The most enduring athletes in Minnesota history are well known. Names like Puckett, Killebrew and Tarkenton bring about images of long-term success. But what about those with local ties who only had a chance meeting with the big time? Here we remember their one victory, their one appearance -- their one moment. Today:
Bobby Keppel's historic victory.
Bobby Keppel made his major league debut in 2006, getting six starts for the woeful Royals. He contributed four of their 100 losses (without a victory), bounced to Colorado in 2007 for four relief appearances (still without a victory) and didn't pitch at all in the majors in 2008. He made his Twins debut June 27, 2009, finding himself in long-relief or mop-up duty in many of his first 36 appearances.
But what happened in his 37th appearance of the season instantly became a large part of one of the most famous games in recent Twins history, if not all-time franchise history.
The Twins and Tigers hadn't been able to determine an AL Central champion after 162 games. By the top of the 11th inning of Game 163, they were still deadlocked. The Twins had already burned through seven pitchers when they turned to Keppel, who got the final out of the inning.
After a scoreless bottom half, Keppel went back out for the 12th. The first batter that inning? None other than Clete Thomas, who made solid contact but was retired on a deep liner to center. After a walk, a single (with both runners advancing on the throw to third) and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Brandon Inge.
During the at-bat, a Keppel pitch appeared to graze Inge's jersey, which would have forced in the go-ahead run. Instead, it was simply ruled a ball. Inge's grounder later in the at-bat led to a forceout at home, and Keppel struck out Gerald Laird to get out of the inning unscathed. In the bottom half, of course, Carlos Gomez scored the winning run on Alexi Casilla's single, and the celebration was on.
A couple of months later, Keppel said this about the game: "What I remember the most is how relaxed I was, when everyone else was so nervous. I was thinking, 'What an awesome experience this is.' "
Get this: 1) It went down as Keppel's first major league victory. 2) It ended up being his only major league victory. 3) It ended up being, in fact, the last game he ever pitched in the majors.
If you're only going to get one victory, and you have to end your career sometime, what a way to do it.