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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Altercation on Twins team bus in '67 included gun

There will be a package of stories in Sunday’s Star Tribune marking the 50th anniversary of Minnesota’s eventful 1967 sports calendar:

The Twins in “The Great Race,’’ the Vikings with Norm Van Brocklin gone and Bud Grant hired as coach, the arrival of the North Stars, the Muskies and Met Center, and the Gophers earning what remains the last Big Ten football title as tri-champions with Purdue and Indiana.

These retrospectives give us a chance to put researcher John Wareham to work in the Star Tribune library. The broad sheet copies from that research always seem to present as much interesting stuff as what makes its way into the articles.

One intriguing sidelight was found in Twins pieces in the June 21, 1967 editions of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune and the afternoon Minneapolis Star.

The Twins had played a Tuesday night exhibition game at Indianapolis against the Indians of the Pacific Coast League on June 20.

Tom Briere, the beat writer for the Tribune, had a story on the exhibition game, leading with the fact that third base coach Billy Martin had entered at second base in the sixth inning and had a couple of hits.

There was also a four-paragraph item – obviously, written under a severe deadline – that an altercation had broken out between Ted Uhlaender and Tony Oliva on the team bus from the Detroit airport to the hotel.

The final paragraph also said pitcher Dave Boswell had “instigated the fracas with some by-play in the back of the bus.’’

Max Nichols’ piece in the afternoon Star included the information that manager Cal Ermer had called a noon meeting with the players to discuss the situation. Nichols’ coverage included this:

“These three players exploded in a pushing, shoving and shouting contest about midnight as the Twins bus neared the Detroit hotel.’’ He also wrote, “Gestures by Boswell evidently started the scuffle.’’

There were two parts to this 50-year-old story for me:

One, Tony Oliva is my favorite all-time Twin, as a player and personality; and two, Briere and Nichols were riding on the team bus (as beat reporters often did in that era) and felt the freedom to publish what they had observed.

I was at the ballpark Friday to interview Ron Gardenhire. I wrote that piece for Saturday’s paper and then decided to go to ask Tony O. about the blowup on the bus, figuring there wasn’t that much to it.

“Hey, Senor,’’ as I’ve called him for 40 years, I said, “I ran across these clippings of a fight on the team bus in 1967. You’re not a fighter.’’

Tony walked over and said: “That’s true. I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover.’’

Then, Tony took the copy of the Star’s front sports page, looked at the headline – “Ermer’s Strong Hand Calms Twin Squabble’’ – and offered the slight smile that indicates he’s interested in something.

“There was a part of this that no one would talk about, and the writers didn’t write,’’ he said. “Boswell had a gun on the bus.

“It was an exhibition game, and I don’t know – there was probably a lot of drinking by some players, if they weren’t playing, or after they left the game. We were on the way in from the Detroit airport, and Boswell started waving around a gun, above his head, like he was going to shoot a hole in the roof.

“I don’t know if the gun was loaded or not. I told Boswell to put the gun away, that it was not funny, it was dangerous.

“That’s when Uhlaender got involved.’’

Tony shook his head and said: “Ted and I had played together since the instructional league. He was my interpreter then, because he knew some Spanish. We were friends. But that night, some stuff came out of him that got quite a few players mad … not just me.

“He started saying, ‘You Cubans this, Cubans that,’ and it wasn’t good. Sandy Valdespino was hotter than I was. He was coming over the seat. And Ted was saying, ‘You’re going to have the black guys on your side over this, but I’m going to have the white guys.’

“Harmon [Killebrew], [Bob] Allison … they were looking at him, didn’t know what to do. Ermer said something to us when we got off the bus. They didn’t want any mention of the gun, so people wondered, ‘Why was Tony telling Boswell what to do?’ ‘’

Oliva said there was a knock on his door the next morning at 9 o’clock. It was Uhlaender.

“He said, ‘You know me, Tony … we go way back; that stuff I said, that’s not the way I am,’ ‘’ Oliva said. “I told him, ‘That was last night. We will forget it.’

“That was quite a team meeting. We played good after that and almost won a pennant, but we played that way because we had a good team. There were some bad feelings after that mess on the bus.’’

Dang. This was way more than I expected when going downstairs at Target Field to see my man Tony O. on Friday.

Reusse: Colon's casual style brings back carefree childhood memories

What did a kid do when there was nothing to do on a summer day in Fulda, Minn. in the mid-1950s?

There were two main options: You would throw a baseball against the steps in the front of the house, or you would toss a baseball in the air, get two hands on a bat and attempt to give it a whack.

These options were not always available, since we resided in the upstairs of the large house, and the downstairs was my father’s funeral home.

If a family in the area had suffered a loss, you had to check the schedule to make sure you wouldn’t be throwing a baseball against the steps when those folks arrived to pick out a casket for a loved one.

And if there was a wake taking place, you were encouraged to be quiet if anywhere in the vicinity of the house.

I was probably 9 or 10 one afternoon when I tossed up the baseball, took the whack, lost my grip on the bat and it went flying through a window. The wake would be starting in a couple hours, and even with my father’s love for baseball, a bat through a window of a sitting room in the funeral home was an inexcusable blunder.

Somehow, I started thinking about this on Wednesday night, while watching Bartolo Colon work innings 4 through 7 in a 4-0 victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Colon went seven scoreless innings for the Twins, and he put those on top of a complete game in his last outing for the Twins.

The casualness and pace with which he did this reminded me of a kid throwing a baseball at the steps. I was the kid because it’s the only experience I have with that picture.

That’s what you did: You took a glance, zeroed in on a specific spot, and tried to hit it so that the baseball would return as planned. Once the ball was back in the glove, you would look around for a moment, maybe flip the ball in the air, and then get ready to make another throw as close to your spot as possible.

I think this vision came to me as the Twins were batting in the top of the sixth. The TV camera went to the dugout as Dick Bremer and the excellent analyst, Roy Smalley, were mentioning Colon.

And there was Bartolo, looking straight ahead, not much to do, but he had a ball in his possession, so he tossed it a couple of feet above his head and caught it.

Young Bartolo had to be a fabulous time killer on a languid day in Altamira, Dominican Republic. I’m guessing all he would have needed to occupy himself was a baseball.

I don’t care if he’s 44 and was making his 528th start (including playoffs) in the major leagues. Nobody can be the cool hand that was Colon on Wednesday, not even Paul Newman as Luke Jackson.

Colon’s strikeout fastball is long gone, so he basically has to keep pumping strikes until a hitter puts a ball in play. Every pitch needs a thought, and he gets the ball back from the catcher, stares at nothing for a couple of seconds as he contemplates, and then he’s ready to go.

As Smalley pointed out, Colon gets hitters so conscious of the fastball that’s down with a little run at 86/87 miles per hour, that when he goes with the fastball at 92 – high and straight – it can get on the top of the hitters before they adjust.

The thing about Colon’s high fastball is that it’s not so high that it’s easy to lay off. It’s more like an inch and fraction above a perfect hitting location … irresistable, but not the cookie it looked like approaching the plate.

The most amazing pitch of Colon’s night came when he jammed Orlando Arcia with a fastball at 84. This is Ozzie’s kid brother and a future All-Star as a shortstop. And Arcia actually wound up with a hit in this at-bat, but strike two had to hit the knuckle of Arcia’s right index finger as he swung.

It was a hysterical hack. The whole Colon approach – looking around, picking out a spot, doing so as casually if he was throwing at the front steps; flipping a baseball because there’s nothing else to do at that moment – was hysterical.

It was the most fun I’ve had watching a Twins game since back in 2010, when Twins games were fun.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Arizona at Twins

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Cleburne at Saints

    7:05 pm on 106.1-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Arizona at Twins

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  • Lynx at New York

    2 pm on NBATV, 106.1-FM

  • Cleburne at Saints

    5:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Loons at Seattle

    9 pm on FS1, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox (2)

    4:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Phoenix at Lynx

    7 pm on FSN PLUS/NBATV, 106.1-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Toronto

    6:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Lynx at San Antonio

    7 pm on 106.1-FM

  • Saints at Fargo-Moorhead

    7 pm on 1220-AM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Toronto

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

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    7

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    7

    9

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    Pittsburgh

     

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    11

    10

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    6

    9

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    8

    5

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    3

    1

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    7

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    5

    3

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    4

    3

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    - F

    1

    3

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    Minnesota

     

    - F

    3

    10

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    10

    1

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    4

    8

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    San Diego

     

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    7

    1

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    2

    10

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    13

    20

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