I don't think it is too early to put Joe Mauer on a team like this. I've looked up the history of the Twins and the Senators and I haven't found a native Minnesotan catcher with a batting title and two MVP caliber seasons.
All four of his full seasons in the bigs, he has been either the best or one of the best offensive catchers and picked up his first Gold Glove in 2008.
Would it have killed one of his ancestors to stick a vowel between the H and the R when they went through Ellis Island?
Oh never mind. The combination of Kirby and Herbie in the lineup gave the Twins two lovable sluggers... one with a big butt the other with the big belly and each better fielders than their Beer League bodies would suggest.
And Hrbek got the highlight that the franchise had been waiting for since 1924... the final put out in the World Series.
(Let's never mind that interesting play with Ronnie Gant during the 1991 World Series, shall we?)
Lots of hitters make the cover of Sports Illustrated. How many make the cover of Time Magazine?
When I started collecting baseball cards in 1978, I just always assumed when I got the "Team Leader" card that Rod Carew would be the league leader in hitting.
I remember when I got the 1980 card that listed Fred Lynn as the batting champ I thought "Not Carew?" In 1983 when I heard an uncle of mine say that Wade Boggs was the best hitter in the American League I said "Not better than Carew."
Carew was the standard I held for "the best hitter." 7 batting titles will do that.
Versalles was already a Gold Glove winning All Star shortstop heading into the 1965 season. But that was the year he put it all together.
He hit for power leading the American League with 76 extra base hits. He stole 27 bases. He picked up another Gold Glove and was named the MVP of the American League as the Twins went to the World Series... the franchises first since the 1933 Senators.
His first name is tough to spell. I misspelled it. And the Topps company spelled it ZORRO in 1961.
The Hall of Famer was one of the top hitters for the Senators when they won the 1924 World Series and 1925 and 1933 AL Pennant. He also was a regular contender for the batting title.
In 1928 he was neck and neck with the Browns' Heinie Manush for the batting title. It was so close that in his last at bat of the season, if he got a hit he'd win it and if he made an out, he'd lose it.
If he sat it out, he'd win it but his teammates guilted him into taking the at bat. He got two strikes called and tried to get ejected to negate the at bat. Didn't work. Then he got a base hit and won the batting title.
If not for his bad knees, legs, shoulders and who knows what else... Oliva would be in the Hall of Fame. The 1964 Rookie of the Year had 20 home run power, a consistent .300 hitter and along with Killebrew and Carew gave the Twins a formidable lineup. But his greatness was concentrated in an 8 year period before his ailments slowed him down.
His peers believe he is a Hall of Famer. Better start kissing the Veteran Committees butt!
Is Walter Johnson the greatest pitcher of all time? Who knows? He pitched in a different era where 320 innings pitched didn't raise an eyebrow... These days 36 starts would be a solid season. Johnson WON 36 games in 1913.
He was second only to Cy Young in career victories and doing it for mainly horrible Washington teams. Now he also pitched in the Dead Ball era and it was before integration so the talent pool was shallow.. Who knows what Bob Gibson or Satchel Paige would have done in the Dead Ball era.
So he may or may not be the greatest pitcher of all time. But one thing I do know is he earned a spot on this roster!
I'm late to the party for Blyleven's Hall of Fame candidacy but as I wrote this weekend I am trumpeting his cause as loudly as anyone possibly can.
There are no locks for the Hall of Fame in next year's vote. (Roberto Alomar is the closest to a sure thing.) Maybe with no Ripken, Gwynn or Henderson dominating the vote, the writers would take a look at his stats and realize what I realized:
That Bert Blyleven was one of the elite pitchers of the 1970s and 1980s.
How he won 20 games for a miserable 1997 Twins team will be something I will never understand. The All Star pitcher played all 12 seasons in Minnesota and stayed there in time to see some of the good times in the 2000s.
In fact when the staff at Sully Baseball awarded retroactively the Division Series MVPs, Radke was declared the Division Series MVP for 2002 with his 2-0, 1.54 ERA performance against the heavily favored A's.
Oakland would exact revenge, beating him in the 2006 Division Series clincher, his last ever start. But a hat must be tipped to a solid innings eater who stayed put in Minny through bad times and good.
Firpo!!! Frederick Marberry decided to not go by Fred and go play the Firpo card.
He was a relief specialist in a time when there was no such definition for relievers. He was the first person to reach 100 saves. He picked up 15 saves for the 1924 World Champion Senators and 15 saves for the 1925 AL Champs and then got 22 saves for the 1926 team.
This was an era when not going 9 innings in a game was as manly as wearing a sundress on the mound. He picked up 2 saves in the 1924 World Series.
And it is safe to say is the greatest pitcher ever named Firpo.
Romero was part of the stunningly deep bullpen that made it to the 2002 ALCS.
Romero went 9-2 in 81 games that year with a 1.89 ERA. He also held the A's scoreless in his three appearances in the Division Series. No word if the liquid he is splashing on himself in this picture has been banned.
My friend Chris DeLuca, the brilliant writer of What Sucks, felt there should be a special All Star team of players who were great when they were hell raisers and then sucked when they became Born Again Christians.
Gary Gaetti would be the captain of the team. As a hell raiser he was an All Star Thirdbaseman, a Gold Glover and the ALCS MVP.
Then he found Christ and his production plummeted.
His production came back up in his late thirties when he played under Tony LaRussa and then played with Sammy Sosa. Not implying anything. He found Jesus.
It might make Yankee fans tremble to see Knoblauch's name... but when he was playing for Minnesota he was putting together an All Star career.
And believe it or not he was a Gold Glover and a clutch hitter. In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, he and shortstop Greg Gagne pulled a decoy play that froze the Braves' Lonnie Smith and prevent a run from scoring. The Twins would win 1-0.
Later in New York he lost the ability to throw properly while his muscle mass grew. I'm not implying anything. (His inclusion in the Grimsley allegations and the Mitchell Report imply something.)
In his 9 plus seasons in Minnesota, Hunter did a little bit of everything. He hit, he hit with power and he ran. He also got post season hits, being one of the few shining stars in the Twins quick exits. He homered in the '03, '04 and '06 playoff lossses.
He also provided the best answer to those who hated Barry Bonds getting all of those homers.
In the 2002 All Star Game he reached right up and pulled one of Bonds' homers right back into an out. For some people he needed to do that 755 more times.
Sam Rice created a legend that could not happen today with modern technology. He was a Hall of Fame career .322 hitter with 2,987 career hits (13 shy of 3,000!) and in an era of big home run hitters, he mastered the stolen base. And he helped lead the Senators to the 1924 World Series title.
But the legend and mystery about Rice came about from a catch he made in the 1925 World Series. In Game 3, the Senators had a 4-3 lead in the 8th inning. Reliever Firpo Marberry was going for the save and give the Senators a 2-1 lead in the series. Pirates catcher Earl Smith hit a long drive to right field that looked like a game tying homer.
Rice, playing right field, leaped up, caught the ball and fell over the fence out of view of anyone. He emerged holding the ball and Smith was called out.
Of course if he lost control at any point when he was over the fence and out of view the Pirates would have tied the game. He was evasive when asked if he maintained control and for years was asked about it and even offered big money to tell what happened. He loved the mystery.
When he died a letter was ordered to be opened. In it, Rice claimed he never lost control of the ball. Today they would have had 15 camera angles and 38,000 camera phones showing the proof.
When people pointed out how bad a team the playoff 1987 Twins were, many pointed to Tim Laudner.
He batted a mere .191 and clearly wasn't calling a good game as the team's pitching staff was mediocre at best.
Well Tim surprised his critics just as the Twins surprised the baseball world. Laudner's two out, two run double in Game 2 of the ALCS off of Jack Morris put the Twins up for good and allowed them to go to Detroit up 2-0.
A four time All Star (and a starter three of those years) and a Gold Glove catcher, Battey also had some pop, peaking with 26 homers in 1963.
Along with mentoring the pitchers, Battey also spoke fluent Spanish and took a young and shy Tony Oliva under his wing as well. When a lot of players were keeping Latin players at arm's distance, Battey was a good guy... and the Twins benefitted.
In 1996, the Twins dealt Dave Hollins to the Mariners for a farm hand named David Arias. The Twins projected him to be a decent first baseman. He turned into a power hitter and when the Twins won the AL Central in 2002 and was one of their top power hitters.
He got 20 homers but the Twins didn't see him as a major offensive force. The Red Sox signed him after the 2002 playoffs.
Oh yeah, the Mariners made a mistake listing him on the roster. His actual name was David Ortiz.
Cronin, the owner's nephew in law, was already a terrific run producing shortstop before 1933. How good? Well in 1932 he drove in 116 runs and only had 6 homers. Now THAT is getting hits with runners in scoring position.
In 1933, Uncle Clark Griffith made him manager. He did OK. They won the American League pennant in his first year. Uncle Clark dealt him to Boston where he continued his Hall of Fame Career and managed the Sox to the 1946 pennant.
Washington never won another pennant. Nice job, Uncle Clark.
Pags was a beloved New York Yankee. He had a great Italian name and was a home grown product with power and a great glove who took over for Graig Nettles.
He never saw post season play in the Bronx but ultimately won his World Series ring as the slick fielding third baseman of the 1991 Twins and hit a game winning homer in the playoffs against the Blue Jays.
That's right, players had to leave the Bronx then to experience post season play. It was a different time.
A quick glance at Gladden's stats wouldn't be that impressive. He was never an All Star and never an MVP candidate.
But he was the spark plug leadoff hitter for the two World Series winners in Minnesota. His grandslam in game 1 of the 1987 World Series set the tone for what was thought to be a St. Louis romp. And then he singled to lead off the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series... and came home with the World Series ending run after Gene Larkin singled him home.
Plus he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated... twice.
What exactly were the Padres thinking when they left him unprotected before the 1990 season? Well whatever it was, the Twins took advantage of it and got a .300 hitter in right field for a few seasons including the 1991 World Series team.
And according to Kirby Puckett's book I Love This Game, he had a high threshhold for eating spicy food.
Kudos to the Florida Marlins scouting department. They found an unprotected gem of a prospect in the Houston Astros organization named Johan Santana. When the Rule 5 draft took place, the pitcher who would go on to win 2 Cy Young awards and probably will win several more into the next decade became a member of the Florida Marlins.
He would be part of the Marlins for less than one day.
The Marlins would deal his rights to the Twins for Jared Camp.
Part of the haul from the Mets for Frank Viola, Tapani proved to be a more than capable #2 or #3 starter. He went 12-8 in his rookie year for a lousy Twins team. He then won 16 games each of the next two seasons including the 1991 World Series winner.
When Rick Aguilera was with the Mets, he had trouble cracking the starting rotation. They had Doc Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda and David Cone all in front of him. So he effectively moved between spot starting and long relief, picking up a World Series ring along the way.
The Twins traded for him in the Frank Viola deal and no doubt he felt he was heading to the rotation. Instead in his first full season with the Twins, Tom Kelly made him the closer and the results were three straight trips to the All Star Game, tens of millions of dollars and a second World Series ring.
He was a long reliever for the 2003 NL West champs (who blew leads in games 2, 3 and 4 of the Division Series) and was dealt (along with 2006 phenom Francisco Liriano) for A. J. Pierzynski... who was non tendered at the end of the season.
So the Twins got a Cy Young caliber closer and the Giants were left grinding their teeth watching Benitez warm up. Good move.
The Tigers let go the hefty Panamanian reliever and spot starter after the 1985 season. Big mistake!
The Twins picked up up for the 1987 season and made him the top set up man for newly acquired closer Jeff Reardon. He would go 8-1 but save his best moment for October against his old club.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, the Twins were on the verge of a stunning 2-0 lead, but the heavily favored Tigers were charging. Lou Whitakers homer off of Bert Blyleven made the score 6-2 and after a Darrell Evans single, the heart of the Tigers lineup was coming up.
Berenguer relieved Blyleven and struck out Kirk Gibson and got Alan Trammell to ground out. Sensing the drama, manager Tom Kelly didn't turn to Jeff Reardon to close the game. He let Berenguer do it... and he struck out Matt Nokes, Chet Lemon and Pat Sheridan... all swinging.
When the Twins dealt away Mudcat Grant because Cal Griffith didn't like seeing him with so many white women, they didn't just dump him off.
The Twins pried away relief specialist Ron Perranoski who gave Minnesota two outstanding seasons. Billy Martin used him for 119 2/3 innings of pure relief, winning 9 and saving 31 as the Twins won the 1969 Division. He also saved 34 for the 1970 division champs before all of those innings finally caught up with him and he broke down.
Tovar was a terrific player with speed, hit for a decent average and had some pop in his bat.
He also was a bit of a Jack of All Trades as he played in the infield as well as the outfield. Billy Martin would shift him from left field to second base in the middle of a game to give him some flexibility.
In fact he became the first player to play all 9 positions in a 9 inning game, striking out Reggie Jackson in the process.
He also was part of some MVP voting controversy. When Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967 and basically carried the Red Sox over the finish line to the AL pennant, he was clearly the MVP.
He got all but one first place vote. The other first place vote went to Tovar. Tovar batted .267, 6 HRs, 47 RBI, stole 19 bases and led the league in the always sexy categories of Games and At Bats. Clearly superior to the Triple Crown winner.
The person who voted for him was a Minneapolis writer. Ahhh the stupid habits of voting writers.
Stewart came over to the Twins from Toronto midway through the 2003 season and gave the team a huge spark. He batted .322 in 65 games for the Twins and wound up finishing 4th in the MVP voting as the Twins outlasted the White Sox to win the Division.
He would then bat 400 in a losing cause against the Yankees in the Division Series. Injuries kept him down the next three seasons, but he was a clear impact acquisition.
And for you pervs, I am not referring to the model... but I welcome your traffic.
Infield grooming used to be a lot different back in the 1920s. In game 7 of the 1924 World Series, the Senators tied the game in the 8th inning (4 outs from losing the Series) when a Bucky Harris grounder eluded future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom because it hit a rock.
Can you imagine that happening today? Let's just say the grounds crew would be out there raking the field down pretty intensely.
Guess what happened in the bottom of the 12th of a tied game 7 of the World Series? ANOTHER ball hit a rock that eluded Lindstrom. And it looked like it would win the World Series.
The only problem was the winning run was at second and the slowest man in the game at the time, Muddy Ruel, was carrying it.
He lumbered around third and according to Shirley Povich in Ken Burns' Baseball that all of Washington held their breath as Ruel lumbered home.
When he scored, Washington had what they never had before and never had again... A World Series winner.