Tag Archives: Chuck Knoblauch

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Thirty-two

MINNESOTA 14, BALTIMORE 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, September 1.

Batting stars:  Brian Harper was 3-for-4 with a home run (his ninth), a double, and three runs.  Shane Mack was 3-for-5 with a double and two runs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-3.  Gene Larkin was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs, and two RBIs.  Chili Davis was 1-for-3 with a three-run homer (his twenty-seventh), a walk, and two runs.  Paul Sorrento hit a pinch-hit two-run homer, his second.

Pitching stars:  Jack Morris pitched seven innings, giving up three unearned runs on six hits and two walks and striking out three.  Mark Guthrie struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up a hit and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Brady Anderson was 2-for-3 with a triple and two walks.  Chito Martinez was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his tenth.

The game:  Anderson led off the game with a triple but failed to score.  That was the only time the Orioles threatened to take the lead.  In the second, Harper and Mack led off with back-to-back doubles, with a bunt and a sacrifice fly bringing home the second run.  The Twins took control in the fourth.  Davis led off with a walk, which was followed by five consecutive singles.  HarperMackScott LeiusLarkin, and Greg Gagne all got base hits, making the score 5-0 with the bases loaded.  With one out Knoblauch walked to bring in a run and a sacrifice fly brought home another, giving the Twins a 7-0 lead.  Harper led off the fifth with a home run to make it 8-0.

Baltimore got on the board in the sixth.  Anderson led off with a single and went to third on a pair of productive outs.  Glenn Davis then reached on an error, bringing home a run, and Martinez hit a two-run homer to cut the margin to 8-3.

That was as close as the Orioles would come.  Davis hit a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 11-3.  They added three more in the seventh, two of them coming on a Sorrento pinch-hit two-run homer, to bring the final score to 14-3.

WP:  Morris (16-10).  LP:  Arthur Rhodes (0-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Larkin was at first base in place of Kent Hrbek.  At least some of the September call-ups arrived, and with a blowout game there were numerous substitutions.  Jarvis Brown went to center field in the seventh, replacing Puckett.  Al Newman pinch-hit for Gagne in the seventh and stayed in the game at second base.  Sorrento pinch-hit for Gladden in the seventh and stayed in the game at first base.  Lenny Webster came in to catch in the eighth, replacing Harper.  Knoblauch moved from second base to shortstop in the eighth.  Mack moved from right field to left in the eighth.  Larkin went from first base to right field in the eighth.  Randy Bush pinch-hit for Davis in the eighth.

Puckett raised his average to .329.  Harper went up to .321.  Webster went 1-for-1 and was batting .313 (5-for-16).  Mack raised his average to .310.

Rhodes lasted just three innings and allowed seven runs on eight hits and a walk.  This was his rookie season, and was just his third start.  He would make eight starts in 1991, five of them with game scored of forty or lower.  He would go on to have a long and relatively successful career as a reliever, pitching in twenty major league seasons and lasting until he was forty-one.

This was Knoblauch's second game at shortstop.  He had played one inning there on July 18.  For his career he played thirteen games at shortstop.  He started two of them, one in 1993 and one in 1997.  It's interesting that Tom Kelly played Newman at second and Knoblauch at short, rather than vice-versa.  It was a blowout game--maybe TK just wanted to give Knoblauch a little time at short in case injuries came up and he needed to play him there.

Oakland lost to Detroit 5-2, so the Twins regained the game they'd lost yesterday.

Record:  The Twins were 79-53, in first place in the American League West, eight games ahead of Oakland.

There was a closer race in the American League East.  Toronto had a record of 73-59 and was in first place, 2.5 games ahead of Detroit.

 

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Thirty-one

MINNESOTA 5, BALTIMORE 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Saturday, August 31.

Batting stars:  Chili Davis was 2-for-2 with a double and two walks.  Shane Mack was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4.  Chuck Knoblauch was 1-for-3 with a home run.

Pitching stars:  Kevin Tapani pitched seven innings, giving up one run on five hits and two walks and striking out two.  Rick Aguilera retired all four men he faced, striking out one.

Opposition star:  Cal Ripken was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  Davis led off the second with a walk, went to third on a Brian Harper single, and scored on a ground out to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  In the fourth, Ripken led off with a double.  He went to third on a balk and scored on a ground out to tie it 1-1.

Knoblauch homered with one out in the sixth to put the Twins up 2-1.  The then took a commanding lead in the seventh.  Mack led off with a double and was bunted to third.  Gene Larkin then delivered a run-scoring single, Dan Gladden followed with an RBI triple, and a ground out brought home one more run to make it 5-1 Minnesota.

The Orioles threatened to get back in the game in the eighth.  Dwight Evans led off with a double and Joe Orsulak drew a one-out walk.  With two-out, Glenn Davis hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 5-2.  Milligan then walked, loading the bases and bringing the go-ahead run up to bat.  But Chito Martinez flied to center, ending the inning.  Baltimore went down in order in the ninth.

WP:  Tapani (13-7).  LP:  Mike Mussina (2-4).  S:  Aguilera (36).

Notes:  The Twins used a standard lineup but made use of most of their bench.  Larkin pinch-hit for Greg Gagne in the seventh.  Al Newman then ran for Larkin and stayed in the game at second base.  He did that because Randy Bush pinch-hit for Knoblauch.  Scott Leius then replaced Bush on defense and played shortstop.

Puckett raised his average to .327.  Brian Harper was 1-for-4 and was batting .316.  Mack raised his average to .305.  Mike Pagliarulo was 1-for-3 and was batting .304.  Tapani lowered his ERA to 2.89.  Aguilera's ERA went down to 2.35.

This was Knoblauch's first career home run and his only home run in 1991.  He would eventually develop moderate power, hitting 98 home runs in his career with a high of 18 in 1999.

Tapani had allowed just four earned runs in his last three starts (23 innings).

Remember that Mack had hit .143 in April?  He had an awesome second half.  In August, which we've just completed, he batted .343/.387/.637.  His July was even a little better:  .366/.435/.622.  He would not quite match those numbers in September, but he still batted .326/.363/.453.  For the second half of the season, he batted .356/.405/.595.  He hit 19 doubles, 7 triples, and 10 home runs in the second half.

It was a rare thing when the Twins beat Mussina.  For his career, Mussina was 22-6, 3.09, 1.17 WHIP against the Twins.  That's the most wins he had against any team other than Toronto and the best winning percentage against any American League team.  It was the third-lowest ERA he had against any American League team.  His career ERA was 3.68 and his career WHIP was 1.19.

Oakland defeated Detroit 7-6 in ten innings, so the margin between the two teams remained the same.

Record:  The Twins were 78-53, in first place in the American League West, seven games ahead of Oakland.

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Eighteen

MINNESOTA 12, OAKLAND 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Saturday, August 17.

Batting stars:  Chuck Knoblauch was 3-for-5 with two runs.  Kent Hrbek was 2-for-2 with three walks and three runs.  Chili Davis was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Brian Harper was 2-for-4.  Shane Mack was 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-5 with two runs.

Pitching stars:  Jack Morris pitched a complete game, giving up four runs on eight hits and no walks and striking out six.  He threw 113 pitches.

Opposition stars:  Jose Canseco was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirty-fourth), two runs, and two RBIs.  Harold Baines was 2-for-4.

The game:  The Athletics opened the game consecutive singles by Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Canseco, and Baines, producing two runs.  A double play made it 3-0 in the top of the first.  The Twins got on the board in the second when Hrbek walked, went to third on a Davis single, and scored on a ground out.  Oakland got the run right back in the third when Canseco homered, giving the Athletics a 4-1 lead.

It was all Minnesota after that.  In the bottom of the third Dan Gladden led off with a walk and scored on Knoblauch's double.  Puckett followed with an RBI single, and singles by Hrbek and Harper brought home another run, tying the score 4-4.  The Twins had two out and nobody on in the fifth, but a walk to Hrbek, a single by Davis, and a walk to Harper loaded the bases.  Mack then unloaded them with a three-run double to give the Twins a 7-4 lead.

The Twins kept adding on.  In the sixth, again with two out and none on, singles by KnoblauchPuckett, and Hrbek scored one run, a walk to Davis loaded the bases, and Harper delivered a two-run single to increase the lead to 10-4.  In the seventh, Mike Pagliarulo doubled, went to third on an Al Newman single, and scored on a sacrifice fly.  The Twins finished the scoring in the eighth when a Hrbek walk, a Gene Larkin single, and a double play produced the team's twelfth run.

WP:  Morris (15-9).  LP:  Bob Welch (10-8).  S:  None.

Notes:  Newman was at shorstop, replacing Greg Gagne.  Gagne would play the next day, but then would miss two days and be used as a late-game replacement in three more before returning to the starting lineup August 24.

Larkin pinch-hit for Davis in the eighth.  Randy Bush pinch-ran for Hrbek in the eighth and stayed in the game at first base.

Puckett raised his average to .325.  Harper raised his average to .305.

Welch pitched 5.2 innings.  He was allowed to stay in the game long enough to allow nine runs on eleven hits and four walks.  He struck out one.  The Athletics had used six pitchers in the twelve-inning game the day before, so I assume Welch was simply being asked to take one for the team.  He threw one hundred pitches.  Eric Show pitched the rest of the game, going 2,1 innings while allowing three runs on five hits and two walks.

I know it was a different era, but there was still no real reason for Morris to pitch a complete game.  The Twins had used only four pitchers in the previous game, and one of them had only thrown six pitches.  The game was well in hand after six.  Yes, I know Morris didn't want to come out of games, but that's why you have someone called "the manager" who makes decisions that are in the best long-term interest of both the player and the team.  I'm glad that, for the most part, we've moved past that phony macho thinking in baseball.

By game scores, this was actually Welch's third-worst game of the season.  The worst was on May 5, when he allowed eleven runs (eight earned) on thirteen hits and two walks in 4.2 innings for a game score of two.  The second-worst was June 28, when he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits and three walks in three innings for a game score of five.  His game score in this game was eight.  Those three games probably went a long way to giving him an ERA of 4.58 for the season.

Knoblauch was 8-for-13 with two doubles and two walks over his last three games.

Canseco had three home runs in the two games of the series.

The White Sox lost to the Yankees 4-2, so the Twins were starting to put some space between themselves and second place.

Record:  The Twins were 70-48, in first place in the American League West, 3.5 games ahead of Chicago.

Hall of Shame

This weekend the Twins will induct Michael Cuddyer (2001–2011) & Andy MacPhail (1984–1994) as the newest members of the club's Hall of Fame. This honor was first bestowed on five players—Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, & Kirby Puckett—and a former club owner in 2000.

MacPhail was the primary architect of the Twins' two World Championship teams, which had the potential to develop into a mini-dynasty had his boss Carl Pohlad given him slightly more latitude with payroll, particularly following the second trophy in 1991. MacPhail left the Twins in 1994 to take over the capsizing Cubs, and soon after Pohlad began issuing a string of threats to sell the team to an ownership group in a mediocre mid-Atlantic market (still without a team decades later), where it doubtless would have quickly withered in a minor-league ballpark under the heat from the Atlanta Braves dynasty to its south. True to form, a couple years later Pohlad conspired with his pal Bud Selig—so distraught over the loss of his beloved Milwaukee Braves that he hijaked the Seattle Pilots—to take a payout from MLB and contract the Twins. I doubt that is mentioned in his Twins Hall of Fame bio.

Apart from MacPhail and Pohlad, four other executives have been inducted, a somewhat restrained number given the franchise's Brezhnevesque fetishization of internal stability in its front office, to the point of systemic intellectual stagnation. These are:

Calvin Griffith, the owner who relocated the franchise to Minnesota, and whose considerable baseball savvy was only trumped by his racist grudges & motives.

George Brophy, general manager of the Minneapolis Millers until the club folded in advance of the Twins' arrival; he was promoted to the majors in Minnesota and eventually presided over the club's entire farm system, developing a prospect-rich pipeline that won it all two years after he retired.

Jim Rantz, who succeeded his mentor, Brophy, and ran the farm system through thick & thin for twenty-seven years.

Tom Mee, tridecennial PR man, uneven official scorer, and holder of various other titles, none more singular than "First Twins Employee*" (*non-player personnel, of course).

Cuddyer, the Twins' first round draft pick (9th overall) in 1997, will be the 20th player inducted by the Twins. He joins real some real Hall of Famers, some Very Good-ers who rightfully claim legendary status in Minnesota, and a couple guys with notable careers but dubious credentials. Unfortunately for Cuddyer, this last group describes his own Minnesota curriculum vitae. By position & rWAR with Minnesota, these players are:

C: Earl Battey
1b: Kent Hrbek
2b: Rod Carew
3b: Harmon Killebrew, Gary Gaetti
SS: Greg Gagne, Zoilo Versalles
LF: Bob Allison
CF: Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter
RF: Tony Oliva
SP: Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Jim Kaat, Frank Viola, Jim Perry, Camilo Pascual
RP: Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado

The lone elected–but–uninducted player is Chuck Knoblauch, the brassy second baseman of the 1991 World Champions who has ridden his way into ignominy on waves of domestic assault, performance-enhancing drugs, and sewer-worthy social media activity. Twins fans pelted Knobby with hot dogs in 2001. The Twins disinvited him from the Hall of Fame in 2014.

We are fortunate to live at a time when public monuments to reprehensible conduct are being contested and removed. Knoblauch's anathematization suggests the Twins are willing to draw a line; the question becomes, should the club reconsider how it has celebrated:

Calvin Griffith, who was memorialized in bronze outside Gate 29 in 2010. This is the same Calvin Griffith who said of moving his club from the District of Columbia to Minnesota—"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. ... We came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."—and drove away the best position player in franchise history with his potent combination of bigotry & parsimony in the same night. If the Twins are an organization with a conscience, Griffith's statue should be razed before the end of the season. I am not the first to point this out. Perhaps I could make the first suggestion for its replacement: Carlos Paula, a Cuban right fielder who broke the Washington Senators' color barrier in 1954 and played for the Minneapolis Millers in 1957.

Carlos Paula presents an opportunity to consider the status of Torii Hunter, the Twin Cities media darling whose brand of casual bigotry seems to be amenable to the Pohlads, Dave St. Peter, and the new Derek Falvey-Thad Levine front office regime that retained him. Hunter once slandered black Latino players like his then-teammate Vladimir Guerrero, pioneers like Carlos Paula, and the most beloved Twin of all time, Tony Oliva, as race "imposters." One wonders what he makes of Miguel Sanó, the Twins' emerging slugger and a Dominican of Haitian & Cocolo heritage. During the press conference celebrating his return to Minnesota, Hunter indulged himself by publicly branding a reporter a "prick" four times for asking him to reflect on his freely-professed anti-gay rhetoric. The Twins had expressly brought Hunter back to mentor its talented, ethnically diverse next generation.

Carl Pohlad was a multi-billionaire who, as a young bank official, foreclosed on mortgagees during the Depression and then, at the end of his life, bilked his community for the beautiful ballpark the Twins call home. His manipulative, naked avarice will likely be forgotten thanks to the Vikings' new monstrosity, and in any case his kids aren't about to remove the statue of their parents from the ballpark's grounds. Hopefully a future owner of the Twins will find a more suitable place for that statue, perhaps overlooking the HERC.

Finally, there's the thorny question of what to do about Kirby Puckett, a phosphorescent talent whose effervescent personality made him a hero of a generation of Twins fans, and who, after his forced retirement, fell hard from atop the improbable mountain he scaled out of Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes. Frank Deford's "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett" read like the kind of hit piece someone as misanthropic as Deford would relish writing, but looking away from the accusations it detailed is not an option, no matter the apparent glee with which they were related. Over a decade after Puckett's early death, many of us remain deflated as the Metrodome he electrified, uncertain how to address a man who did much good in the community and failed to live up to that standard in his private life.

There are four other non-player members of the Twins' hall, disparate talents unified by indelible personalities:

Herb Carneal, always and forever the stentorian Voice of the Minnesota Twins.

Tom Kelly, laconic, fungo-weilding skipper of both World Series Champions.

Bob Casey, public address announcer whose quintdecennial gig in Minnesota's pro ballparks barely outlasted how long he held the second syllable of "Kirby."

John Gordon, everyone's loquacious radio uncle who, in his later years, could make guys like Jason Tyner sound like Babe Ruth.

The gap between the number of club executives and people who shaped the games on the field and in fans' minds suggests a couple areas where the Twins Hall of Fame neglects the club's history.

Rick Stelmaszek's two visits to Minneapolis this season following his pancreatic cancer diagnosis have been bittersweet. Stelly's firing in October 2012 after 32 years of coaching struck me as particularly cold-blooded. Stelmaszek was not the GM who assembled a bullpen corps that included Brian Duensing, Jeff Gray, Matt Capps, Tyler Robertson, and Anthony Swarzak. Stelmaszek was a notorious conditioning taskmaster for decades; unpreparedness and ambivalence would have been completely out of character. Twins players across generations seem to love the guy. For his critical role on two World Champions and his decades of relationship & player development, Rick Stelmaszek should be in the Twins Hall of Fame while he is still among the living.

Wayne Terwilliger's tenure with the Twins coincided with Andy MacPhail's, but it was neither his first experience in the organization nor his first Minnesota go-around in professional baseball. Twig might be the embodiment of both Minnie & Paul. He played for the St. Paul Saints in 1952 and the Minneapolis Millers from 1954–1957. In between, he played for the Senators from 1953–1954. Jackie Robinson's understudy on the '51 Dodgers, Twig appears to have been out with an injury when Carlos Paula broke the Senators' color barrier at home on 1 September; Twig & Paula saw action as replacements in the first game of a double-header in Detroit on 12 September. They both met again in Minneapolis as starters for the '57 Millers. Twig joined the Twins in 1986 and is one of a handful of on-field personnel on both the '87 & '91 teams. After leaving the Twins (why?), Twig managed the St. Paul Saints from 1995–2002. I don't know much about Twig's personal life other than his WWII tour with the Marines (including Saipan, Tinan, & Iwo Jima), but not many non-owners get to spend over sixty years in professional baseball if they're jerks. Somebody could go ask Willie Mays for a character reference—he & Twig were teammates on the Giants.

I am not ready for Sue Nelson to retire, but I hope that the Twins will see fit to celebrate a woman who has had as much influence on the soundscape of Twins baseball as any player to knock out a home run, or any broadcaster whose voice rises in anticipation, meshing with the fans shouting a hip-hooray as the ball soars out of the field. Sue would be a fantastic addition to the Twins Hall of Fame.

The last of these is Halsey Hall. Halsey's the namesake of the Minnesota SABR chapter, and he was inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame nearly thirty years ago, so this should be a relatively easy. If more proof of his merit was necessary, his status as an Twins' original—and easily the all-time most colorful—broadcaster, his longtime affiliation with the Minneapolis Millers, and his post-retirement tour as pre-game emcee at the old Met would be sufficient. And yet, with every year it seems less likely that Halsey will be elected to the Twins Hall of Fame. He retired from broadcasting in 1972 and died in 1977, so the current voters and younger fans likely couldn't care less about a loveable nut calling baseball games on radio signals that are probably passing into interstellar space.

But that's still a shame for the Twins. It's just not a Hall without Halsey.