It had been twenty-two years since residents of the Twin Cities had witnessed postseason baseball. And after 22 long years since making their way into the World Series and never witnessing their franchise win it, the Minnesota faithful ate it up. It gave the Twins one of the most significant home-field advantages in the history of professional sports.
No indication was present for 1987 to be an extraordinary season, with only a.500 finish in 1984 as an exception during a decade wherein Minnesota finished without a losing record only once. Tom Kelly took over managerial responsibilities during the final 23 games of that lost year and became one of their legendary figures in Minnesota sports history.
Minnesota made decisive moves during their offseason. They acquired Jeff Reardon via a six-player trade with the Montreal Expos and outfielder Dan Gladden from San Francisco. While these trades weren’t hugely consequential individually — Reardon saved 31 games but still finished with a 4.48 ERA, while Gladden stole 25 bases but produced modest offense overall — these deals showed that Minnesota was serious about competing and winning championships.
The old Metrodome was known for being a bastion of the long ball, with an offense built on hitting home runs. Kent Hrbek went deep 34 times, drove in 90 runs and posted an on-base percentage of 385. Gary Gaetti hit 31 homers and had 109 RBI, while rightfielder Tom Brunansky hit 32 bombs himself to score 85 runs with an OBP of.352.
Kirby Puckett was one of the Minnesota Twins’ most beloved players and produced at an astounding pace during this era, hitting 28 home runs, driving in 99 runs, and scoring 96 more runs himself while providing stellar centerfield defense as well. His OBP stood at an outstanding.367 mark.
Minnesota’s middle infield was unproductive on offense. Yet, second baseman Steve Lombardozzi and shortstop Greg Gagne were outstanding defensively, fitting well into an offense which finished fifth in runs scored among American League clubs.
Frank Viola was an impressive pitcher on this staff. With 17 wins and an ERA of 2.90, he proved a genuine ace for this young pitching staff. Bert Blyleven would win 15 games despite an ERA of 4.01; both Viola and Blyleven served as workhorses; they started 71 games combined while pitching 518 innings between them – an invaluable service in an otherwise shallow staff.
Lee Straker, Mike Smithson and 42-year-old knuckleballer Joe Niekro rounded out a subpar rotation. However, respectable stats showed some promise: Straker had a 4.37 ERA in 26 starts, while Smithson and Niekro’s ERAs hovered close to six. Juan Berengeur was notable from their bullpen with an acceptable 3.94 ERA over 112 innings pitched – yet wasn’t considered a reliable stopper like Reardon was for them.
13 losses out of 21 games against stronger AL East teams in May, led them to a 21-22 record by Memorial Day five games behind the Kansas City Royals in third place.
Minnesota entered the holiday weekend still facing off against the AL East, and quickly established themselves with two victories over Milwaukee (an American League team before 1998) and two against eventual AL East champion Detroit (the AL Central did not exist until MLB’s three-division alignment was implemented in 1994).
In June, the Twins completed an incredible 14-4 run that saw them sweep away the Royals at home in the Metrodome. On Monday’s opener, Gene Larkin hit a bases-loaded triple to break a 2-2 tie; two nights later on Tuesday, Gladden had three hits, Puckett two more, Niekro pitched into the seventh inning, and Minnesota won 5-2. On Wednesday’s series finale, Blyleven battled back from falling 3-zip behind to pitch eight strong innings while accepting an unexpected gift: after two walks loaded up bases on two walks loaded bases off three errors by Royals relief pitcher that cleared them all out and tied it before Larkin won it all with his RBI single in 10th inning!
By June 25th, Minnesota had moved into first place and gained a four-and-a-half game lead in the AL West. Unfortunately, they gave some of it back by losing seven out of eight against Kansas City as part of an 18-game stretch leading up to the All-Star break, where they went 7-11, yet Minnesota still led with a 49-40 record at the midseason mark; Oakland, Kansas City, California Angels and Seattle Mariners all were within three and half games of them at that time.
Minnesota hosted Oakland for a pivotal four-game series in early August, and their offense came out swinging, dominating from start to finish. Hrbek and Laudner each homered on opening night. Puckett drove in three runs while Viola pitched seven solid innings in an eventual 9-4 win for Minnesota. In game two, they scored nine more runs, starting with four in the opening frame on thatFriday; Hrbek homered twice more, Gagne had three hits, and Niekro pitched eight innings; both victories ended in 9-4 wins for Minnesota over Oakland.
On Saturday, the hit brigade kept up impressive performances with another four-run first inning and nine-run overall performance. Puckett and Gaetti each had extra-base hits in this explosive start; Puckett would score four hits overall, including one homer during his four-hit game; Brunansky contributed three hits as Brunansky finished off this one 9-2.
Sunday’s game was finally competitive, yet Minnesota kept hitting. Hrbek hit an early three-run homer before Brunansky later added one in a 7-3 Twins lead. When Jose Canseco came up to bat as the potential tie-breaker inning later, Reardon responded by quickly inducing a ground ball out to short-stop to complete their sweep of Oakland’s.
Minnesota built up a five-game lead before being swept by the Red Sox. Pitching still was an issue; thus, the Twins made a desperate bid for veteran help when they brought in 42-year-old lefty Steve Carlton from Oakland (a future Hall-of-Famer and likely the best pitcher of the 1970s and early ’80s era), yet was virtually incapable of producing anything close to his glory days. Viola and Blyleven would lead this team toward victory!
Labor Day arrived, and Minnesota triumphed in three games with dramatic walk-off wins in three games. Their record at that point was modest a 73-65, but that put them three games ahead of Oakland, with Kansas City and California trailing behind by 5 1/2 games each.
Minnesota continued its consistent play in September. Their only real scare came when they fell three straight games to the Chicago White Sox before rebounding quickly to sweep the Cleveland Indians in four. Entering Monday, September 28th’s final week, Minnesota held a six-game lead and was poised to clinch when visiting Texas.
Niekro began the game on the mound for Minnesota and fell behind 3-0 early. Minnesota rallied from behind, with Lombardozzi delivering an unexpected three-run blast that tied it at three. Lombardozzi then delivered again in the eighth with an RBI single before this 5-3 contest was effectively ended via an intentional line drive double play hit at him–making Minnesota AL West champions!
Minnesota was considered an underdog against Detroit when the American League Championship Series kicked off, having posted an 85-77 record – one bettered only by four other AL East teams – but many factors worked in Minnesota’s favor.
One factor was exhaustion among both teams in September’s epic division title battle between Detroit and Toronto, another was that Minnesota could match any starting pitcher head-on when it comes to starting pitchers, and homefield advantage being determined on a rotation basis meant Minnesota had homefield throughout their postseason run.
Minnesota stunned baseball with its dominance against Detroit regardless of where the games were played, taking two out of three at Tiger Stadium to secure their first pennant since 1965 and earning Gary Gaetti ALCS MVP honors.
The World Series featured Minnesota taking on St. Louis Cardinals from the Midwest region of America, and home-field advantage being crucial to victory – home teams won all seven World Series games, and Viola won two games – Game 7 to clinch – becoming Series MVP.
Minnesota Twins baseball was back on an upward path, and their success wasn’t finished yet. Though Oakland took control of the AL West over three seasons, Minnesota still enjoyed a stellar 1988 campaign before seizing home field advantage all throughout 1991 to claim another World Series championship victory.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
Contact us: email@example.com
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.