The 2017 Twins are involved in a chaotic competition of flawed, feisty teams to claim the American League's second wild card and earn a chance to play in a single-elimination game on the road.
The standards were higher and the stakes much greater when the 1967 Twins engaged in an ever-changing duel among four of the AL's 10 teams. The winner would advance to the World Series to play St. Louis, the runaway leader in the National League.
The media label for this pursuit came easily: "The Great Race" was a popular movie in 1965, and now there was a Great Race that would bring disappointment in Minnesota, Detroit and the South Side of Chicago, and invigorate a Boston baseball scene so moribund that there had been veiled threats the Red Sox might join the Braves (1953 to Milwaukee) in leaving town.
The Twins had stumbled at the start of 1967. The crowds had turned painfully small and owner Calvin Griffith was in a bad mood.
On June 8, bullpen stopper Al Worthington gave up four runs in the ninth and the Twins lost 7-5 to Cleveland. This put the Twins at 25-25 and in sixth place.
Griffith fired Sam Mele the next day after six-plus years as manager and brought in Cal Ermer, his manager at Class AAA Denver. Calvin said he was reacting to Twins fans' wishes, claiming he had received "400 letters" urging Mele's firing.
The fans not buying tickets probably had more to do with it — as did a clubhouse with veterans who seemingly had tired of Mele. As proof, the players didn't include Mele (managers were eligible then) when voting potential World Series shares in mid-September.
The Twins were hanging around .500, until they went on a 14-3 run that put them within a half-game of first place in mid-July.
Then, kaboom! The Twins went 0-7-1 over an eight-game stretch. Fifty years later, Jim Kaat still laments one pitch from the tie on July 25 in Yankee Stadium.
"I was ahead 1-0 with two outs in the ninth, pitching to Mickey [Mantle]," Kaat said. "I didn't like catchers coming to the mound, but with a 3-1 count, Russ Nixon came out and asked what I wanted to do with Mick. I said, 'I want to pitch to him, because Elston Howard's next, and he gives me more trouble.'
"Well, Mickey homered, the weather rolled in, and we made up the tie when we went back to New York. I gave up one run again, and lost 1-0 to Steve Barber."
Kaat paused and said: "That tie could've been the pennant."
The Twins rallied after leaving New York. They swept the White Sox in an August series that drew 115,000 to Met Stadium and took first place for the first time.
Calvin was smiling, and the four-team brawl was full steam ahead. On Sept. 6, the Twins, White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers were tied for first in games behind, all either 79-62 or 78-61.
The White Sox dropped out Sept. 29, the Friday of the final weekend. The Twins had games in Boston on Saturday and Sunday. The Tigers had two rainouts, leaving them with home doubleheaders vs. the Angels on those same days.
The Twins needed one victory in Fenway. Kaat was pitching Saturday and said, "I had been as close to Sandy Koufax as I ever was going to get that September. Best I ever pitched in my life."
Kaat was leading 1-0 in the third inning when his elbow popped and he had to leave. It was a tendon tear.
The Twins lost that game 6-4, with Carl Yastrzemski hitting a three-run homer. Dean Chance was making his third start in a week on Sunday and the Twins lost again 5-3. Yaz had four hits and threw out Bob Allison at second to kill an eighth-inning rally.
The Tigers lost the second game to the Angels later that day, and Boston had won the pennant.
In New England, the song title "Impossible Dream" was used to describe the city's baseball rebirth. In Minnesota, it was a bad ending to a Great Race.