|Break out the hankies! 20 years later, Twins welcome back '87 champions|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 17 August 2007 15:28|
``The first one is always the most special,'' said Twins GM Terry Ryan, who was the scouting director in 1987. ``The guys who repeated in '91 would probably say the same thing.''
Prior to 1987, the Twins had appeared in the World Series just one other time - way back in 1965. So when this hard-nosed, close knit group seemingly came out of nowhere to win the AL West, beat the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and then take the favored St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series, it forged a bond with a title-starved, Homer Hanky-waving fan base that stands to this day.
``No question,'' said staff ace Frank ``Sweet Music'' Viola. ``They were close a number of times. To be able to get that first championship, with the crowd support behind us all the way, it does make it special.''
And while the fans delighted in seeing their old favorites - from Viola, to Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Jeff Reardon and Greg Gagne - back on the Metrodome turf again, the current Twins also looked forward to getting an up close look at history.
It was a chance for today's Twins, many of whom were just little tikes back in 1987, to rub elbows with some of the franchise's folk heroes.
``It's pretty cool to see them all together,'' said reliever Pat Neshek, who grew up in nearby Brooklyn Park and was 7 years old when Gaetti threw out Willie McGhee on a grounder to third base to clinch the title. ``I didn't get to go to any of the games, but I went to the parade. It was pretty neat because we just expected them to do that every year after that.''
Like many young kids in Minnesota at the time, Neshek said that team was what really got him interested in playing baseball.
``They were definitely a big part of the why I love playing baseball and they just made it fun for us kids when we were growing up,'' Neshek said. ``We'd have the games on and it got so tense, I'd run outside and throw a ball against the wall and try to get that last out and help them out.''
A collectibles hound, Neshek said he already has most of the '87 team's autographs, so he was just looking forward to seeing the group get back together again.
As was catcher Mike Redmond, who was in high school in 1987 and watched the games on television at home in Spokane, Wash.
``Hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to them and shake hands with them,'' Redmond said. ``We're all part of the family, whether you played in the '80s or '90s or you're playing today. Whenever you get a chance to meet the older guys and talk to guys, that's fun.''
The organization has an activity-packed weekend planned. On Friday night, the Twins introduced some of the players, including Bloomington native Hrbek, Reardon the closer, Viola and second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, and showed a highlight video from the 1987 season.
``You don't realize it's been 20 years,'' Viola said with a shake of the head. ``But then you look in the mirror and you're like, 'Wow. I guess it has been 20 years.''
On Saturday, the team plans to re-enact the victory parade on the field, and show a video in tribute to those who are no longer here, including center fielder Kirby Puckett, radio play-by-play man Herb Carneal and public address announcer Bob Casey.
They will wrap things up on Sunday by inducting Gaetti into the Twins Hall of Fame.
``There were some lean years here in the early '80s and that team kind of came out of nowhere in '87; and all of a sudden we're in a World Series parade and getting national attention and adulation,'' Ryan said. ``There's a lot of things that you look back on and live through and realize you don't have those types of magical years very often.''