This has become a time when those hungry for viewing or listening to sports competition have been forced to settle for replays, for hamburger hash and not sizzling bone-in rib eyes.
Earlier this month, the car radio found a broadcast of the first game of the 1987 World Series on WCCO-AM, moments before Dan Gladden hit a fourth-inning grand slam that implanted the true thunder in our Thunderdome, a volume maintained through eight World Series home victories and two championships separated by four Octobers.
That Metrodome madness peaked when Gladden came home with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 7 in 1991. Gladden authored the beginning of what stands as Minnesota’s peak sports glory with a slam, and the end with a saunter home to conclude as great a World Series as ever has been played.
Thirty-three years after the blast and 29 years after the bloop, Gladden is waiting out the pandemic by busying himself with tasks at the family’s 64-acre farm in Carver County. He’s doing so while waiting to resume duties as the veteran partner with Cory Provus on Twins radio broadcasts.
Until then, great memories can carry him, and us:
Tom Kelly, in his first full season as Twins manager, had a fondness for fielding that was emphasized with the release of outfielder Mickey Hatcher and the acquisition of Gladden from San Francisco on March 31, 1987.
Gladden said: “I went into [General Manager] Andy MacPhail’s office when I got to Orlando and said, ‘I’m here to play,’ and he said, ‘The manager makes out the lineup card.’
“T.K. had this theory that the first 40 games, you’re finding out what you have in a team. I waited until Game 41, went into T.K.’s office and said, ‘I’m one of your best outfielders. I have to play.’ ”
Gladden had started 19 of the Twins’ first 40 games and scored 14 runs. He started 95 of the final 122, settled into left field and leading off, and scored 55 runs.
By the postseason, taking on the 98-win Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, Gladden — “Gladdy,” “Gladwrench,” later “Dazzle” — was a lineup fixture and a fan favorite, with that unkempt, hardscrabble, California look and full-speed play.
The Twins finished the five-game upset of the Tigers to gain Minnesota’s second World Series (previous: 1965).
“I got traded here, a lifelong Raiders fan, and I had no idea of Minnesota’s passion for the Vikings,” Gladden said. “I didn’t realize the angst over those four Super Bowl losses; how much they needed one of their teams to win something.”
He found out how deep that desire was after the team returned from Detroit. The door was raised from the Metrodome tunnel and the players walked into a Monday night reception numbering 50,000 fans.
“Seeing that, hearing that, enjoying that … my No. 1 thought was, ‘We can’t lose now,’ ” Gladden said.
It wasn’t until late Wednesday, when the Cardinals won Game 7 over San Francisco in the NLCS, that the Twins learned their opponent. All that work to qualify caused Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog to go with Joe Magrane, the first rookie lefthander to start Game 1 in World Series history.
Magrane led Frank Viola 1-0 into the fourth, and then the first five Twins reached base. Righthander Bob Forsch relieved Magrane and Tim Laudner singled to right to put the Twins’ lead at 3-1, bringing up Gladden with the bases still loaded.
“I was out front on a Forsch curveball and topped it foul,” Gladden said. “I was ahead in the count 3-1, but I said, ‘He can throw a strike with that curve. He’s going to throw me another one.’
“I sat on it. I was a touch out front. I thought it was a sacrifice fly. But that ball kept carrying, and carrying, and carrying … over the plexiglass in left.”
Then in the seventh, Gladden doubled in a run off Ricky Horton, giving him five RBI in the 10-1 victory.
“I was driving to the park early that afternoon,” Gladden said. “Down Sixth Street. There was a St. Louis pitcher I knew from the National League walking toward the Dome. I asked him if he wanted a ride.”
And Bob Forsch said: “No thanks, Dan. I’m good.’ ”
On May 15, 1988, Randy Bush led off the fourth inning with a home run off Jack Morris to up the Twins’ lead to 4-2 at Tiger Stadium. Morris followed by hitting Gene Larkin in the helmet and crumpling him to the ground.
“I got hit a lot, but it was the first time I was ever beaned,” Larkin said Wednesday.
As Larkin was being escorted toward the clubhouse, Gladden and other teammates were saying to Geno: “We’re going to get that dirty dog,” or more profane vows of revenge.
“Three years later, we sign Jack as a free agent,” Gladden said. “Position players show up, and a bunch of us are in the dugout, and there’s Jack after throwing BP walking toward us. I said, ‘Come on, Geno … let’s get him.’ ”
The 1990 Twins finished in last place, 74-88, and allowed Gary Gaetti to walk as a free agent, but there was optimism among the veterans for several reasons.
“We had signed Jack, Chili [Davis] and Pags [Mike Pagliarulo],” Gladden said. “Chuck Knoblauch was an outstanding rookie. Plus, we were out of that dump Tinker Field in Orlando and had the new facility in Fort Myers — so new you could still smell the glue in the carpet.”
The Twins went 95-67 and cruised to the AL West title. They eliminated a tremendous Toronto team in a five-game ALCS.
It took 11 innings in World Series Game 6 and Kirby Puckett, in his full magnificence — capped by his “We’ll see you tomorrow night” home run — to get the Twins to a seventh game against the rising Atlanta Braves.
“We celebrated on the field after Puck’s home run, and we were still running around in the clubhouse, screaming,” Gladden said. “And then a few of us saw Morris. He walked in, put his glove down, took off his hat, stared into the locker … all business already for Game 7.
“I remember saying, ‘Look at this guy. He’s not going to get beat.’ ”
The finale was a long night of zeros. John Smoltz made it to the eighth for Atlanta, with lefty Mike Stanton getting the final two outs. Morris wouldn’t budge, and wouldn’t leave, and it was him and Atlanta closer Alejandro Pena for the ninth and then the 10th.
“I was in the on-deck circle when the ninth ended, and I was at the plate in about five minutes,” Gladden said. “Jack threw, what, [eight] pitches in the 10th.
“Pena had been throwing all fastballs. I got one and I thought I put a good swing on it.”
Gladden laughed and said: “The bat snapped, almost in half.”
That bat died for its country — or at least Minnesota.
“I knew where it was going to land, and I knew I had to get two,” Gladden said. “[Braves left fielder Brian] Hunter couldn’t get it on the high hop, and [center fielder] Ron Gant had to field it. Gant made a solid throw. I slid late and so hard that the bag caved in almost halfway.
“I was asking for a timeout as I stood up because I was afraid momentum might cause me to stumble off the bag.”
He smiled and said: “What I remember thinking is, ‘Game, set, match … we win this game.’ You can see that on replay, by the way I’m strutting around second like a banty rooster when the ball’s dead.”
Knoblauch lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt to get Gladden to third. Puckett and Kent Hrbek are intentionally walked. Larkin pinch hits for Jarvis Brown, a previous pinch runner, and hits the fly ball to left over the drawn-in outfield.
Here comes Gladden home, Morris celebrating alongside, and then the mob of Twins heads toward the middle of the field to greet Larkin — a hero along with Morris and Gladden, old grudges turned to mad love.
“We had the postgame party at a townhouse that Chili and Scott Erickson were renting from Roy Smalley,” Gladden said. “What could be better? Win a World Series and get to trash a place owned by Roy, our teammate in ’87?”
Around 5:30 a.m., Gladden said to Clayton Wilson, the clubhouse attendant, ‘Where’s that broken bat?” Wilson said he had put it in the large wastebasket outside the home clubhouse.
“I said, ‘Come on … we’re going to get it,’ ” Gladden said. “Dome security let us drive into the tunnel, we walked down to the clubhouse, and there were the two pieces of bat in the garbage can. I still have it.”