Tom Mee retired as Twins media relations director in June 1991. He said the time to retire was right for this reason: “The baseball era is over. The marketing era is here.”
The accuracy of this could be found in Mee’s job title. For two decades, he was the Twins public relations director. This meant dealing with newspaper, radio and television reporters and getting information on the team provided to the public.
Mee worked for the St. Paul Saints, a Dodgers Class AAA farm club, from 1957 through 1960. When the Twins moved to Bloomington late in the fall of 1960, Mee landed as the assistant to Herb Heft in public relations.
Heft came with the team from Washington. He was an East Coast guy. He took a job with the New York Mets, and Mee was elevated to public relations director in 1963.
Mee will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on Friday night at Target Field. A couple of snapshots from his time with the Twins:
• The Twins went 79-83 in 1968 and attendance fell to 1,143,257, the lowest in eight seasons in Minnesota. Calvin Griffith hired Billy Martin as manager. The public embraced Billy, the Twins won the first-ever AL West title at 97-65, and attendance went back to 1,349,327.
Billy had enemies in the organization, particularly Howard Fox, the influential traveling secretary. The Twins were swept in a three-game ALCS by Baltimore. The enemies convinced Griffith to fire Martin.
Griffith told Mee to write the press release that Martin was fired. As the head of PR, Mee said to Calvin: “This is going to be the biggest mistake we’ve made here. The fans love Billy.”
Mee was right. Attendance fell as they won the West again in 1970, and then it plummeted.
• Mee was gentleman — but when his temper went, it was memorable.
Tom showed he still had his fastball in that area late in his tenure as official scorer (he retired from that in June 2007). There was an overserved lout in the back row in front of the Metrodome press box. He was standing and giving very loud grief to anyone in earshot.
Media director Mike Herman was trying to reason with the drunk, to no avail. From his location in the second row, Mee stood and said, “Sit down” … said it in large letters with exclamation points.
The drunk sat down, and so did Tom, back to deciding between hits and errors.