The Twins travel to the Northwest in late May, which means the continuation of a tradition that started 30-some years ago when my father and I decided to see at least one Twins game every season.
It’s not a perfect streak: It was interrupted by college, by living in Japan for seven years and by living on the other side of the mountains in Wenatchee. But once my wife and I returned to Western Washington, my father could drive up from Portland, and then the three of us — which has since grown to four — could head to Seattle to see a game.
I don’t remember our first trip to see the Twins, but I do know that of the games we’ve seen, the Mariners have a slight edge in wins. The Twins won last year, 8-5, but lost the previous time we saw them, 2-1.
There’s also one loss that will forever be burned into my memory.
It was 1985 and neither team was very good. The Kingdome was still in existence then, which meant a small crowd hardly made a dent in a place that seated about 60,000. Other not-so-memorable Kingdome characteristics: the trough urinals, the lousy food and because the place was so large, I had a tendency to zone out on the surroundings until some Mariner hit a home run (the centerfield cannon would sound) and I snapped back to reality.
At this particular game, they handed out free painter caps at the gate. I hung on to it for the moment. And then the game got under way, with the Twins taking an early lead. It looked like a win in the making.
But no Twins fan will forget reliever Ron Davis, will they?
Davis, who once struck out eight consecutive batters when he was with the New York Yankees, was traded to the Twins for Roy Smalley in 1982. It wasn’t a total flop of a trade for the Twins: they managed to get shortstop Greg Gagne, who anchored the infield during the World Series winning years of 1987 and 1991.
But after some good years with the Yankees, Davis’ time with the Twins was probably better known for the blown save than the save, including this all-time doozy. He had 14 blown saves in 1984 and 43 for his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
So there I was. The Twins were leading 7-4 late in the game and it looked like victory for sure. The setup guy got credited with a hold, but he also exited the game for Davis after walking one batter.
Enter Davis, who walks two more batters to load the bases, but also strikes out two Mariners to finally face Phil Bradley. I had remembered Ivan Calderon coming to the dish in that situation, but apparently not after a check of the box score.
You can guess what happened next. Bradley hit a walk-off, grand-slam home run to win the game, 8-7. The crowd went predictably nuts, including my father, who has always rooted for the Mariners. But remember the free painter hat I got at the gate? I was so disappointed by the loss that as soon as I got outside, I chucked it into the night sky.