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TwinsCentric: Who was the 25th man in 1987?

  • Blog Post by: John Bonnes
  • January 9, 2012 - 9:25 AM

 

 


I was born in 1967 which means for the first 30 years of my life, there was no internet. Those were my formative years – so how come it almost seems inconceivable to have a world where there isn’t one?

But occasionally, it still surprises me, usually around a topic from my youth. Like a month ago, when I realized I could find the song from the movie Hopscotch that I had been humming to people for a couple of decades. (It’s Rondo in D, K382 by Mozart).

The latest example was generated by the local SABR chapter’s message board. It turns out that in the 1987 World Series, 24 players appeared for the Twins (http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1987_WS.shtml). But the postseason roster (as far as we know) is 25 players. So who didn’t get to play?

I used this question as an excuse to truck around the internet for an hour and become amazed at everything you can find out. Bear with me on the tour.....

Only nine pitchers pitched for the Twins in that series , so I though it would have had to have been a pitcher. The ones who did are starters Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven, Les Straker and relievers Jeff Reardon, Juan Berenguer, Dan Schatzeder, Keith Atherton, Georg Frazier and Phil Joe Niekro.

In the ALCS, only seven pitchers appeared: the nine above minus Frazier and Niekro. That doesn't help.

The Twins who threw the most innings in 1987 (other than those nine) were Mike Smithson (21 G, 109 IP), Mark Portugal (13G, 44 IP), Steve Carleton (9G, 43 IP) and Joe Klink (12G, 23 IP). Nobody else had more than 16.1.

Smithson pitched all year, including a long relief stint on 9/25. Portugal didn't pitch for the Twins past 6/5 in the regular season. Carlton pitched all year, including on 9/30. Plus, he was veteran and left-handed and Schatzeder was the only southpaw in the bullpen (or other than Viola, on the staff.) Klink was also left-handed, but didn't pitch past June 3rd in the regular season.

So my best guess was that it was Carlton, but his wikipedia bio says he was never on the Twins postseason roster along with another interesting tidbit about the team picture at the White House:

"He was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he was yet again ineffective. He went a combined 6-14 with a 5.74 ERA for both the Indians and Twins. However the Twins, who had been a bad team for most of the 1980s, would go on to a surprising win in the 1987 World Series, albeit without Carlton on the postseason roster, to earn him a third World Series ring and a trip to the White House to meet President Reagan along with his teammates. Interestingly, when Carlton was photographed with his teammates at the White House, newspapers listed each member of the team with the notable exception of Carlton. Instead, Carlton was listed as an "unidentified Secret Service agent."[12] The Twins brought him back in 1988 but he lasted only a month (0-1 16.76 ERA in four games) before the Twins released him."

So I looked into Smithson, but it states on John Swol’s website that Smithson was never on the 1987 playoff roster. That link includes a 31-minute audio interview with Smithson which I didn't listen to, so I can't tell you if he confirms that in the interview or not.

Ok, how about the other guys? There were four other guys who pitched at some point in 1987: Roy Smith, Allan Anderson, Jeff Bittiger & Jeff Niemann. Niemann & Anderson were lefties, and I gotta think Tom Kelly would've have wanted more than one southpaw in that bullpen. Niemann didn't pitch past June (or even again in the majors, so I think he's out.) And Anderson didn't pitch in the regular season for that team past May, so I doubt it's him. (BTW, If you would like to ask Anderson, you might be able to do so through his facebook page.

So maybe it was Bittiger or Smith, but I wondered what other position it might be. Hmm, maybe TK might have had a 3rd catcher on the roster for the World Series? Other than Tim Laudner and Sal Butera, the other catcher that year was Tom Nieto. He was on the roster in September, so he was certainly an option. (Yes, that’s the same Tom Nieto who the Twins recently fired as their AAA head coach.) A search on google for "Tom Nieto 1987 World Series" turned up a 1987 Tom Nieto World Series jersey. That's far from definitive proof, but that's my best bet right now.

But one of the other powers of the internet is that it can bring people together, so let’s try opening this up to TwinsCentric’s esteemed readers. If you remember or have any other thoughts or information, please let me hear it in the comments. Or share your favorite obscure 1987 Twins trivia.

 

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