As the baseball lockout rolls on, I guess it’s as good a time as any to revisit a classic Twins tale — when former Twins manager Billy Martin and pitcher Dave Boswell drained a few pops at a Detroit bar and later slugged it out in a nearby alley.
Author Bill Pennington captured the moment in his 2015 biography of Martin, including the ballsy quote that followed the fight. Martin popped Boswell, who then bounced off the alley wall. What happened next? reporters asked.
“Well, when he came off the wall, I hit him again,” Martin said.
A good Twins team was in Detroit that August to play a four-game series with the Tigers. The fight followed a Twins win on Aug. 6, 1969 after pitcher Jim Perry twirled a complete game three-hitter to beat Motown and Portland’s very own Mickey Lolich. Why not have a drink after a Twins win? And so they did, including Martin and Boswell, at Lindell A.C., one of the first sports bars in America, “the walls and tables lined with jerseys and autographed photographs. It was the Toots Shor’s of Detroit,” Pennington writes.
The consensus view of the brawl goes something like this: Boswell, upset that a coach has ratted on him to Martin, went looking for the coach. Twins player Bob Allison follows Boswell to prevent a fight and Martin follows all of them. Boswell punches Allison, then Martin knocks Boswell around.
Despite the Minnesota melee, news of the incident didn’t slip out right away. Long before our 24-hour news culture and the internet, if one wanted to keep breaking news close to the vest, I guess it was easier to do so because the story didn’t appear in the pages of the Minneapolis Tribune until Monday, Aug. 11. By then, though, the paper gave it the full monty with a front page story, a lead item on the sports section and Minnesota institution Sid Hartman devoted most of his column to the dustup. The lead story on the sports page, as reported by Hartman, is a strange one. It’s actually not a story, but is one long Boswell quote, giving his version of events.
“They are trying to make me sound like a bad wolf,” he said. “I’m a little high strung, everybody knows that. But I don’t like (Billy) Martin to say I charged him and that I hit (Bob) Allison as he stood with his hands in his pocket.”
Meanwhile, the Aug. 11 paper revealed more problems for the Twins because the team was shut out at home by the Baltimore Orioles and pitcher Mike Cuellar. Cuellar went the distance, allowing one hit — a ninth inning single to Cesar Tovar — with three walks and eight strikeouts to improve to 15-9 with a 2.28 ERA. Both runs in the 2-0 win were scored on solo home runs, including Boog Powell’s 31st. Both teams would meet again in the postseason, the first year of American League Championship Series play. The Twins won the west and the O’s, the east.
-Twins pitcher Perry won 20 games in 1969, but Cuellar outdid him with 23 wins and won the Cy Young award. The following season Perry won it.