Thursday, May 13, 2021
Kirby Puckett hit one of his most important home run in the 10th inning of the sixth game of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1991.

High expectations for Twins in 2021

“Let's Play Ball!

The Minnesota Twins Major League Baseball team enters its 60th year with the 2021 season starting Thursday, April 1 with the season opener in Milwaukee.

As we embark on another Major League Baseball season, we are intent on forgetting how the coronavirus interrupted sports activities around the world.

Looking at prospects for the 2021 Twins team, true fans are ecstatic that we will once again see a 162-game season, rather than a shortened 60-game season of last year.

I have been an avid Twins fan since they came to Minnesota from Washington, D.C. in 1961. During that timeline, I have seen lots of Twins games and take this moment to sit back and reflect on my favorite Twins players and my favorite all-time Twins games that I have witnessed in person.

Favorite players

Our readers of the Times might disagree with my choices but that's what is so great about our national pastime. We all have our favorite players to remember.

I will choose two Twins players for each position, except the outfield.

FIRST BASE

Kent Hrbek

Hrbek is a homegrown product of Minnesota, growing up in Bloomington, not far from the Twins' first stadium named Metropolitan Stadium. Hrbek played his entire 14-year career (1981-1994) with the Twins. He will be long remembered for his grand slam home run in the 1987 World Series, Game Six, against the St. Louis Cardinals. He also caught the final out in leading the Twins to a world championship.

Justin Morneau

A four-time All-Star, Morneau played for the Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox from 2003 to 2013. He was named the 2006 American League Most Valuable Player in 2006.

SECOND BASE

Rod Carew

A Hall of Famer elected in 1991, Carew played for the Twins from 1967 to 1978 and for the California Angels from 1979 to 1985. He won seven American League batting titles.

Brian Dozier

Dozier made his MLB debut in 2012 with the Twins. He played for the Twins from 2012 to 2018 and then also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nations and New York Mets. He was a one-time All-Star in 2015 and won a Gold Glove Award in 2017. He retired in 2021.

THIRD BASE

Harmon Killebrew

A Most Valuable Player in 1969, Killebrew finished with 573 home runs in his baseball career. He was elected to the National Hall of Fame in 1984. He died on May 17, 2011 at age 85.

Rich Rollins

He played for the Twins from 1961 to 1968 and also played for the Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians during his 10-year career. He hit .269 with 77 home runs and 399 runs batted in during his career.

SHORTSTOP

Greg Gagne

A fixture for the Twins at shortstop for eight seasons, Gagne was a member of the 1987 Twins World Series champion team. He also played for the Kansas City Royals and the LA Dodgers. Gagne batted .254 with 111 home runs and 604 runs batted in during his career.

Zoilo Versales

An American League Most Valuable Player in 1965, Versalles led his team to the 1965 World Series against the LA Dodgers. he played for the Senators and Twins from 1959 to 1967. He closed out his career with the Atlanta Braves in 1971.

OUTFIELD

Kirby Puckett

An all-time favorite of many, Kirby Puckett gained the Baseball Hall of Famer with these statistics: .318 batting average, 2,304 hits, 207 home runs and 1085 runs batted in. He helped lead the Twins to two World Series titles. He played from 1984 to 1995.

Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter was a five-time All-Star, won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards as a center fielder and was a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He played for the Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Detroit Tigers from 1997 to 2015.His statistics included a .277 batting average, 2,452 hits, 353 home runs and 1391 runs batted in.

Tony Oliva

A three-time American League batting champ and Rookie of the Year (1965), Tony Oliva played his entire 15-year career with the Twins. His lifetime batting average was .304. He had 220 home runs and 947 runs batted in.

CATCHER

Joe Mauer

Another home-grown Minnesota boy, Joe Mauer played his 15-year career with the Twins. He batted .308, had 2125 hits, 143 home runs and 923 runs batted in. He was a six-time All-Star and is the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles and the only catcher to ever win a batting title in the American League. He also won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards. He earned the American League's Most Valuable Award in 2009.

Earl Battey

Battey played with the Chicago White Sox from 1955-1959 and then played for the Senators (1960) and the Twins from 1961-1967. He won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards. For his career, he batted .270 with 104 home runs and 449 runs batted in.

PITCHERS

Johan Santana

A two-time Cy Young winner, Santana played for the Twins from 2000 to 2007. He was then traded to the New York Mets where he played from 2008-2012. He had a record of 139-78, an earned run average of 3.20 and strikeouts totaling 1988.

Jack Morris

Hall of Famer Jack Morris, another Minnesota prodigy coming from Minnesota, maybe pitched one of the top World Series games ever as he led the Twins to a World Championship against Atlanta in 1991. He was the winner in a 10-inning performance in Game 7. He played on four World Series championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays. He was a five-time All-Star. His stats included a 254-186 record with a 3.90 ERA and 2478 strikeouts.

Bert Blyleven

Born in the Netherlands, Bert Blyleven is one of the most popular Twins in their history. He ranks fifth all-time among pitchers in strikeouts (3701). Blyleven also made the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. He pitched for the Twins from 1970 to 1976 and from 1985 to 1988. He also pitch for the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels. His record was 287-250 with a .331 ERA.

To close out my Twins history pitch, I reveal my choice for Best Twins Manager (Tom Kelly, record of 1140-1244). My favorite Twin all-time: Harmon Killebrew.

Top Twins reliever was Rick Aguilera. Top DH Twin is Nelson Cruz. He is followed by Jim Thome.

Games I attended and will remember forever:

            • 1987 World Series win over St. Louis, Kent Hrbek hits grand slam home run in the sixth game.

            • 1991 World Series win over Atlanta, sixth game home run hit by Kirby Puckett to win the game.

            • 1991 World Series win over Atlanta, seventh game, Jack Morris  pitches a 1-0 extra inning gem.

            • July 4, 1961 pinch hit grand slam home run by Julio Becquer in the bottom of the ninth inning. The home run gave the Twins a walk-off win over the White Sox.

 

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