La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: One of many stories from Tom Kelly Day, if you can handle one more

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 8, 2012 - 11:01 PM

Tom Kelly was full of stories on Saturday as his number was retired. But he offered an interesting and unexpected response to a question about where his number is hanging.

The Twins' retired numbers hang from the second level of the office building in the left field corner, in order of most recent (Kelly) to the one retired the longest (Killebrew). But Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is on the far left before the Twins' retired numbers. St. Paul reporter, "Sugar" Ray Richardson asked him what it was like to have his number hanging next to Robinson's.

"I wish I was just a little bit older, and we could have watched him play," Kelly began. "I was in the next group, per se. Seeing those highlight films, the old black and white films and watching him steal bases and steal home and, of course, hitting the ball to the opposite field. He always seems like he's hitting the ball to the opposite field.

"I always takes notice of those things, when you mention that. Of course he was a pioneer. Thank God. I hope the doors can get re-opened a little bit more. As you know, Torii (Hunter) has tried to help with that with his charities and causes...because the numbers are getting skewed. That's why I was glad to see that we drafted the kid from Georgia, (Byron) Buxton. I haven't seen him play, but I hear he's very talented."

We're trying to get Kelly to talk about his special day, but he found to way to talk about other players, even if it meant mentioning Byron Buxton.

Kelly spent the day talking about everyone but himself. I've heard his, "It's about the players," speech many times. I first heard it when Eric Milton threw his no-hitter, and Kelly never left the dugout as the rest of the team celebrated. I heard it again the day he retired. The day T.K. announced his decision, he had Brian Buchanan in the batting cage, trying to help him get better.

 It's about the players, and it wasn't just lip service with Kelly.

"Then when the players make a mistake, everyone yells at the manger," he said during his speech.

How true.

 

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