Long before Ron Gardenhire managed the Twins to six division titles between 2002 and 2014, Gardenhire — like a lot of big league skippers — had a brief career as a player.
If you’d like to see Gardenhire in action as a second baseman for the New York Mets — the team he spent five seasons with — then do a YouTube search for pitcher Dwight Gooden’s Major League debut against the Houston Astros on April 7, 1984. Gardenhire witnessed history that day because he backed up Doc at second base.
Gooden won his debut, striking out five over five innings, and would go on to win 17 games his rookie season. The next season Gooden won the National League Cy Young award with 24 wins, a 1.53 ERA, eight shutouts and 268 strikeouts in 276 innings pitched.
Gardenhire, meanwhile, was the leadoff hitter in Gooden’s debut, getting one hit in five at bats. He also struck out once. Gardenhire hit .232 for his career.
Here’s how the Twins managers fared as players:
-Tom Kelly: A career minor league ballplayer — and a decent one at that — except for one season with the Twins in 1975. He hit .181.
-Ray Miller: Also a career minor league player, who won 60 games as a right-handed pitcher.
-Billy Gardner: Spent 10 seasons in the Majors, including part of a season with the Twins in 1961. He hit .237 for his career, but once hit 36 doubles for the Baltimore Orioles in 1957.
-Johnny Goryl: Spent six seasons in the Majors, including three with the Twins. Hit .225 for his career.
-Gene Mauch: Played nine seasons in the bigs for six teams, including the Boston Braves and Red Sox. His best season, which also was his last as a player, was in 1957 when he hit .270 for the Red Sox in 65 games.
-Frank Quilici: Played five seasons, all of them with the Twins. Hit .214 for his career.
-Bill Rigney: Spent eight seasons with the New York Giants. Hit .259 for his career, including 17 home runs for the Giants in 1947.
-Billy Martin: Eleven seasons, spent mostly with the New York Yankees. Hit .257 for his career and once drove in 75 runs for the Yanks in 1953.
-Cal Ermer: Appeared in one game for the Washington Senators in 1947 and did not record a hit in three at bats.
-Sam Mele: Spent 10 seasons in the Majors, five of them with the Red Sox. Hit .267 for his career, including 94 RBIs for the Senators in 1951.
-Cookie Lavagetto: Played 10 seasons, seven of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Lavagetto hit .269 for his career and was a four-time All-Star. He hit .300 and drove in 87 runs for the Dodgers in 1939.