July 2, 2020

Twins baseball is back. Finally.

I’m not positive that major league baseball and its players truly settled their COVID-19 differences, but no matter: baseball is back. Summer training begins soon, followed by a 60-game season that gets underway later this month. At first glance, the shorter and geographically condensed season would appear to work in the Twins favor.

Or does it?

The Twins play 10 games each against their AL Central rivals and 20 games against the NL Central. This means the Twins don’t have to face the always-tough AL East and archenemy, the New York Yankees, or the AL West and team on the rise, the L.A. Angels.

Despite the shorter season, the Twins have historically been a slow-to-start team, which might work against them over a mere 60 games. The one clear exception would be 2019 when the club burst out of the gates and was 40-20 after 60 games. Historically, though, that has not been their pattern.

First-half records for the Twins in playoff-bound seasons, 1965-2017.

2017: 45-43.

2010: 46-42.

2009: 45-44.

2006: 47-39.

2004: 47-40.

2003: 44-49.

2002: 50-39.

1991: 47-36.

1987: 49-40.

1970: 54-28.

1969: 59-37.

1965: 53-29.

Although the Twins have shown they don’t exactly get off to the warmest of starts, the fact that every team has had an extended layoff away from the game means a slow start might be the new normal for 2020. No one has seen major league pitching and hitting in a long time.

Extra innings…

-On June 29, 1969, the Twins’ Tony Oliva went 5-for-5 against the Kansas City Royals, hitting a double and two home runs in a 12-2 win. Pitcher Jim Kaat went the distance for the win.

The 1969 team was another strong club. With Billy Martin at the helm, the Twins won the AL West by nine games. They were helped in large part by Harmon Killebrew, who had a monster season and won the AL MVP award. The Killer hit 49 home runs with 140 RBI. He also walked 145 times for an on-base percentage of .427. Jim Perry and Dave Boswell each won 20 games, and Ron Perranoski came out of the bullpen to save 31 games with a 2.11 ERA.

And yet the Twins faced an even bigger monster in the postseason. The Baltimore Orioles won the AL East that season by 19 games, finishing with a record of 109-53. The Twins were swept in three games.

However, the long-suffering New York Mets became giant killers in the World Series. The Amazins beat the O’s in five games, 4-1.

Sources: MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com.

June 22, 2020

A 42-year-old service club luncheon that still haunts the Twins

In late September 1978, Calvin Griffith, the former longtime owner of the Twins, found himself at a Lions Club luncheon in the town of Waseca, south of the Twin Cities. That afternoon would become Griffith’s undoing after he made disparaging comments about Black people and Twins star infielder, Rod Carew. The ensuing negative publicity would... Continue Reading »

June 15, 2020

The day the Twins became the first AL team to hit 5 home runs in an inning

A season after the Twins went to the World Series in 1965, they got off to a slow start and played mostly .500 ball. But there were signs the second half of the season might be different, particularly on June 9, 1966, when the Twins hosted the Kansas City A’s before only 9,600 fans. Curveballer... Continue Reading »

June 1, 2020

Even in the virtual world the Twins can’t beat the Yankees? Really?

I find simulated baseball to be a lousy substitution for the real thing. And though I’ve tried to ignore it, I have peeked at what Baseball-Reference.com has done by using a program called Out of the Park Baseball 21 to simulate the 2020 season. It’s hard to miss because the data can be found almost... Continue Reading »

May 23, 2020

About Ron Davis, one more time

In our slower, baseball-less world, except in South Korea, of course, I found myself staring at Twitter when a tweet popped up about a horrible Twins loss on May 13, 1985. Where did this happen? Where else? The Bronx, the site of so much Twins agony. On that spring night at Yankee Stadium, the Twins... Continue Reading »

May 10, 2020

The week the Twins had 4 walk-off wins, all by a score of 2-1

In 1987, the Twins were nearly unbeatable at home, compiling a record of 56-25 at the friendly, but strange confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. They didn’t play nearly as well on the road, so when the season was over, the Twins inched over the finish line, a mere eight games over .500. That... Continue Reading »

May 4, 2020

Did Eric Fox sink the Twins in 1992?

Twins beat writer, LaVelle Neal, has an interesting story in the Strib, one that looks back (like we all are these days) at a Twins loss in late July 1992. Neal writes that it spelled doom for the Twins that season and became an omen for the rest of the decade. The Twins had only... Continue Reading »

April 28, 2020

Sid Hartman, reporter

I hope you’ve been reading Strib columnist Patrick Reusse because he’s been in fine form with recent pieces about ex-Twins manager, Billy Martin, and, of course, longtime media figure, Sid Hartman. Hartman, who turned 100 last month, continues to work for the Minneapolis-based newspaper. And for those trying to decipher “strib,” that’s short for Star... Continue Reading »

April 19, 2020

The day Ex-Twin Baron von Mitterwald hit 3 home runs, plus a sad footnote

Catcher George Mitterwald, whose nickname was “Baron von Mitterwald,” spent seven seasons with the Twins before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1974 season. And the new season got off to an auspicious start after the Baron slugged three home runs with eight RBI on April 17. The Cubs blasted the... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

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.