Case Keenum was in attendance at Friday night’s Timberwolves fiasco along with Adam Thielen. When Keenum was shown on the scoreboard screen, a share of the sellout crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Keenum is an undrafted 29-year-old journeyman signed by the Vikings for a backup’s salary of $2 million. He started in place of injured Sam Bradford in the second game of the season, a loss to Pittsburgh, and dire predictions followed as to what would become of the Vikings “without a quarterback.’’
Since then, the Vikings are 8-1, and on a seven-game winning streak, and Keenum is being saluted by otherwise disgruntled basketball crowds. This local heroism will not survive into 2018, considering coach Mike Zimmer’s love for Teddy Bridgewater.
I’ve been trying to come up with the equivalent to Keenum in Minnesota pro sports. We’re talking about an athlete who had kicked around, came to town on the cheap with no expectations and turned into a short-term folk hero.
The first name to pop to mind was Bill Dailey, a relief pitcher for the 1963 Twins. Dailey was 28 and had spent a decade in pro baseball, with 39 relief appearances in 1961-62 for Cleveland. The Twins purchased Dailey for a few bucks on April 8, 1963 — one day before opening the season against the Indians.
Dailey fit right in with a weak Twins bullpen in his first seven appearances, putting up a 6.52 ERA. Starting May 6, Dailey appeared in 59 games and pitched 99 innings with a 1.55 ERA.
The “Bill Bailey’’ ditty was played that summer when Dailey entered games at Met Stadium, and Bill McGrane from the Minneapolis Tribune offered this variation of the lyric:
“Won’t you come in, Bill Dailey; Won’t you come in, We blew a three-run lead.
“You do the pitchin’, baby, we’ll get ’em back; We like your sidearm speed.
“Remember last Tuesday evening; You bailed us out; With nothin’ but an infield hit. Camilo’s to blame, ain’t it a shame; Bill Dailey, won’t you please come in.’’
Dailey had a tear in his rotator cuff when he returned in 1964, pitched in only 14 games and his career was over.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
More on Billy Dailey, 1963 folk hero:
• Dailey pitched 108⅔ innings in 66 games. He had 21 saves, and 18 of those were more than one inning.
• Dailey didn’t reach what was a four-year requirement for pension benefits. Dailey is 82, in bad health and receives little for his MLB time.
• Those complaints about modern pitchers being overly protected? Dailey was pitched into the ground in 1963, ruined his shoulder and ended his career.
Read Patrick’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.