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Harmon Killebrew On David Letterman!?

With the appearance of Joe Mauer last week on Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of another episode of a famous Twin who appeared on late ni...

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Tovar Of Bloggers: A Chat With Erik Lundegaard

ElwX60.gifToday it is our treat to have Erik Lundegaard, a modern day Cesar Tovar, to share his ideas on a number of fronts. Like the All-Time Twins utilityman, who could ably play multiple positions on the diamond, he operates a wonderfully diverse blog, It’s a buffet of book and movie reviews, politics, culture,! Erik has the ability to write compellingly on diverse topics, in a clear, insightful, and often funny prose. His stuff is often terrific, and Billy Martin would have been proud of this guy...on the off-chance he was an avid fan of writers and writing. Had he read Erik's piece Camera Day, 1970: Cesar Tovar,” I dare say he and Art Fowler would have celebrated with adult refreshments at The Thunderbird.

After reading that post, I knew I wanted him to contribute at this site! It was obviously a seminal day in his life, just as a mid-week Twins-Tigers doubleheader was for me in July, 1969 (boxscore at BBRef) at about the same age, one year previous. We are contemporaries, therefore! He is the lad wearing the fielder’s glove and navy shorts below.

Erik, it’s a great pleasure to have you guest interviewing at Classic Minnesota Twins today!

L-R: brother Chris, Tovar, and Erik, 1970
Erik & his bro could have played
Smalls in "The Sandlot"
(Photo: Bob Lundegaard)

I am somewhat familiar with your work, and blog topics. But can you provide some detail about who you are, what you do for a living for those not familiar with you, and your passions and pastimes? You now live in the Seattle area but grew up in the Twin Cities?

Yep. Grew up in south Minneapolis and have lived in Seattle since ‘91. They’re similar cities—Scandinavians, etc.—but I traded extremes in temperature for extremes in topography. The passive-aggressiveness here is also a little more passive than there. People are just friendlier in Minnesota. A friend of mine who grew up in Seattle—and now lives in north Minneapolis, interestingly enough—says that in Seattle “everyone is in their own cave.” That’s pretty apt. Minnesota has Minnesota Nice; Seattle has Seattle Freeze.

I’m an editor of a legal publication. I used to write movie reviews for The Seattle Times, and movie pieces for MSNBC. The movie thing runs deep. My father was movie critic for the ‘Strib back in the day. The Coens named Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo” after him. As Casey said, you can look it up!

ClassicMNTwins BOB LUNDEGAARD!!? Of course, I remember reading his stuff all the time, we got the Strib for years - his name was cool in our house! Al Michaels blew a head gasket when your Dad exposed his anti-Minneapolis, live feed rants during ABC's coverage of the ‘87 World Series to the world. Touche! Served him right, knocking our fine and classy metropolis. So, that blog of yours - - What is your aim and audience? And how do you find time to do it? I understand blogs take a little heart, soul, and maintenance? Real ones like yours, that is? ; )

I find the time because I don’t have kids. As for the aim: When I began back in 2008, I thought it might lead to something. Didn’t work out. Now I just do it to do it. Like the frog and the scorpion, it’s in my nature.

ClassicMNTwins You also have some very nice, fun content at your blog. I’ve found it to be really excellent and wide-ranging. You seem to return fairly often to the Twins of your youth, back to the Harmon Killebrews, Tony Os, plus Pepi Tovar, Luis Tiant, Sir Rodney, and those 1969-71 Twins, in general, as subject matter. YESSSS! That’s in my wheelhouse too! Who introduced you to baseball and the Twins? What was it about that team, those individuals, that fired your imagination?

ABOVE: With Rod (Photo: Bob Lundegaard)

BgAoRX.gifDad introduced me. We went maybe five times a year? Sat in the cheap seats along the third base/left side at Met Stadium, the ones Calvin never finished. I remember my father caught a foul ball off Sal Bando once. I also remember Bat Day, where all those bats—real bats, not toy ones—would kind of roll and fall beneath the grandstand. You’d look down there and it seemed like you could build a small house from all the lumber.

I don’t know what it was about that team. I think it’s just the one I grew up on. You’re always nostalgic about when you grew up, when you’re seeing the world with fresh eyes, and I was lucky enough to see some greats: Killebrew, Tony-O, Carew, Tovar. I don’t know if this is that nostalgia again, but it seemed that whenever we went to the park Harmon Killebrew hit two homeruns. He did have a lot of multiple-HR games, 46, so maybe that’s not just nostalgia.


ClassicMNTwins Did you enjoy collecting baseball cards? Your brother too? If so, what was your all-time, “Holy Grail” card, one you might have bartered / clawed to get over you brother, for instance? Mine was the Rich Reese,1971 Topps, for some reason. My brother absconded with basically ALL or our 1971-72 Topps cards...not that I’m bitter about that or anything…[sigh]

At least they stayed in the family. I sold mine to Joe Roedl is sixth grade for like $2. Then he turned around and sold them to Dave Saunders for $6 or something. Dave still has them. He lives in Seattle now and I was over at his house once and got to see them. It was Biblical how much I coveted those cards. I yearned for them, apologized to them. “I should never have let you go.”

I always wanted a Twins card, of course—any Twins card—but somehow we always wound up with Fred Wenz [see “Where Have You Gone, Fred Wenz…” post at Erik’s blog. It’s a corker!]. He was a pitcher, but in his card, the ‘71 card, the one with the black border, he’s crouching like a catcher. It became a running gag with us. I think everybody has their Fred Wenz.

ClassicMNTwins Oh, I do. I’m pretty sure I have about 400 of Harmon - Terry Harmon, that is. I could use them for engine blocks in my garage.

Do you remember the first game you ever attended at The Met? The sights, sounds, smells? What is the best MLB game you have ever attended, or even viewed on television? Who is the best player (not named Griffey or Randy Johnson, Ichiro, or Edgar- just kidding, the sky’s the limit!) that you have ever seen? Do find any player today comparable to those early Twins  ( i.e., Robinson Cano often likened to Carew, in recently)? Again, no matter whether their home ballpark  is/was Safeco, the Kingdome, The Met, Chevez Ravine, or…

I don’t really remember that first game but … I do remember, in the parking lot at the Met, whch was vast, they had big posts with every team on them. Right? To help you remember where you parked. Well, in that first game, we parked in the Cleveland Indians lot. Chief Wahoo was up there, and my father was telling me, “Remember this.” I did, even to this day.
Forget all the homers. The 1960s Twins
led the league in best parking lot signs.

Best game: 1995 ALDS, Game 5, Mariners vs. Yankees. Best player: Griffey. This is probably like the Killebrew thing with the two homeruns, but it seemed like whenever I was about to head out for the night in the ‘90s and the M’s were on TV, I’d say, “Let’s wait until Griffey bats.” And he’d go deep. Boom. All the time. He kept giving you gifts like that. Beyond just the beauty of watching him play.

1jZ94o.gifAs for comparisons: the guy I watched as a kid, Killebrew, retired fifth on the all-time HR list, with 573, and the guy I watched as an adult, Griffey, also retired fifth on the all-time list, with 630. But that’s about it. They were obviously way, way different players. Cano has only been here a few years, but what I love about him is … Wait. Back up for a second. Roger Angell once wrote about how in baseball there’s this equipoise between the effort to do something and a kind of nonchalance about doing it. You make a great play look easy. Cano turns that nonchalance, or feigned nonchalance, up to 11. He’s so loose out there, so obviously gifted. I think Yankee fans hated his nonchalance, as if he wasn’t trying hard enough, as if he weren’t serious enough, but I think it’s just part of the looseness of the game. I think he’s just better at it.

ClassicMNTwins Is there any theme, or ethic, or personality about those teams that characterizes or informs your life today?

Not really. Although I think about how kind Killebrew was, and how he instilled that in other players, and what work ethic a guy like Edgar Martinez had. There are always great lessons in baseball. Roger Angell always said in baseball, as in life, we lose more than we win, and that’s probably true—certainly if you’re a Twins or Mariners fan. I think that’s why baseball tends to attract fewer louts as fans; the louts can’t stand the losing. The Bronx excepted.

ClassicMNTwins What is your favorite Twins-themed book, if you have any? Which may or may not be your favorite best written work? I would be interested to know what that is. What is THE best sports book ever written, in your opinion? I really thought “Ball Four” was marvelous,  especially for its time, 1969. It’s part cultural history now, in addition to being just a wildly entertaining, insightful read. I guess I’d put any of Roger Angell’s books in that category, or David Halberstam and his “Summer of ‘49,” or “1964.’ What’s your take?

Image result for bob lundegaard at Target Field“Ball Four” was great—best last line of almost any book I’ve read. Plus half of Bouton’s season was in Seattle, where I live now, and the big bad team back then was the Twins, the ‘69 Twins, my team. It was fun to read about how scary they were. I liked reading the recent Billy Martin bio by Bill Pennington for the same reason: We got so much of that ‘69 season in there. I didn’t know, for example, that he had that huge squabble with Dave Boswell. To me, they should never have let Martin go. It’s the team’s original sin.

There’s so many great baseball books. Anything by Angell, as you say; Tygiel on Jackie Robinson; Roger Kahn’s “Boys of Summer.” I liked the new one on Ty Cobb by Charles Leerhsen and James Hirsch’s Willie Mays bio. Oh, and Josh Wilker’s “Cardboard Gods.” A must-read for ‘70s kids from broken homes who collected baseball cards. Gorgeously written. Same with Josh Ostergaard’s “The Devil’s Snake Curve,” which is a local press, I believe. Coffee House Press. He went to the U of M, but grew up in KC so most of it is Royals memories. On the plus side, he hates the Yankees.

My favorite baseball book of all time is “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence Ritter. Princeton economist who worried after Ty Cobb died about all of those stories that were forever lost; so he used his sabbatical to tour the country and interview turn-of-the-century ballplayers. Great, great oral history. Great American history. My favorite recent baseball book are the two by Jane Leavy: one on Koufax, one on Mantle. I ran into her at a SABR meeting in New York and bought an extra copy of “The Last Boy” for her to sign. I told her I hated the Yankees and she wrote, “It’s okay to hate the Yankees. I like you anyway.”

Oh, and anyone who’s a fan of the game should read Joe Posnanski. Every day.

My favorite Twins book is probably Bob Showers’ oral history, “The Twins at the Met.” But the team deserves better books. Maybe I just don’t know them. Any recommendations?

ClassicMNTwins If I might digress, I'll quote Sid Hartman, Bob Showers "is a personal friend of mine," as I see him selling his book wares every year at the Minnesota State Fair. It's as if we're long-lost Twins brothers, just a fine man...but off hand, I definitely recommend Jim Kaat’s “Still Pitching (link to my review of book).” He really distills the art of pitching without trying to go guru on the reader. Top shelf baseball intelligence, with wry humor, and some of my favorite bits were where he would describe trying to pass on strategems to the new generation, guys like Mike Mussina, who reacted as if Jim was speaking Swahili.

Do you still enjoy baseball, especially the MLB variety? If so, do you enjoy it on another level, or is it just mere pastime for you?

There’s a line in Woody Allen’s “Zelig”: “I love baseball. You know, it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just beautiful to watch.” That’s so true. I still hate that they’ve jazzed up the game with between-inning shenanigans and contests and races. They want to entertain us all the time, but I don’t need it. Just let us be.

ClassicMNTwins What do you think about the internet’s role in kids’ reading? Is there any chance kids will grow up as we did, using sports content as stepping stones to other, more weighty subjects? I know for myself that Sports Illustrated, Sport, Baseball Digest, baseball bios and the like were part of my early values formation. Please share your thoughts!

I think there’s always that chance. If you read Posnanski, for example, he’ll open you up to all aspects of life—success, failure, fatherhood, “Hamilton.” As a kid I didn’t read SI much, but Baseball Digest, yeah. I loved that magazine. I also got those “Baseball Star of,” you know, “1969 or 1970.” Little bios of the best players in the game. One of them, I remember, subtitled the piece on Harmon Killebrew, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That was the first time I heard it. I thought that quote was about him! It was only years later that I learned it was a Teddy Roosevelt quote. But how perfect for Harmon?  

ClassicMNTwins Has your enjoyment of Major League Baseball lessened? Is it more broad? Or are there aspects about the moderen playing of the game which you dislike? What do you think is improved in this era compared to the 1970s?

I think the players have probably improved. Athletes are always improving, one generation to the next, so I’m sure it’s true in baseball. They’re just playing against each other so it’s harder to tell. The game’s more international now—that’s a positive. I’m not a huge fan of regular interleague play. Still seems wrong to me. I could do without the noise between innings, as I mentioned. I could do without Joe Buck broadcasting every World Series. I remember one postseason game. Yankees were behind and in the 7th inning or so someone got a single. “AND HERE COME THE YANKEES” Buck bellowed. The next batter grounded into a double play. “And there go the Yankees,” I said. I hate that stuff. Show some class. Don’t sell us on every grounder.


ClassicMNTwins And what’s your beef with Derek Jeter? [see Erik’sParting Giftspost, plus, conservatively, 10 others with Yankee demigod No. 2 as main subject]. You took a dim view of the veritable mountain of gifts bestowed upon him during his farewell tour. Really? Why do you feel he shouldn’t have gotten or deserved Winnebagoes, wine bottles, mutual funds, or parades of virgins from opposing teams when he retired, LOL? (cue Groucho Marx: “Oh, I think Mr. Jeter has no problem finding any Winnebagos [wink wink] that he likes, no such problem for him!”).

It’s actually closer to 50 Jeter posts. I blame the hatred on Fox: They always used Jeter jumping up and down and celebrating for their World Series promos in the late ‘90s, when the Yankees always won, and I got so sick of it. Then the true veneration began. Posnanski has a term for it, Jeteration,” where you ascribe qualities to someone that aren’t necessarily apparent. Then the embarrassment of the gifts from every Major League team? Really? Give me Bob Gibson throwing at his ribs. That’s my present to him.

ClassicMNTwins I loved "Hoot" Gibson's surly attitude! Where has his kind gone?? I suppose Derek is just a symbolic face of another issue; the revenue disparity between the haves and the have nots in MLB, the Yankees vs the Rays, the Dodgers over the Rockies, the Angels over the Rangers, or the Tigers over the Twins, etc. Do you have thoughts on how we remedy this, be it free agent amateur, Latin American player spending limits, losing draft picks for exceeding payroll limits, or some other kind of Medieval retribution?

I wish I did. I’m not that smart. I’m just here to complain.

ClassicMNTwins Finally: the question everyone’s been waiting for...Safeco or Target Field?

Image result for bob lundegaard at Target Field
Bob Lundegaard, riffing on Teddy Ballgame
and The Say Hey Kid At Target Field
They’re both beautiful ballparks, but Target feels cozier. There’s also a greater love for the history of the team in the park. I should mention—and this isn’t meant to be a plug—but my father is now a tour guide at Target Field a couple of times a month. Bob Lundegaard: Ask for him by name.

ClassicMNTwins I absolutely will remember, besides trying to resist asking him about Al Michaels...last Question: how would the 116-win, 2001 Seattle Mariners fare against the 1969/70 Twins? Note: there is one correct answer, just to let you know! :D

I still don’t know how that M’s team won 116 games. And it didn’t matter: They lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. Just as the ‘69/’70 Twins were swept twice by the Baltimore Orioles.

That’s my answer: the ‘69/’70 Orioles would beat the 2001 Yankees.

ClassicMNTwins I am completely okay with that answer.

Erik, you've been wonderful! Thank you for your time and I wish you and yours a great summer! Perhaps soon my Twins will square off with your Mariners in the playoffs. Get your bets ready!!

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal


Gordon Ellis said...

I enjoyed reading all your stuff about baseball, Twins in particular. I fully intend to take the Target field tour with your Dad if possible. My daughter Deb Ellis put me onto this blog and I can't thank her enough.

Gordon Ellis said...
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