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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...

Sunday, December 30, 2018

When Harmon Killebrew's Career Almost Ended:The 1968 All Star Game

It was 50 years ago that Harmon Killebrew was elected to his tenth All Star Game, in 1968. That, despite having a very uncharacteristic down season to that point, having hit only 13 homers, with 34 RBIs in his team's first 81 games, and a .204 ba / .347 obp / .392 slg / .739 ops.

It mirrored the Twins season to that point, as Minnesota was in fifth place (ten team American League), 15 games behind first place Detroit. But his street cred as a one of the leading sluggers of the 1960s played to his advantage.

However, the outcome would prove one of considerable peril for him and his livelihood, and also for his burgeoning status as an all-time Twins icon.

via Gfycat

Season over, for all practical purposes. Off to the locker room to be met by crestfallen Twins
team owner Calvin Griffith.

Killebrew had held onto the ball for the putout, but in reaching for the throw, his lead,
left foot slipped in the soil around first base, causing him to overextend - such that
his hamstring took the brunt of the slip ("I heard it split like a rubber band" he said in a later
interview), and a small piece of bone pulled away from his pelvis.

The soil around first fine, was hardly optimal for a professional ball field. The science of groundskeeping in indoor ballparks was at a primitive stage in 1968, what with the Astrodome being the first indoor stadium in North America. The dirt was not hard-packed, but was more fine, granular, and lacking natural elements like wind, rain and sunshine to bake it firm. Hardly a good base of trust for a professional athlete ⍆

Hear Harmon's 2002 take on that play, and the aftermath, in which former MLB Commisioner Fay Vincent interviews him for this occurrence, and other facets of his career:

The video below offers an extended view of the 3rd inning, beginning as John Odom replaces
Luis Tiant on the mound for the American League. Again, you see:

* Curt Flood bust ass out of the box on the sharp grounder in the hole
* Hear the non-sensical comment by color analyst Pee Wee Reese after the incident
about  Killebrew not being "a gazelle," (as if that has any bearing on a hamstring injury)
* See Rod Carew, Jim Fregosi, and National League coaches Herman Franks (no. 23)
and Dave Bristol gather around Killebrew
* The very kind heckler in the crowd ("Get him off the field or get him a transplant!" -at the
4:31 mark) after Harmon is on the ground for an extended time
* The reference by Curt Gowdy about defensive replacement "John" Powell (not yet universally
known as "Boog" yet).

It just looks so benign when Harmon goes down, as if in slow motion. It totally belied
the seriousness of the injury, since a torn hamstring muscle of this severity is not
guaranteed to fuse back to normal position to ensure the performance and flexibility
needed by an athlete in any major sport. As Harmon states in the above audio, there were
many who believed he would never come back to form.

Down the corridor from the dugout to the
Astrodome clubhouse
The next four seasons would further cement Killebrew's Hall of Fame credentials:

Standard Batting
22 Y22 Y57315841559.256.376.509.884143
162 162 38105104.256.376.509.884143
Generated 12/25/2018.

Rehabbing begins, July 11, 1968

Killebrew likely suffered a grade 2  hamstring tear, exactly in line with what Dr. O’Phelan below (right) described as a “relatively severe” injury, couching things in doctor-speak. Harmon hit exactly 25% of his career home run total of 573 over the next four seasons after the injury. Without his diligent workouts in the winter after the 1968 season, the 1969 MVP year, and the following, successful campaigns and $15K pay raises* after the next two years never would have happened. Nor, I would add, his eventual 1984 election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

* Killebrew became the first Twins player to earn over $100K for a season in 1970

(Below: "Killer Out 6 Weeks..." from The Michigan Daily, July 11, 1968 - use controls to increase size, grab and pull to view).

So long, everybody!” - Herb Carneal

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Jim Kaat Discussion On MLB Network

The Christmas music gigs are behind me, and now there's time for enlightening the world with Twins data. That and cleaning out the cat boxes, feeding our animal managerie...this gif bit was lifted from an MLB Network lead-in to a Kaat interview from May 2, 2016, and posted on

Happy holidays and "So long, everybody!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Lyman Bostock In Retrospect

Image result for lyman bostock
Lyman Bostock was a 5.1 WAR player in 1977 
(6th best in the AL that year among postition
players. He had a .329 BaBip for his 4 year 
career. Fangraphs Stats
It was forty years ago today that Lyman Bostock, 27, died. It was the early morning of September 24, 1978, several hours after he had taken fire from an assailant while riding in the back of a vehicle with a childhood friend on the mean streets of Gary, Indiana. They were meant for his friend. See the Reusse tribute in the screen view at the page bottom. Or try this link to the Oct. 7, 1978 Sporting News.

Even though he had left the Twins after the end of the 1977 season, I still liked him; he amazed me with his smoothness in the field and at the plate. He had every bit, in my estimation, of the pure hitting skill that another Minnesota Twin, Kirby Puckett, would display several seasons later. I'll just flat out say it: Lyman would have went into the Hall of Fame.

Just an extraordinary player.

It can only end up as conjecture. We'll never know what would have become of Lyman Bostock the baseball player. It is, of course, very secondary to his future as a husband and father. Absolutely. To say his passing was gut-wrenching is to understate the feeling of everyone at that time.

 But it still makes me wonder: what would have been his lifetime hitting totals? How good would he have become? I thought he was an amazing clone of Rod Carew in his ability to go to the opposite field, but then absolutely SPANK one into the right-center field gap. To recap: he and Larry Hisle had grown weary of being relatively under payed by the Calvin Griffith regime, prompting his signing as a free agent with the Angels in the offseason of 1977.

                  COMPARISON: 2 TWINS GREATS in FIRST THREE SEASONS (scroll up/down)

It seems a clear-cut win for Puckett in home runs and RBIs (especially if you disregard the fact Bostock was limited to 98 games in his rookie season after an injury shelved him for over two months, from April 21 to June 27). But then look at the interesting similarites in extra base hits, then the plate discipline edge in walks for Bostock, the OPS advantage for Bostock. Which makes Bostock's slugging totals all the more impressive, more bang for the buck, when you note that Puckett played in 71 more games, and had about 25% more plate appearances than Lyman over three years.

I like to imagine the two of them playing in the same outfield in the mid to late 1980s...when Bostock, like Roy Smalley and Bert Blyleven before him, could have returned to the Twins and played on the 1987 Championship team. 

Like any other dream, it can only reside in that quiet place in my mind, when I think of the garrulous clubhouse leader, the one his teammates called "Abdul Jibber-jabber, and imagine the fun we could have had if a mad man hadn't found him on that dark street in Gary, Indiana.

via GIPHY Inside-outing the ball, or swinging away, it didn't matter.
Lyman Bostock was a natural. In his last Game: September 23, 1978

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Monday, September 17, 2018

Twins Walk Off Grand Slams!

"Mr. Becquer, meet Misters Allison, Green & Battey"

Yesterday, Francisco Mejia, Padres catcher, took Jeffrey Springs of the Rangers deep with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off grand slam to defeat the Rangers 7-3. You might recall Mejia was the prized trade chip in the Pad's trade of Minnesota (Chaska) native Brad Hand to the Cleveland Indians on July 19 of this season. So sad Cleveland won't have the benefit of his services in the foreseeable future (Twins fans, insert chuckle here)..

It was MLB's seventh walk-off grand slam of the 2018 season. All of which made me wonder "how many game-winning, walk-off grand slams have been hit in Minnesota Twins history* I thought, there must have been about 5, 6, at least.

* Grand slams hit in the home half of the last half inning that put the home club in the lead, and  which automatically end the game

 I wasn't far off! Basically right on...of course! :D

The actual result of my search? A grand total of FIVE times in 59 seasons of Twins baseball.  Or one every 12 years or so.

By the way aLI (average pressure index) is a Baseball Reference creation alluding to the average pressure factors upon the batter in their individual at bats. Which would say Becquer was feeling a HEAP of stress, perhaps thinking his status with the club in that inaugural Twins season might hinge on that very at bat (see Reusse story below!) . It's also interesting to note the 40 year span from Hall's 1966 bomb until Jason Kubel got the Twins back on the map in the 2000's.

Twins All-Time Walk-off Grand Slams, 1961-2018

Rk Player Date
Opp Rslt HR RBI aLI Pitcher Batter
1Julio Becquer1961-07-04 (1)CHWW 6-4146.990Warren HackerJulio Becquer
2Jimmie Hall1966-08-02BOSW 7-3142.372Don McMahonJimmie Hall
3Jason Kubel2006-06-13BOSW 5-2142.962Julian TavarezJason Kubel
4Joe Crede2009-05-13DETW 14-10142.044Brandon LyonJoe Crede
5Brian Dozier2018-07-15TBRW 11-7145.570Matt AndriesseBrian Dozier
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/17/2018.

MLB'S 2018 Walk-off Grand Slams

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt Pitcher
1Francisco Mejia2018-09-16SDPTEXW 7-3Jeffrey Springs
2David Bote2018-08-12CHCWSNW 4-3Ryan Madson
3Daniel Robertson2018-07-22TBRMIAW 6-4Kyle Barraclough
4Xander Bogaerts2018-07-14BOSTORW 6-2Chris Rowley
5Jose Bautista2018-07-06NYMTBRW 5-1Chaz Roe
7Jason Heyward2018-06-06CHCPHIW 7-5Adam Morgan

Yeah, those greedy Cubs have TWO already in 2018!!

See Patrick Reusse's July 3, 2010 Article about Becquer's Grand Slam via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It is corkin' good!

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Monday, September 3, 2018

Luring The Senators To Minnesota: Expanding Met Stadium, 1958

Metropolitan Stadium Bloomington Mnopedia
Build it and they will come. But move the cows and corn fields first!
60 years ago yesterday, on September 2, 1958, this news hit the print and airwaves in Minnesota and the nation:

"Minneapolis, MN approves a $9 million bond issue to expand Metropolitan Stadium to 41,000 seats. City alderman Byron Nelson predicts it is a "dead cinch" that Washington will move there."


It amounted to even more enticement: the refurbishing of the eventual new home for the Washington Senators and their owner Calvin Griffith. He had perhaps the worst kept secret in sports, as he had been courting suitors from other, major U.S. cities since the mid-Fifties to back the transplanting of his team. Declining attendance, poor, antiquated ballpark amenities, and a "loser" malaise had dogged the club for years. Now, Minneapolis was definitely in the lead, but huge hurdles loomed in the form of federal anti-trust congressional opposition, flack from his own team's stockholders,* plus another challenge errupting from within his fraternity of MLB owners. Just to name a few.
* all linked news items are from 1958 Sporting News editions

Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox team owner, had just moved his AAA affiliate to Bloomington and Metropolitan Stadium in 1958. Then, less than four months into the season, he ripped into Griffith during the Owners All-Star Game Meeting of 1958 in response to the behind-the-scenes maneuverings. Yawkey also had huge clout to stall any team movements with his status as a member of the Owner's realignment committee. Calvin Griffith was being diplomatic in one moment, stating no move was imminent, and then totally contradicting himself in the next. But that was Calvin merely being Calvin.


Related image
Taft Pounds The Strike Zone To The Thrill Of Fans
Besides Yawkey's financial self-interest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Griffith was bucking tradition - Washington had been a charter member of the American League since 1901, and as such, it was inextricably linked with a kind of warm Americana. Presidents had thrown out the first pitch at inaugural ballgames dating back to William Howard Taft in 1910. Baseball fans and the sports media, even in Minnesota, respected that tradition, and thus a built-in sentiment against team relocation was firmly in place.


Minneapolis was following the "bait & catch" model used by the San Francisco & Los Angeles city councils to attract Major League teams, namely the New York baseball Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, back in the mid-fifties. That was to guarantee lucrative deals including new stadiums, parking, and other revenues. Now, looking back at those transactions from the vantage point of 60-plus years, we tend to think that the relocation of those clubs, including the Twins from D.C., was preordained destiny. But overall, a goal of this post is make plain the idea that it was anything but that. Lady Luck would prove to be on Grifith and the Twins's side!

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Two pages from September 3, 1958 Sporting News
Hint: you can zoom

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Dean Chance Pitches The Second Twins No-Hitter, Aug. 25, 1967

Image result for dean Chance 1967
It was on this date, August 25, 1967, that Dean Chance threw his nine inning no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians at Cleveland Stadium (BBRef box).  He was an excellent pitcher who had been acquired in the off-season, and as a former Cy Young Award winner (1964), he provided the Twins with an instant ace to pair with Jim Kaat.

Minnesota Twins Table
Dean Chance, W (17-9)9 0115802.4631860.6201.522.8
Team Totals9 0115801.0031860.6201.522.8
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/25/2018.

As well-pitched Twins games rate, I would place it a notch above Francisco Liriano's 2011 gem versus the White Sox (see 2011 Classic Twins post). I use game score, an objective ratings system developed by stat guru Bill James and modified at Baseball Reference.

You can see the tiny, little chart of best Twins starts at the link. Eric Milton's was a sterling 98, followed by Jack Kralick (89), then Scott Erickson (88), Chance (86), and finally Liriano (83) for their respective no-hitters.

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Rule 5s & Circle Changes: Johan Santana Joins Twins Hall

The well-ballanced, Tom Seaver-styled "drop and drive" delivery-
whom Santana should have tied for career Cy Young Awards
were if not for some ridiculous voter preferences for Bartolo 
Colon and Mariano Rivera in 2005 Santana was plainly superior (see link)
Photo Credit: Steve Ellis

Johan Santana joined the elite list of all-time Twins Hall of Famers tonight, earning the exclusive blazer and a free, all expenses paid discount for a Murray's Silver Butterknife steak meal. It was a great night of Twins luminaries coming back to mesmerize Target Field, and a great acceptance speech by Santana. I completely remember my one and only Twins spring training visit in his 2000 rookie season. There wasn't much else to grab you with that team. The only other really notable development with the Twins roster heading into that year was the acquisition of Butch Huskey. Moving on...

We had gathered to watch him with the other spring squad members file into the main, Hammond complex on a sidewalk (located behind his catcher in the above frame) leading in from a side workout field. I remember turning to my brother-in-law, Mark, and gushing "There's the new rule five guy!," mindful of the mushrooming hype about him in the local, Minneapolis press dating back to the previous winter.

Baby Johan dispatches Jose Canseco, 

It would have been cool had he spent his entire career with the Twins. I was actually kind of done with him when he pushed for a trade to one of the New York clubs in late 2007. But, now in hindsight, New York...I get it. I'm only sorry they rode him into the ground with all the extra innings, higher pitch counts. 

As it was, he was a brilliant meteor, with his career years and Cy Young Awards bunched together, like the Ks on the scoreboard displays around the American League. He was the best for about four, five years running. Like Koufax. Or, Koufax-lite, at a minimum.

Comparisons aside, he'll likely never make the Hall Of Fame, but in his era, he certainly was in the discussion when the best pitchers in baseball were debated. A factoid: his career didn't take off until minor league pitching coach Bobby Cuellar taught him the circle change - echoing an earlier  circumstance in Twins history. 

In the 1983 season, then-Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres taught a struggling Frank Viola the same pitch to complement his arsenal. The result? Two Twins Cy Young Award winners, and two with the same back story. The difference being that while Viola had been a second round Twins draft pick, Santana had been acquired by the Marlins on Dec. 13, 1999 as a Rule Five pick from the Astros, and then sending him packing the same day in a trade with the Twins for Jared Camp. Camp, of course, never pitched in the Majors.

Here is some backup for me regarding Santana being robbed in 2005 Cy Young Award voting:

Stark: Picking Santana

Nov 8, 2005 Jayson StarkESPN Senior Writer Close Senior writer for 21 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer Author of three baseball books One of these millennia, the Los Angeles-Anaheim-California Angels were bound to have somebody win a Cy Young Award. Wouldn't you think?

"So Long, Everybody!" - Herb Carneal