Fortune, Cuddyer kept former Twin off Flight 11

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 11, 2011 - 1:45 AM

Brad Thomas was going to fly home on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center 10 years ago.


Michael Cuddyer.

Photo: Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

DETROIT - Michael Cuddyer doesn't consider himself a lifesaver, even if that's what former Twins teammate Brad Thomas calls him.

Cuddyer figures thousands of people probably have similar stories, involving twists of fate, from Sept. 11, 2001.

But the bottom line is this: Thomas, a lefthanded pitcher from Sydney, Australia, and his wife, Kylie, had tickets booked on American Airlines Flight 11, which took off from Boston and was headed for Los Angeles before crashing into the World Trade Center.

They didn't take that flight because Brad Thomas had more baseball to play before heading home to Australia. Class AA New Britain had made a dramatic run to the Eastern League finals, keyed by two late-inning Cuddyer home runs in the semifinals.

"Michael pretty much saved our lives singlehandedly by knocking in the winning runs in the last of the playoff games that took us to the next round," Thomas told this week.

Thomas, now a Tigers pitcher, was Cuddyer's first roommate in professional baseball, in 1997. They played parts of the next seven seasons together, climbing through the Twins minor league system.

"He credits me for saving his life," Cuddyer said Saturday. "I mean, I don't know about that. It was just a twist of fate."

It's common for minor leaguers to book trips home before season's end and then change the reservations if necessary. Thomas and his then-girlfriend were scheduled to fly from Boston to Sydney via Los Angeles on Sept. 11.

But in Game 1 of the semifinals against Norwich, Conn., Cuddyer hit a two-run, ninth-inning homer to secure a 3-2 victory. In Game 4, he hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning, leading to a clinching celebration that night, Sept. 8, for the Rock Cats.

As Cuddyer wrote in this week's column for, "Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was supposed to be a big day in Rock Cats history."

They were set to open the Eastern League finals against Reading, Pa., that night. Cuddyer was scheduled to be a guest DJ on a New Britain radio station. He awoke that morning to a call from the producer, telling him not to come to the studio and saying he should probably turn on his TV.

New Britain manager Stan Cliburn gathered players at the stadium. The championship series was on hold and would never be played, not that anybody cared, under the circumstances. In that meeting, Thomas told his teammates he was supposed to be on Flight 11.

"It was more numbness," Cuddyer said, explaining his reaction. "I'm sure the whole country was like that as well. You're just numb to all the events and everything that transpired after that."

Thomas is on the 60-day disabled list because of an elbow injury, so he's not at Comerica Park this weekend, as the world marks the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

The Twins are back in Detroit, just as they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Baseball postponed play that week, so after waiting for a few days in their Dearborn, Mich., hotel, the Twins boarded three buses back to the Twin Cities.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was the third-base coach then. He and his wife, Carol, woke up that morning 10 years ago excited to call their son, Toby, to wish him a happy birthday.

"He said, 'Have you guys seen what's going on? You need to turn on the TV,' " Gardenhire said. "It was one of those sad, sad days. It was a miserable feeling."

Cuddyer received his first big league promotion on Sept. 15, 2001. He drove from New Britain to Minneapolis, full of conflicted emotions -- excited about his career and relieved for his friend, but devastated for this country.

  • related content

  • Baserunning blunders trump Benson's hits

    Sunday September 11, 2011

    Joe Benson recorded his first big-league hit but followed that with some mistakes on the bases.

  • Fired Nieto defends his work in Rochester

    Sunday September 11, 2011

    The former Twins catcher said he was bothered by the perception his staff didn't work hard at preparing players for the big leagues.

  • Recap: Detroit 3, Twins 2

    Sunday September 11, 2011

    IMPACT PLAYER: Brandon Inge, TigersBatting .190, he hit a two-out, pinch-hit, walk-off homer off Glen Perkins.BY THE NUMBERS3 Home runs...

  • Tigers lefthander Brad Thomas.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Cleveland 1 Top 5th Inning
Detroit 4
Chicago Cubs 0 Delayed
Cincinnati 0
Kansas City 0 Postponed
Chicago WSox 0
Houston - S. Feldman 3:05 PM
Oakland - K. Graveman
NY Mets - M. Harvey 3:05 PM
NY Yankees - C. Sabathia
Washington - S. Strasburg 3:10 PM
Miami - T. Koehler
Toronto - D. Norris 5:10 PM
Tampa Bay - E. Ramirez
Atlanta - S. Miller 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan
Boston - J. Masterson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - W. Chen
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 6:10 PM
Milwaukee - W. Peralta
Pittsburgh - A. Burnett 7:10 PM
Arizona - R. De La Rosa
San Francisco - T. Hudson 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
Los Angeles - B. McCarthy 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Minnesota - T. May 8:10 PM
Seattle - J. Paxton
Atlanta 2:00 PM
Chicago 4:30 PM
Golden State 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Memphis 9:30 PM
Washington 2:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 5:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Nashville 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Real Salt Lake 6:30 PM
New England
Sporting Kansas City 7:30 PM
D.C. 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are your plans for the Twins' home opener?

Weekly Question