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Continued: Souhan: Tom Kelly forever the humble champion

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 7, 2012 - 2:46 PM

It's just before 9 a.m. on a glorious morning in the St. Paul suburbs. The local golf course is packed, and a few blocks away, on leafy cul-de-sac, Tom Kelly pulls two folding chairs back from the sunbeams creeping into his garage, so he can talk in the shade.

Kelly's wife, Sharon, bustles between their kitchen and the back yard they have turned into an arboretum. Kelly leans back, the clippings from a morning of mowing clinging to his shins, and describes his neighbors; the retired police chiefs who flank him, the couple across the street preparing to have a baby, his golfing buddies. "We've got it pretty good here," he said.

Kelly has worked for the Twins since 1978. He could have left long ago.

When Kelly was managing the woeful Twins of the mid-'90s, and again after he retired following the 2001 season, he received stealthy inquiries about running other teams.

The Twins will honor his mentorship of two World Series champions Saturday when they will retire his No. 10 at Target Field. They will also honor his loyalty.

"Everybody seems excited, like it's something special,'' Kelly said. "I can't get it out of my head that the game is more about the players than the coaches and managers and umpires and general managers. But there are a lot of people looking forward to this."

As a manager, Kelly often gravitated toward clubhouse workers and security guards more than players and media. The party he's throwing Saturday shows he hasn't changed.

He has invited about 100 people. The guest list consists mostly of neighbors, old friends, family and former clubhouse workers. "It's going to be a big to-do," he said.

As a manager, Kelly excelled at anticipating opponents' moves. In conversation, he often begins answering a question before it has been finished, just like he'd sometimes head to the mound before a home run had landed.

Did he ever think about his Hall of Fame credentials? Kelly hears the "H" and begins his answer.

"I don't think about that, unless I get asked," he said. "There's a lot of people who dwell on it like it's a life-and-death thing. I've got some pretty good friends on the East Coast, and they suggested that once you've won three times, you're pretty much locked in. Like you said, I've had opportunities to do a lot of things besides work for the Twins. But I don't regret any of that.

"There were a few years I took some stupid pills, but for the most part I did pretty good."

In his first six full seasons as Twins manager, he won two World Series. From 1993 through 2000, he managed eight consecutive losing teams.

During that time, it was an open secret that large-market teams wanted to lure him away from Minnesota.

Again, Kelly answers while being asked, citing how the Twins transitioned from being praised as baseball's model franchise to becoming a tax writeoff for late owner Carl Pohlad.

"My first year, I was just worried about surviving and seeing if I could do this thing," he said. "Then, after we had a little success because of some really good players, then, Mr. Pohlad invited us down to the bank building. He was going to cut salaries back to, what, 15 or 16 million?

"He asked me how long I thought it would take to turn things around. I told him, 'About three years, at least.' He said, 'OK. Would you stick with me while we do this?'

"The guy gave me a chance. What am I going to do? Run away? We had our families here. I wasn't interested in moving. Once he asked me to stay, I decided to stay, knowing it was going to be a little rough. No, I don't have any second thoughts about that.''

Kelly remains friends with his successor, Ron Gardenhire. Both experienced immediate success and kept the job through losing seasons.

"Gardy's got a lot to hang onto there," Kelly said. "He's done very well in the big picture of things. He's got nothing to hang his head about. I know it bothers him, but he's done a really nice job. Excellent, actually."

Asked for his favorite memories, Kelly skims over the made-for-TV World Series moments and summons a scene from the manager's end of the dugout, on a September afternoon long before anybody could have anticipated Kelly's number joining Tony Oliva's and Harmon Killebrew's in a new ballpark in Minneapolis.

On Sept. 27, 1987, the Twins were preparing for their last home game of the season. They had lost two in a row and their lead in the old AL West was down to five, with seven games remaining.

Kelly headed to the dugout early. "People were starting to cheer, and I was like, 'What's going on?'" he said. "They were just excited about the game. I thought that was pretty good.''

The Twins won that game, and the next, to clinch a division title. Since then, Kelly has spoken in honor or remembrance of many of his former players and bosses. Saturday, he will take "four or five" minutes to talk about himself.

"Talking about the players was easy," Kelly said. "If there's any praise to be given, it's about the players. There are only a few numbers up there in that ballpark, and those are some big-shot players.

"I'm having a little trouble balancing that, that I'll be up there with them. But if the Twins want to do this, then, OK, we'll do it. It's quite an honor, that's for sure."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Chicago WSox 6
Chicago Cubs 5 Bottom 5th Inning
St. Louis 1
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 3 2nd Qtr 13:03
Massachusetts 0
West Virginia 3 1st Qtr 10:58
(2) Alabama 0
Rice 0 1st Qtr 12:00
(17) Notre Dame 0
(10) South Dakota St 7 1st Qtr 9:41
(24) Missouri 7
Fla Atlantic 0 1st Qtr 13:10
(22) Nebraska 0
California 0 1st Qtr 9:30
Northwestern 0
Marshall 0 1st Qtr 12:27
Miami-Ohio 0
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
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