September 10, 2018

Cult hero Willians Astudillo wins it for the Twins with walk-off home run

Willians Astudillo, whose unique statistical accomplishments have quickly earned him a devoted following, delivered in a big way Sunday after he hit a walk-off home run to beat the Kansas City Royals and win the three-game series.

As noted above, all Astudillo does is hit. He doesn’t strike out, he doesn’t draw walks, he just makes contact and puts the ball in play. Combine that with his ability to play multiple positions in the field, and his rock star-like locks, and cult status is assured. And that was his reputation before he was called up by the Twins.

More from CBS Sports:

Already this season 173 minor leaguers — and 47 big leaguers — have struck out at least 76 times. Astudillo has struck out 76 times since 2009.

Meanwhile, the Twins beat the Royals 3-1 on Sunday. But I have to ask: Was Sunday’s game an “opener” for the Twins? I say that because starter, or “opener” Chase De Jong pitched well, but was replaced after four scoreless innings and 73 pitches by reliever, or “primary pitcher” Zack Littell. Why? Littell pitched three-plus innings and gave up the only run of the game.

The New York Yankees come to town Monday and Kyle Gibson gets the ball.

Extra innings…

Longtime baseball scribe Roger Angell, who is still with us at 97, didn’t devote much of his “Game Time” book to the Twins, which I blogged about several times over the summer here, here and here.

But that’s not to say there weren’t any good baseball stories in that collection. There were plenty, and one of my favorites has Angell sitting down to dinner with former slugger Hank Greenberg and legendary baseball owner and promoter, Bill Veeck.

Despite Greenberg’s presence, Veeck steals the dinner conversation by recalling a “great duker” he used to work with at Wrigley Field when Veeck’s father was president of the Chicago Cubs.

What’s a great duker? Someone who is good with their hands, and the Cubs had one in the form of a vendor who knew how to sell baseball programs. The vendor basically forced the program into the hands of customers and then demanded payment. It worked, except the vendor was thought to be a crook, so the Cubs kept a watchful eye on him.

Who was it? Jack Ruby, Veeck said.

There’s also an important image of Veeck that Angell captures, one that reminds us just how far removed the owners of the game are from their own fans. And not just baseball team owners, but anyone who owns a sports team and sits safely in their private box, away from paying customers.

Veeck sold the Chicago White Sox in 1981 and retired in the Windy City. In 1984, during a visit to Wrigley Field, Angell raised his binoculars to his eyes and sees Veeck in the outfield bleachers, “wearing a straw hat on his bean, a beer in his hand and his pegleg comfortably in the aisle.”

That’s the way it should be. Veeck lost that leg in World War II and was known to cut holes in his wooden legs and use them as ashtrays.

COMMENTS

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.