Why I love the Twins (director’s cut)

Last month National Review’s John Miller invited me to contribute 100-150 words on “why I love the Minnesota Twins” to a symposium NRO was preparing in honor of the opening of the major league baseball season on Sunday. I drew on the thoughts of John Hinderaker and our mutual friend Clark Griffith to write an overlength piece that John Miller edited (perfectly) to fit the symposium that NRO has posted as “For the love of the game.”

The NRO symposium includes professions of love from fans of each of major league baseball’s thirty teams. Here is the unabridged version of my profession of love for the Twins that I submitted to John Miller for the symposium:

I’ve loved the Twins ever since Calvin Griffith moved the Washington Senators franchise to Minnesota in 1961. The Griffith family may have been the poorest among major league owners. They couldn’t afford to do things the easy way, so they had to do them the right way. They cultivated an organization devoted to scouting baseball talent, developing that talent in an excellent farm system, inculcating baseball fundamentals, preaching team play and signing local heroes such as Kent Hrbek and Joe Mauer.

Scouring for players in Cuba, for example, the Twins turned up pitcher Camilo Pascual, shortstop Zoilo Versalles and three-time AL batting leader Tony Oliva. (My friend Clark Griffith credits “our man in Havana” Joe Cambria for the team’s Cuban discoveries.) By 1965 a Twins team led by the poetically named slugger Harmon Killebrew was fighting the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. (Sandy Koufax delivered the crown to the Dodgers in a great seven-game series.) The Twins discovered the great Rod Carew playing sandlot baseball in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. Even in what proved to be somewhat fallow years for the Twins, the privilege of watching Rod Carew at bat kept fans like me watching in admiration.

When the Griffiths sold the team to Carl Pohlad in 1984, the Pohlads continued the team’s traditional focus on baseball done right. It led to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991 as well as continuing success in recent years.

Game 6 of that 1991 World Series with the Twins playing the Atlanta Braves provides one of the team’s emblematic moments. The Twins trailed the Braves three games to two, having lost three straight to Atlanta on the road. Before the game, Twins great Kirby Puckett called the team to attention: “I said, ‘Guys, I just have one announcement to make: You guys should jump on my back tonight. I’m going to carry us.'” Kirby carried the team until the bottom of the eleventh, when he hit the walk-off home run that made the seventh game an anticlimax. If you saw that game, you remember it and you understand how the team might elicit a fan’s love.

PAUL adds: Power Line has this franchise covered because I loved it from 1957 through 1960 when it moved from Washington to Minnesota.