The Twins were barely competitive in 1979, finishing the season with a record of 82-80. It also was manager Gene Mauch’s final full season with the club, and star infielder, Rod Carew, who hit .388 in 1977, was no longer with the Twins after he was traded during the offseason. His departure was almost a given after owner Calvin Griffith made disparaging comments about Carew and Black people at a now infamous luncheon in Waseca, Minnesota.
So it was largely a down year for the Twins in 1979, except when it came to playing the Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins won 11 of 12 meetings against a club that had lost 100 or more games since the American League expanded in 1977. The Seattle Mariners were the other expansion team.
On May 8, 1979, the Twins, like they did all season, had their way with the Jays in a 16-6 blowout victory. Roy Smalley and Ken Landreaux, who had come to the Twins in the Carew trade, had eight of the Twins’ 19 hits that night. Both went 4-for-5 at the plate. Smalley hit two home runs and Landreaux added a double and a home run before only 3,100 fans at the Met.
But the Jays did win one game against the Twins. On July 14, rookie pitcher, Dave Stieb, who would become one of the winningest pitchers of the 1980s, took the mound and went the distance for the 4-2 win.
Five seasons later the Blue Jays delivered some payback, this time beating the Twins in 11 of 12 meetings. And Stieb only got better as a pitcher. On Aug. 26, 1984, Stieb was masterful, striking out 11 Twins players over nine innings for the 2-1 win. After finishing the 1979 season with a record of 53-109, the Jays were much improved at 89-73 in 1984.
Despite going 1-11 against the Jays, the Twins were still in contention for the AL West title in September ’84. And then they shit the bed and lost six straight to end the regular season, including two horrific losses in Cleveland involving you know who: Ron Davis.
Griffith finally sold the Twins the same month after his racist remarks in 1978. After the team changed hands, the Twins would eventually improve to win their first World Series in 1987.
-Who was the first major league star to “pimp” his home runs? Harmon Killebrew, according to “The Baseball Codes,” a 2010 book about the unwritten rules of baseball, including the no-no of lingering at the plate to watch home runs sail out of the ballpark.
“Killebrew was the first one I saw do it,” said Hall of Fame slugger, Frank Robinson. “He would stand there and watch them. But heck, he hit the ball so high, he could watch them.”
Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, The Baseball Codes.