October 23, 2021

‘They knew we could be very tough,’ said Tom Kelly 34 years ago this month

A check of Twins Territory on social media shows that, although the Twins are once again not playing meaningful baseball in October, that hasn’t stopped fans from reminiscing about the past, including the team’s run to the World Series in October 1987. I got caught up in it as well, finally watching clips of the Twins’ Game 5 win over the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 12 of that season.

During the postgame celebration, Marv Albert interviewed Twins manager Tom Kelly about whether the Tigers’ lack of respect for the Twins had made the win that much sweeter.

“I don’t believe the Detroit Tigers showed us a lack of respect,” Kelly replied. “They knew we had a good ball club. We played them enough through the course of the season. They knew we could be very tough.”

Well, that final statement isn’t quite supported by the facts because the team went 4-8 against the Tigers during the regular season and was outscored by 25 runs. And the Twins longest losing streak of the season was a 6-game skid in August that included an ugly sweep in Motown. The Twins lost 11-2 in Game 1 and the next two losses were progressively worse.

Old friend Jack Morris improved to 14-6 after the Game 1 win, while the Twins’ Steve Carlton (Yes, that Steve Carlton) was blasted for 11 hits, nine runs (six earned) over three lousy innings. He fell to 6-12 with a 5.92 ERA. Bert Blyleven fell to 12-10 after the 7-1 Game 2 loss, and then Doyle Alexander, the man out of time,* blanked the Twins on five hits to win 8-0 in Game 3.

Alexander pitched to a 5-10 record for the Atlanta Braves before he was traded to the Tigers for pitcher John Smoltz (ouch). Still, Alexander was perfect down the stretch, going 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA. At least in the short term, it looked like a hell of a trade for the Tigers. Unfortunately, Smoltz is in the Hall of Fame, while Alexander is not, although he won 194 games over a 19-year career in the big leagues.

The Twins went 13-15 in August 1987, but went 16-11 in September to inch over the line and win the division. In the American League Championship Series they punched the Tigers in the mouth, winning two games at home and two of three games in Detroit to send them to the World Series. In the ALCS, the Twins hit .270 as a team with 46 hits, including 13 doubles, eight home runs and one triple. The Tigers hit .240.

Extra innings…

-Twins Territory social media of late has also been one long lamentation about the number of ex-Twins playing in the postseason while the Twins are not. Perhaps the most notable has been former Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario, who currently is hitting .571 for the Braves. Rosie spent six seasons with the Twins before he signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Guardians during the offseason. He was then traded to the Braves for Pablo Sandoval.

-I know it’s frustrating to see so many ex-Twins thrive once they leave, but most of those deals made sense for the team at the time.

-Few outside of Minnesota probably know that Lefty ended his career with the Twins. Carlton’s Hall of Fame credentials: 329 wins and 4,136 strikeouts.

And then there was this…

*I always thought of Alexander as a pitcher of a different era with that name and how he appeared on the mound. Tall, skinny and always sporting a mustache and never overpowering, yet he won a lot of ballgames.

Source: Baseball-Reference.com.


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.