January 20, 2019

The day a Twins rookie took the mound opposite Don Larsen, Harvey Haddix and Jim Palmer

As July turned to August, the 1965 Twins found themselves with a five-game lead in the American League heading into an Aug. 2 matchup against a good Baltimore Orioles team, according to Cool Of The Evening, a book by Jim Thielman about that pennant-winning season for the Twins.

But rather than wait and let a rookie pitcher get his first big league start against the lowly Washington Senators (the second version of the Senators, I might add), Twins manager Sam Mele decided that 21-year-old lefty Jim Merritt was ready for the Orioles.

Blade-like and standing six-foot-two, Merritt was one of the last players cut during spring training. He showed remarkable poise, a nice repertoire of pitches, and an exceptional move on his pickoff throw to first base. It was a technique he had taught himself, and after just a few starts in Minnesota both scouts and opposing players decided Merritt’s pickoff move was second only to that of New York’s Whitey Ford.

Merritt retired the first 10 Orioles, according to Thielman’s book. This wasn’t Earl Weaver’s Orioles, and Frank Robinson had yet to join the team, but the lineup still featured Luis Aparicio, Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson. Oriole starter Steve Barber left the game early due to a back problem, so in came Don Larsen, best known for pitching a perfect game in a World Series, followed by Harvey Haddix, best known for pitching a perfect game for 12 innings that he would lose.

After Barber gave up two runs, Larsen and Haddix pitched scoreless baseball until reliever Dick Hall gave up three runs. He was finally replaced by 19-year-old Jim Palmer. Meanwhile, Merritt pitched eight-plus innings, giving up five runs (four earned) with one walk and six strikeouts.

With the game tied at 5-5 in the ninth, Merritt gave way to Twins reliever Johnny Klippstein. Klippstein got the win because Palmer served up a pinch hit home run to Twins outfielder, Jimmie Hall, and the Twins won, 6-5.

This game was also notable because Harmon Killebrew would dislocate his elbow and miss seven weeks of the season. Still, even without one of their best players, the Twins won the league by seven games because Zoilo Versalles and Tony Oliva had monster seasons (Versalles won the AL MVP award that year; Oliva finished second) and under-the-radar players Don Mincher and Hall hit 42 home runs between them.

Merritt spent four seasons with the Twins before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He won 20 games for the Reds in 1970.

Extra innings…

-The Twins have reportedly inked left-handed pitcher and former Texas Ranger Martin Perez to a one-year deal, according to various reports. My reaction to this deal is ho-hum because he had a dreadful season in 2018 (2-7, 6.22 ERA) and has a career ERA of 4.63. However, he did pitch close to 200 innings in 2016 and 2017.

January 13, 2019

If only ex-Twin Al Worthington had pitched for the ’51 New York Giants

Pitcher Al Worthington began his career as a starter and ended it as a reliever for the Twins. He pitched six seasons for the club, including the pennant-winning season of 1965. Over that span, Worthington was a very respectable 37-31 with a 2.62 ERA and 88 saves. He also is still with us. Worthington is... Continue Reading »

January 6, 2019

The day Catfish faced Mudcat and only 537 bothered to watch

Down the stretch the Twins came in 1965 as they closed in on 102 wins and the American League pennant. They would win the pennant by seven games when it was all over, yet late in the season they would, at times, struggle to fill Metropolitan Stadium with fans. That was most evident on Sept.... Continue Reading »

December 28, 2018

Twins get their man in Nelson Cruz

Despite being in the twilight of his career, a rumored deal for slugger Nelson Cruz (who turns 39 in July) became a reality Thursday after the club and Cruz agreed on a one-year deal worth $14 million, according to various reports. The Twins also have a $12 million club option for 2020 with a $300,000... Continue Reading »

December 24, 2018

Remembering Cookie Lavagetto, baseball manager

A decade after Cookie Lavagetto suspected the New York Giants were up to no good during the 1951 season — and was later famously captured on film sitting next to a bawling Ralph Branca after that history-making October loss — Lavagetto found himself in Minnesota, manager of a newly relocated team called the Twins. During... Continue Reading »

December 17, 2018

Jim Palmer and the Hall of Fame case for Tony Oliva

Harold Baines, the longtime DH and outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last week, along with longtime Chicago Cubs reliever, Lee Smith. Smith’s enshrinement went down relatively easy for most baseball fans, but that was not the case for Baines as the twitterverse and blogosphere came up choking... Continue Reading »

December 9, 2018

The day the Twins’ first manager suspected the New York Giants were up to no good

In October 1951 Bobby Thomson hit baseball’s most famous three-run home run, a blast that capped an amazing come-from-behind season that finally erased a season-long lead by the Brooklyn Dodgers and propelled the New York Giants into the World Series. The home run is so famous that it has almost completely obscured the fact that... Continue Reading »

December 1, 2018

It’s never too early to predict the Twins will win the AL Central

Wasting no time, the MLB.com website Cut 4 is predicting the Twins will displace the Cleveland Indians atop the American League Central and win the division in 2019. That’s fine with me, of course, but I should point out that many (OK, some) made that prediction in 2018 and look where it got them. But,... Continue Reading »

November 27, 2018

It’s not the Minnesota Twins, it’s the Minnesota Rays

The Twins claimed budding slugger C.J. Cron from waivers on Monday, making it the fifth member of the Tampa Bay Rays to join or recently join the club. Who are the other former Rays? Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, Twins coach Bill Evers, Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi and former slugger Logan Morrison, who is now a... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.