My idol Bob Fowler left for the Minneapolis Star after the 1973 Twins season, and I was granted the baseball beat for the St. Paul newspapers.
What followed were the best five years of a sportswriter’s life. As a new season opens, there’s always a small regret for having seized the extra shekels to become a daily sports columnist for the St. Paul Dispatch in 1979.
Then again, I’m three weeks away from reaching 33 years of sobriety, and that wouldn’t have been feasible by remaining a full-time baseball writer.
Those were not golden years for the Twins, 1974 to 1978, but it was a chance to watch Sir Rodney Carew in his prime; to observe the talent and the friendship between Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle; to know the wonderful Danny Thompson as he was doomed with leukemia; and to get Tanqueray-induced mouthy on a Twins charter with Fowler playing Abbott to my Costello.
It started with me telling Steve Braun that he was a better hitter than Ty Cobb, and that legendary players from the days of yore would be physically overmatched chumps in the 1970s.
Fowler picked up on this and started having me compare other Twins to all-timers. Bert Blyleven or Walter Johnson? “Blyleven … no contest,” I said, while standing in the aisle.
Eventually, Fowler asked about shortstop: “Sergio Ferrer or Honus Wagner?”
I looked at Sergio, mumbled, “I’ll have to think about that one,” and sat down.
What I loved most was writing a baseball “gamer” on deadline. My finest lead came off a game at Met Stadium on June 14, 1977:
“The California Angels completed a sweep of a three-game series by beating the Twins 12-9 in Tuesday night’s opener.”
The shtick was that Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan were going to start the last two games of the series. The Twins beat both of them.
I walked into the clubhouse after the Twins won the series and said, “I knew you could do it all along, fellas.”
I’m not sure who owned the jockstrap (with cup inserted) that was hurled toward my head.
Plus Three from Patrick
Great moments in ball writing:
Sept. 5, 1978: Dan Ford fails to score from third before Jose Morales successfully reaches home from second, killing a Twins rally at the Met.
Aug. 6, 1977: A game in Baltimore is delayed 11 minutes as trainer Dick Martin attempts to drown and extricate a flapping moth lodged in catcher Butch Wynegar’s ear.
July 16, 1974: Bobby Darwin pursues Milwaukee’s Ken Berry relentlessly during a brawl at the Met. Can Berry fight? “No, but he can run pretty good,’’ Darwin replies.