A look at the Minnesota Twins franchise history

25 Aug

The year was 1961 and Major League Baseball was finally a reality in Minnesota. Countless semi-pro and minor league teams called this home as well as a women’s professional team a few all black teams although none were officially recognized Negro League franchises. The Washington Senators owner Calvin Griffith changed all that by moving his team to Minnesota and renaming them the Twins beginning a new era for the team and city. Over the years All Stars, MVP’s. and Cy Young Award winners have graced the roster helping bring a pair of World Series titles home. A quick look at franchise history shows why this is a team fans love so fiercely.

The best place to start is the beginning. The Twins 1961 season hardly set the world or league on fire managing to post a 70-90 won/loss record but it did show hope with pitchers Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat holding down the rotation while Bob Allison and the Titan of Minnesota baseball Harmon Killebrew who clubbed 46 homers showed this was a team on the rise and Met Stadium was in store for some great moments. The following year the Twins improved to the point of finishing second to the always powerful Yankees and Jack Kralick tossed the Twins first no-hitter against the Kansas City A’s. The future looked better than ever except that 1964 wound up being a down year filled with injuries. The bright spots were that Killebrew hammered out 49 round trippers and Tony Olivia led the league in batting on his way to being named Rookie of the Year, the first in Twins History.

1965 was the year Twins fans had been dreaming of, almost. They hosted their first All-Star game and ended the Yankee stranglehold on the American League pennant in addition to Jim “Mudcat’ Grant winning 21 games, Tony Olivia winning his second batting title, and shortstop Zolio Versalles grabbing the Most Valuable Player award. The Twins started their first World Series in style taking the first two games from the L.A. Dodgers but in the end fell to Sandy Koufax in game seven. The dream was over but without doubt it was a landmark season in franchise history.

For nearly two decades the franchie experienced lean years, some were promising but never what fans dreamed of. There were many great individual performances mostly supplied by Rod Carew and his seven batting titles. Killebrew continued pounding out home runs, some strong pitching passed through the organization but as a team they just couldn’t put it all together at the same time. With the advent of free agency Griffith seemed to throw in the towel feeling he was finacially incapable of competing with large market teams and began dismanteling a very talented but poor performing roster. After losing Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock to the free agent market with nothing in return Griffith decided he would rather trade his biggest star Rod Carew than lose him the same way and sent him to the Angels after the 1978 season. The next few years were little for Twins fans to cheer about.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome opened in 1982 and became the franchises new address. The Twins christened it with a loss to the Mariners. While young talent like Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti gave fans something to look forward to they continued to sputter until 1984 when two new additions gave fans renewed hope, Kirby Puckett and new owner Carl Pohlad. The Twins nearly grabbed the A.L. West title that year but fell just short during the seasons final week. In 1987 however they took the division, raced through the ALCS and went on to defeat the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series as underdogs the entire way. For the first time since the Minneapolis Lakers won the NBA title in in 1954 Minnesota had a world champion!

The Twins dropped to last place by 1990 but rebounded in 1991 and in one of the most memorable World Series ever which included three extra inning games the Twins defeated the Braves in seven games to snatch their second World Series title. Since then the Twins have taken home some division titles but have never reached the World Series again. They have had a number of great even a few legendary players come through the organization but Pohlad who has retained ownership has failed to dip into his multi-billion dollar piggy bank to keep them under contract. As such popular and ridiculously talented players like David Ortiz, Tori Hunter, and the incomparable Johan Santana have left the team but somehow a great farm system continues to produce talents like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer to continue carrying a banner of excellence and hope to the next generation.

When all is said and done the Twins can boast two World Series wins in three appearances and six Hall of Famers have worn their uniform although Dave Winfield and Steve Carlton only appeared with the organization during two years each and Paul Molitor only three. Only Killebrew, Carew and Puckett played more than half their games with the Twins. The franchise has sent 47 different players to the All-Star game with Rod Carew having made an amazing twelve straight trips while Killebrew, Oliva, and Puckett each made at least eight consecutive appearances. The organization has had four MVP winners (Versalles, Killebrew, Carew, Morneau), three Cy Young winners (Johan Santana, Frank Viola, Jim Perry), and five Rookie of the Year winners (Oliva, Carew, Castino, Knoblauch, and Cordova), and 38 Gold Gloves, 11 of which were won by Jim Kaat in consecutive years. The Twins have a rich and proud history and seem poised yet again to remain among baseball’s top teams despite past poor ownership.

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