On October 26, Calvin Griffith, president of the Washington Senators, made the historic decision to move his club to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, thereby giving birth to the "Minnesota Twins," named after the two Upper Midwest cities. The Griffith organization had operated the team in our nation's capital ever since the immortal Clark Griffith took over as manager of the club in 1912. The team moved to Minnesota sporting such names as Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Camilo Pascual and Jim Lemon.
After just one season of operations in Minnesota, the Twins jumped from a 7th-place finish in 1961, to a strong 2nd-place in 1962. A couple of rookies made it big in that 1961 season, Jim Kaat and Zoilo Versalles, and they joined with 1962 first-year men Bernie Allen and Rich Rollins to spark the Twins to their strong finish in that second season. In addition, a couple of off-season trades negotiated by Mr. Griffith helped to vault the team to within five games of the New York Yankees - acquiring first baseman Vic Power and pitcher Dick Stigman from Cleveland for hurler Pedro Ramos, and swapping outfielder Dan Dobbek to Cincinnati for catcher Jerry Zimmerman.
In 1963, the Twins dropped back a notch to third, but the nucleus had already been assembled to assure the club, even though they slipped further to sixth in 1964, of being a dominant factor in American League affairs for years to come. Additions to the 1963 roster included Jimmie Hall, who came fresh out of the Twins' farm system to slug 33 home runs in his rookie season, and Jim Perry, obtained from Cleveland in a trade for lefty Jack Kralick.
The 1964 club featured the phenomenal rise of outfielder Tony Oliva to major league stardom. Oliva, who would become the only player to win big league batting titles in his first two seasons, led the American League with a .323 mark that year, in addition to belting 32 home runs and driving home 94 runs. Another bright spot in the team's rather dismal 6th-place finish was Harmon Killebrew, who paced the league with 49 homers, his fourth consecutive season of 45-or-more home runs.
1965 was a year to behold, the culmination of 32 years of effort by Mr. Griffith and his organization, since they'd last won a flag in Washington in 1933. The team started fast in the spring and didn't let up until they clinched the pennant on September 26, in Washington, when Kaat stopped the Senators in a 2-1 decision. Their eventual winning margin was a full seven games over the Chicago White Sox.
An unheralded swap with Cincinnati in December of 1964...pitcher Gerry Arrigo for infielder Cesar Tovar...began to pay big dividends for the Twins in 1966, when Tovar came into his own as one of the most exciting and versatile players in baseball. Although the Twins started slowly from the starting gate that year, they played the best ball in the Majors from July 4th on, to finish a strong second to Baltimore's World Champions, and the rookie Tovar was right in the middle of things all the way, teaming with 25-game winner Kaat to spark the Twins in the stretch drive.
Three other newcomers played important roles in the Twins' near-miss 1967 season. Pitcher Dean Chance, acquired in a trade with the California Angels, recorded the fifth 20-victory season ever turned in by a Twin hurler. Second-year player Ted Uhlaender came into his own as a Major League hitter, augmenting his already established value as an outstanding center fielder. And the 1967 campaign marked the rookie season of Rod Carew, the agile Panamanian who would, during the next decade, establish himself as peerless at hitting a baseball. In this his initial big league season, Carew not only made the All-Star team, but paced Twins' hitters virtually the entire season.
The 1968 season was an extremely disappointing one for the Twins. Lack of a dependable shortstop, and an All-Star game injury to Killebrew, which sidelined him for almost the balance of the season, were the primary reasons.
Catcher John Roseboro and pitchers Bob Miller and Ron Perranoski became vital parts of the Twins' 1969 pennant machine. But, probably the most significant player developments were the additions of shortstop Leo Cardenas, obtained from Cincinnati in a swap for Merritt, and the emergence of fancy-fielding first baseman Rich Reese into one of the league's top hitters. And combined with the MVP season of Killebrew (49 home runs and 140 RBI) and Carew's league-leading .332 average, the material was right for a pennant race.
Shortly after the 1968 season, the Twins named fiery Billy Martin to succeed Cal Ermer at the manager's helm, Martin thereby becoming the fourth skipper in Twins history. Under Martin, the Twins played an inspired brand of ball in 1969, battling it out with the Oakland A's until just after Labor Day, when they knocked the A's for a five-out-of-six loop which all but wrapped up the first American League West Division championship.
It was the Twins and the Baltimore Orioles who met in the American League Championship Series. The first two games were held in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, and the Birds managed to escape with a pair of well-pitched, extra-inning victories. These two disappointing losses seemed to take the starch out of the Twins, as not even the presence of Met Stadium could stave off defeat in the third and final game of the series.
1970 turned out to be a carbon copy of the previous season for the club. Starting quickly, the Twins won their first four contests and never relinquished first place after beating Milwaukee on May 17. With manager Bill Rigney in his first year in Minnesota, the team wound up with an even better record than the year before, winning 98 games en route to the Western Division flag. Still, it was the Orioles who held the upper hand when the playoffs came around, the Birds of Earl Weaver again entering the World Series at the Twins' expense.
The lack of reliable pitching took its toll in the 1971 season. Jim Perry, a 20 and 24-game winner the previous two years, fell to a 17-17 record, while the effective 1970 relief duo of Perranoski and Williams slipped to a combined log of 5-9 with nine saves. With the Oakland A's getting off to a fast start, the club couldn't gain the momentum necessary to make up the difference, and subsequently ended with their worst won-loss record since the 1961 inaugural season.
A major change came about on July 6, 1972... the hiring of former player and coach Frank Quilici to manage the club, replacing Rigney. Quilici, tremendously popular with Upper Midwest fans, brought to the team's helm the contagious spirit and boundless enthusiasm which characterized him in all his other undertakings. Under Quilici, the club managed to climb into contention by mid-August. Finally, though, the inability to score runs caught up with the Twins, the team slipping back to a third-place finish. The season was not without its bright spots, one of those being formed during the previous offseason, when sent outfielder Paul Powell was sent to Los Angeles for outfielder Bob Darwin. A former pitcher, Darwin responded to the challenge of big league hurling by slugging 22 homers and driving home 80 runs.
November of 1972 was an active month for the Twins in the trade market, with three deals being completed in that time. One of those in particular was to result in big dividends for the Twins, as reliever Wayne Granger was sent to St. Louis in return for pitcher John Cumberland and outfielder Larry Hisle. Cumberland never made it with the Twins, but Hisle would soon develop into one of the American League's big hitters.
The team's hitting rebounded in 1973 to produce the highest team batting mark in the Major Leagues (.270). The pitching, with 20-game winner Bert Blyleven leading the way, was certainly solid enough to keep the Twins in strong contention through July. However, with August came a month-long slump which ended in third place. Thanks to the development of some promising newcomers during the season - notably pitchers Bill Campbell and Dave Goltz, infielder Jerry Terrell and Hisle - the season was far from being considered a loss.
The 1974 season did produce some fine individual efforts, among them Carew's league-leading .364 average and Darwin's 25 homers and 94 RBI. In addition, 1974 marked the final year for Killebrew as a Twins player. Killebrew, who ended his career a year later with Kansas City, hit 559 of his 573 home runs with the Griffith organization and was recognized as "Mr. Baseball" by many Twins fans during his years in Minnesota. Appropriately enough, the Twins honored Harmon by retiring his No. 3 uniform permanently. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Inexperience and injuries combined to make 1975 a most disappointing season for the organization. Buoyed by the potential displayed by young Twins players in the second half of the '74 season, Twins management was expecting a run for the flag in 1975. The team never did put it together, finishing fourth, far behind the first place Oakland A's.
Disturbed by the club's standing and low attendance, the club felt a managerial change necessary. On November 24, 1975, Gene Mauch was named the new Twins' field boss. A 16-year veteran of National League managing and a brilliant strategist, Mauch led the club to an 85-77 record and a third-place finish in his initial American loop season, the team's best year since 1970.
A couple of trades played major roles in the team's 1976 success. During the offseason, Danny Walton was traded to the Dodgers in return for second baseman Bobby Randall, a solid defensive player with a lot of baseball savvy. And then on June 1, the Twins traded Blyleven and Danny Thompson to Texas in exchange for infielders Mike Cubbage and Roy Smalley, and pitchers Jim Gideon and Bill Singer. Smalley, a promising young shortstop, teamed up with Randall to stabilize the infield, setting a club record for double plays in the process.
Another new face was rookie catcher Butch Wynegar, who proved himself one of the league's top receivers and a leading reason for optimism in the Twins camp.
The end of the '76 season marked the retirement of Oliva as an active player. "Tony-O" spent his entire playing career in the Twins organization and has since been retained as a coach. He won three American League batting titles in 11 years and is third behind Killebrew and Hrbek on the Twins career home-run list with 220. He was honored for his service to the Twins when his No. 6 was retired in 1991.
1977 could be named the "Year of Rod Carew" without protest from anyone in baseball circles. The Twins stellar first baseman tore American League pitching apart enroute to being named the American League's MVP, leading the circuit in average (.388), hits (239), runs scored (128) and triples (16), in addition to collecting 100 RBI and playing a brilliant first base. Moreover, the six-time batting champ was nationally recognized as baseball's best, appearing on the cover of several national publications and featured on network news shows.
Meanwhile, Mauch's men were in a tough pennant race with Kansas City, Chicago and Texas, the four teams battling for first place until after Labor Day, when the Royals became red-hot and ran away from the pack.
Still, Twins fans returned to watch this exciting bunch, led by Carew, Lyman Bostock (.336 average), Hisle (.302, 119 RBI to lead AL), Goltz (one of three AL pitchers to win 20 games) and Tom Johnson (won 16 games and saved 15 more in relief). More than a million fans passed through the Met's turnstiles, the first time since 1970, ending much speculation that baseball interest in the area was dying, and also giving the organization renewed hope for the future.
The club was hurt during the ensuing winter by the loss of players in the re-entry free-agent draft, most notably Hisle and Bostock.
Consequently, the Twins sported several new faces in 1978, including rookie stars Roger Erickson, Darrell Jackson and Hosken Powell, and veterans Mike Marshall and Jose Morales. These newcomers combined with the more-seasoned Minnesotans to overcome early-season problems and climb within 4½ games of first place at the All-Star break. Inconsistency plagued the team, however, resulting in a fourth-place finish, 19 lengths back of the division-winning Kansas City Royals.
Mr. Griffith and his aides responded to the disappointments of 1978 by making the subsequent offseason one of the club's most active ever in the trade market. Carew, who had won his seventh batting title in 1978 with a .333 mark, was dealt to the California Angels for pitcher Paul Hartzell, outfielder Ken Landreaux and promising rookies Brad Havens and Dave Engle. In an earlier trade with the Californians, outfielder Dan Ford was exchanged for catcher Danny Goodwin and infielder Ron Jackson. Veteran left-hander Jerry Koosman returned to his native state of Minnesota, the Twins obtaining him from the New York Mets for two young pitchers. Also, free-agent reliever Marshall elected to return to the Twins, for which he had experienced an excellent '78 season, in the process of becoming, at that time, the highest-paid player in the club's history.
The Carew trade signaled the end of an illustrious 12-year career in Minnesota for Rod, who was on the American League All-Star team each year since 1967 and compiled a .334 lifetime batting average with the Twins. An electee to the Hall of Fame in 1991, Carew became the second Twin to have his number retired.
If Carew's departure lowered the curtain on one era, the 1979 season could be perceived as the dawning of another. After opening the season with a 7-2 road trip, the Twins continued their winning ways, taking a firm grip on first place by mid-May. A short slump loosened that grip, but nonetheless the Twins remained embroiled in a tight pennant race with Kansas City and California for the duration...with a week to go, the Twins were but two games from first. A disappointing final week dropped Mauch's men to a final 82-80, fourth-place log, but by then their authenticity had been proven.
Standouts were plentiful. Roy Smalley slammed 24 home runs, drove in 96 and played solidly in the field. In addition, Roy was voted the American League's All-Star shortstop. John Castino hit .285 in this his rookie season, displaying a magician's glove at third base and voted co-winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Others, including Ken Landreaux (.305, 15 homers, 83 RBI), Ron Jackson (.271, 14, 68) and Rob Wilfong contributed to the offense and defense significantly.
On the mound, Koosman won AL Comeback Player of the Year honors with a 20-12, 3.38 campaign, capturing the imagination and support of Twins backers everywhere. Geoff Zahn chipped in a solid 13-7, 3.57 season in a supporting starter role, while Marshall was one of the league's finest in relief, pacing the loop with 32 saves, also winning ten while compiling a 2.65 ERA in his league record-setting 90 appearances.
The 77-84 season mark in 1980 was the result of off-years for several players from the previous season. On the plus side, though, was the continued development of John Castino (.302, 13 homers), rookie relief sensation Doug Corbett (8-6, 1.98, 23 saves), a new league fielding record by second baseman Wilfong (.995), a club record 31-game hitting streak by Landreaux and the solidness of veteran Koosman (16 wins), who inked a three-year contract with the club at the conclusion of the '79 season.
A red-letter date took place August 24, 1980, when Gene Mauch resigned as manager and was succeeded by coach Johnny Goryl. The team, plagued with inconsistency to that time, stabilized their play and produced at a 23-13, .639 clip, including a 12-game winning streak, the rest of the way, their 18-7 September record was the club's best ever. Goryl was subsequently signed to manage the club in 1981.
Ten miles north of all this Met Stadium action, the new home of the Twins and football Vikings was taking shape. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, its legal and lease groundwork completed in late 1979, was due to become the first air-supported dome in major league baseball in April of 1982. Located on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis, the facility, with its central location and invulnerability to the elements, bore the Twins hopes of a rejuvenation for annual attendance figures.
The Major League players strike of 1981 placed a black mark on the season for all teams, and the Twins didn't fare much better on the field, finishing with a 41-68 overall mark. In the season's "second half," however, the club remained in contention for the West Division crown into the final week.
A particularly poor start in 1981 signaled a managerial change on May 22, when Billy Gardner, the Twins original 1961 second baseman, took over for Goryl. Gardner, in this his first big league managing job, was in hopes of emulating his minor league managing career, which included six championships in 13 seasons.
The Metropolitan Stadium era came to a close on September 30, with the Kansas City Royals taking a 5-2 decision in the Met's final baseball game. Almost 16,000 fans turned out for the finale, played in chilly, rainy conditions ironically the same type of afternoon experienced for the Twins' 1961 opener at the stadium!
The 1982 season was a year of dramatic changes for the organization. The Metrodome, though saddled with first-year growing pains a lack of air conditioning the most prominent nonetheless proved to be an excellent stadium.
Major personnel changes were effected early on, as the club's management decided to switch its direction-following another slow start-and go with promising youngsters in the place of veterans. With that, Smalley was swapped to the Yankees for reliefer Ron Davis and minor league shortstop Greg Gagne; Corbett and Wilfong were dispatched to California for outfielder Tom Brunansky; and Erickson and Wynegar were traded to New York for Larry Milbourne, John Pacella and Pete Filson. The lack of experience among the rookies attenuated itself in a woeful 16-54 record by June 23, but from that point, the promise of these players began to blossom. The team played at a 44-48 clip the rest of the way, only a lack of solid relief pitching preventing a .500-plus mark over that span.
Standouts of '82 included Kent Hrbek, with his .301 average, 23 homers, 92 RBI and sterling defensive play; Gary Gaetti, the solid third baseman who totaled 25 home runs; Gary Ward, who slugged a club-leading 28 homers, driving in 91 runs as well; Brunansky, who rang up 20 home runs while contributing good outfield play; and Bobby Castillo, an off-season acquisition from the Dodgers who won a club-leading 13 games.
Virtually the same team returned for the 1983 season, and the added experience and cohesiveness of the group began to show with more victories. Although not a winning record, the 70-92 finish reflected a full 10-game improvement over 1982, as well as moving up two notches in the West Division standings, to fifth.
Brunansky led the Twins with 28 homers, while Hrbek drove in 84 runs and hit .297 to pace the regulars, also totaling 41 doubles to place fifth in the league. On a part-time basis, Mickey Hatcher hit a career-high .317 and Engle finished up with a .305 mark. On the pitching end, Ken Schrom (picked up in the spring as a free agent) delivered with a 15-8 record, even though he didn't join the club until the first week of May. Dominating the bullpen was Davis, who compiled the third-highest saves total in the Majors, 30.
The 1984 season began with off-field controversies grabbing the headlines. Griffith had a 20-year contract with the Metrodome which stated the club had to draw an average of 1.4 million fans in any three year period or he could break the lease and move the team. Griffith was threatening to exercise this option and move the Twins to Tampa, Florida. A group of local civic leaders banded together in an attempt to purchase enough tickets to gain support to keep the Twins in Minnesota. From mid-May to late-June, they administered a ticket buyout. On June 22, prominent local businessman Carl Pohlad stepped forward and signed an agreement in principle to purchase the team from Griffith and his sister, Mrs. Thelma Griffith Haynes, and keep the Twins in Minnesota. This ended the buyout plan, and on September 7, the deal was finalized ending an era of 72 years in which the Griffith family controlled the ballclub.
On the field, the Twins reached the .500 mark, 81-81, for the first time since 1979 (82-80). An off-season trade with Texas that brought pitchers John Butcher and Mike Smithson to the Twins in exchange for Gary Ward provided the Twins with two quality starters. The trio of Butcher, Smithson and Frank Viola combined to produce 46 of the club's 81 victories. Davis added 29 saves, while Kent Hrbek (.311, 27, 107) and Brunansky (.254, 32, 85) paced the offensive attack. 1984 also marked the emergence of rookie center fielder Kirby Puckett. He joined the team May 8 and recorded four hits in his first Major League game in California. Frank Viola led the staff with an 18-12 record, and Davis notched 29 saves.
For the first time in 20 years, in 1985 Minnesota played host to the 56th All-Star Game, July 16, as 54,960 witnessed a 6-1 win by the National League. The Twins' sole representative, Tom Brunansky, went hitless in his only at-bat, but was the winner in the All-Star home-run contest the day before the game. In a late-season deal the Twins acquired Bert Blyleven from the Indians for four players. It wasn't enough to keep them from finishing tied for fourth place (77-85), but it would pay dividends a couple of years down the road. June 21 marked a changing of the guard with Ray Miller replacing Gardner as Twins manager.
1986 was a rebuilding year. Blyleven joined Smithson and Viola for a full season. On June 20, the Twins sent Butcher to Cleveland for lefty Neal Heaton and a minor leaguer, but the pitching staff would struggle all season. Less than two months later the Twins traded struggling reliever Davis to the Chicago Cubs for relievers George Frazier and Ray Fontenot. Earlier in the season, the Twins tried to shore up their bullpen by acquiring Keith Atherton from the Oakland A's. While the pitching staff was struggling, the offense was explosive. Gaetti (.287, 34, 108) had his most productive season. Puckett went a power surge, hitting 31 home runs with 96 RBI, while hitting .328, after managing only four home runs his first two seasons. Hrbek and Brunansky added 29 and 23 homers, respectively. But the lack of pitching dropped the club to a 71-91 record and led to the firing of manager Miller on September 12. He was replaced by Tom Kelly, the third Twins manager in two years.
The off-season prior to the 1987 campaign proved to be a busy one for the Twins. The first major move occurred November 24, 1986, when Andy MacPhail was promoted to Executive Vice-President/General Manager. It didn't take him long to make his presence felt. On February 3, 1987, the Twins acquired ace reliever Jeff Reardon.
The 1988 season was one of accomplishment and also one of frustration. The Twins became the first American League team since the 1954 Yankees to improve its record the season after they won the World Series and not repeat as division champs. Even though they posted a 91-71 record, the Twins finished second in the A.L. West because the Oakland A's produced an incredible 104-58 record.
Although the Twins found themselves in second place from May 31 to the end of the season, many players had great years. Viola recorded a 24-7 record on his way to becoming only the second Twin (Perry, 1970) to win the American League Cy Young Award. Puckett hit .356, highest by a right-hand hitter in the A.L. since Joe DiMaggio's .357 in 1941. He also led the Majors in hits, multi-hit games and total bases while finishing second in batting and RBI. Hrbek (.312) and Gaetti (.301) also recorded career-high batting averages. As a team, the Twins led the Majors with a .421 slugging average.
Reardon once again proved why he was one of baseball's premier relievers by notching a club-record 42 saves, good for second in the Majors. The Twins received unexpected help from left-hander Allan Anderson. The 1982 second round pick was called up from Portland (AAA) early in the season and went on to produce a 16-9 record, with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. Combined with Viola, he helped stabilize a pitching staff that had a 3.93 ERA, lowest for the Twins since 1984 (3.85).
The Twins also set Major League records by committing only 84 errors (the previous record was 91) and by posting a .986 fielding percentage. The high-water mark for the club was 20 games over .500 and came after the final game, a 3-2 win over California. The drastic improvement was the club's 44-37 road record. The fans of Minnesota were also record-setters in 1988. The Twins became the first American League team to draw 3 million fans when 3,030,672 passed through the turnstiles.
The 1989 season will be remembered as the year the Twins gambled by trading away their best pitcher, Viola, to the New York Mets on July 31, in exchange for five young pitchers. With a lack of pitching depth, the Twins had few alternatives other than dealing Viola for what could turn out to be the nucleus of their pitching staff for years to come. In the deal, the Twins acquired a proven, 28-year-old veteran, Rick Aguilera, heralded rookie southpaw David West, considered to be the Mets' top prospect, rookie right-handers Kevin Tapani, a starter, and relievers Tim Drummond and Jack Savage. Despite struggling, the team finished in 5th place with an 80-82 record.
Allan Anderson followed up his ERA title-winning season by posting 17 wins to lead the staff. Offensively, the season will be remembered as the year Puckett won his first batting title as he hit .339. The Puck got 200+ hits (215) for the fourth straight season, including 45 doubles.
Following the '89 season, the Twins were faced with the dilemma of trying to re-sign free agents Hrbek and Reardon. After a couple of teams drove up the price on the big first baseman, the Twins finally won him back as he turned down more lucrative offers for a 5-year, $14-million contract, while the Twins allowed the veteran reliever to sign a huge three-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.
On paper, the Twins 1990 season appears to be terrible as they finished in last place for just the 3rd time since divisional play began in 1969. Despite their record, the Twins had their share of bright spots. Aguilera was converted from starter to stopper in the bullpen and responded by recording 32 saves. Right-hander Scott Erickson made the jump from Orlando (AA) to the Twins in June and finished the season strong, going 8-4 with a 3.27 ERA.
Brian Harper established himself as one of the game's best hitting catchers as he hit .294 and had the Majors' longest hitting streak of the season, 25 games. Shane Mack, acquired in the Major League draft in December 1989, provided a surprising spark as he was one of the teams most dependable hitters (.326) and showed good speed on the bases (13-17 stealing bases) and chasing down balls in the outfield.
The Twins also got in the record books in 1990. On July 17, in Boston, the Twins did something that had never been done in the history of Major League Baseball: They turned two triple plays. In the fourth inning, with the bases loaded and Erickson pitching, former Twin Tom Brunansky hit a sharp grounder to Gaetti at third, who stepped on the bag for the force out, fired to Al Newman at second and his relay to Hrbek was in time to get Bruno at first. In the eighth inning, with John Candelaria on the hill and runners on first and second, Jody Reed hit a one-hopper at Gaetti who again started a 5-4-3 triple play.
After the Twins' most successful spring training ever at their new spring home, at the Lee County Sports Complex in Ft. Myers, Fla., the club sputtered out of the starting gate, beginning the year 2-9 on two brutal West Coast trips. But Kelly's ship was soon righted, and behind the spectacular pitching of Scott Erickson, who won a club-record 12 consecutive games, the Twins soon closed the gap on first-place Texas and began to make their move as June rolled around.
The 1992 season saw the continuation of the success of the previous year. The Twins went 90-72, their third 90-win campaign in the last five, and it was accomplished with some record-setting individual and team accomplishments. Despite that, however, the Twins couldn't catch the Oakland A's and finished in second place.
Kirby Puckett reached 200 hits for the fifth time in his career and again reached 100 runs and 100 rbi, while hitting over .300 for the seventh time in nine seasons. But the highlights for many Twins fans came with his three grand slams, the first of his long career and good enough to tie the club record. He was twice named American League Player of the Month and his offense led the way all season long. Chuck Knoblauch and Shane Mack each established themselves as top-notch players, as they joined Puckett by scoring 100 runs to become the first trio of Twins to score 100 in team history. On September 1 at Detroit, Rick Aguilera notched his 109th save to become the Twins' all-time saves leader, and on September 27, Tom Kelly won his 523rd game as Twins manager, more than any other skipper in team history.
The Twins finished the 1993 season with a 71-91 (.438) record, which left them tied for fifth place with California. Rick Aguilera was named American League Pitcher of the Month for June; on the other end of the spectrum, Scott Erickson led the Majors in losses (19). Kent Hrbek become second the Twin (Killebrew) to reach 1,000 RBI and Brian Harper became just fourth catcher in last 40 years to hit .300 in three consecutive seasons. Kirby Puckett earned All-Star Game MVP honors (first Twin) with a homer and an RBI-double, July 13, Baltimore.
The 1993 season was one of milestones for Dave Winfield. He doubled off Jimmy Key for 500th career two-bagger, May 17 at New York, and hit his 450th career homer, off Russ Springer, August 1 at California. Dave became the 19th player ever to record 3,000 hits with a single off Dennis Eckersley in 9th inning, September 16 vs. Oakland.
The 1994 season, the Twins first in the new AL Central division, was overshadowed by the labor dispute and ended on August 12. On April 27, Scott Erickson became the third Twin to pitch a nine-inning no-hitter, and just second (Jack Kralick, August 26, 1962) to throw a scoreless nine-inning game with no hits, when he beat Milwaukee, 6-0, at the Metrodome. Chuck Knoblauch had an 85-game errorless streak and led the Majors in doubles. Kirby Puckett collected his 2,000th career hit off Bobby Witt, going 5-6 (sixth 5-plus hit game of career), April 8 vs. Oakland. He set the club record with 26 RBI in April. He homered off Mike Magnante to become Twins' all-time hits leader (2,086), June 26 vs. Kansas City. Kirby led the league in rbi (first Twin since Hisle in 1977).
August 4, 1994, is the date Twins fans will forever link with Kent Hrbek's retirement announcement. Kent, the first baseman who helped lead the Twins to two World Championships, and who ranks in top five in virtually every club offensive category, announced his retirement from baseball after 13 years, effective at the end of the season. With the strike-shortened season, his last game in a Twins uniform was August 10, when the Twins beat Boston, 17-7, in the Metrodome.
On September 13, Terry Ryan was named Vice President/General Manager, replacing Andy MacPhail who left to become President/CEO of the Chicago Cubs.
The regular season did not begin until April 26 and a 144-game schedule was played. The Twins finished 56-88 (.389) in fifth place, 44 games back. The Twins all-time saves leader, Rick Aguilera, was traded to Boston; Scott Erickson, Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie were also dealt. The season was not without its bright spots, however, as outfielder Marty Cordova was named American League Rookie of the Year (.277, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 20 SB).
Kirby Puckett scored his 1,000th career run, May 17 versus California, had his 1,000th career RBI, May 26 versus Texas and hit his 200th career home run off Felipe Lira, August 20 at Detroit.
During the 1995-96 offseason, the Twins continued their efforts to rebuild by bringing back Aguilera as a free agent along with St. Paul native Paul Molitor, third baseman Dave Hollins, center fielder Roberto Kelly and catcher Greg Myers. The offseason also seemed to be the starting point for discussions involving the possibility of a new outdoor baseball stadium in 1999.
Despite finishing 78-84 and chasing a wild card spot, the phrases "what if" and "if only" will come to mind when thinking of the 1996 season. A year filled with optimism turned into discouragement when the most popular player in Twins history, Kirby Puckett, awoke with blurred vision on the morning of March 28. Later diagnosed with incurable glaucoma, Puckett announced his retirement on July 12. During the offseason, Puckett was named the team's vice president of baseball; he will continue to be a member of the Twins organization for years to come.
The "what if" phrases stem from dreaming about Puckett batting behind Paul Molitor in one of the best offensive years in Twins history. Molitor had a career year in which he became the 21st player in Major League history to collect 3,000 hits by tripling off Jose Rosado, September 16 at Kansas City. The 40-year-old designated hitter led the league in hits, was second in at-bats and third in batting (.341). Molitor's season rubbed off on the rest of his teammates as they established club records for batting (.288), runs (877), hits (1633), doubles (332) and RBI (812).
Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was the Twins All-Star game representative and put together the finest season of his career by batting .341 with 35 doubles, 13 homers, 72 RBI and 45 stolen bases. During the offseason, the Twins added Minnesota native Terry Steinbach along with pitcher Bob Tewksbury through free agency and discussions about funding a new proposed outdoor baseball stadium began.
The Twins endured a long, frustrating year. Nagging injuries early on and disappointing performances from some key players led to a 68-94 finish. The year was highlighted by the retirement of Kirby Puckett's No. 34 on May 25 and the reunion of the 1987 World Series champions during the weekend of August 8-10. The brightest star on the field was pitcher Brad Radke, who put together a 20-win season and finished third in the Cy Young voting. His remarkable year included a 12-game win streak in 12 consecutive starts, a feat accomplished only two other times in the past 50 years.
The Twins outdoor stadium efforts came to a road block in the offseason. The state legislature voted down several proposals for funding and Twins owner Carl Pohlad reached a sale agreement of the team with North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, whose intention was to move the team there. The deal, however, was not finalized heading into the 1998 season. The offseason also consisted of the Twins honoring Chuck Knoblauch's request for a trade on February 6. They acquired top prospects from the New York Yankees in pitcher Eric Milton and outfielder Brian Buchanan.
The 1998 season consisted of promising young talent and a goodbye to one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. The '98 club struggled with the bat and on the mound, compiling a 70-92 record — their sixth consecutive losing season. However, the Twins did have solid individual performances as outfielder Matt Lawton had a breakout season. In September, the Twins called up a nucleus of young, talented players such as first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, third baseman Corey Koskie, pitcher Benj Sampson and outfielder Torii Hunter.
The end of the season marked the good-bye of 21-year veteran Paul Molitor. "Molly" played his last game on September 27 at the Metrodome. He singled to right field in the eighth inning off Cleveland's Doug Jones in the last at-bat of his Hall-of-Fame career. In typical Molitor fashion, he went from first base to third on a soft single to right, hustling all the way and sliding head first into the third-base bag. He would then score on a sacrifice fly, crossing the plate for the last time as the Metrodome crowd stood cheering. It was a fitting end to a glorious career.
The stadium issue became a non-issue in 1998 as Twins owner Carl Pohlad signed a two-year lease with the Metrodome assuring the Twins would play in Minnesota for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
1999 was the year of the rookie. Tom Kelly and the Minnesota Twins coaching staff trotted 17 rookies out to the field with the idea of throwing them in the water and seeing who could swim. It seems they may have found a few good swimmers.
Eric Milton started to emerge as a dominant pitcher, topping 200 innings pitched and providing the highlight of the season: a no-hitter vs. Anaheim on September 11. Cristian Guzman proved that he is a top-fielding shortstop, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz led the league with a stellar .997 fielding percentage, and Corey Koskie led the team with a .310 batting average. Chad Allen, Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones all had fair numbers in their rookie years and each showed flashes of brilliance.
Is there a future star or two in this list? Is this the core of a potential contending team in the future? These are the questions Twins fans were asking. The team finished 63-97, but the young players showed promise.
Despite finishing 69-93 — the fourth straight 90-loss season — the new foundation continued to solidify. At the plate, Matt Lawton hit .305 and made his first All-Star team; Corey Koskie impressed with a .300 batting/.400 on-base campaign; Jacque Jones showed glimpses of all-around stardom, hitting .285 with 19 home runs while playing a sterling outfield; and shortstop Cristian Guzman, who continued to dazzle with the glove, led the Majors with 20 triples.
On the mound, veteran LaTroy Hawkins may have found his true calling as a closer. He accumulated 14 saves and finished with a career-best 3.39 ERA. Eric Milton, who led the Twins with 13 victories, signed a four-year deal with the club after the season, ensuring the Twins a formidable 1-2 starter combo with Brad Radke.
The promising pieces finally came together to give Minnesota its first winning record since 1992. The Twins surprised many by getting off to a 14-3 start and led the AL Central division for much of the season. They were locked in a tight battle with the Cleveland Indians for a playoff berth before eventually finishing in second place with an 85-77 record - six games out of first.
Many players emerged to have breakout seasons. Center fielder Torii Hunter hit a team leading 27 home runs and earned his first AL Gold Glove Award. After spending the whole season in the minors in 2000, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz also earned a Gold Glove while batting .306. Pitcher Joe Mays was a 17-game winner and earned a spot on the AL All-Star team along with pitcher Eric Milton and shortstop Cristian Guzman. Third baseman Corey Koskie led the club with 103 RBIs while also smacking 26 homers.
The strong season also marked the end of an era. After 15-plus seasons in the dugout and two World Championships as manager, Tom Kelly retired from the Twins Oct. 12, 2001. Kelly managed 2,385 games, winning 1,140 while being ejected only five times.
Led by new manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins had to overcome threats of contraction and a late summer strike along with a lineup and rotation often racked with injuries. But with a never-say-die attitude always on display, Minnesota posted a 94-67 record and ran away with the AL Central title by 13 ½ games over the second-place White Sox. It was the Twins' first postseason berth since 1991.
For the second straight season, Torii Hunter led the club in home runs, with 29, and had 94 RBIs. He also took home his second consecutive Gold Glove Award for his tremendous play on defense. Gardenhire moved Jacque Jones to the leadoff spot and he responded by belting 27 homers, including 11 to lead off a game, and 85 RBIs.
On the mound, injuries to starters Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays decimated the rotation. Fortunately, Rick Reed carried the staff in the second half, going 9-2 down the stretch en route to an overall 15-7 record. The bullpen was considered the weakest link entering the season and emerged as one of baseball's best. First-year closer Eddie Guardado established a new club record with 45 saves. Set-up men J.C. Romero and LaTroy Hawkins were also sensational in the late innings.
Hunter, Guardado and catcher A.J. Pierzynski were named to the AL squad at the All-Star game in Milwaukee. Hunter was voted by the fans to start and rewarded their choice by robbing Barry Bonds of a home run with a phenomenal leap at the fence.
The Twins also made plenty of noise in the postseason, defeating the heavily favored Oakland Athletics in the deciding fifth game of the American League Division Series. Pierzynski hit .438 in the series and provided a key two-run home run in the Game 5 victory. Radke was back in form for the postseason and picked up two ALDS victories.
In the American League Championship Series, Minnesota faced a red-hot Anaheim Angels club. After winning Game 1 of the series at home with the help of a nearly flawless eight-inning pitching performance by Mays, the Twins dropped the next four games to give Anaheim its first American League title.
Besides Hunter's Gold Glove, the Twins earned other awards and honors. The organization was named Baseball America's and SportsTicker's Organization of the Year and General Manager Terry Ryan was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. Gardenhire was third in AL Manager of the Year voting.
Repeating as American League Central champions was the main mission for the 2003 Twins, and it was accomplished. But the ultimate objective of reaching and winning the World Series remained elusive for Minnesota.
After dominating their division during a 94-win 2002 season, the 2003 campaign was filled with several high and low moments, but the Twins remained persistent and won a respectable 90 games.
Closer Eddie Guardado was selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game.
The Twins met the Yankees in the AL Division Series and posted a Game 1 victory at Yankee Stadium. New York won the next three games and claimed the series in four games.
Torii Hunter's spectacular defensive play was again rewarded when the center fielder earned his third consecutive AL Gold Glove Award.
The year will also be remembered as being the last hurrah for a few longtime veteran players, who were bid farewell after the season.
The Twins made it three in a row by taking the American League Central again with a 92-70 record -- nine games ahead of the second-place White Sox.
This time, the cast of characters was different -- with players like Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, A.J. Pierzynski and Eric Milton with new clubs and Doug Mientkiewicz dealt at the trading deadline. But several new faces stepped in or stepped up. First-year closer Joe Nathan owned the ninth inning with 44 saves. Outfielder Lew Ford came up from Triple-A the first week and helped carry the offense. Fans also got to know Justin Morneau, Henry Blanco and Juan Rincon.
And no one will forget the dominance of lefty Johan Santana, who went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA to bring a Cy Young Award to Minnesota for the first time since 1988. Torii Hunter continued his defensive brilliance, earning his fourth consecutive AL Gold Glove Award.
It wasn't all smooth -- hometown native and former overall No. 1 pick Joe Mauer's highly anticipated rookie season was limited to 35 games because of a left knee injury and several other regular players spent time on the disabled list.
A successful season came to an abrupt ending when the Yankees eliminated the Twins in the American League Division Series in four games for the second consecutive year.
Coming off three straight American League Central titles, the Twins were highly favored to make it four straight, but injuries and a struggling offense resulted in a third-place finish, 16 games behind the eventual World Series champion White Sox. After starting out strong with a 15-8 record in April, it was a downhill struggle the rest of the season.
The pitching, highlighted by All-Stars Johan Santana (16-7, 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeouts in 231 2/3 innings) and Joe Nathan (43 saves in 47 chances, 2.70 ERA), kept the Twins in games. However, no other starter won 10 games as former ace Brad Radke and Carlos Silva each posted nine victories. Jesse Crain ranked second in wins with 12 and posted a 2.71 ERA out of the bullpen.
Offensively, Joe Mauer led the team in batting average (.294) in his first full season, while Jacques Jones hit a team-leading 24 homers, but finished with a .249 average. Justin Morneau belted 22 dingers despite hitting just .239. Matt LeCroy chipped in with 17 homers in part-time duty.
One of the biggest injuries the club suffered was when Torii Hunter, who carried the offense most of the year and finished with 14 homers, 56 RBIs and 23 steals, went down with a fractured foot on July 28 at Fenway Park. The injury all but sealed the Twins' fate, as they were several games back at the time. Despite being limited to just 98 games, Hunter took home his fifth consecutive AL Gold Glove Award for his stellar play in center field.
The Twins overcame a rough first two months of the season where they trailed by as many as 12.5 games, to capture their fourth American Central title in the past five seasons. A streak of winning 22 of 24 games toward the end of June helped propel them into a tight race down the stretch with the Tigers. But despite not leading the division a single day during the season, the Twins walked away with the division title after they won the final game of the year.
Joe Mauer hit .347 to become the first American League catcher to win a batting title. Johan Santana earned his second AL Cy Young award in the past three seasons as he led the Majors with a 2.77 ERA, 19 wins and 245 strikeouts. And Justin Morneau became the first Twin to hit 30 home runs since 1987 en route to earning AL MVP honors.
After winning the AL Central the previous season and returning nearly their entire roster, the Twins were once again considered a strong contender for another division title. But injuries, an unstable pitching rotation and some offensive woes led the Twins to a third-place finish and their first losing season (79-83) since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2002.
Catcher Joe Mauer was unable to defend his batting title as he was plagued by numerous leg injuries that limited his time on the field. Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter provided the highlights offensively. Morneau backed up his AL MVP '06 season by leading the Twins with 31 home runs and 111 RBIs. Hunter had a team-high 45 doubles while hitting .287 with a career-high 107 RBIs.
Johan Santana once again led the Twins rotation, recording 15 wins and posting a 3.33 ERA. The left-handed ace also set a Twins record for strikeouts in a game with 17 against the Rangers on Aug. 19, 2007. However, the rest of the Twins rotation saw its share of upheaval, including veteran additions Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson who didn't last past May.
The bullpen was also hit by the injury bug as Jesse Crain, Glen Perkins and Dennys Reyes all went down with injuries on the same roadtrip in May. Pat Neshek delivered a stellar first half, posting a 1.70 ERA while earning All-Star consideration. Closer Joe Nathan was the 'pen's anchor yet again as he recorded 37 saves, marking his fourth straight seasons of 35-plus saves.
The Twins overcame a rough first two months of the season where they trailed by as many as 12.5 games, to capture their fourth American Central title in the past five seasons. A streak of winning 22 of 24 games toward the end of June helped propel them into a tight race down the stretch with the Tigers. But despite not leading the division a single day during the season, the Twins walked away with the division title after they won the final game of the year.
It was a season that was reminiscent of 2006 - at least when it came to the production of the team's M&M boys. Joe Mauer bounced back from his injury-plagued 2007 season and once again led the American League with his .328 batting average, becoming only the second catcher in Major League history to win two batting titles. Justin Morneau delivered another MVP-worthy performance, leading the team with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs. Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and Alexi Casilla added some speed and base stealing threats to the lineup. And The Twins showed that focusing on speed rather than power in the lineup could work, as they scored 829 runs (third most in franchise history).
The Twins rotation might have been the biggest surprise. The Twins' relatively inexperienced starting staff, which for most of the second half featured five starters age 26 or younger, was a large part of the club's success. Five starters finished with double-digit wins.
Late-inning bullpen woes proved costly toward the end of the season for the Twins. The relief corps was 5-15 after Aug. 4. But there were some bright spots. Joe Nathan proved once again why he's considered to be one of the best closers in the game, posting a 1.33 ERA and tallying 39 saves.
In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after the ballclub said goodbye to stars Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, the Twins took the baseball world by surprise as they forced a one-game playoff with the White Sox for the AL Central title. The Twins went 88-75 but fell just short of another division championship, losing 1-0 to Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field in the playoff game.
Despite toiling around the .500 mark for most of the season, the Twins were able to capture their fifth AL Central title in eight years thanks to a surprising late September run. The Twins trailed the Tigers by seven games on Sept. 6, but the club won 16 of their final 20 games to force a one-game playoff with Detroit for the division title. One year after losing game No. 163 by one run to the White Sox, the Twins found a way to top the Tigers, 6-5, in a thrilling 12-inning tie-breaker at the Metrodome to earn a postseason bid. The Twins finished with an 87-76 record, their seventh winning season in eight years under manager Ron Gardenhire. Joe Mauer had an MVP caliber season for Minnesota in spite of the fact that he missed the entire first month of the season due to lower back inflammation. Mauer won his third batting title after hitting .365, making him the first catcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat. He also led the league in on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587) while setting career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (96). Joe Nathan continued his run as one of the top closers in the league, setting a club record for saves in a season with 47.
The starting rotation had been expected to be a strength for the Twins but the group struggled early. By mid-August injuries cost Minnesota three starting pitchers -- Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano -- who began the season in the rotation. But a waiver trade in August brought Carl Pavano to the Twins and the veteran gave the club a boost, going 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA in 12 starts for the club. Injuries also plagued the ballclub in other areas. Third baseman Joe Crede was limited to just 90 games before undergoing his third back surgery in three years at the end of the September. First baseman Justin Morneau put together another solid season with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, but he saw his season cut short after a stress fracture was discovered in his lower back with three weeks remaining in the season. Still the Twins managed to make the final season in the Metrodome special by adding one more postseason memory. The club only lasted three games in the American League Division Series as Minnesota was swept in three games by the Yankees.
It was business as usual for the Twins in what just might have been Ron Gardenhire's best managerial effort. They sat 4½ games out of first, in third place, and just three games over .500 at the start of the second half, only to put on their patented closing kick and claim the sixth AL Central title in nine years. Minnesota closed with a 48-26 second-half showing, including a 10-3 record against the second-place White Sox and a three-game sweep in Chicago from Sept. 14-16 to lock down the division crown. The Twins survived major injuries to key players, with closer Joe Nathan lost for the season due to Tommy John Surgery, and Most Valuable Player candidate Justin Morneau basically missing the season's final three months because of after-effects coming from a concussion. But Jon Rauch and then non-waiver trade deadline pickup Matt Capps capably picked up the slack at the closer's spot with 37 combined saves, while the addition of free agent slugger Jim Thome helped lessen the impact of Morneau's absence. Thome cranked 25 home runs in just 340 plate appearances, including a walk-off blast against White Sox All-Star Matt Thornton on Aug. 17 at Target Field.
Thome certainly did not emerge as the Twins' only bright spot. Francisco Liriano asserted himself back at the top of the Minnesota rotation with a 14-10 record and 3.62 ERA, earning the AL's Comeback Player of the Year award. Carl Pavano provided a perfect lefty-righty one-two punch among Minnesota starters with a 17-11 record and 3.75 ERA. Rookie Danny Valencia took control at third base with a .311 average, seven home runs and 40 RBIs, while Delmon Young became an offensive force through his .298 average, 21 home runs, 46 doubles and 112 RBIs. Joe Mauer's numbers weren't quite as good as his 2009 MVP performance, but his .327 average, nine home runs, 43 doubles and 75 RBIs would be considered sensational by mere mortal standards. Unfortunately for the Twins, their season ended as it did in 2009 in the Division Series round of the AL playoffs. Whereas the Twins seemingly have the White Sox number with the AL Central on the line, the Yankees showed the same control of the Twins in the postseason during another three-game sweep.2011 -
After making the postseason the previous two seasons, the Twins struggled in 2011, losing 99 games to finish with the worst record in the American League. Injuries played a large role in the dip, as key players such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span missed large chunks of time due to various ailments and injuries. But Jim Thome provided a major highlight by joining the 600 home run club with a two-homer game against the Tigers on Aug. 15.2012 -
The Twins finished with the worst record in the American League for a second consecutive season in '12. The rotation was the main culprit, as Minnesota starters combined for the second-worst ERA in the Majors. The club had one All-Star, as Joe Mauer returned to form after battling injuries in '11. Josh Willingham also had a monster first year with the Twins, hitting 35 homers to win his first Silver Slugger Award. After the season, Terry Ryan shed the interim label from his title as general manager.2014 -
The Twins entered the 2014 season hoping to have a bolstered rotation after the signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey in the offseason, but it wasn't to be as Twins starters finished with the worst ERA in the Majors en route to a 92-loss season. Nolasco struggled and Pelfrey made just five starts before undergoing season-ending surgery, but Hughes did emerge as one of the best starters in the American League and set the record for the best single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio by a starter in Major League history. So there were bright spots, especially from young players such as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, who were two of the top rookies in the AL. The Twins also hosted the All-Star Game at Target Field with homegrown closer Glen Perkins getting the save with his teammate Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. The offense also got going after the All-Star break, and the Twins finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored to give them optimism heading into 2015. But after a fourth straight season with at least 90 losses, the Twins made a managerial change, hiring Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to replace long-time manager Ron Gardenhire. The Twins had a busy offseason after hiring Molitor, as they also added veterans Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana via free agency.