The 39th anniversary of a fateful trade made by the Minnesota Twins came and went last week, a date that likely slipped past many Twins fans.
But not this fan. That’s because I’ll never forget sitting in the Kingdome with my father, watching the Twins increase their lead over the Seattle Mariners to 7-4 as both teams headed to the bottom of the ninth inning. It wasn’t long before the Mariners loaded the bases with Twins reliever, Ron Davis, on the mound, and it wasn’t long after that when the M’s Phil Bradley crushed a grand slam home run off Davis for an 8-7 win. And then the promotional M’s cap, which I had received at the gate, was removed from my head and cast into the night sky by my 16-year-old self, both in disbelief and disappointment that the Twins had lost.
That was in 1985. But the deal that brought Davis to Minnesota took place on April 10, 1982. The Twins sent Roy Smalley and Gary Serum to the New York Yankees in exchange for Davis, infielder Greg Gagne, who would win two World Series with the Twins, and pitcher Paul Boris.
April 10, 1982: The #MNTwins trade 1979 All-Star @RoySmalley5 and 1975 Alexandria High School graduate Gary Serum to the Yankees for Ron Davis, Paul Boris, and Greg Gagne.https://t.co/t5kkAl3QQK
— The Twins Almanac (@TwinsAlmanac) April 10, 2020
There was reason for optimism. Davis was 14-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 1979 and a former all-star with the Yankees. But it didn’t take Davis long to establish a much different pattern with the Twins that first season. The Twins were terrible in 1982 and likely felt that Davis would go a long way in helping the Twins bullpen. It didn’t exactly work out that way.
Davis made a scoreless appearance for the Twins on April 14, 1982, and then it was mostly downhill from there. By May 28, he was 1-4 with three saves and an ERA of 4.02. On that same day, the New York Yankees came to town to play the first of two games at the Metrodome.
The Twins and Yankees battled to a 5-5 tie heading into the top of the ninth inning with Davis on the mound. Davis got one out in the eighth and was back to face the Yanks in the ninth. It wasn’t pretty. He allowed five runs, all earned, on four hits, including a grand slam off the bat of Yankee third baseman, Graig Nettles. The final was 10-5.
Davis finished 1982 with a record of 3-9, 22 saves, five blown saves and an ERA of 4.42.