Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Naming of The Twins: Nov. 26, 1960

On this day 54 years ago, Calvin Griffith announced his decision to name the new Minnesota franchise that was relocating to the Minneapolis-St.Paul area for the 1961 season. Among his choices was the "Twin Cities Twins," referencing the Northstar cities straddling the Mississippi River and their joint venture to field a major league ballclub. It was Griffith's intention to placate the two cities, and create unity after years of rivalry as minor league baseball cities. He eventually compromised, settling on "Minnesota Twins," thus making the entry the first MLB team to be named after a state, and not a city. The "TC" symbol, though, was retained on the caps.*

ABOVE: Nov. 28, 1960, 
The recent relocation of the Minneapolis Lakers to L.A. in April, 1960 was unquestionably on his mind, and he didn't want discord to undermine the franchise's viability in the future. The area would indeed embrace the team of Versalles, Becquer, Allison, Killebrew, PascualKaatBattey and Lenny Green. The naming decision was published in a story by iconic Minnesota sportswriter and broadcasting legend Halsey Hall (SABR link) ten days later in "The Sporting News" edition of December 7, 1960.
Ahh! Rustic. In the quaint,
Huckleberry Finn sense.
Manager Lavagetto, May 27, 1961

* "Twenty Cubans" was Jim Kaat's tongue-in-cheek response when asked by a rival team player for the meaning of the cap symbol. The Twins were renowned for fielding rosters with multiple players of Hispanic ancestry since the 1950's.

1961 Minnie And Paul logo
courtesy of Fleer Sticker Project.

The logo was created by artist 
Ray Barton in 1961 for $15.
Details, details. The 5 and 7 year-old money figures Calvin cites at the bottom of this section undoubtedly did not match the current economic realities, inflation, etc.,in Minnesota at the time. The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1/10/61) detailed the compensation The Twins eventually agreed to fork over for area rights. Yes, fudging details, omitting relevant info...they were Griffith's twin guns he brought to many a negotiation! Star hurler Jim Grant was quoted as saying Griffith handled nickels as if they were manhole covers, alluding to the difficulty in wringing wage increases during salary talks with the Twins President. A formidable adversary in all things economic, and a pretty fair baseball mind! As far as I am aware, the middle section is the first national sports publication reference to the Twins team logo (left). Oddly enough, the only known instance of Cal telling fans to "Keep your money" was during the team season ticket drive before the '61 season, as reported in The Sporting News of January 11, 1961.

The "Gerald" (Gerry) Arrigo acquisition is a key one in Twins history - not so much for what he did as a member of the Twins staff, but for what he was worth in trade. The Twins picked up super-sub Cesar Tovar on Dec. 4, 1964 from the Reds. This was perhaps Calvin’s greatest trade steal of the 1960’s (with the possible exception of the 1963 Jim Perry for Jack Kralick deal).

You now know the fine trivia answer "Eddie Lopat" to the question: "Who was the Twins' first pitching coach?" Take a look at several of his young Twins rookie pitchers at the April, 1961 Baseball Digest (Google Books). Carl Yastrzemski, of course, had Minnesota ties from his season as a Minneapolis Miller in 1960, playing at Metropolitan Stadium. He later would help to famously end the Twins season as a member of the Boston Red Sox with his performance during the final series of the year (game stats) in 1967. 

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Now, Minnesota fans in late 1960 could truly say they were "Big League," that, despite the fact the old Minneapolis Lakers had been an NBA dynasty in the 1940s and 50s. But that was long before basketball was truly a big-time, high-echelon American, professional sport. The expansion NFL Vikings were technically first to commit to Minnesota, back on January 28, 1960. But they wouldn't play their first game until September 17, 1961. And after the original Lakers fell on hard times and fan apathy, they moved to L.A. after their last playoff game on March 26, 1960. They left behind a territory eager for something bigger - Major League Baseball and some yet, unknown entity that would fill the void. 

Enter the Twins.

As our Hall Of Fame broadcaster Herb Carneal ended his broadcasts, I say:"So long, everybody!" - TT 

positively un-Twinlike on the day
the Minnesota Twins were truly a
reality, in their first regular season
game on April 11, 1961
in New York.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Participate in Hall of Fame Poll: Oliva, Kaat, Tiant, Hodges, Minoso, Santo or Reynolds?

Your input is desired at the Classic Twins Facebook page. Would love to see who the favorites are before the vote! Vote early, vote often, and get your cigs at the door!

You should check out the new Hall of Fame ELO Player Ratings system at BBRef. It looks to be a fairly objective system of rating the best players in history. Now that I think of it, I should probably have made this the latest link of the week. I believe I will make it happen!

TOP ROW, L-R: Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Charley Finley.
BOTTOM: Allie Reynolds, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva, Buzzie Bavasi.
(SUPER good size available for view, click image)
As our Hall of Broadcaster Herb Carneal would say: "So long everybody!" - TT

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lost Met Stadium: A New Page At Classic Twins!

Feel free to check out "Lost Metropolitan Stadium," a new sidebar feature document that will be appearing in the sidebar for your looking pleasure!

I hope you're ready - it might get you wistful. Angry. Nostalgic. Or any number of nebulous, human emotions.

As our Hall Of Fame announcing friend Herb Carneal saith: "So long everybody!" - TT

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bert Blyleven: 1971 Scorecard "Twins Twinkler" Feature

Jim Perry, 1971 Scorecard 
[Another in the 2011 Bert Blyleven Hall of Fame Series]

Before The Sporting News - or Sports Illustrated - or any other syndicated publication got wind of Bert Blyleven...

"Wind" in a manner of speaking... could only count on local and regional Twins publications to hype the talents of our curveballing prankster.

Enjoy this spread, complete with ads, from a 1971 Twins scorecard, a "Twins Twinkler" player feature.

To remind: "Twins Twinkler" was a staple feature in Twins scorecards dating back to the first season in 1961.

See link to view another great curveballer in Twins history in his "Twins Twinkler" spread!

(click to read isolated image)
Personable. Poised. Not yet publicly profane. And a curveball that made batters pee their pants. 

His life's possibilites, prodigious. Thus, I end my pain in the posterior alliterations.

As our old friend Herb would sign off: "So long, everybody!" - TT

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jim Kaat: Up For Election To Baseball Hall Of Fame

Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva will be under consideration for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Dec. 4 (story and stats at MLB.COM). They definitely offer up some solid credentials for the Veterans Committee to consider. The expectation is they'll be considerable dark horses, and will finish far back in the voting. At this point, I thinketh Gil Hodges and Ron Santo would have to be the front runners for the honor.  Another former Twin, Luis Tiant should make a strong showing also...that despite his wooden acting chops...(see vid)!

Too bad. I was too young to remember seeing Hodges and Santo play. Hodges was the Mets manager when I became a fan in my kidhood. He went at the cigs like a smokestack, but was otherwise the man of moderation. Skippered The Amazin' 1969 New York Mets to a World Series Championship. Died before the '72 season got underway. Santo is among the greatest third basemen in NL history. A very emotional, demonstrative (see pic!) team leader. Not to take away anything from those two - I'm sure their long-time, respective  fans in Brooklyn/L.A. and Chicago wouldn't - but it would have been nice if the Hall would have honored them long ago, before they passed on. 
As it is, our guy Kitty is quite humble about just being on the ballot, according to this link.
The well-spoken Kaat and especially Oliva were top echelon players in their 1960's heyday. And are still very much alive to enjoy the honor next July. Kaat was the ultimate gamer, pitched in 4 decades, won damn near 300 games, and reinvented himself late in his career as a starter AND reliever, a la Dennis Eckersley. That is to name but a few of his highlights. He ocassionally pops up these days on MLB network broadcasts. Heck, he could go in on the merit of his skill at the mic alone. As James states below, Kaat had bad timing: barring his hand injury incurred while sliding into second in  the 6th inning of a game against Chicago on July 2, 1972* (game box, BBRef) Kaat may have had his career year (and narrowed the gap to 300 wins). He was 10-2, with a 2.07 ERA at the time (left: check fab Topps 1972 baseball card!).

*After breaking his hand at second on a 6-4 forceout in that 6th inning, Kaat pitched to 11 more batters, finally giving up the mound in the 8th when Wayne Granger relieved. His 7-2/3 innings were the last he pitched that year. Grit and determination personified! Adding a footnote to this footnote, the Twins promoted Dave Goltz  from AAA Tacoma after that ballgame to replace the injured Kaat. He made his debut on July 18.

It's a nice list of guys for the committee to mull. I submit: honor these and the other stars in the near-future; let's include these Twins now! I love the picture below, from old Commiskey Park:

Pitching to Earl Battey. The batter is Pete Ward.
Twins vs White Sox, May 17, 1967 (box score: Baseball Ref.)

For the record: Kaat has to go down as one of the most cerebral, cagey 
pitchers of all-time, as well as being in the top 5 starters in Twins history. 
If you're not counting Rich Robertson and Scott Klingenbeck.

Here's a link to Kaat's game stats from his outstanding Cy Young-worthy 1966 season. Only the great Sandy Koufax ('66 game logs) stood in his way, in the time when only one award winner was selected from among all the major league teams.

And now for you reading types, Bill James expounds in his absorbing "What Ever 
Happened To The Hall Of Fame?" 1995/Simon & Schuster at Google Books:

His stats are on par with these pitchers:
(those starred are in the Hall of Fame)
As a life-long Twins fan, I'll readily admit, there's a certain "greedy pig" factor at play here. We Minnesotan's got our Bert Blyleven in this year, and now we're back at the trough again. More-more-more! So be it. But you have to admit: the statistical evidence above, plus Kaat's career longevity, competitive spirit, and post career have to be factored in his case.

As Hall of Fame Twins announcer Herb Carneal phrased it:
"So long, everybody!" - TT

Friday, November 4, 2011

1976: The Twins Bill Campbell As Baseball's Original Free Agent Signee Part Two

[Updated, April 14, 2013 - updated with pdf doc, 12/2/13 - 
Part One of this Bill Campbell saga can be found at THIS LINK]

Thirty-five years ago today, November 4, 1976, was a momentous day in baseball history. It was the day that Major League team owners bid on the first group of free agents in the "Reentry Draft."This draft was distinguished from free agency statuses granted to Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally cases, as these players were stand-alone "test cases" used by MLBPA head Marvin Miller to create the environment that could be used to justify a structured draft that the Major League teams would have to abide.  I view the list (below), and have to marvel at the top flight pool of future Hall of Famers (Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers) and All-Stars (Bobby Grich, et. al.). Minnesota's Bill "Soupy" Campbell (Classic Twins post on Soupy) and Eric Soderholm* were in that group.

The Sporting News called it a "gold rush," but it was more a wild n' wooly cattle drive of the game's top stars to market, to continue the Wild West motif that was the 1970's. And our very own Bill was numero uno - the FIRST official signing under the new agreement between Marvin Miller, the Players Association, and Major League Baseball. It was a formal end to the system known as "The Reserve Clause." Campbell was the only Twin to have served actively in the Viet Nam war, as a radio operator.

*Great interview with Soderholm at Baseball Alamanac. Sheds light on difficulty of squaring off against Calvin Griffith in contract negotiations. Recalls comment Griffith made to Pedro Ramos during contract squabble: "If you don't like the offer, you can go back to Cuba and cut sugar cane" (Google Books link).

Calvin Griffith
The next clip is  from the Minneapolis Tribune Sports section of the previous day (11/3/76) . Tom Briere's piece allows an insight into the mindset of then-Twins President Calvin Griffith* on the eve of that momentous draft. Cal comes across today as curiously detached, and stand-offish; you have to wonder if he truly understood the weakness of his bargaining power in this new format:

 *Link to my "Meeting Calvin" post. The modern psychology of players, media relations, was getting apparent to the Twins hierarchy that the game was passing Griffith by. They would appoint a 4-man management team that year, ease him out of the team presidency.

...And who would have guessed, with that laissez-faire attitude, this would result?


Of course, the '76 draft proved to be highly damaging to the Twin's chances to seriously contend for the pennant in 1977, when the club fielded an offensive juggernaut (batting stats) that was bereft of quality starting pitching. The 1977 draft would deal another more serious blow to the team's depth of talent , with the defections of Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle. Sans them, the Twins would not factor in a pennant race until another turnover of youth, the Puckett-Hrbek-Gaetti-Viola Twins of the 1980's, would surface and win it all ten years later.

For those of you interested, here are the results of that draft day as described in the Jan. 1, 1977 edition of The Sporting News (again,  Jack Lang's article):

Only two day's earlier, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had defeated imcumbent President Gerald R. Ford in the general elections. The country was moving on after Watergate, Vietnam, the '60s, and the heartbreak that came with them. Undoubtedly, the old order of power was "gone with the wind," as Ronnie Van Zant* sang - and now, so too was The Reserve Clause in baseball that had bound players to their teams.  The freed bird flew, and the Twins had lost their uber-closer. He would go on to win the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of The Year (again) with Boston in /77, as well as the The Sporting News AL Fireman of The Year, and be selected to the AL All-Star Team.

*link: Van Zant was a big-time baseball fan, an 
enthusiastic ballplayer as a boy in Jacksonville, FLA.

Overall, this episode in team history set an organizational operating template that has lasted into the present day. More often than not, the Twins are still one of the clubs that draft, develop and then lose top-flight players long before their talents have regressed. Exits by Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and now (possibly) Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan in 2011 are bitter reminders that teams in markets like Minneapolis-St. Paul have a fairly small window of time for contending. 

It's paradoxical that while baseball has changed so much in the last 35 years, one thing is still very much the same - the very democratic and rewarding institution of free agency has also made it very heartbreaking for loyal fans like ours in Minnesota to see the Twin's best and brightest move on to the Bostons and Californias of the world.

As our buddy at the mic, Herbie Carneal,
would say: "So long, everybody." - TT

P.S. - check out this newspaper pdf re: Campbell's 1977 pitching workload

1977 Topps Baseball Card.
Undoubtedly, the airbrushing
over the Twins logo was just
another way Twins fans had 
salt rubbed into their wounds..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Twins Cards & The 2011 World Series: Visiting The Low Brow

My little eye spies Earl
up by the top of the Tall 
Boy, a 1961 Topps (pic 1).
(Pic 1.) Visiting childhood memories:
a time machine to days long past.

The Low Brow  pub in Minneapolis is a fine, relaxing little place to go with friends for a bite to eat OR enjoy a cold one while talkin' baseball. Nice, easy to find, and the wait staff were top shelf in accommodating us. It's not really a sports bar. In fact, you have to look hard to find any other photos of sports and baseball figures, beyond the cards. Still, it's a great venue for viewing a ballgame with a buddy.

"Dirty Al" and I took in it's sublime pleasures last Friday during Game 7 (ESPN box score). Just not the Ranger's year, my friends! Even so, we could enjoy the Cardinal club's professionalism, while taking in the bar's marvelous baseball card collection  under glass.

Dirty Al befriending young Harmon's 
1961Topps card image, his first visit to

Target Field, April 20, 2010 (box)
 Half the fun, of course, was picking out Twins heroes and sharing stories of years past in the menagerie. I'm my trademark, Cliff Claven-style, I discoursed on the wonders of the Twins 1961 Topps set; "You see, Dirty Al, for example, the players had just emigrated from the nations's capitol, and were pictured hatless - owing to the fact that the Topps card company did not have sample info on the new Minnesota team logo." 

Well, that, and it was a hell of a lot easier than airbrushing "TC's" onto 20-plus Senators caps of the year previous. As you'd expect, the Claven in me was only partially correct with the facts! Take a look at the 1961 Twins Group #11961 Twins Group #2, and 1961 Twins Group #3 from the set!

Pic 2 from bar. The vintage cards pre-Upper Deck, pre-card

speculating commodity hoarders, are still the best & most

character laden hunks of cardboard on God's green Earth. 
But that's just me.
Spotted this trademark 

Hrbek  fielding pose 

(1987 Topps) under glass. 
High sentimentality factor!
I will plan to revisit this fine, little gem of a pub. With good friends.

As Herb Carneal, our good friend at the mic for so many years, saith:
"So long everybody!" - TT