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 set to turn 90 next month.

But during his playing days he was viewed as a controversial commodity, someone who might upset the all-important search for team chemistry, according to “Cool Of The Evening,” a book by Jim Thielman about that ’65 Twins team.

In Worthington’s case, many teams shunned him because he was scrupulous as Gandhi. A deeply religious man who devoted much of his time to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other church-related work, Worthington sported a crew cut and an unwavering ethic, which cost him at least one stint in the major leagues.

He also didn’t stand for profanity or for teams that engaged in stealing signs. In 1959, pitching for the San Francisco Giants, Worthington confronted manager Bill Rigney (who would later manage the Twins) after he heard the team was not against stealing a sign or two, according to Thielman’s book.

Rigney decided to end the larceny and the Giants lost three straight, according to the book.

Worthington’s career started with the 1953 New York Giants. But what if he had been on that ’51 team? That club had fought from behind all season and then won the pennant on baseball’s most famous three-run home run, otherwise known as the “shot heard round the world.”

Years later we would learn that final moment between pitcher Ralph Branca and slugger Bobby Thomson was tainted because the Giants had been knee-deep in stealing signs for most of the season. Maybe Worthington and his “unwavering ethic” would have brought the sign-stealing to an end, giving us a legitimate baseball moment to cherish, not one in which Thomson likely knew the pitch that was coming out of Branca’s hand.

Of course, Worthington, if he had been on that ’51 team, likely would have confronted fiery manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher about the team’s sign-stealing ways. Who do you think would have won that argument?

Extra innings…

-Congrats to pitcher Kyle Gibson who won a nice pay increase for 2019 after he lost in arbitration to the Twins a season ago. This was expected because Gibson set career marks for earned run average, innings pitched and strikeouts in 2018. He will earn a little more than $8 million. He is a free agent in 2020.

-The Twins have added another arm to the bullpen in the form of Blake Parker, according to MLB.com.

The 33-year-old Parker experienced a breakout season with the Angels in 2017, when he recorded a 2.54 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings and eight saves as he rotated through the closer’s role. He saved 14 games and recorded a 3.26 ERA in ’18, his first season of arbitration eligibility, but was non-tendered by the Angels following the season.


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.