Results tagged ‘ Minnesota Twins ’

Outdoor Baseball Returns to Twin Cities

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Minnesota Twins opened a new ballpark on Monday, as Target Field played host to its first official regular-season game, and for the first time since 1981 a major league game took place outdoors in the Twin Cities. The day could not have been more perfect – from the weather, to initial reviews of the stadium, to the reactions of players and those in the stands. The new ballpark is a home run.

04-13-10-Horn_KillebrewCarew.jpgDeployed to bring home items to Cooperstown that represented the Twins’ move from the Metrodome, I was honored to be a part of the day, which was filled with so many familiar faces – all who were united in their reverence for a ballpark that has immediately joined the discussion of best ballparks anywhere in the country.

Hall of Fame Senior Vice President Bill Haase and I encountered several members of baseball’s royalty who were simply thrilled to be a part of the moment. Hall of Famer and Twins legend Rod Carew – along with his wife, Rhonda – and I talked about how the gaps would play for his sweet stroke, and how he might run all day around the bases. Former Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart offered me a contrarian view of the defensive effort that would be required of the new dimensions.

Harmon Killebrew, the “Killer,” and his wife, Nita, enjoyed the beautiful weather conditions and a new era for baseball in Minneapolis with several members of their family, as did fellow Hall of Famer and Twins great Dave Winfield, who along with his brother Steve, watched the game from just past the first base dugout.

As to the game itself, we at the Hall of Fame were fortunate to head home with the ball hit by Boston Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who laced a single to center off Carl Pavano to lead off the game for the first hit at Target Field. A special tip-of-the-cap to home plate umpire Jeff Nelson and crew chief Tim Tschida for pulling the ball out of play to make sure it ended up several hundred miles east of here, in its eternal home in Cooperstown.

04-13-10-Horn_Kubel.jpgThe ball came out of play with a three-inch scuff of fresh-cut grass, a substance not found on a baseball in a major league game in Minneapolis in nearly 30 years. It was the perfect treasure for representing a return to outdoor baseball in a city whose passion for the game has, perhaps, never been more intense.

Following the game, Jason Kubel of the Twins pledged the hardwood used to hit the first home run in the history of Target Field, an eighth-inning solo shot to right field off Boston’s Scott Atchison (like me, a TCU Horned Frog, who is one of the best stories of the early season, winning a spot on an Opening Day roster for the first time at age 34 after a previous brief stint with Seattle in 2004 and 2005).

Kubel was honored by our offer to have the bat preserved forever in Cooperstown, but he was convinced that there are a few more bombs left in the bat. So, we happily agreed to take the bat once it dies… and I’m guessing it is going to be remembered as a hero, with a few more big hits in it for Kubel. This would be his second artifact donation to the Hall of Fame, previously donating his helmet from his cycle in 2009.

Before departing Target Field, I made sure to scoop up some infield dirt to commemorate the day to add to our collection in Cooperstown. Mixed in are several cuts of fresh green grass, a perfect tribute to Minneapolis’ triumphant return to outdoor baseball.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

50 years ago, Kirby Puckett began Hall of Fame journey

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

It should have been a milestone birthday, with friends and family gathered around Kirby Puckett to celebrate the big 5-0.

Instead, it is a reminder of what the baseball world lost with the premature death of the ebullient Puckett – and a chance to remember a player whose spirit will never die.

03-15-10-Muder_Puckett.jpgSunday marked the 50th anniversary of Puckett’s birth. The 2001 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee died in 2006 of complications from a stroke.

In between, Puckett lit up the baseball landscape with his smile, enthusiasm and all-around play in center field for the Minnesota Twins.

“He deserved the best,” said former Twins star Tony Oliva. “I know he was the best.”

Puckett was the third pick overall in the 1982 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and became the Twins’ starting center fielder in 1984. Two years later, after four home runs in his first 1,248 big league at-bats, Puckett hit 31 home runs and drove in 96 runs while hitting .328. He won his first of six Gold Gloves that year for his defensive play.

“I was nervous when I got to the big leagues, but I was never afraid,” Puckett said. “Like every ballplayer and every human being, I failed lots of times throughout my career. But I understood how to overcome and recognize the true power of learning from failure.”

In all, Puckett played 12 major league seasons before glaucoma in his right eye forced his retirement at age 35. He led the American League in hits four times, was named to 10 All-Star teams and helped the Twins win World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

In 2001 in his first year eligible, he was elected to the Hall of Fame after receiving 82.1 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Career saves

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

 
03-11-10-Berowski_JohnT.jpgWill Carroll, author of the definitive book on baseball injuries Saving the Pitcher, puts it in the simplest terms: “Since the invention of the breaking ball, there has been no more significant development in baseball than Tommy John surgery.”

Pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974, ulnar collateral ligament surgery has saved the careers of hundreds of ballplayers. More commonly known as “Tommy John surgery,” named after the first ballplayer to undergo the procedure, Tommy John himself was given full recovery odds of about one percent. The surgery was a success and added 14 seasons, and 164 more wins, to John’s career. Today, full recovery rates hover at around 90 percent.

The ulnar collateral ligament or UCL is the primary medial stabilizer of the elbow joint – in simple terms, it affects one’s ability to throw a baseball. Tommy John surgery involves removing a tendon from another body part, usually the opposite arm or knee, and using a figure 8 pattern to connect the humerus and ulna bones, replacing the ligament. 

03-11-10-Berowski_Molitor.jpgIf it weren’t for Dr. Jobe’s pioneering procedure, there might only be 291 Hall of Famers instead of 292. On March 22, 1984, in a spring training game against the Cubs, Brewers third baseman Paul Molitor suffered an injury to his right elbow. That injury resulted in Dr. Jobe performing his patented surgery on Molitor, removing a tendon from Molly’s left forearm and using it to replace the ligament in his right elbow. Thanks to the surgery, Molitor was able to add 2,410 hits to his resume over the next 14 seasons, ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown in 2004.

It was revealed only days ago the Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins suffered a tear in the UCL of his throwing arm. No pitcher has recorded more saves than the Twins’ stopper over the last six seasons. But if surgery is necessary, Nathan would likely miss the entire 2010 campaign. 

Over the last decade or so a number of star players, notably late-inning relievers, have had to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery – some with potential Hall of Fame credentials.  Ace relievers John Franco, John Smoltz and Billy Wagner have all undergone the procedure and came back strong.

To date, however, no Hall of Fame pitcher has undergone Tommy John surgery during his career.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Pagliarulo reminisces in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

He turns 50 years old in 10 days, but Mike Pagliarulo looks as if he could still turn on an inside fastball and deposit it in the right field seats at Yankee Stadium.

The one-time lefty swinging slugger, who spent 11 big league seasons patrolling the hot corner for the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, was at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday as the keynote speaker for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Clinic.

03-05-10-Francis_Pagliarulo.jpgAfter the morning session, “Pags,” as he was known, talked about his life in the National Pastime. In fact, it was game that ran in the family, as his father played a few years of minor league ball and his son played ball at Dartmouth University.

“There are things that tear families apart and there are things that bring them together. I’m just glad it was baseball (bringing things together) for us,” he said. “We really don’t talk about it too much, but we like playing.”

After the Massachusetts native and lifelong Red Sox fan was selected by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 1981 amateur draft, Pagliarulo made his big league debut with the Bronx Bombers in July 1984.

“One of the great things about growing up with the Yankees and being part of that organization was the way we felt about each other. It’s a tough organization, and they made it that way on purpose because they develop players to play in New York City,” he said. “You’re not playing in some other town where nobody really cares, but in New York the fans understand the game, they know the game, so you can’t mess up out there. You have to be ready and you have to be able to play. Whether you are good or bad, you have to be able to play. The Yankees did prepare us for that.”

So after hitting 28 home runs in 1986 and 32 in ’87, it was a surprise to Pagliarulo when he was traded to the Padres in July 1989.

“I didn’t want to be traded from New York. I didn’t care how I played, I just didn’t want to be traded,” he said. “So I went out to San Diego … that’s a different world out there. I had to yell at a couple of the fans sometimes, ‘Look, I’m stinking it up. Throw something at me, yell, do something, will you?’ A beautiful place, but I liked playing in New York.

03-05-10-Francis_PagsTickets.jpgEventually finding his way to Minnesota, Pags saw his only postseason action with the 1991 Twins. Not only did he hit a 10th-inning, pinch-hit homer off Toronto’s Mike Timlin to win Game Three of the ALCS, but was also played the entirely of the classic Game Seven of the World Series, in which Minnesota’s Jack Morris, who went 10 innings, outdueled Atlanta’s John Smoltz in a 1-0 triumph.

“What a great experience that postseason was for me. I’m glad I played well, but it was just great to be a part of that. One of the best experiences of my baseball career,” Pagliarulo said. “The great thing about Game Seven was that even though it was deafening in the Metrodome – I was standing up in the dugout and (shortstop) Greg Gagne was standing right next to me and I couldn’t hear a word he was saying – when you are on the field the thing that was different I thought was the awareness that the players have.”

Pagliarulo was a participant in last year’s inaugural Hall of Fame Classic, a seven-inning legends game played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. And he drove in the winning run with a double.

“Being on the field brought back a lot of memories for me. The performance end of it was a little tough. Maybe I’ll get a jog in once in awhile before the game this year,” Pagliarulo joked. “It was great to see the other players, and the players really loved it. Being on the field, the fans are out, the weather’s great, you are in Cooperstown, not much beats that. I think it’s a great thing for Cooperstown and I know the guys really want to do it too.”

This second annual Hall of Fame Classic, featuring seven Hall of Famers and 20 other former big leaguers, takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 20. For more information, click here.

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Postseason drama

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins met in the 12th tie-breaker play-in in major league history. The 12-inning affair also matched Game Seven of the 1924 World Series for the second-longest elimination game in major league history, a game in which 12 Hall of Famers saw on-field action.

10-9-09-Berowski_Gomez.jpgTuesday night’s game ended in dramatic fashion when Tigers closer Fernando Rodney, pitching in his fourth inning (something unheard of for a closer in this era), gave up the game-winning hit. Alexi Casilla, hitting a major league low .202 in 2009 for batters with more than 200 at-bats, drove a single to right allowing the speedy Carlos Gomez, the primary piece of the 2008 Johan Santana trade, to score the winning run from second base and secure the AL Central title for the Twins. This Tigers loss also marked the fifth time since 1900 that a team lead by as many as seven games in September and lost the lead, ultimately missing the post-season. The other teams to suffer the same fate as the Tigers: the 1934 Giants, the 1938 Pirates, the 1964 Phillies and the 2007 Mets.

The 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and the franchise that is today known as the Minnesota Twins – the Washington Senators – would take all seven games to decide. Eight future Hall of Famers competed for the Giants that day while the Senators fielded four, including Game Seven’s winning pitcher, Walter Johnson.

10-9-09-Berowski_Johnson.jpgAlready 0-2 in the Series, The Big Train played a pivotal role in this game from the time he entered in relief in the 9th inning, striking out five and allowing only three base hits until the game’s end. With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the 12th, Giants backstop Hank Gowdy dropped a foul pop-up by his Senators counterpart, Muddy Ruel. Ruel took full advantage of his second chance, driving a double to left field. Johnson was up next and he too reached base, on an error committed by future Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson. Instead of a three-up, three-down inning, runners were now on first and second with one out. Light-hitting Earl McNeely, batting only .192 in the Series and already 0-for-5 in the game, proved the unlikely hero, doubling home the winning run.

Incidentally, the record for most innings played in an MLB elimination game – where both teams could be eliminated – is 13, when the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres to become the 2007 National League Wild Card winner.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sept. 9, 1992: Yount records 3,000th hit

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Seventeen years ago today — Sept. 9, 1992 — Robin Yount joined one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities: The 3,000-hit club.

But for Yount, the milestone proved to be a rarity within a rarity.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Yount.jpgYount, the longtime Milwaukee Brewer, was on the verge of his 3,000th career hit in a game against Josť Mesa and the Cleveland Indians. Mesa thwarted Yount in his first three at-bats – forcing a groundout in the first and striking him out in consecutive innings in the third and fourth.

But when Yount stepped up to the plate against Mesa in the bottom of the seventh inning at Milwaukee County Stadium, the hard-driving Brewers outfielder would not be denied.

Utilizing his renowned baserunning intensity, Yount managed an infield single against Mesa – making him the 17th player to join the 3,000-hit club. He became only the second player at the time to notch his 3,000th hit on an infield single. The first was Cardinals great and Hall of Famer Lou Brock against Dennis Lamp and the Cubs on Aug.13, 1979.

Ironically, twenty-one days after Yount reached No. 3,000, George Brett did the same. Seven years later, Brett and Yount were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1999.

Yount is still the only player to reach 3,000 hits in a Brewers uniform, as Paul Molitor – the other notable Brewer in the club – did so when he was with the Twins. In fact, Yount is only one of eight players in the history of the game to grind out all 3,000 hits with a single team; all eight are Hall of Famers.

Molitor, a teammate of Yount’s on the Brew Crew for 15 seasons, was mentored by Yount when he broke into the big leagues in 1978.

9-9-09-Lawrence_YountSlide.jpg“In retrospect, I can say playing with him (Yount) for 15 years was one of the best things that was part of my experience of being a Brewer,” said Molitor, who joined the 3,000 hit-club on Sept. 16, 1996.

Besides his legendary career totals, Yount is best remembered for his 1982 season – one when he led the Brewers to a 95-67 record and their first American League pennant.

Yount exploded onto the national scene that season, leading the major leagues in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging percentage (.578) and total bases (367). For his efforts, Yount took home the American League MVP award, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove at shortstop.

He earned his second MVP award with the 1989 Milwaukee club when he hit .318 as the Brewers’ center fielder – making him only the third player to win MVPs at two separate positions.

Yount retired after the 1993 season with 3,142 hits and 583 doubles – which both rank 17th-best all-time.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIn 1999, he became just the 34th player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first time on the ballot.

“I gave it everything I had every time I went out there,” Yount said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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