Forced to stay home during the outbreak, I finally took it upon myself to repair my Brad Radke bobblehead, which had been missing its left arm for years. It wasn’t like I had lost it, though. The left arm sat on the shelf next to the rest of the bobblehead, waiting to be reattached. Strange as it sounds, I didn’t really miss the left arm because he was a right-handed pitcher, and the bobblehead clearly shows him stepping into his righty windup, ready to deliver the next pitch. Good enough, I thought.
But now he’s whole again.
As far as bobbleheads go, the Brad Radke bobblehead actually looks like Brad Radke, which I think is rare in the world of figurines that have quivering heads. Last season, I saw the Twins play the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on a night when they handed out Ken Griffey, Jr., bobbleheads. The promotion would’ve worked wonderfully if it had been Ken Griffey, Sr., day at the ballpark, but Junior? Not even close. The Twins won big that night, by the way.
Radke spent his entire 12-season career with the Twins, including a 20-win season in 1997 on a team that lost 94 games. The 90s were largely a lost decade for the Twins, but Radke was one of the few players I kept my eyes on in those years. He went deep into games and pitched a lot of innings. He had a tendency to give up the long ball, but he also pitched with great control and threw an effective, if not quite dazzling, change up.
“If Roger Clemens wasn’t having such a good year,” Oakland slugger Mark McGwire once said about Radke, “I’d give my vote to that guy for Cy Young.”
Radke finished third in the Cy Young vote in 1997 after he went 20-10 with a 3.87 ERA. That season included a streak of 11 straight wins. He was 5-5 on June 7 and 16-5 on Aug. 4. During it, he blanked the Oakland A’s 1-0 after he scattered five hits and struck out 10 over nine innings. No wonder McGwire sang his praises.
For his 20th win that season, he went 10 innings and allowed one run on six hits with nine strikeouts to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1.
Late in his career, he also had an unusual season.
In 2004, he was 11-8 with an ERA of 3.48, but he also made 15 no-decision starts. Among those no-decisions was a start at home against the Anaheim Angels on May 1. He pitched shutout baseball for seven innings, then watched as the Twins gave up a run in the top of the ninth to lose 1-0. With so many no-decision starts, Radke didn’t get to five wins until July 5.