Showing posts with label Kirby Puckett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kirby Puckett. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Euphoria Squared: The Great Metrodome Victory Celebration, Oct. 12, 1987 VIDEOS

The Twins 9-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers to win the 1987 ALCS was unprecedented not only for ending the team's 17 year absence from post-season play, but just as much for that game's aftermath. The outpouring of fan joy that greeted the team as it set foot on the springy Metrodome surface that evening was truly an occasion never before seen in Minnesota.

It was a hastily organized "Welcome Home" at the H.H.H. Metrodome for team players, coaches, trainers, and execs fresh off landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. It was a Monday night, a school night, and event organizers weren't expecting much better than a polite turnout - Minnesotans aren't like New Yorkers, news flash. They're famous for keeping the kiddies home, early to bed, feed the cats, put on the nightcap...you get the idea.

 For Minnesota fans so long accustomed to ignominious defeat in four Superbowls, and being the butt of flyover land jokes, or of ill-fated closers (let's not mention the name "Ron Davis,") the return of the AL Champs from Detroit was an excuse to let loose the emotional floodgates and "Party Like It's 1999."

I well remember waking up every morning after a Twins win late in the season, my head a-swirl with giddiness about what seemed to be happening, breathing it all in, and yet not wanting to let go of my disbelief...yes, giddiness, euphoria...it was like being at a month-long Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd concert.

With that as context, you can hold back on your urge to have Viking Alan Page materialize and blindside the whistle-blowing Twins players' wives, or muzzle over-eager television sports reporters. God knows I had to.

Can someone tell me where Juan Berenguer got the idea for this get-up?

Listen closely at the 4:00 minute mark of the second vid. John Rooney correctly reminds fans that Bert Blyleven predicted an '87 pennant. He's 100 percent spot-on; I heard him say it live at the Dome, after the '86 season-ending game; it was a fan appreciation ceremony, with player speeches. My brother Kevin and I turned to each other - and laughed out loud. Sure, Bert, whatever!


What this evocative group of videos helps me remember is the fun of a completely unexpected pennant race. It was seeing grizzled veterans* like Steve Carlton, Joe Niekro, Don BaylorBert Blyleven and Roy Smalley mesh seamlessly with the Class of '82 players like Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner, Randy Bush (and later) Greg Gagne, Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Dan Gladden, Jeff Reardon, et. al., to create an improbable, crazy-quilt patchwork of a playoff contender. This was all 1-2 years ahead of the timetable, in the estimation of youthful Vice President Of Player Personnel, Andy McPhail. Blueprints? Who needs blueprints?

*Could have included Rod Carew, discussion in '86 The Sporting News article




If you actually made it to the second and third videos, consider yourselves "real" men and women, in the stout-hearted Norseman sense. By all means, you now should be able to weather AND enjoy this vintage '87 newspaper account about that great evening in downtown Minneapolis.

I enjoy how the giant baseball behind Kent Hrbek's head make's it look as if he's wearing a sombrero. Which only would have been fitting, as it WAS a huge fiesta for 55,000 people. That alone should make you want to go to the link...so, check out the Google docs version of this report, and click on "+" for a larger view.

Hope you enjoyed Herb Carneal in the above videos! May as well let him have the last word:

"So long, everybody!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kent Hrbek On David Letterman: Oct. 28, 1987


Kent did Kirby proud.
Kent Hrbek was his usual, unvarnished self in this segment following the Twins first World Series victory.  In this Letterman segment, he discussed the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome's home field advantage and "dog whistle" effect for the loud crowds during the Twins incredible playoff run. He also talked about going duck and goose hunting at 4 am the day of Game 7 to ease his nerves. More importantly, he also managed to pay homage to the Kirby Puckett Memorial Sweater Hall of Fame in all his kaleidoscopic finery.

It may have been the most laid back episode of the Letterman franchise, much to the wisecracking host's chagrin. The late night goofball had had a refreshingly witty visit with Joe Niekro on the show just a few month's previous; Niekro had been scheduled after his suspension for doctoring baseballs. Letterman spends most of the time trying to provoke a spontaneous response from Hrbek, often preempting him with his shtick. 

David Letterman could have taken a cue from Herb Carneal, and signed off with:
"So long, everybody." - TT

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twins Jerseys On The Red Carpet: A Pictorial Time Capsule



2 above photos: Billy Gardner models prototype 1/17/61
He was the first player ever seen in the uniform of the Minnesota Twins.
This model was scrapped in favor of a modified script before spring 
training (see press photo with Don Lee, below).

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING (POWDER) BLUE!

Clean, economical, and razor-sharp detail grace the Twins 1960's throwback home jersey and new road 2010 version.  Our fine, young diamond gladiators Denard Span and Scott "Joe Don" Baker did the new duds proud on Nov. 9, 2009, at the Mall Of America in Bloomington. One complaint...would it kill ya to show just a bit of old school stirrup?? This aint bedtime, fellas.
Starsky and Hutch, revisited. Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky were the "Men about town" one fine, spring day in '87. The jog to the top of a Minneapolis apartment building, capturing the lovely vistas of Minneapolis' skyline and HHH Muffindome , looks as if it's turned Kent (aka: "Shamu") a mite dewy with perspiration. Bruno's apparently gone misty in memory over his victorious '85 Homerun Derby. Perhaps a Butch and Sundance comparison would have been more fitting!


Of course, it's easy to forget we Twins fans first spied young Kirby Puckett in the powder blue road uni, in a televised game at "The Big A" in Anaheim (as it was called then) versus the Angels on May 8, 1984. Actually, some of us preferred to have the image of those threads erased from our memory, to be honest. There is also this nice, candid of him sporting the home batting practice jersey, in about that same year.

Cesar Tovar (right, below)looks downright apprehensive in the 1972 road uni. Maybe he's not relishing a batting duel against knuckleballin' Wilbur Wood of the Chicago Stinking White Sox, as this photo was shot at old Comiskey Park (photo link). The Topps '72 card of Harmon in handsome pinstripes, the last of him in that model, captures him in a typical threatening-but-strangely-benign pose. That was just before Topps' photographers descended on spring training camp in Orlando to capture the Twins new prisoners of polyester. Perhaps Cesar just felt clownish, especially with that ridiculously large Minnie & Paul sleeve patch!



     Lotsa stirrups and shoe polish! Harmon Killebrew in 
polyester double knits was never as imposing OR 
    stately as he was in the 1960's original retro jersey. 
     Lithe and lean Tony Oliva cut a dashing cover model
when the Twins ditched  the pinstripes in ''72.
Justin Morneau models the 1980's throwback with joyous aplomb in
November, 2008. It was to be worn during various home dates during 
the Metrodome's final season in '09.The original had an expandable
waistband, and was a pullover jersey (well, beginning in '73 anyhow). 

  102 losses in '82? You'd be bummed being associated in any way with that too.

And now for some actual, Paleozoic Twins history: before the first season in '61, new Twins pitcher Don Lee has just been given the very first world-release sneak peak at the Twins road jersey on Feb. 18, 1961(for the "Minneapolis Twins," (as described in the photo caption-see link "Naming Of The Twins"). Team owner Calvin Griffith: "Repeat after me...it's a $2 laundering fee!" Go to this Google Docs link to see another similar photo, with a group of Twins admiring the new togs.

Go to link at Google Docs to up size for below:



 
As Herb Carneal concluded every Twins broadcast: "So long everybody!" - TT

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Remembering Kirby Puckett's Game 6 of the 1991 World Series

October 26, 1991. It was twenty years ago today...

It was the day that defined the legacy and history of Kirby Puckett's career with the Twins.

Without him carrying the Twins to the promised land and Game Seven, things could have ended so differently..."Jump on my back guys." That's what legends are supposed to say.


Heroes get remembered-but legends never die
When most non-Minnesotan's think about him, their thoughts must undeniably drift back to The Catch and The Hit during Game Six (Box score/play by play) of that epic Fall Classic . That he was able to muster  such a performance on this stage says volumes about him as a clutch, "money player."

It's odd. You can recall stalwart, talented guys like Ernie Banks, or more recently for Twins fans, Rod Carew. Their numbers are there for us to see, of course. You can read them and say "They were good." But they never got into a series. So, there was no dramatic, national, defining moment that burnished their myth and legend. Bill Clinton never got his Gulf War. Huey Lewis never got acclaim for his serious, jazz horn albums (damn that Brian Setzer!). Kind of a sad thing for those players, really. The stories told about them won't have the same resonance, the same life breath of awe, that guys like Kirby or George Brett, or Joe Carter, or even Bill Mazeroski and Jim Leyritz (for God's sake) have for coming up big on the biggest stage of them all.

I've certainly been getting
my Twins jollies, posting
scads of Twins post season
memories to
Twitpics of late!

Ah, but Kirby surely got his! Now enjoy Twins history as it was...


These calls go down as the best remembered in announcer John Gordon's career.


And here's the entire at bat, with added commentary, and Jack Buck's
famous, national television call:



As our old friend at the mic, Herb Carneal, would say: "...So long, Everybody!" - TT


Photo Courtesy Heinz Kluetmeier/CBS (SI)

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 below...you 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, 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 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 healthy...how 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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Twins Card Spotlight: The 1961 Peters Meats Set

As may be inferred, the copy writers for this 1961 Twins set took liberal literary license in their player profiles. The de facto staff ace, "Pete" Ramos is hung with an nickname that could only be a pure reflection of a less worrisome time, where using ethnic references culled from TV shows like "Zorro" were commonplace.  I, for one, have a hard time seeing Pedro arriving in the Twins locker room on the team's very first Opening Day in 1961, and announcing "Boys, jump on my back - The Gay Caballero  will bring it home for ya today!" ( a la Kirby Puckett before Game 6 in 1991)  But that's just me, .

It may be argued that such insertions make this perhaps the most interesting, compelling Twins card set of all time. Pedro did in fact, pitch our North Star State heroes to victory over the mighty Yankees and Whitey Ford that day.  That Pedro served prison time after being caught running contraband over the border should in no way cover up the fact that this bird was, along with Pistol Packin' Dave Boswell, easily the most all-round goofy character in Twins history. Maybe the whole mishap could have been avoided by his asserting himself thusly with the border police: "Don't you guys know who I am?"

The Gay Caballero, indeed.
Just as obvious is the need of the Twins resident Bill Shakespeare to paint Ray "Old Blue" Moore as a character right out of the children's classic "Where The Red Fern Grows." It's rather ambiguous for me, from the folksy "Moore is no stranger to these parts" (what...did he just wander in from an episode shooting of "Gunsmoke"?) to the questionable meaning in the final paragraph: "Although a right hander, he is very tough on liking to pitch." Is this in some way equating "Farmer Ray" with left handers of dubious morality, like an ambidextrous Bill "Spaceman" Lee? Or is it an implication that he'd just as soon chuck this baseball thing for a go at a-pickin' and grinnin' on the back porch down in old Virginny? 

Fact of the matter, "Old Blue" gave stability and professionalism to the Twins 'pen at a time in its history when it needed it most.  You can put that one in your corncob pipe an' smoke it.

Would have loved to hear good ol' Herb Carneal describe either of these two pitch, back in the day.
"...And the count rides along."
TT

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghosts of Twins Team Photos Past: The 1981 Spring TrainingTeam Picture!


Ah-ha, so the Twins Twinkler is not AWOL. Can't believe...this is my 1st December post! The rigors of snow removal, and participating in Christmas Choirs (which - SUPER BUMMER! -  never included the Win! Twins! theme song in performance) have sadly reduced my time for nurturing our little museum of Twins past.

OK, now pay attention to the prose, not the ho's!

Hopefully, this amounts to a nice exercise in beginning scanner use 101. This photo has to be counted as interesting, and telling at the same time.  Where's Hrbek? Where's Gaetti? Discoursing in the men's room on the relative merits of Jaclyn Smith versus Morgan Fairchild? Negative, as they didn't even have invites to spring training. Frank Viola wouldn't be drafted by the Twins until June 8 in the 2nd round (the 11th pick of the '81 amateur draft), Kirby Puckett wouldn't be drafted until January of '82 (in the 1st round, 3rd pick of the amateur draft), while Randy Bush was still in AA at the Twins minor league Orlando affiliate.
Back off, she-vixen.


The team leaders were Gary Ward, John Castino, Roy Smalley, Butch Wynegar, Ron Washington and 1969 World Series hero, Jerry Koosman (BTW: thank you Jerry, for lending your lovely daughter to our Patron Service Staff at Canterbury Downs, circa 1987. Good genes really stand out!).
Growlin' Gary Ward: in a sea of smiling faces, he retains his penitentiary face!
Among the reasons he was my favoite Twin. He was the Twins answer to
Don Baylor as a clubhouse enforcer long before Baylor became a Twin in '87.



"Forget ladies, I bring the Bombs, si?"
Bombo Rivera, 1979 Topps Card
You had guys on the way out ( the enigmatic Landreaux, who would surface later that fall with the eventual World Champ Dodgers), Glenn Adams, Bombo Rivera - all guys who had played for a few '70s edition Twins, plus coaches who had played or been on the Twins playing roster in the 1960's (pitching coach Podres, Manager Johnny Goryl, his successor, Billy "Shotgun" Gardner).  Recall too that Johnny Pods guru'd Sweet Music in his use of the circle change up. Those damn Brooklyn boys always stick together!


So, all in all, a '60's coaching staff, with a roster of mostly '70's guys buttressing (buttressing? Isn't that illegal in several states?) a core group of young '80's guys who would come up after the rosters expanded (Tim Laudner and Smalley are the only players who would make it to 1987, not counting coach Rick Stelmaszek). Stelmaszek, just beginning his time that spring with the Twins and now a four-decade guy, is the longest tenured member of the organization - if you completely ignore the existence of Jim Rantz


'Sall for now.  Hope you enjoyed the trip.
May Your Taters Fly Far!
TT

Friday, July 30, 2010

Remembering Rod Carew, The Magician With A Bat

Rod Carew's "Mod Squad" 1972 Topps baseball card, my favorite!

Rodney Cline Carew...

Three favorite adjectives for him? 
Perfection, effortless, unstoppable...he was the magician with the bat.  He played 12 seasons with the Twins, from 1967 to 1978.  This ended all too abruptly when he left the Twins after 1978 to join the California Angels.  A heartbreaking situation for Twins fans that was, especially considering the team had already lost both Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock the previous year to free agency...

Rodney was a no-brainer all-time Twin and Hall of Fame player the day he left Minnesota.  He's now immortalized in the team's "sculpture garden" (in addition to Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew) on the Plaza outside brand-new Target Field in Minneapolis. He gave fans like me a reason to tune in my radio in the 1970's for late night Twins games on the west coast, when they fielded some pretty mediocre clubs. I mean, the middle infield in the '74 opener was Rod at second, and the hot, new shortstop...Sergio Ferrar?  Exactly. 

Three main memories of him?
*The casual, three-quarters-underhand flip throw to Harmon for the out, second to first...
*The curious running style, his arms held curiously out to his side as if he were holding onto the rails of an escalator...
*The smooth warmup swings before the pitch, before he assumed a bent-over crouch with his bat held parallel to the ground...

Such an idiosyncratic guy.  It seemed as if there were two games going on - the one everyone else was playing, and then his elegant, "my-own-little-universe" version.  A man among boys. He was liable to hit the ball anywhere from the lefthanded batters box - a bleeding, lineshot to the gap in right, a little dinking bloop over the shortstop, or one of his famous bunts down the third baseline. 

No one ever seemed to be in the right spot for those bunts, even if they knew he might lay one down.  No question, he was the best bunter in the second half of the 20th Century. I remember hearing how he'd tap pitches in practice with disgusting regularity in ballbags placed around the grass in the vicinty of home plate
*********
He was born at 7 o' clock in the evening on a train traveling in the Panama Canal Zone on October 1, 1945. His mother, Olga Carew, wanted the birthing to take place at the largest hospital in Panama, Gorgas.  Her reason was practical: so many children were dying at the local facilities in Gatun. The train's bumping along exacerbated matters.  Luckily, a nurse on the train enlisted the aid of a physician, Dr. Rodney Cline, a man in the right place at the right time to have his name linked with baseball history.

The Back Story
Rod and his brother Dickie were verbally and physically abused by his father Eric Carew, a temperamental, drinking man. He would eventually abandon his family. Before that, Rod could tell a whuppin was coming just observing the way his father approached his home on the sidewalk. His Mother, Olga, would jump in front of his blows as he tried to wack away at their sons. Rod used the baseball diamond as a means of escape, as well as recreation; he was initiated into the game using broomsticks for bats and paper bags for gloves in Panama.  That was better than wandering off into the nearby jungle.  Indeed, kids who ventured carelessly could encounter poisonous snakes on the prowl...


And with that depressing genesis, quiet, private Rod Carew would find his identity in playing amateur baseball as a teenager in New York city.  He relocated there in 1961 with his brother, joining their mother. Much of his tutelage took place on fields just a short distance from Yankee Stadium, where the dynastic Yankees of the early '60's reigned. He could hear the roar of the crowd wafting through the air when Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris put a charge into one. 



Legend has it that the Twins were tipped off to his talent that early summer of 1964 by local scout Herb Stein, who saw the 6 foot, 150 pound Rod playing for the New York Cavaliers in the Bronx Federation League (a sandlot outfit).  He took batting practice in the fabled Yankee stadium. The ballpark at that time featured monuments honoring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig right out on the playing surface.  They were near the flagpole in centerfield.  And it didn't seem weird at all. 

Now, of course, we have padded fences, shin guards, elbow guards, et. al.  You'll have to go to another universe to find granite markers on a playing field.  But I digress... 

Even with his skinny frame, he began blasting balls out of the park to all fields while wearing one of Tony Oliva's #6 uniforms  It grew so conspicuous that then-Twins manager Sam Mele hustled him off the field - fearing the Yankees might beat the Twins to the punch and sign him to an amateur free agent contract. Carew remembers catcher Earl Battey coming up to him afterwards, remarking "Hey, how's it goin,' skinny kid?" He signed a free agent minor league contract with the Twins on June 24, 1964.

Intriguing, How Things Might Have Been...
1967 Twins Issued Photo:
The Rookie, Rod Carew

Rod played in the Cocoa Rookie League (see minor league stats) that first summer, before moving up to "A" ball for the seasons of 1965 and '66.  It is not well known that the Twins, along with other teams during the Vietnam War era (see "Hardball Times article on major leaguers in 'Nam), had him designated for an early call up to the majors during the 1965 season.  The possiblity existed that players could be selected any time for active duty overseas.  Rookie catcher John Sevcik and second baseman Bernie Allen were both eligible for the draft, but the call never came. Intriguing, the thought of Rod Carew starting at second base against Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series!  Cool, actually!

[picture at left: the Twins middle infield, spring training, 1970]  As it was, he went right from A ball to the major leagues in 1967. But that was only because Twins team owner fought for him to be included onto the opening day roster, over Manager Sam Mele's objections. The skipper wanted to give Carew more seasoning, to develop his fielding prowess.  The curmudgeonly owner prevailed.

Griffith was vindicated as Carew was voted Rookie of The Year in 1967 (voting results).  That was the year the greatest pennant chase in baseball history took place, when 4 teams could have mathematically won the pennant on the last day of the season.  The Red Sox won out over the Twins, Tigers and White Sox for the chance to advance to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. See my post on Rod's Major League Debut, "In The O's Nest."

The Stealer - 1969
Rod and the Twins both had what was considered a subpar year in 1968. Before the 1969 season, he and newly assigned manager Billy Martin retooled his running game and his fielding maneuvers; he also switched to a heavier bat, with a bigger barrel. It forced him to cut back his swing, discourage him from overswinging, and gain bat control.  The result was his first American League batting title, which he corralled by hitting .332.

Remember, this was against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, Led Zepplen, student protests, and civil unrest in many cities nationwide, Chuck Manson (ugh!). But all I remember from that season was a lovely summer, Fourth of July fireworks, my mom, dad and family, swimming outings to nearby lakes...and, of course, the inspired play of a surging baseball team with many, colorful stars - including Rod. He was also participating in National Guard drills during that season (a sure sign of the times!), which took him away from competition for many games at a time.

He also gained notoriety with his seven steals of home (one short of Ty Cobb's season record), a facet of his performance that year recalled wonderfully in the highlighted blog account.

Billy Martin suggested that Carew take a long, walking lead instead of coming to a stop. How long a lead Carew took depended on how close the third baseman was to the bag and whether the pitcher went into his windup or checked him from the stretch position.

Of his seven steals of home during the 1969 season under the approving eye of manager Martin, Rod Carew used the surprise factor five times in the first inning.

[Stealing against Angels, 1969]

''Pitchers,'' Carew has explained, ''don't expect you to take a risk so early and kill off a potential rally.'' Carew also ran in a crouch that, he believed, propelled him toward the plate faster. But he also knew when not to try to steal home. Never with two strikes or three balls on the batter. Never with none out. Even so Carew had six steals of home by June and in July he equaled Pete Reiser's 1941 record. He stole home nine more times in his career, but he was a marked man.