1991 Rewind: Game One

OAKLAND 7, MINNESOTA 2 IN OAKLAND

Date:  Tuesday, April 9.

Batting stars:  Greg Gagne was 2-for-2 with a home run, a double, and a walk.  Chili Davis was 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk.

Pitching stars:  Terry Leach pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.  Larry Casian pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up three hits and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Dave Stewart pitched seven innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks and striking out four.   Terry Steinbach was 3-for-5.  Dave Henderson was 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, two walks, two runs, and three RBIs.  Rickey Henderson was 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and two runs.  Mike Gallego was 2-for-4.

The game:  The Athletics took the lead in the first inning, as Rickey Henderson singled, stole second, and scored on a Steinbach single.  In the third, Rickey Henderson singled, went to second on a walk to Dave Henderson, but was retired at third on a force out.  But Steinbach delivered another RBI single, this time scoring Dave Henderson.  The Hendersons struck again in the fourth.  Ernie Riles started it with a single, but was replaced on the bases by Walt Weiss on a forceout.  Rickey Henderson walked and Dave Henderson followed with a three-run homer, making the score 5-0.

The Twins got on the board in the fifth when Gagne hit a two-out homer.  Oakland responded with two in the bottom of the fifth.  A Harold Baines single and one-out walks to Mark McGwire and Riles loaded the bases.  Weiss hit a sacrifice fly, Gallego singled to re-load the bases, and Rickey Henderson reached on an error to make the score 7-1.  The Athletics threatened in the sixth and seventh, but did not add to their lead.

The Twins had a chance to get back into it in the eighth.  With one out, Gagne doubled, and walks to Randy Bush and Chuck Knoblauch loaded the bases.  But Kirby Puckett struck out and Carmelo Castillo grounded out to end the inning.  Davis hit a leadoff homer in the ninth, but it was clearly too little and too late.

WP:  Stewart (1-0).  LP:  Jack Morris (0-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Dan Gladden was the starting left fielder, but was pinch-hit for by Bush in the eighth inning.  Kent Hrbek was the starting first baseman, but was pinch-hit for by Castillo in the eighth inning.  Both Bush and Castillo remained in the game, with Bush going to first and Castillo going to left.

Jack Morris was the starting pitcher and went 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) on eight hits and five walks and striking out four.  One of the unearned runs, of course, came on the error in the fifth.  The three runs that scored on Dave Henderson's home run were also unearned because a foul fly ball that he hit prior to the home run was dropped by Puckett in right.

Two players with Twins connections played for Oakland in this game.  The obvious one is Steinbach.  Joe Klink pitched the final 1.1 innings, giving up the home run to Davis but nothing else.  It was one of two full seasons Klink had in the majors, and easily the best--he was 10-3, 4.35, 1.31 WHIP with two saves.  His other full year was with the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993, when he went 0-2, 5.02, 1.62 WHIP.

This was clearly not the kind of start the Twins had been hoping for when the signed Morris and proclaimed him their ace.  I don't recall if there was nervousness among Twins fans or if they simply wrote this off as one  bad game.  And of course, as the Twins had finished seventh in a seven-team division the previous year, expectations were not particularly high.

Record:  The Twins were 0-1, tied for fifth place in the American League West with Seattle and Texas, one game behind Oakland, California, and Chicago.

18 thoughts on “1991 Rewind: Game One”

  1. One of the things I’ve been waiting to ask, knowing this Rewind was coming: What do folks remember of how the ‘91 Twins were viewed relative to the rest of the AL West, either locally or nationally, going into the season?

    After the World Series in ‘87, they finished 2nd in ‘88, 5th in ‘89, and last in ‘90. The stars who remained from the ‘87 team were all established veterans in their early thirties, at a time before that was widely perceived as already in a player’s decline phase. Meanwhile, Oakland had been to the World Series three times. By ‘91 the Royals were in the twilight hours of their own mini-dynasty, and Chicago had yo-yo’d from mid-pack in ‘87 & ‘88, to last in ‘89, and up to second in ‘90.

    I my sense is the perception was that the Twins couldn’t be as bad as their finish the year before, but how were they measured up against their rivals? I simply don’t remember.

    1. This is a good question. I'm sure as a 10 year old I had very little perception of how things were... but I remember it feeling exceptional that they were playing as well as they did through the season, which I think implies that it wasn't what people were predicting?

      This worst-to-first thing probably also wrongly colored my expectations about how quickly a franchise could turn things around.

      1. Yeah, I also have no perception of what the writers were saying, but given that I assumed they'd be terrible because the finished last the year before, I'm sure the media wasn't countering that heavily. I think even if you moved that team to today there'd only be tepid optimism. Oakland still had their stars. White Sox were up and coming and Frank Thomas looked like the real deal. Tapani and Erickson were good prospects but not superstars. Second base and third base were holes being plugged by a rookie and a new platoon.

    2. We had no internet back in '91, so trying to keep up with the team when living outside of MN meant day old box scores and weekly articles in USA Today's Baseball Weekly. My recollections are that last place in 1990 was more exceptional than first place in 1991, although finishing ahead of Oakland was not expected.

    3. One of the things that bums me out about being a Twins fan is I have no recollection of either WS. I didn't come into Twins fandom until after we moved to Iowa at age 12, and I was too young anyway (so even if I'd been born here I wouldn't have remembered).

      I very vaguely remember being excited there was a purple team (the Phillies) back in 93. I can definitely say I remember the strike and the 95 WS, so that's about where my baseball memories begin.

      1. I started watching baseball at the beginning of the 1987 season. So I'm as lucky as it gets - I was 10 and 14 when they won, and have vivid memories of each (particularly 1991; not just because of the age but because the level of my fandom was raised so high).

      2. I was in Missouri for a dorm conference during games 5 and 6 of the 87 series. Jumped in a pool at the hotel wearing suit and tie after Hrbek's grand slam. I was on the bus coming home during game 7, but luckily the party was still raging at SCSU when we got back. 1991 was a blast. I remember going down to the parade after the WS win. I remember thinking in 1995 that we were due for another championship since we win every 4 years. That didn't work out so well.

      3. I watched the '87 series with the future Mrs. A, then Miss P. I also was experiencing terrible headaches at the time. I went to the doctor, who said it was a virus. It struck me that was exactly what you would say if you didn't have a clue what was wrong. He prescribed painkillers (I don't remember what), which it struck me was exactly what you would do if you didn't have a clue what was wrong. The painkillers worked, but as soon as they wore off the pain was just as bad. That's the point I was at when the Series was going on. I eventually went back to the doctor, who prescribed penicillin. It struck me that probably the next thing you would do if you didn't have a clue what was wrong. I broke out in a rash all over my body except my face, but the headaches went away, and eventually the rash did, too. I still don't know if the doctor actually knew what was wrong or if he was just winging it.

    4. My dad started buying baseball cards for my brother and i that year. Two packs a week -- one on Tuesday or Wednesday, one on Friday. We loved that.

      I don't have much memory of the season itself, but I remember the world series. I didn't get to stay up for every game, but my dad made an exception for game 7.

      The world series is also when he first showed me how to keep score for a baseball game. I still have the one I made for game 7.

    5. I was away to college in the spring and fall of that year, so I had a hard time getting a lot of Twins news, but my memory is there was a lot of excitement generated when they signed Jack Morris. They also signed "former Cy Young Award winner" Steve Bedrosian, who ended up doing not all that much but I'm sure was great for marketing. Even though the Twins had finished last the year before, they still had a better record than the Twins did in '86, when they finished 6th. They also signed Chili Davis, which was probably the best under the radar signing. The Scott Erickson pitched when called up in '90 also helped. Tapani had also established himself as a solid pitcher. FIP wasn't a thing back then, so I doubt anybody thought he would finish in the Top 10 in ERA in '91. I remember there being excitement for the team, but I don't think there was any expectation on them to take down the A's, who ended up fourth in a division with no teams with a losing record. Twins only won 95 games that year, but they had the best record in baseball. I don't recall the media paying too much attention to that because it had nothing to do with homefield advantage in the playoffs at the time. There was definitely competitive balance at the time (at least partially due to collusion).

  2. I was 23 that year and bounced between part time college and full time grilling. I remember being more optimistic than I probably should have been. They had picked up Chili Davis and Jack Morris which seemed like a big deal (compared to their track history). We were optimistic that Tapani and Erickson looked like solid young pitchers. It was a pretty magical year though. Starting slow, then the 15 game winning streak. I am pretty excited about this JeffA feature as that year was so fun.

  3. I moved to Wessington Springs around the first of September in 1991. I was thrilled when they won the World Series, obviously, but because I was new in town I really didn't know any Twins fans to share it with.

    1. I was in college in Idaho and had to watch the games in the dorm lobby. The few that watched the games, almost all were cheering for the Braves. I had one friend that cheered for the Twins only because his sister was a Braves fan and so he was cheering against her. He still got a big hug after Game 7.

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