History of the Minnesota Twins

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Minnesota Twins are an American professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and play in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The team is named after the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1901 as the Washington Senators. In 1905 the team changed its official name to the Washington Nationals.[1] The name "Nationals" would appear on the uniforms for only 2 seasons, and would then be replaced with the "W" logo for the next 52 years. The media often shortened the nickname to "Nats". Many fans and newspapers (especially out-of-town papers) persisted in using the "Senators" nickname. Over time, "Nationals" faded as a nickname, and "Senators" became dominant. Baseball guides would list the club's nickname as "Nationals or Senators", acknowledging the dual-nickname situation.

In its 108-year history, the franchise has employed 29 managers[2] and won 3 World Series championships. Seven managers have taken the franchise to the postseason, with current manager Ron Gardenhire leading them to six playoff appearances, the most in their franchise history.[3] Two managers have won the World Series with the franchise: Bucky Harris, in 1924 against the New York Giants;[4] and Tom Kelly, in 1987 against the St. Louis Cardinals[5] and 1991 against the Atlanta Braves.[6]

Team history[edit]

Kansas City Blues: 1894-1900[edit]

The Kansas City Blues were a team that played in the Western League from 1894 to 1899. That league was reorganized and renamed The American League by Ban Johnson in 1900 and played as a minor league that year. Its intention, however, was to compete with the National League as a "Major" league, which it then began doing so in 1901. The Blues, along with four of the seven other teams, made that move and were part of the reorganization. However, when the American League began its Major League status in 1901, the Blues team had relocated to Washington and officially became the Washington Senators.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1894 68-59 3rd Jim Manning none
1895 73-52 3rd Jim Manning none
1896 69-66 5th Jim Manning none
1897 40-99 7th Jim Manning none
1898 88-51 1st Jim Manning League Champs
1899 53-70 7th (t) Jim Manning none
1900 69-70 5th Jim Manning none

Washington Nationals/Senators: 1901–1960[edit]

Minnesota Twins: 1961 to present[edit]

A unique name for a unique situation[edit]

The name "Twins" derives from the popular name of the region, the Twin Cities. Knowing about the bitter century-long rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Griffith was determined not to alienate fans in either city by naming the team after one city or the other. Instead, he proposed to name his team the Twin Cities Twins. However, after a meeting with state officials, a decision then unprecedented in American professional baseball was made.[7] The team would be named after its home state and became known as the Minnesota Twins on November 26, 1960. The NFL expansion Minnesota Vikings had announced their name on September 27, 1960. This was one month before the Senators moved to Minnesota. Later, the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Texas Rangers (coincidentally, the relocated expansion Senators), Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins), Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks would follow their lead.

However, the original "Twin Cities Twins" TC logo was kept until 1987, when the Twins adopted their current uniforms. By this time, the Twins felt they were established enough that they could place an "M" on their caps without making St. Paul think it stood for Minneapolis. The "TC" logo returned to one version of the home uniforms in 2002, as did the team's original cartoon logo: two players representing the area's two minor league teams displaced by the Twins—the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints--shaking hands over the Mississippi River, which runs between the two cities.

1960s: The Twins arrive in Minnesota[edit]

The Twins were eagerly greeted in Minnesota when they arrived in 1961. They brought a nucleus of talented players: Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Camilo Pascual, Zoilo Versalles, Jim Kaat, Earl Battey, and Lenny Green. The Twins won 91 games in 1962, the most by the franchise since 1933.

The Twins won 102 games and the American League Pennant in 1965, driven by the exciting play of superstar sluggers Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva and flashy play of league MVP Zoilo Versalles. However, they were defeated in the 1965 World Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games; each home team had won until Game 7, when Sandy Koufax shut out the Twins 2–0 in Minnesota. The Twins scored a total of two runs in their four losses, and were shut out three times, twice by Koufax. Although disappointed with the near-miss, the championship drive cemented the team's relationship with the people of Minnesota. The Twins would wait 22 years to return to the World Series; they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the 1987 Series.

In 1967, the Twins were involved in one of the closest pennant races in baseball history. Heading into the final weekend of the season, the Twins, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Tigers all had a shot at clinching the American League championship. With two games left to play, the Twins and Red Sox were 1 game apart atop the standings; moreover, the two remaining games each team had to play happened to be against each other. Unfortunately for Minnesota baseball fans, the Red Sox won both games and clinched their first pennant since 1946, finishing with a 92–70 record. The Twins and Tigers both finished a game behind, at 91–71, while the White Sox were three games out, at 89–73.

In 1969, Billy Martin was named manager. Martin pushed aggressive base running, with Rod Carew stealing home seven times.[8] The Twins won the American League West, led by Rod Carew (.332, his first batting title), Tony Oliva (.309, 24 HR, 101 RBI) and league MVP Harmon Killebrew (49 HR, 140 RBI).[9] Unfortunately, the Twins were swept by the Baltimore Orioles, who had set a franchise record of 109–53, in the first American League Championship Series. The Orioles would lose to the "Miracle Mets" in the 1969 World Series.

1970s: From first place to mediocrity[edit]

The team continued to post winning records through 1971, winning the first two American League West division titles. However, they then entered a decade-long slump, finishing around .500 for the next eight years. Tony Oliva and Rod Carew continued to provide offensive power, but Killebrew's home run production decreased, as injuries impacted his effectiveness, and the pitching staff languished. Killebrew's final season with the Twins was the 1974 season.

Owner Calvin Griffith faced financial difficulty with the start of free agency. While other owners had fortunes made in other businesses, Griffith's only income came from baseball. He ran the Twins as a family-owned business, employing many family members, and had to turn a profit each season. Stars Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle left as free agents after the 1977 season and prompted the trade of Rod Carew after the 1978 season.

(1980–1992) Twins dynasty - enter Joe DiMaggio Jr: the Tom Kelly era[edit]

In the early 1980s, The Twins fell further, winning only 37% of its games from 1981 to 1982. They had their worst season in Minnesota in 1982, with a 60–102 record, the worst the franchise had since the 1904 season (that team went 38–113). It was the first (and thus far the only) 100-loss season in Minnesota. From their arrival in 1961 through 1981, the team played its games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, a suburb south of the Twin Cities. The Mall of America now occupies the spot where the "Old Met" stood, complete with home plate and the seat where Harmon Killebrew hit a 520 foot home run, both of those landmarks are located inside of Nickelodeon Universe. The 1982 season brought the team indoors, into Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which is in downtown Minneapolis near the Mississippi River.

In 1984, Calvin Griffith sold the Twins to Minneapolis banker Carl Pohlad. In 1985, Minnesota hosted the All-Star Game at Metrodome, with the National League winning the game 6-1 over the American League. Future World Series MVP Jack Morris was the losing pitcher for the American League.

After several losing seasons in the Dome, a nucleus of players acquired during the waning years of the Griffith regime (Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, Frank Viola) combined with a few good trades (Bert Blyleven), intelligent free agent acquisitions (Al Newman, Roy Smalley), and a rising star in Kirby Puckett, combined to return the team to the World Series for the first time since 1965, defeating the Detroit Tigers (who won the World Series three years earlier) in the ALCS along the way. The dynamic play of the new superstars electrified the team and propelled the Twins to a seven-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 1987 World Series. All games in the 1987 series were won by the home team.

The 1987 Twins set a record for fewest regular season victories by a World Series champion with 85 and a .525 winning percentage. This record was broken by the 2006 Cardinals, who won the World Series after going 83–79 during the regular season and a .513 percentage. While their 56–25 record at Metrodome was the best overall home record for 1987, the Twins had an appalling 29–52 mark away from Metrodome and they only won nine road games after the All-Star break.

The Twins won more games in 1988, but could not overcome the powerhouse division rival Oakland Athletics (who in turn lost the 1988 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers), even though pitcher Frank Viola won the Cy Young Award in that year. 1989 saw a decline in the win column though Puckett would win the batting title that season.

The Twins surprisingly did quite poorly in 1990, finishing last in the AL West division with a record of 74–88, 29 games behind the Oakland Athletics, the eventual World Series runner-up. 1991 brought breakout years from newcomers Shane Mack, Scott Leius, Chili Davis, and rookie of the year Chuck Knoblauch, along with consistently excellent performances from stars Hrbek and Puckett. The pitching staff excelled as well, with Scott Erickson, Rick Aguilera, and St. Paul native Jack Morris having all-star years. The Twins defeated the Atlanta Braves 4 games to 3 to win the nail-biting 1991 World Series, which is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.[10] Game 6 is widely considered to be one of the greatest World Series games ever played. Facing elimination, and with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Kirby Puckett stepped up to the plate and drove the game-winning home run into the left field seats to force a decisive Game 7. The home run was Puckett's only walk-off home run of his career. In the final and deciding game, Jack Morris pitched a 10 inning shutout, viewed by many baseball historians as one of the greatest pitching performances in a 7th game of the World Series, to beat the Braves 1–0 and bring home the championship to Minnesota. 1991 was considered to be the first season that any team that ended in last place the previous year advanced to the World Series; Both the Twins and Braves accomplished the unprecedented feat. ESPN rated the 1991 World Series as the best ever played in a 2003 centennial retrospective of the World Series. As with the 1987 World Series, which the Twins also won, all 7 games were won by the home team.

The Twins were the first World Series champion to lose three away games and still win the series by winning all four home games; doing it in 1987 and again in 1991. The Arizona Diamondbacks duplicated this feat in 2001, when they became the first National League team to do so.

1992 saw another superb Athletic team that the Twins could not overcome, despite a 90–72 season and solid pitching from John Smiley. After that season, the Twins again fell into an extended slump, posting a losing record each year for the next eight years: 71–91 in 1993, 50–63 in 1994, 56–88 in 1995, 78–84 in 1996, 68–94 in 1997, 70–92 in 1998, 63–97in 1999 and 69–93 in 2000. From 1994 to 1997 a long sequence of retirements and injuries hurt the team badly, and Tom Kelly spent the remainder of his managerial career attempting to rebuild the Twins. In 1998, management cleared out the team of all of its players earning over 1 million dollars (except for pitcher Brad Radke) and rebuilt from the ground up; the team barely avoided finishing in last place that year, finishing just five games ahead of the Detroit Tigers and avoiding the mark of 100 losses by eight games.

In 1997, owner Carl Pohlad almost sold the Twins to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, who would have moved the team to the Piedmont Triad (GreensboroWinston-SalemHigh Point) area of the state. The defeat of a referendum for a stadium in that area and a lack of interest in building a stadium for the Twins in Charlotte killed the deal.

2000s: A perennial contender[edit]

Ron Gardenhire, manager of the Minnesota Twins since 2002

Things turned around, and from 2001 to 2006, the Twins compiled the longest streak of consecutive winning seasons since moving to Minnesota, going 85–77 in 2001, 94–67 in 2002, 90–72 in 2003, 92–70 in 2004, 83-79 in 2005, and 96–66 in 2006. From 2002 to 2004, the Twins compiled their longest streak of consecutive league/division championships ever (previous were the 1924 World Champion-1925 AL Champion Senators and the 196970 Twins). Threatened with closure by league contraction (along with the Montreal Expos) in 2002, the team battled back to reach the American League Championship Series before being eliminated 4-1 by that year's eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels. Their streak of three straight division titles, along with some bitterly fought games, have helped to create an intense rivalry with the Chicago White Sox in recent years, starting with 2000 when the Sox clinched the division at Metrodome, and heating up especially in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008.

In 2006, the Twins came from 12 games back in the division at the All-Star break to tie the Detroit Tigers for the lead in the 159th game of the season. With the Tigers having won the season head-to-head by 11 games to 8, the Twins needed a Tiger loss and a Twins win in order to take sole possession of first place and win the division outright, and got both on the last day of the season, when the Tigers lost their third straight game at home to the last place Kansas City Royals in a 10–8 game in 12 innings. After their win against the Chicago White Sox, the Minnesota Twins and somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000 fans watched the Tigers-Royals game on Metrodome's jumbotrons. This was the first time in major league history that a team has won a division or league outright on the last day of the regular season without ever having had sole possession of first place earlier. The magical season came to a sudden end, however, as the Twins were swept 3–0 in the divisional championship series, while Detroit went on as a wild card entry, beat the Yankees 3–1 in their divisional series, and went on to play the A's in the league championship series. The Tigers would go on to sweep the A's 4–0 in the ALCS and lose the 2006 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, who coincidentally broke the record held by the Twins for the worst regular season record by a World Series champion (having gone 83–79).

The Twins are the first team in Major League history to sweep the Player of the Month, Pitcher of the Month, and Rookie of the Month awards, accomplishing this feat in June 2006 with catcher Joe Mauer, pitcher Johan Santana, and rookie pitcher Francisco Liriano respectively. Also in 2006, the club became one of the most decorated in recent baseball history, with Justin Morneau's MVP following the AL Cy Young Award won by Johan Santana and the AL batting title by Joe Mauer. The last team to accomplish this was the 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers. In addition, center fielder Torii Hunter was awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his defense in the 2006 season, and Mauer and Morneau each received a Silver Slugger Award for the offense as catcher and first baseman respectively.

A new nickname was unintentionally introduced by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén, who called the Twins "Little Piranhas" as they gobbled up wins in July through August in the 2006 season. In 2007, the Twins sometimes played an animated sequence of piranhas munching under that caption, in situations where the Twins were scoring runs via "small ball".

In 2008, the Twins finished the 162 game season tied with the Chicago White Sox, who won a rained out game against the Detroit Tigers to face the Twins in Chicago in a 1 game playoff to reach the ALDS. Nick Blackburn pitched for the Twins, giving up 1 run in 6 and 1/3 innings of baseball, allowing a solo home run to Jim Thome. The Twins lost the game and missed the playoffs while the White Sox went on to lose to the eventual American League champion Tampa Bay Rays in four games. Incidentally, this was the last Major League Baseball tiebreaker playoff game whose site was determined by a coin flip. Beginning with the 2009 season, sites for tiebreaker games will be determined by the regular season head-to-head record between the teams involved. Had this rule been in place for the 2008 season, the Twins-White Sox tiebreaker would have been played at Metrodome.

In the 2009 season (the final season at Metrodome) the Twins would go on to tie the Detroit Tigers for the division at season's end and then played a one game playoff in Minnesota because Minnesota had a better head to head record with Detroit, a choice made in response to the previous year. The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings on a walk-off single by Alexi Casilla, but the season ended with the Twins getting swept 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees. It marked the third time in the 2000s that the Yankees had swept the Twins in the Division Series (as they had done so in 2003 and 2004).

Contraction[edit]

Over the past 10 years, the Twins have argued that the lack of a modern baseball-dedicated ballpark has stood in the way of producing a top-notch, competitive team. However, it is generally believed that Metrodome played a key role in the two World Series they have won while in Minnesota. Metrodome's painfully high decibel levels (as high as 125 decibels—the same as a jet airliner taking off), as well as its many quirks (such as the artificial turf and the white roof) gave the Twins a huge home field advantage. The Twins won every one of their home games in their two World Series victories. Although it was built in 1982, by the start of the 1990s it was already considered obsolete because it had few revenue-generating luxury suites. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Twins were often rumored to be moving to such places as New Jersey, Las Vegas, Portland, Oregon, the RaleighDurham area, and others in search of a more financially competitive market. The team was nearly contracted (disbanded) in 2002, a move which would have eliminated the Twins and the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals, franchises. The Twins survived largely due to a court decision which forced them to play out their lease on Metrodome.

In October 2005 the Twins went back to state court asking for a ruling that they have no long-term lease with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the owner of Metrodome where the Twins currently play. In February 2006 the court did rule favorably on the Twins motion. Thus, the Twins were not obligated to play in Metrodome after the 2006 season. This removed one of the roadblocks that prevented contraction prior to the 2002 season and cleared the way for the Twins to either be relocated or disbanded prior to the 2007 season if a new deal was not reached.

The future[edit]

For a long time, the Twins wished to move from Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to a site behind Target Center within the next half decade, claiming that Metrodome generated too little revenue for the Twins to be competitive. In particular, the Twins received very little revenue from luxury suite leasing (as the majority are owned by the co-tenant Minnesota Vikings) and only a small percentage of concessions sales; also, the percentage of season-ticket-quality seats in Metrodome was said to be very low compared to other stadiums, and the capacity of the stadium is far too high for baseball. However, attempts to spur interest and push legislative efforts towards a new stadium repeatedly failed prior to 2006. The Dome was thought to be an increasingly poor fit for all three of its major tenants (the Twins, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team).

On May 21, 2006, the Twins' new stadium received the approval of the Minnesota House of Representatives, with a vote of 71–61, and then received approval from the Senate, with a vote of 34–32, after 4:00 AM on the second-to-last day of the 2006 legislative session. The bill moved on to Governor Tim Pawlenty, who signed it during a special pre-game ceremony at Metrodome on May 26, 2006 (the Twins played the Seattle Mariners that night) on what will be the first home plate installed in the new stadium.

On January 5, 2009, owner Carl Pohlad died at the age of 93. Pohlad's three sons inherited the team, with Jim Pohlad assuming control of day-to-day operations and acting as principal owner. The Pohlad family invested significant sums of their own money into construction of Target Field, and is expected to retain ownership of the team.[11]

After the inaugural season at Target Field, batters complained about the trees in center field. Claiming that they were distracting, the Twins had them removed and relocated.

Target Field[edit]

Target Field was being built in what was a parking lot at the north end of downtown Minneapolis within walking distance of the Target Center. On September 15, 2008 the Twins announced that they had sold naming rights to the Target Corporation and that the stadium would be known as Target Field. The METRO Light Rail was extended to the ballpark area with a connection to the Northstar Commuter Rail, which terminates at the ballpark. Preliminary plans called for a seating capacity of 40,000 seats and 72 suites. There is approximately 34 rest rooms compared to only 16 in Metrodome. The concourses will be open to the playing field with a view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline from every seat in the park. There is no retractable roof on the stadium which would have added about $200 million on to the cost which is currently set at $522 million. This received some objection due to the potentially harsh game conditions in early April (similar to other northern pro baseball teams such as the White Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, etc.) and the potential risk of resulting lost revenue. The official groundbreaking for the stadium, originally scheduled for 2 August 2007, was postponed to August 30 due to the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge.

With the new ballpark bill, a provision was signed into law that allows the state of Minnesota the right of first refusal to buy the team if it is ever sold, and requires that the name, colors, World Series' trophies and history of the team remain in Minnesota if the Twins are ever moved out of state (a reaction to the loss of the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas in 1993). This is similar to what the city of Cleveland did with the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1995 when Art Modell moved them to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens, as well as the 2008 relocation of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City and renamed them the Oklahoma City Thunder (though in the latter case, the Thunder retained the Sonics' history and will "share" it with any future Seattle NBA franchise). The stadium, according to current renderings, is clad in Kasota limestone, featuring a canopy cover for the seating area, as well as trees in the outfield area for the 2011 season. The concourses of the stadium are wider than those in Metrodome and are heated.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Minnesota Twins Team History & Encyclopedia". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  2. ^ "Minnesota Twins Managerial Record". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  3. ^ "Minnesota Twins Team History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  4. ^ "1924 Washington Senators Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  5. ^ "1987 Minnesota Twins Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  6. ^ "1991 Minnesota Twins Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  7. ^ Metropolitan Stadium listing at Ballpark Digest
  8. ^ Rod Carew Baseball Hall of Fame
  9. ^ 1969 Minnesota Twins
  10. ^ 1991 World Series had it all By Jim Caple ESPN.com
  11. ^ La Velle E. Neal III (2009-01-05). "Family will continue to run Twins". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved 2008-01-16.