The Arizona portion of spring training was over on March 28 for the ’84 Giants, and they were on buses at the Scottsdale ballpark, heading for the Phoenix airport.
“They came out and told the manager [Frank Robinson] to get me off the bus,’’ Gladden said. “The Giants had signed Gene Richards, and that was my spot on the roster.’’
Gladden was called up in late June and played 330 games for the Giants over the next 2½ years. The Giants made a trade for Cincinnati’s Eddie Milner in January 1987, adding to a glut of outfielders for the season ahead.
“We were getting to end of the spring training and we still had a bunch of outfielders,’’ Gladden said. “I wasn’t going to get pulled off the bus again. I went to the manager’s office — then Roger Craig — and said, ‘What’s going on? Am I on the club or off it?’
“Right then, [General Manager] Al Rosen walked in and Craig said, ‘Danny Gladden wants to know what’s going on.’ Rosen looked at his watch and said, ‘We can tell you but we can’t announce it yet. You’ve been traded to Minnesota.’
“They had to wait because the Twins hadn’t told Mickey Hatcher that he was being released.’’
The date was March 31, 1987, meaning this past Friday — the day the 2017 Twins left spring training for the Twin Cities — was the 30th anniversary of the Glad Man, of Gladwrench, of the Dazzle Man, becoming a major character in Minnesota’s major league baseball story.
Psychology isn’t my major, but after those three decades, I’ve decided this is among Gladden’s strongest traits:
He has radar. He sees what’s going on in the background. If he doesn’t know what’s going on over there, he finds out.
For instance: He asked Rosen for one item for the flight from Phoenix to Orlando after the trade.
“I wanted a 1987 Twins media guide,’’ Gladden said. “I wanted to do some research on those guys.’’
There’s better evidence of Gladden’s observational talent:
He was a shortstop for De Anza College, a two-year school in Cupertino, Calif., in 1976. He noticed a young woman who would run on a daily basis around the athletic facilities. The route took her behind the outfield fence.
“Our coach was Eddie Bressoud; remember him, a big-league shortstop?’’ Gladden said. “One day, I said, ‘Coach, I think I should take a few fly balls in the outfield.’”
He turned this into a conversation with the runner, Janice Murphy, and they were married on July 7, 1979, and they raised daughters Ashley and Whitney, and Ashley married Joe Gaetti, Gary’s son, and in February, the Gladdens became the grandparents of Luca Gaetti.
“They say Luca means, ‘He sees the light,’ ‘’ Gladden said.
Which could be interpreted to mean, “He sees what’s going on,’’ which means Luca will be just like grandpa.
The first call Gladden made after Rosen told him of the trade was to Janice. His message was simple: “Murph, we’ve been traded to Minnesota.’’
His first view of the Twins organization was not impressive: The rundown and limited facilities at Tinker Field.
“I found the general manager, Andy MacPhail, in a trailer,’’ Gladden said. “I said, ‘I’m here to play.’ ‘’
Gladden paused a second and said:
“T.K. [manager Tom Kelly] had me as the DH on opening night in the Metrodome. I led off with a routine fly ball, the A’s lost it in the roof, and it fell for a double. I raised my arms and said, ‘This place is great.’
“Then, I struck out three times and my new teammates gave that thing they had, the hood with three Ks on it, and I thought, ‘I’m not going to show this to Murph.’”
Janice is African-American. The trophy used by those Twins to honor three strikeouts was an example of outrageous clubhouse humor, which also could have left a poor first impression of Minnesota for “Murph.’’
The Gladdens learned to love us, of course, and Minnesota them. Dan spent five years with the Twins and won the two World Series, he was gone to Detroit and then to Japan to play ball, and worked as an advance scout for Colorado, and a roving instructor with the Giants.
Through those travels, Janice worked for Target Corp. and the Gladdens had their primary home in the Twin Cities. In 2000, Herb Carneal decided to reduce travel substantially as a broadcaster, and Twins president Dave St. Peter convinced Gladden to join Herb and John Gordon in the radio booth as an analyst.
Carneal became sick in the winter and died on April 1, 2007. In spring training, Gladden was given a shot at doing play-by-play in the middle innings.
“The first time was right here in this booth,’’ Gladden said last week, at Hammond Stadium. “John Gordon got up, said what he always said, ‘Just be yourself, Danny,’ and left the booth.
“I gripped the counter top with both hands, I was so nervous. It was only a seven- or eight-pitch top of the fourth, and even with that, my shirt was soaked with sweat.’’
Another decade later, Gladden is very grateful for the mentorship of Gordon, admires the work of his current partner Cory Provus, and he’s still being himself.
“Do you know this? My birthday is July 7, Gordo’s birthday is July 7, and Cory’s birthday is July 7,’’ Gladden said.
It is also the wedding anniversary for Dan and Janice. “Getting married on July 7 was intentional,’’ he said. “That way, I’ll never forget our anniversary.’’