Tom Kelly was in his second full season as the Twins manager and a month short of his 38th birthday when he managed the American League in the 1988 All-Star Game. Kelly was so worked up over the challenge that on the morning of the game, he took a 90-minute ride from Cincinnati to Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.
There, he was able to have a conversation with Claiborne owner Seth Hancock, and then get a full tour of the world-famous thoroughbred facility. Hancock was interested in talking inside baseball, and Kelly was interested in talking about Claiborne’s stable occupants:
Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Mr. Prospector, Private Account and Danzig, to name a handful.
Secretariat was 18 at the time. He was taken from the first stall in the main barn, a stall previously occupied by his daddy, Bold Ruler, and led outside by a groom.
Gus Koch, the assistant manager at Claiborne, encouraged Kelly to have his photo taken with Secretariat … “two redheads standing the morning haze,’’ was a clause in an old column.
Kelly, a man experienced around racehorses, took a loose hold on Secretariat’s bridle. “Big Red’’ became slightly agitated and used his a hoof to give Kelly a gentle kick in the back of a leg.
“Watch it there, big fella,’’ Kelly said.
Kelly’s review of Claiborne would be succinct: “Everywhere you look there’s a superstar.’’
That night, Frank Viola became the second Twins pitcher to start an All-Star Game (Dean Chance, 1967) and was a 2-1 winner. Three other Twins played, Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti and Tim Laudner, with Jeff Reardon held in reserve as a reliever.
Four years later, in San Diego, Kelly managed again and hinted to his loaded lineup that going the other way against NL starter Tom Glavine was worth consideration.
The AL winning streak reached five with a 13-6 victory, as Glavine allowed seven straight hits in the first, and eventually gave up five runs in getting five outs.
“Were those guys impressive swinging the bat tonight or what?’’ said Kelly, who was then (and forevermore) 2-0 as an All-Star Game manager.