52 years from the Twins junk drawer

Last week, for those unaware, the Minnesota Twins made a bit of unwanted franchise history. Thanks to a down season and a recent losing streak, their all-time franchise record since moving to Minnesota from Washington fell under .500. When last week came to a conclusion, they stood at an all-Minnesota mark of 4,123-4,126.

Since such an (unwanted) bit of franchise history has been attained, it makes sense to look back at the history of the franchise since moving to Minnesota. I have no intention to look at all the ups and downs of Twins history over the years. I already did a little bit of that with the Twins last week here.

Instead, let’s tackle something a little less orthodox, a sampling of some of the odder or more unusual moments from the nearly 52 years of Minnesota Twins-dom: 1961-2012.

What follows below is far from a litany of greatest hits—or lowest moments, for that matter. We’re not looking for items belonging in a trophy case but the bits that belong in the junk drawer, the odd ’n ends that make up some of the more peculiar points in club history. Here they are, in chronological order.

April 28, 1961: The fourth loss in the history of the Twins is still one of the weirder ones. They fall, 6-5 in 12 innings, to the expansion Angels with the winning run scoring on a walk-off hit-by-pitch. The Twins entered the bottom of the 12th leading 5-4, too. The Twins have lost just one other game by walk-off HBP, on June 19, 1986. Added bonus: this just the second win in Angels franchise history.

July 4, 1961: One of the first wins in Twins history is still among the most dramatic as Julio Becquer hits a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-4 Twins win. The team has hit only three other walk-off grand slams, but the others were tie games before the slam. There were also two outs when Becquer went deep. It’s a pinch-hit grand slam, too. The other walk-off slams were: Jimmie Hall in 1966, Jason Kubel in 2006, and Joe Crede in 2009.

Aug. 26, 1962: Jack Kralick nearly throws a perfect game for the Twins but has to settle for a no-hitter. His walk to George Alusick in the ninth inning is the only baserunner he surrenders in a 1-0 win over the A’s.

July 3, 1963: It’s a long day for shortstop (and future MVP) Zoilo Versalles as he commits five errors in one double header against the Orioles.

July 24, 1963: It’s a good day to be Jim Kaat, as he throws a complete-game shutout and hits a home run for a 5-0 Twins win over the Indians. This combination has only happened three times in Minnesota history, and Kaat has done it twice.

Aug. 27-28, 1963: The Twins are supposed to play the Senators in Washington, but the games have to be postponed due to the civil rights movement’s March on Washington. Instead, a double header will occur on Aug. 29.

July 15, 1964: Mudcat Grant gets a complete-game shutout despite allowing 13 hits to Washington. He retires the side in order just once on the day. All the hits are singles, and it’s the most hits allowed in a Minnesota shutout.

Sept. 5, 1964: For the second time this week, Zoilo Versailles is the only thing stopping the Twins from being no-hit. On Sept. 2, his eighth-inning single was the only safety Orioles pitcher Milt Pappas allowed. Today, Versailles’ two-run home run off Boston’s Bill Monbouquette is not only the only Twins hit, but it provides the difference in their 2-1 win over the Red Sox.

Aug. 4, 1965: Jimmie Hall is having a hell of a week. Two days ago he hit a walk-off home run for a Twins victory, and today he has a walk-off RBI single for another Minnesota triumph.

June 9, 1966: The Twins get five home runs in one inning and nearly get an unprecedented sixth as Jimmie Hall nails one that hits the top of the center field wall.

Aug. 9, 1967: This 20-inning Twins-Senators marathon features a great comeback and then two fantastic relief performances. Minnesota jumps out to a 7-0 lead after six innings, only to have the Senators tie it with a seven-run seventh inning, with all runs scoring with two outs. In the eighth, the Twins call on Al Worthington to pitch, and the Senators turn to Darold Knowles.

Worthington lasts 8.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two walks and two singles. At one point he retires 17 straight batters. According to WPA, it’s the greatest relief performance in Twins history: 1.176 WPA.

Knowles tops that, fanning 10 batters in 10 scoreless innings, allowing just three singles and two walks. (Oddly enough, the walks are back-to-back, and one is to Worthington). His WPA of 1.231 is the best in Senators/Rangers franchise history. Neither Worthington nor Knowles factor in the decision, as the Senators win, 9-7, after both men have left.

April 13, 1968: Jim Perry has a great day for the Twins, belting a home run and throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout.

May 5, 1968: It may very well be the greatest pitching performance ever against the Twins as Catfish Hunter fans 11 in a perfect game. That’s especially impressive given the Minnesota lineup features Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Tony Oliva, among others.

July 11, 1968 Minnesota rookie Rick Renick homers in his first big league at bat. He’ll end his career with 20 home runs.

Sept. 22, 1968: Hey, what the hell, it gives people something to talk about at the end of a long, disappointing season. Twins super-utility man Cesar Tovar plays all nine positions in one game.

May 18, 1969: It’s the most insane display of base running in history. First Rod Carew singles Cesar Tovar to third, putting runners on the corners with super slugger Harmon Killebrew at the plate. Then, rather than let Killebrew drive them in, Carew and Tovar pull off a delayed double steal, with Tovar scoring. Before the at-bat can end, Carew steals third. Finally, with one of the game’s greatest RBI men at the plate, Carew steals home.

I’d say it’s pretty damn rare for two steals of home to occur in one game, let alone one inning, and certainly not in one at-bat. That a great batter was at the plate makes it even more amazing. Carew will steal home seven times this year. The Twins will successfully pull off four triple steals, too.

June 21, 1969: The Twins score 11 runs in one inning, which is impressive enough, but they do it in the 10th inning, which is even more stunning. They top the A’s, 14-4.

June 29, 1969: Tony Oliva has a great day, rapping out eight straight hits in a doubleheader versus the Royals.

Sept. 10, 1969: Two months ago, Rod Carew tied a big league record with his seventh steal of home on the year, and today against White Sox southpaw Tommy John he tries to top it, going for No. 8. It proves to be one too many as this time he’s caught. He’ll try and fail again 16 days later, earning an ejection on that occasion when he flings his helmet in anger at getting called out.

April 25, 1970: Oops. Detroit’s Earl Wilson reaches third on a dropped third strike against the Twins. It looked like the last out of the inning, so the Twins began trotting off the field when Wilson realizes he can advance to first on one in the dirt, and 270 feet later he finally stops running.

Aug. 7, 1970: For the second straight day, the Twins win on a walk-off home run in extra innings. Yesterday, George Mitterwald did it in the bottom of the 14th for a 2-1 win over the Angels, and today Jim Holt does it for a 2-1 win over the A’s in 11 innings.

Aug. 13, 1970: The game had a nice start, but it was all downhill from there. In the first inning, Minnesota’s Cesar Tovar laces a leadoff single against opposing pitcher Dick Bosman. That turns out to be it for the game, though, as Bosman doesn’t allow another hit all day. This is one of five times Tovar gets the only hit in a one-hitter, a record he shares with Cincinnati’s Eddie Milnar.

Oct. 1, 1970: Jim Kaat, for the second time in his career, combines a complete-game shutout on the mound with a home run at the plate. His two-run blast is half the offense on the day, as the Twins top the Royals, 4-0, behind Kaat’s three-hitter. With the coming of the DH a few years later, this will be the last homer-shutout combination by any Minnesota pitcher.

May 12-13, 1972: It’s the longest loss in Twins history. After 21 innings, they and the Brewers are tied 3-3 when the game has to halt due to the AL’s curfew limit. The next morning the game resumes, and it doesn’t take too long as the Brewers score the winning run in the top of the 22nd. Rod Carew reaches base eight times with three singles, three walks, and two doubles. Bert Blyleven gets the loss in one of seven relief appearances in his career.

May 13, 1972: According to WPA, the most clutch swing ever by a Minnesota Twin came in this game. In the bottom of the 15th, the team trailed the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3, when Eric Soderholm came to the plate with two outs and a runner on first. Their chances of winning skyrocketed from eight to 100 percent when Soderholm launched a Jim Slaton offering out of the park for a 5-4 Twins victory.

May 24, 1972: It’s probably the greatest pitchers duel in franchise history. It’s certainly the only time both starting pitchers have a Game Score topping 90. Kansas City’s Dick Drago has a 98 Game Score in 12 innings while Minnesota’s Jim Kaat has a 91 Game Score in 11 innings. But Minnesota wins, 1-0, on an RBI single by Rod Carew off Drago.

July 15, 1974: For the third consecutive game, the Twins win with a walk-off hit. Each day, it’s a different hero, too. Rod Carew got an RBI single for a 2-1 win on July 13. Steve Braun homered for a 6-5 win on the 14th. In this game, Steve Byre gets a single in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 Twins win.

Aug. 8, 1974: Tonight’s Royals-Twins game is interrupted for a broadcast of President Nixon’s resignation speech. The Twins have a better day than Nixon, winning 3-2 in 14 innings.

Aug. 27, 1975: Ow! Minnesota’s Craig Kusick just isn’t having a very fun day, as he gets hit by a pitch three times in the Twins’ 1-0, 11-inning win over the Brewers. It’s one of 15 times in his career that Bert Blyleven gets the win in a complete-game, 1-0 shutout.

Aug. 1, 1976: The A’s go crazy on bases, stealing 12 bases in 12 attempts versus the Twins. Minnesota has the last laugh, triumphing 8-7 in 12 innings.

Aug. 25, 1976: The Twins lose, 5-4 in 19 innings, to the Yankees when Dick Tidrow has the best relief stint of the 1970s. He faces just 35 batters in 10.2 innings without allowing a run. WPA gives him a mark of 1.271, fourth-best ever for a relief outing since 1950.

Sept. 17, 1977: It’s rough to lose a game on a walk-off error even under the best of circumstances. Imagine how hard it must be when the walk-off error comes in the 17th inning. That’s what happens here, as the Twins lose, 5-4, to the Rangers.

Sept. 30, 1979: As the season approaches its end, the Twins shut out the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-0. This is notable because it’s the only time all year anyone stops Harvey’s Wallbangers from scoring. Thanks to Minnesota, the 1932 Yankees remain the only team to score in every game in their season.

June 26, 1982: It’s one of the most amazing days in the history of minor league baseball. In a Midwest League doubleheader, the Wisconsin Rapids Twins throw two one-hitters but lose both games anyway, 2-1 and 1-0, to the Appleton Foxes.

May 16, 1983: The Twins nearly pull off the miracle comeback against Oakland, scoring six in the ninth, but they entered trailing by seven. The A’s hang on, 7-6.

May 16, 1984: Officially, the Twins sell 51,863 tickets on the day, but only 6,346 show up. There’s a massive ticket buyout plan going on to help keep the Twins in Minnesota as the Griffith family is selling them in 1984. A month later, Clark Griffith will sign ownership of the franchise over to Carl Pohlard.

June 29, 1984 Young Twins call-up Andre David has a terrific start to his career as he homers in his first big league at-bat. But he never gets another home run in his brief career.

April 13, 1985: The Twins seem to have the game well in hand against Seattle. Though the bases are loaded, Minnesota leads 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Then Ron Davis becomes the first Minnesota pitcher to allow a walk-off grand slam for an 8-7 Mariners win. Phil Bradley hits it. Currently, the Twins have surrendered four walk-off grand slams.

April 26, 1986: It’s an ugly loss, as the Twins enter the ninth leading the Angles 6-1, only to lose 7-6. The game was actually delayed for nine minutes when wind tore the roof of the Metrodome.

Oct. 4, 1986: Greg Gagne becomes the first player in nearly 25 years to leg out two inside-the-park home runs in one game.

May 5, 1987: Baltimore’s Eric Bell has a no-hitter going after eight innings against the Twins but damn near loses the game in the ninth. The Orioles hang on for dear life, beating the Twins, 5-4. Minnesota had the bases loaded when the improbable rally finally ended.

Aug. 3, 1987: It’s one of the more humorous ejections, as aging Twins pitcher Joe Niekro is caught on the mound with a nail file. He tries to throw it out of his pocket and onto the ground nonchalantly with all the umpires looking at him, but of course they see him do it.

July 17, 1990: The Twins make history by becoming the first team to pull off a pair of triples plays in one game. Behind these defensive gems, the Twins beat the Red Sox, 1-0.

July 18, 1990: One day after Minnesota’s pair of triple plays against the Red Sox, Boston turns a record six double plays against the Twins.

Aug. 16, 1990: It’s a weird day as Kirby Puckett plays right field, shortstop, third base, and second base—all in the eighth inning.

Aug. 30, 1990: White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice, of all people, hits an inside-the-park grand slam against the Twins. He hits it to the wall, and instead of bouncing, it stays by the wall. The two outfielders converging on the play have an inadvertent double-stall as they expect the other guy to go for it. When one does grab the ball, he falls over, tossing it to the other guy, who initially leaps away in surprise. Karkovice rounds the bases while this all happens.

Aug. 31, 1993: It’s the longest win in Twins history. The Twins defeat the Indians, 5-4, in 22 marathon innings when Pedro Munoz hits a walk-off homer off Jason Grimsley.

May 1, 1996: It’s a first, and still only, occurrence for the Twins as they win one on a walk-off hit-by-pitch. Royals reliever Jeff Montgomery plunks Paul Molitor with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th for a 6-5 final score.

Sept. 21, 1997: Brad Radke pitches 10 innings for a complete-game, 2-1 victory. It’s the 71st time a Twins starting pitcher records at least 28 outs in a game, but to date the club is still looking for its 72nd time.

Sept. 11, 1999: There have been other no-hitters in franchise history, but none has come against as poor a starting lineup as the one Eric Milton faces today. Very few regulars for the Angels are on hand in the 7-0 Twins win.

May 10, 2000: The Twins set a record with their biggest comeback in club history. They fall behind the Indians 8-1 but rally to win, 10-9.

May 22, 2001: The Twins take an early 8-0 lead over the Mariners, but barely hold on to win, 12-11. Seattle isn’t bothered as the Marinersl win their next 15 straight games.

Aug. 11, 2001: In the second inning, Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz makes three putouts without ever touching the bag. One is a pop-up, but the other is an unassisted double play—near third base. With runners on the corners, Mientkiewicz fields a weak grounder and chases the lead runner back to third, only to find the trailing runner had thoughtlessly run to third. When Minetkiewicz tags him, the lead runner wanders off the bag again and is also tagged out.

July 31, 2003: It’s a great comeback win for the Twins. Against the Orioles, they score twice in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up, 9-9. The tying run is Doug Mienkiewicz scoring from second on a wild pitch. In the 10th, Minnesota wins on a walk-off, seeing-eye grounder that gets though a five-man infield to drive home the winning run.

Sept. 27, 2003: The Tigers won’t, in fact, lose 120 games this year, thanks to an incredible comeback against the Twins. Minnesota takes an early 8-0 lead, but the Tigers, sitting on 119 losses on the season, storm back for a 9-8 win. The winning run scores on a wild pitch from longtime reliever Jesse Orosco, and that pitch ends Orosco’s career.

May 4, 2004: The Twins lose a heartbreaker, 4-3 in 16 innings, to the Mariners on a walk-off error.

Aug. 19, 2007: Johan Santana sets a franchise record with 17 strikeouts in one game, and he did it without pitching the ninth, either. The Twins win, 1-0, behind his two-hitter. Santana’s Game Score of 95 is the highest ever by a pitcher, for any team, in a non-complete game.

Sept. 23, 2007: After 11 seasons, All-Star and free agent-to-be Torii Hunter steps to the plate for the final time in the Metrodome as a Twin. The fans cheer wildly, hoping for a final bit of glory from the longtime fan favorite. Instead, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen orders him intentionally walked. This has nothing to do with game situation; Guillen is just thinking of creating a bigger Twins-White Sox rivalry by not letting the star have a moment of glory.

Aug. 17, 2008: R.A. Dickey is still getting the hang of the knuckler. Against the Twins, the Mariners pitcher has four wild pitches in one inning, with a fifth offering called a passed ball.

Aug. 20, 2009: The A’s stage a historic comeback, rallying from a 10-run deficit to beat the Twins, 14-13. The starting pitchers have a Game Score of 15. That’s not an average, but the sum.

Aug. 28, 2009: White Sox ace Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game last time out and here against Minnesota retires the first 17 batters he faces for a record 45 consecutive batters retired. The Twins rally to win, though, 5-3.

March 31, 2010: In the Grapefruit League, Minnesota’s Denard Span fouls a pitch off his own mother. She’s okay, but he’ll leave the game to check on her, anyway.

April 28, 2010: Minnesota’s Luke Hughes homers in his first big league at-bat. To date, he has eight home runs.

Aug. 5, 2010: A freak Jason Kubel pop-up helps the Twins win a game. In the top of the ninth in Tampa’s Tropicana Dome, Kubel’s pop up hits a catwalk and lands behind the pitcher’s mound, where no one expected it. This helps the Twins score two runs for an 8-6 win, nullifying a six-run Tampa bottom-of-the-eighth comeback that had just tied the score.

Sept. 28, 2011: The Twins are trying to avoid their first 100-loss season in nearly 30 years, and just manage to do it, beating the woeful Royals, 1-0, in the last game of the year for a 63-99 record. The only run scores in the bottom of the ninth inning.

July 8, 2012: If you can find video of the play, it’s pretty funny. In the top of the fourth against Texas, a sudden and massive thunderclap very near the ballpark causes players from both teams to run off the field right away. At first base, runner Josh Willingham dives to the ground.

References & Resources
Much of the work here relied about Baseball-Reference.com‘s Play Index.

I’m sure some also came from The Baseball Timeline by Burt Solomon.

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Comments

  1. Will Young said...

    That July 31, 2003 game you’re selling short.  Mientkiewicz scored from second on a wild pitch THAT was the third strike to the batter with two outs (Michael Restovich).  Oh, and the game winning hit the next inning was a chopper through a 5-man infield.

    I was at the Karkovice grand-slam game.  Even live it seemed incredibly improbable.

  2. Chris J. said...

    Will,  I mention that there was a five-man infield on the game winner in the 7/31/03 game.

    White Sox Fan Brother listened to the Karkovice slam on the radio.  I still remember him running out of the room to catch the replay in TV because he couldn’t believe what he heard.

  3. Jim G. said...

    I was curious about the May 18, 1969 game, since you didn’t mention who it was against, I had to look it up. It turns out it was against the Tigers with Lolich pitching and Freehan catching. Pretty interesting that they pulled it off against a couple experienced guys, including an all-star catcher.
    Also of note, it was Billy Martin’s first managing gig, giving the world it’s first taste of “Billy-Ball”, no doubt.
    Those two steals of home were the only runs the Twins would score, losing to the Tigers, 8-2.

  4. Chris J. said...

    SBG – D’OH!  Sorry about that. Thanks for the catch.

    Jim G. – Lolich & Freehan were experienced, but Lolich was a lefty and had his back to third.  Probably didn’t expect the first one with Killebrew up, and who ever heard of it happening twice in one at bat?

  5. Will Young said...

    Another bizarre, memorable game to me was July 30, 2006.  Twins were on a tear trying to catch the Tigers and had Johan on the mound.  It’s 3-0 Detroit through seven and a half and Jeremy Bonderman was working on a no-hitter.

    Then, the bottom of the eighth…
    1. Morneau infield single (breaks up the no-hitter) + a throwing error
    2. Kubel reaches on an error (second of the inning) with Morneau scoring
    3. Redmond grounds a double just over third base (third straight chopper)
    4. Tyner grounds a single to right (Redmond to third)
    5. Bartlett chops a ground ball to Inge at third who tries to dive and tag Redmond retreating back to the base (five straight player to reach base, all on ground balls)
    6. Bonderman then balks in Redmond as the tying run
    7. Castillo then chops one off the plate and is thrown out at first (first out of the inning, Twins now have the lead on six groundballs and a balk after being no-hit through seven)
    8. Punto lifts a harmless fly ball for the second out (shocker)
    9. Mauer is intentionally walked
    10. Cuddyer then lines a triple

    Within the span of about ten minutes, Bonderman managed to give up six runs while allowing just one hard-hit ball.

  6. Jim G. said...

    Chris – I suppose that Lolich having his back to 3rd would affect the situation. He may have already been flustered before any bases were stolen, since he balked Tovar to 2nd.
    I also wonder about Tovar’s next at bat where he was hit by pitch. Was that a message from Lolich? He didn’t steal 2nd and Carew grounded out to end the inning.

  7. gdc said...

    Have to mention Billy Martin as the driver behind the 69 Carew’s home thefts…He later used Wayne Gross in that role, and Gross was maybe just average speed at best.
    Remeber an A’s-Twins game where Oakland got 6 solo HR’s (3 by Dave Henderson) but a Twin longball gave them the 7-6 victory?

  8. Señor Spielbergo said...

    “Sept. 27, 2003: (…) Minnesota takes an early 8-0 lead, but the Tigers, sitting on 119 losses on the season, storm back for a 9-8 win.”

    Which give the Tigers a winning record in one-run games that season (19-18), believe it or not.

  9. Mark said...

    I remember listening to a game where Herbek tagged out a base runner at first when the runner stepped off of the base to get his lead while thinking the pitcher Viola was holding the ball.

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