Game: Sept. 16, 1993

UPDATED: Tues., Oct. 8, 2013
                Winfield squares up pitch  from Dennis Eckersley  for his 3000th hit
Dave, like Graig Nettles in previous post, also played for the
Alaska Goldpanners as an amateur, in 1971-72
 ( Photo by Brian Peterson Minneapolis Star Tribune)


Dave Winfield, the three-sport standout alumni of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers,  came back to Minnesota after 20 years to become a member of the 1993 Minnesota Twins. After a prolonged slump that late season, he finally connected for his milestone hit; only 18 other players had accomplished the feat to that time. A poignant photo is below, from that Thursday night, Sept. 16, 1993 ( see BB Ref. box ) game against the Oakland Athletics. That Kirby Puckett ( who scored on the hit ) was one of the first players to congratulate Dave Winfield after his milestone hit reminds me of an interesting circumstance. Had he remained healthy into the first week of the 1996 season, only he, Rick Aguilera, and Chuck Knoblauch would have earned the distinction of being the only Twins to play with the era's 3 outstanding players from St. Paul, Minnesota and had Hall of Fame - calibre careers: Jack Morris in 1991, Winfield in 1993-1994, and Paul Molitor in 1996. Alas, that was never to happen when he woke up the morning of March 31, 1996 with a black dot in his right eye. Glaucoma robbed him of that opportunity, forcing his retirement later that season. As a footnote: The Twins won that game, 5-4.

                          Greeting big Dave near first base: Puckett, a smirking Scott Erickson, Brian Harper 
                           behind Erickson, Willie Banks behind Kirby. Jeff Reboulet (#17), out of camera holding 
                  helmet, Pat Mahomes looks up at video board. (this photo & others: Fri., Sept. 17, 1993 Star Tribune)                    
Speaking of videos: watch this while you can before MLB has it scrubbed from You Tube [ note: the suits did just that, not long after this posting...the fun squashers thus took away your view of Dave's at bat in its entirety!].  It's nice to hear long time Twins announcer Dick Bremer on the call.

Winfield was showing signs of pressure in the attempt to reach his goal - if not the signs of encroaching age and the diminishment of his skills. At the link, see the averages over the stretch of his previous 20 games before Sept. 16, along with the log of games before his hit on the 16th:

Much like Harmon Killebrew's struggle to breach the No. 500 HR barrier during the 1971 season, this period for Winfield was a testament to the fact that he was now into the "September" of his career. In other words, it was an excruciatingly long-ass crawl to the 3,000 hit finish line for him...I hope you like this Minneapolis Star Trib feature from the day
Go ahead, click on photo, view larger version and others in 
this post for greater detail!

I will be adding more commentary to this post shortly. 

As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, would have said, "...And the count rides along." - TT
Click on graphic of quotes to see unobstructed view!

I'll never forget the sight of Nolan Ryan knocking
down Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the '85 
All-Star Game, which I attended at the Hubert H. Humphry 
Metrodome in Minneapolis.  At the time, I really didn't 
understand his motivation  - but this bit of history in their
background might shed some light on that. See Ryan's
comments can also judge his actions
in context with his beating the snot (MLB Video) out of
  Robin Ventura in 1993 when he charged Ryan in Texas.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Classic Twins Remembers Graig Nettles, The One That Got Away

Young Mr. Nettles, circa 1968.

Graig Nettles is better known as one of the all-time best New York Yankee third basemen who was also a world class wise-ass. Don't let the "I'm-All-Business" facade fool you...there was a cackling hyena just under the surface.  He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1965 Amateur Free Agent Draft.This was the first of its kind, established to limit the high bidding that had favored the more profitable Major League teams. Frank Quilici is quoted as saying the Twins probably gave up on Nettles too early, thinking a leg injury he suffered would hinder his ever becoming a solid, everyday player. One other source, an author friend of mine, told me that owner Calvin Griffith wasn't prepared to pay Nettles the money they knew he would soon command as an everyday player - which he stated very clearly in a personal letter to Craig, with his regrets. So, they traded him to the Cleveland Indians on December 10, 1969. Yes, indeed, children. It seems for every Twins trade success (see "Cesar Tovar, for Gerry Arrigo, 1964", "Tom Brunansky for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong, 1982"), there has been a blunder ("Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young, 2007, or allowing David Ortiz to flee after the 2001 season - please hit me with a hammer, now!!). A good chronology of Nettles' stay in the Twins system is at the Fack Youk blog (yes, you read that correctly), with some fine graphics.

(Nettles, losing shoe while reaching reaching third base,
probably in a game against the Red Sox on August 29, 1969. Syd O'Brien
takes throw. He played left field that day for that 1969 Twins team 
(team page at BBR). Photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins: 
Bob Showers, "The Twins At The Met")

A Twin Cities author informed me of the following: once the trade was transacted, Twins owner Calvin Griffith sent Nettles a letter, stating to the effect that: "We sure wanted to keep you Graig - but there was no way we would be able to pay you what you will deserve." An unusual gesture, with unusual candor, to say the least.

After Nettles was traded to the Indians, all he did in 1970 was lead the AL third basemen in fielding percentage (.967), and hit 26 homers.  He and Mike Schmidt were the top third basemen in their respective leagues. He became one of the signature characters in the late 1970's with the New York Yankees, aka; The Bronx Zoo. His chief roles on that club were being the smooth, lovely-to-watch fielder, hitter with pop, and chief court jester. To wit:

"When I was a kid I wanted to play baseball and join the circus. With the Yankees, I've been able to do both."

1969 Twins Spring Training

"From Cy Young to sayonara in one season."
--Graig Nettles, on Sparky Lyle going from winning the Cy Young Award to being traded a year later by the Yankees

Minor League Nettles Feature in
"The Sporting News" - Aug. 10, 1968

Hello! My name is Graig in the World Series, and I can fly!
Graig Nettles had an excellent, long career, finishing with the Montreal Expos in 1988, after brief stops in Atlanta and his birthplace of San Diego. His fine SABR biography can be found here. His Wikipedia entry is a fine how-do-you-do as well, shedding some more light on that interesting spelling of his name. I kind of like the way the old Minneapolis Star writer Dick Gordon gets right to it. An added bonus is this 1965 amateur video footage (You Tube) of Nettles' elite amateur team playing in Alaska, called the Alaska Goldpanners (see link to team feature article).This winning squad included Rick Monday, Tom Seaver, Gary Sutherland, and, of course, Herr Nettles. You can view a "Nettles Chronology" timeline of his career highlights at Baseball Library. A Nov., 2008 video at MLB.Com shows what Graig looks like today, in a Q & A session at a "Legends For Youth Dinner."

As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, used to say: "...And the count rides along." - TT

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Twins Books I Have Loved! Or That I've Admired From Afar...


Hope this is of use for you types looking for summer Twins material, or late Christmas shoppers. Other than the oldies, most should be readily available via 

The list is by no means concise or all inclusive.. but many of the notable publications from Twins history can be found here.

This list of Twins books will hopefully give you something team-related to enjoy waiting for the next spring training to roll around! Here's my list from some time updated after many revisions!

As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, used to say "...And the count rides along." - TT