FORT MYERS, FLA. – The question asked by La Velle Neal, Minnesota’s senior baseball beat writer, to a colleague who was in the crowd for the Twins’ first game at Met Stadium (April 21, 1961) was this:
“Is Willians Astudillo the No. 1 all-time folk hero compared to limited résumé in franchise history?”
The answer is, “Yes.” Based on former baseball boss Terry Ryan’s 2-to-8 (best) scale for assessing talent, here were the other top candidates when making the Astudillo assessment.
2. Rick (Hollywood) Sofield, OF, 1979-81: Handsome, glib, flashy, he quickly earned “Hollywood” nickname. Fast start when still a rookie in 1980. Then, pitchers discovered he couldn’t get to a good fastball in upper half of zone.
3. Charlie (Cornbread) Manuel, OF, 1969-72: Part of manager Billy Martin’s three-player platoon with Bob Allison and Graig Nettles in left as rookie. We loved his West Virginia drawl, even though not quite sure what language he was speaking.
4. Junior Ortiz, C, 1990-91: Junior came here at 29. Tales of him as a character spread and fans embraced Junior as a worthy backup to Brian Harper.
5. Eddie Bane, P, 1973, 1975-76: Twins created Eddie’s popularity by starting the little lefty right out of Arizona State and drawing a crowd of 45,890 on July 4, 1973. We always rooted for Eddie, even as his attempts at deception couldn’t hide his lack of a fastball.
6. Lew Ford, OF, 2002-07: Before he became a presence in the lineup, fans already had adopted Ford for the opportunity to holler “Looooo” in unison and hear it reverberate around Dome. Still a player (and hitting coach) at 43 for Long Island Ducks in Atlantic League.
7. Bombo Rivera, OF, 1978-80: Hisle and Bostock left after 1977, Carew after 1978, and frustrated fans needed someone to love. They decided on a short, animated, part-time outfielder named Bombo.
8. Bill Dailey, P, 1963-64: Purchased for a few bucks from Cleveland before Opening Day in 1963, the tall righthander pitched in 66 games, with 21 saves (a big number then), a 1.99 ERA and 80 hits allowed in 108⅔ innings. By summer, we had given him a song: “Won’t You Come in Bill Dailey?” And then his arm went dead in 1964 and it was over faster than it started.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
• Honorable mention: Bill (Shorty) Pleis, LHP, 1961-66; Tom (The Klaw) Klawitter, LHP, 1985; Julio Becquer, pinch hitter, 1961; Sandy Valdespino, OF, 1965-67; Chris Colabello, DH, 2013-14.
• Bill Dailey turns 84 Wednesday. He’s had health problems and didn’t reach the five years of service time needed for pension benefits when he played.
• All-time oddity: A collection of young fans creating “Cubby’s Corner’’ at Met Stadium in honor of low-key third baseman Mike Cubbage (1976-80).