Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Twins Hall of Fame ballots are being mailed Friday. This year, 54 of us are part of the voting committee, and later this month, fans can vote online at Twinsbaseball.com.
Recent inductees include: Rick Aguilera (2008), Brad Radke and George Brophy (2009), Greg Gagne (2010) and Jim Perry (2011).
Not to knock any of them, but how can we continue to overlook Camilo Pascual?
With Patrick Reusse's urging, I've been voting for Pascual, but I must admit that I knew little about the Cuban righthander's career this summer, when we were putting together stories for Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame induction. I started interviewing folks about Blyleven's legendary curve ball, and the ones who remembered, were quick to mention his predecessor.
"The best curve ball in history, and a guy who gets overlooked, is Camilo Pascual," White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone said.
Hawk Harrelson heard us talking and launched into a story:
"We had a rainy day at the old Met, and Camilo did something I’d never seen somebody do: He struck out three guys all sitting on their butt. Rocky Colavito was hitting third, I was hitting fourth, and Jim Gentile was hitting fifth. The ground was wet, and we got out there so far -- wham! Right down on our butt."
The late Ted Williams also used to say Pascual had the most feared curve ball in the American League.
Signed out of Havana in 1952, Pascual blossomed into an elite pitcher with the Washington Senators, but those teams lost a lot of games, so his record really didn't show it.
When the Senators moved to Minnesota, Pascual gave the Twins instant credibility on the mound. He led the American League in strikeouts in 1961, 1962 and 1963, combining for 51 complete games during those three years.
He made three All-Star teams for the Twins and had two 20-win seasons (1962 and 1963). All those curve balls eventually took a toll on his right arm, and he wasn't quite the same after going 8-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his first 13 starts in 1965, the year the Twins reached their first World Series. They traded him to Washington in 1966 with Bernie Allen for relief pitcher Ron Kline.
In his comprehensive series ranking the all-time greatest Twins, Aaron Gleeman has Pascual at No. 20. As Gleeman writes:
Pascual arrived in Minnesota with one of the greatest four-year runs in team history, winning 15, 20, 21, and 15 games while leading the league in strikeouts in the first three years and finishing second in the fourth. In six seasons with the Twins he made three All-Star teams, won 20 games twice, posted a 3.31 ERA in 1,284 innings, and went 88-57 for a .607 winning percentage that ranked as the best in team history until Johan Santana came around.
Pascual pitched for the Twins from 1961-66, a short window, but he ranks among their Top 10 all-time leaders in several categories, including:
Wins: 88 (8th)
ERA: 3.31 (7th)
Complete games: 72 (4th)
Shutouts: 18 (3rd)
Strikeouts: 994 (7th)
About seven or eight years ago, Pascual was a guest on WCCO's "Sunday Sports Huddle" with Sid Hartman and Dave Mona.
"One of the first things he said was how pleased he was because he didn’t think anyone still remembered him in Minnesota," Mona said in an e-mail.
Pascual turns 78 on Jan. 20. It's time for the voters to remember him, so the Twins can celebrate his career next summer at Target Field.
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