Andy MacPhail, who put the final pieces of the 1987 Twins' puzzle together, believes the team's defining moment came during Game 7 of its World Series triumph over St. Louis. The Twins had fallen behind 2-0 in the second inning, and closed their deficit to a single run entering the bottom of the fifth inning.
To those inhabiting the home dugout, this was not a time for panic. Instead, it was a signal that there was ample time for one more practical joke.
During the interlude between the top and bottom of the fifth inning, someone in the Twins dugout locked public address announcer Bob Casey in the bathroom next to the dugout, then lathered his telephone earpiece and nearby towel with shaving cream. In short order, Casey nearly delayed the game, coated his ear in shaving cream when he answered a supposed emergency call, then soaked his suit while trying to wipe off his ear.
"I'm so nervous I can hardly watch the game, much less participate in it, and they're thinking about locking Casey in the bathroom," MacPhail, the Twins' former general manger, said. "To me, that's the memory that will forever highlight that group."
The Twins will gather this weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first World Series championship. A moment of silence would be a fitting prelude to the proceedings, because the '87 Twins truely represent the passing of an era.
This was a team of character and characters - Bert Blyleven, Dan Gladden, Al Newman, Tom Brunansky, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti to name a few - who would have been more at home in a 1950s clubhouse. They were ballplayers first, corporate entities second.
Of the World Series contestants since 1987, only the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies come close to matching the Twins' zany approach, and the Phillies were beaten in six games by Toronto. As baseball heads deeper and deeper into the modern (read big business) era, former '87 Twins have come to realize that their kind has all but passed from the game. Many of them were made painfully aware of that by the time their own playing careers had ended.
What they had in the summer of '87 - the camaraderie, the daily jokes and the simple love of the game - was never found again by those who left the Twins. On this team, no one ate alone. Family outings on off days were frequent occurrences.
"I remember so much more off-the-field stuff from that year," Hrbek said. "Parties at somebody's house, families getting together. I think that's why everybody's so fired up about this deal the '87 reunion. You're not only going to see the guys, you're going to see the families again."
Brunansky said that as a Twin he took it for granted that every team was filled with players who arrived at the clubhouse early, left several hours after games and frequently socialized away from the ballpark. He was wrong.
"What we shared was real unique, from what I learned later," said Brunansky, who was traded to St. Louis early in the 1988 season. Building blocks
It was not only the clubhouse attitude that separated the Twins from their contemporaries. The Twins were, quite literally, built like an old-time baseball team - from the ground up.
Six members of the World Series team were rookies in 1982: Hrbek, Gaetti, Brunansky, Frank Viola, Randy Bush and Tim Laudner. The Class of '82 survived 102 losses in their rookie season, and by 1984 were involved in a September pennant race with Kansas City.
Puckett, who would emerge as the team's superstar, matriculated from the Twins' farm system in 1984. The building blocks - a strong cast of everyday players and a No. 1 starting pitcher in Viola - were in place. Still, the 1986 Twins were 71-91 and endured their second managerial change in two seasons when Tom Kelly replaced Ray Miller in September.
The turning point came in two key acquisitions by MacPhail and his staff before the 1987 season. The first was a trade that brought closer Jeff Reardon from Montreal. Minnesota ended Ron Davis' tenure as closer - politely described as an emotional rollercoaster - late in a 1986 trade with the Chicago Cubs. Reardon provided instant hope.
Said Brunansky: "I still remember sitting in the kitchen when I heard the news and I immediately called Herbie Hrbek. I said, `Hey, Rex, we got a shot.' "
The final piece was a trade with the Giants that brought Gladden to the Twins three days before the end of spring training. That deal gave the Twins a decent leadoff hitter and a strong defensive left fielder. More important, it provided the clubhouse with an emotional sparkplug - the one missing intangible.
"He gave us somebody on our team that guys on other teams probably hated," catcher Tim Laudner said. "For years we'd been playing teams where we'd say, `Gol, I hate that one guy.' . . . And now, we finally had that guy on our team."
|Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez||0||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Masterson||6|
|Arizona - LP: W. Miley||1||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: R. Nolasco||2|
|Cincinnati - LP: A. Chapman||2||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: A. Bastardo||3|
|Houston - LP: L. Harrell||0||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke||1|
|Los Angeles - LP: K. Jansen||2||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: L. Avilan||5|
|Tampa Bay - WP: M. Moore||3||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: C. Tillman||1|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||5||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: P. Hernandez||1|
|Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse||2||FINAL|
|St. Louis - WP: J. Gast||4|
|NY Mets - WP: S. Rice||4||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: K. Fujikawa||3|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Peavy||2||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Vargas||6|
|Kansas City - LP: K. Herrera||3||FINAL|
|Oakland - WP: J. Blevins||4|
|Washington - LP: D. Haren||4||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: A. Cashner||13|
|San Francisco - LP: B. Zito||0||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: J. Nicasio||5|
|Detroit - LP: J. Ortega||8||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: R. Ross||11|
|Red Bull New York||1|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||FINAL|
|Real Salt Lake||4||FINAL|