1969 Rewind: Game Ninety-nine

CLEVELAND 6, MINNESOTA 3 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Saturday, July 26.

Batting star:  Cesar Tovar was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer, his fourth.

Pitching star:  Jim Kaat pitched 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and five walks and striking out two.

Opposition stars:  Jose Cardenal was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer (his seventh), a stolen base (his twenty-third) and three runs.  Eddie Leon was 2-for-4.  Tony Horton was 1-for-1 with a double and three walks.  Dick Ellsworth pitched seven innings, giving up three unearned runs on seven hits and two walks and striking out five.

The game:  Horton doubled home Cardenal, who had walked, in the first inning to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.  With the bases loaded and one out in the third, the Cleveland scored again on an odd play.  Cap Peterson hit a grounder to short.  It appears that the Twins tried to turn a double play but either the throw to second was late or the second baseman was off the base, so instead of a 6-4-3 double play it was a 6-4-3 ground out, with Cardenal again scoring.  The Twins still got a double play out of it, however, as Dave Nelson tried to score from second on the play and was thrown out.  Still, the score was 2-0.

The Twins took the lead in the fifth.  Rick Renick reached on an error and Kaat hit a two-out double.  Tovar followed with a three-run homer, putting Minnesota ahead 3-2.

The lead held until the seventh.  Eddie Leon led off with a single, but had only gotten to second with two out.  Bob Miller came on to face Cardenal and gave up a two-run homer, giving the Indians a 4-3 advantage.  Cleveland added one more run in the eighth when Horton walked, Larry Brown singled, and Leon delivered an RBI single.  The Twins got only one hit after the sixth inning.

WP:  Ellsworth(6-5).  LP:  Miller (2-4).  S:  Stan Williams (7).

Notes:  Harmon Killebrew was at first base in this game, with Renick at third.  Bob Allison was in left, with Tovar in center.  Rich Reese and Ted Uhlaender were on the bench, although Reese was used as a pinch-hitter.

Rod Carew was 1-for-4 and was batting .369.  Tony Oliva was 0-for-4 and was batting .331.  Kaat had his ERA go up to 2.92.

It's interesting that Kaat was removed from the game when he was not pitching badly.  He had not allowed a run since the third, and the leadoff hit by Leon in the seventh was only the second hit he had allowed in that span.  There were two out.  Kaat had been struggling to get Cardenal out in this game, however, and the Twins gained a platoon advantage by bringing in the right-handed Miller.  I'm not saying it was a bad decision, and the fact that it didn't work doesn't mean it was the wrong thing to do.  I just find it interesting.

Future Twin Stan Williams pitched the last two innings of the game and did not allow a baserunner.

This was Eddie Leon's rookie season.  He was the Indians' regular shortstop for the second half of 1969, then was their regular second baseman for 1970-1971.  A failure to hit moved him to a utility role in 1972, then he was traded to the White Sox, for whom he was the regular shortstop in 1973.  He played sporadically for the White Sox in 1974, appeared in one game for the Yankees in 1975, then finished his career in Mexico in 1975-1976.  He never hit--his best year was 1971, when he hit .261/.317/.326.  His career numbers are .236/.296/.313 in 1862 at-bats.  He was highly thought of before he became a pro--the Twins drafted him in the first round in 1965, the Cubs drafted him in the first round in 1966, and Cleveland, with whom he finally signed, drafted him in the second round in 1977.  It reminds me of a saying, "You can talk all you want about the five tools, but none of the others mean much if you can't hit."

Record:  The Twins were 60-39, in first place in the American League West, three games ahead of Oakland.

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