WEEDS — With highs, lows, baseball’s here
As I write, Opening Day for the Twins at Target Field is days away. The forecast is for sunny, a light breeze, and a high of 83. In Tucson. Minnesota? A scoach cooler.
Regardless, baseball is here. For the next six months, Twins fans will be in a tiny bit better mood after a win and a touch grumpier after a loss. Don’t worry, it’s not football. Football fans ride giant waves of agony and ecstasy. Baseball fans would keel over by June if we took it that hard.
The Twins and my consciousness arrived in Minnesota about the same time. This is the 52nd year of our relationship. During that time the Twins have won 4,138 games and lost 4,147. That’s virtually even. It’s probably about the same for me; I win some, I lose some. The Twins and I have had good years, so-so years, and a few we’d rather forget.
Here are my bona fides as a Twins fan. I was standing outside of St. Mary’s School when Sandy Koufax struck out Bob Allison to end the 1965 World Series. I was a fourth grader listening on a transistor radio. To my amazement, the sun came up the next day.
I was on a ladder painting a shop ceiling in September 1984 when a surprising Twins team fell out of first place after Ron Davis gave up a home run to Jamie Quirk. It was the only at-bat Quirk ever had for the Cleveland Indians. If that ladder were higher, I might not be here today.
I was at Meyer’s Bar after softball in July 1992 when the unmemorable Eric Fox homered off Rick Aguilera, again dropping the Twins out of first place. In that exact moment, the Twins excellent run that included two World Series ended. Years wandering in the desert would commence.
Oh, it hasn’t been all bad. Like I said, the record is almost exactly fifty-fifty. I was in Milwaukee in August, 1987 when Kirby went six for six and had ten hits over two games. I was at the Dome for Game 163 in 2009 when the Twins beat Detroit in 12 heart-wrenching innings.
In between the highs and lows, thousands of games I don’t remember were on the radio while I went about my life. In the car, in the tractor, in the kitchen, Twins’ seasons have played out. A lot of times the game is on the radio, and I don’t even know the score. In 1998 when it appeared that the Twins would move to North Carolina, I tried to imagine not having a team and a season and the radio on. I couldn’t.
All in all, the Twins have been a good team to follow. Imagine being a Yankee fan. Your team wins and wins and wins. If sports are a metaphor for life, that’s got to be someone else’s life. What the heck would I do with all that unfettered joy? Opposite that, imagine being a Cubs fan where whole generations pass between winners. The Twins have been a Little Red Riding Hood-team: not too good, not too bad, just about right.
Not to brag, but I did predict that the Twins would win the World Series in 1987 and 1991. That is less impressive when I admit that I have predicted that for 52 years in a row. And, by the way, I am predicting the Twins will win the World Series this year.
You can make a case that following a pro sports team is a complete waste of time. Does it make me healthier or wealthier? Not in the least. Does it make me a better husband or farmer? Nope. Is there any logic in caring about a group of mercenary athletes with “Minnesota” stitched on their jerseys? No. OK, can we get back to baseball now?
Something struck me a while ago when I was thinking about baseball instead of whatever I was supposed to be thinking about. The Twins best seasons have evolved around groups of talented players that arrived about every twenty years. That is the length of a generation to sociologists, a nice coincidence.
The Twins landed in Minnesota in 1961. The team came from Washington, D.C., where they had been “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” They brought with them a core of young players whose names became legend in the upper Midwest: Killebrew, Allison, Battey, Kaat. With later additions of Oliva and Carew, the Twins were one of the best teams in baseball for a decade.
In the early Eighties, Hrbek, Gaetti, Viola and Puckett came on the scene. They paid their dues with losing seasons. That made it all the more enjoyable to watch as they climbed to the top to collect two World Series trophies.
In 2000, the Twins had their eighth losing season post-Eric Fox. The few fans that weren’t showing up to get a bobble head noticed there were seeds of hope: Mientkiewicz, Koskie in the infield; Hunter, Jones in the outfield; Radke, Santana on the mound. Better seasons followed. They were such likeable players that they ended up on the cover of ESPN The Magazine where they were labeled “The Team that Saved Baseball.”
By that pattern, the next wave of significant talent should arrive in 2020. But, hey, I’m 57. We aren’t getting any younger around here. If the baseball gods want to accelerate things, that would be fine with this fan. Maybe Aaron Hicks, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton can usher in the next winning era while I’m still young enough to get around the bases.