The Golden Days committee included Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat in its election of four new Hall of Famers last Sunday, increasing the number of players that will be wearing Twins caps on their Cooperstown plaques to six.
It took a few minutes and then this reminder surfaced on Twitter and other outlets: Tony O and Kitty give the Twins of the early 1970s a group of five in the Hall of Fame.
And that was the case, from 19-year-old Bert Blyleven's first start on June 22, 1970, until Kaat's release on Aug. 15, 1973:
Blyleven, Kaat, Oliva, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew were teammates with the Twins.
These were the teams of Calvin Griffith, the Twins owner from arrival for the 1961 season until the sale to Carl Pohlad in September 1984. The other Hall of Famer, Kirby Puckett, made his debut in May 1984, making him another original discovery of the Griffith organization.
The response of the newer generations of Twins followers with a focus on postseason failure came quickly:
That sounds like the Twins … five Hall of Famers and they still couldn't win a postseason game.
Easy one-liner there, but the 1970 Twins do rank as the franchise's most unappreciated team among those that won big in the regular season.
First of all, a focus on what happens in the postseason is much more legitimate in this era than in the Twins' first 33 seasons in Minnesota.
From 1961 to 1968, nothing changed from what had started in 1903: the winners of the American and National Leagues went directly to the World Series.
From 1969 to 1993, there was a series between division champions in each league, meaning a participant was in baseball's final four.
Then, after a strike wiped out the 1994 Series, it became a final eight from 1995 through 2011. Then, it became a final 10, and if the lockout ends and the numbskull commissioner, Rob Manfred, gets his way, it will be a final 14.
So, yes, with the Twins being 0-18 in playoff games since the second game of a division series in 2004, blast away … but, remember, they already had done something by reaching the postseason before 1994.
The only real shot for the five-Hall Twins was in 1970. Harmon had one more big season in 1971; Tony O. won the batting title while damaging his right knee; Carew got his hits, and Blyleven was a 20-year-old workhorse, but the pitching overall went south and that club won 74 games.
But 1970 — that was a terrific collection of Twins in their prime that got about as unlucky as a team can get.
Only five times in the 33 years of either a league or a division title being required for entry did the Twins play in the postseason: 1965, 1969, 1970 and the World Series winners of 1987 and 1991.
The '65 Twins went directly to a seven-game World Series with the Dodgers and we can't forget that. The '69 Twins won the AL West with Billy Martin as manager, who can't be forgotten, even for those that have tried.
Martin's Twins won 97 games and were swept in three games in the first-ever ALCS by Earl Weaver's 109-win Orioles. Then, Martin was fired, which surprised masses of people, although not anyone who encountered him when drinking.
Bill Rigney became the manager in 1970, his team won 98 games, and then was swept in three games in the ALCS by Weaver's 108-win Orioles.
The Twins had brought in Luis Tiant in a trade with Cleveland to reinforce the starting rotation. Jim Perry already was in place, and he became the Twins' first Cy Young Award winner … 24-12 with 278⅔ innings.
It should be noted Kaat would have won one of those earlier, in 1966, when he was 25-13 with 304⅔ innings pitched, except:
That was the final season with one Cy Young covering both leagues. It was also Sandy Koufax's final season for the Dodgers, and his numbers were tough for Cy voters to ignore: 27-9, 27 complete games, 1.73 ERA, 317 strikeouts in 323 innings.
What happened to the '70 Twins was this:
- Carew was batting .376 when Milwaukee's Mike Hegan hit him with a rolling block on a double-play pivot and sent Rodney to the hospital for invasive knee surgery on June 22.
- Tiant was 6-0 in his first nine starts, then was shut down because of a bad shoulder in late May.
- Dave Boswell, only 25 and a 20-game winner a year earlier, made only 15 starts because of a bad elbow that ended his career in 1971.
The KO Punch, Killebrew and Oliva, combined for 64 home runs and 220 RBI. Cesar Tovar, the magnificent leadoff man (and still preposterous oversight from the Twins Hall of Fame), scored 120 runs, led the AL in doubles (36) and triples (13), and also had 30 steals.
The 1970 Twins. Five Hall of Famers. Great club. Bad luck. And a bad-news opponent in the ALCS.