The Chicago White Sox are the only team that has been in the same competitive grouping as the Twins throughout the 59-season existence of the Minnesota franchise.
The White Sox and the Twins were in the 10-team American League from 1961 to 1968, the six-team (and then seven) American League West from 1969 to 1993, and the five-team American League Central from 1994 to the present.
Former Cubs manager Don Zimmer, left, and Jerome Holtzman. Chicago Tribune photo
The Twins entered this season having played the White Sox a total of 920 games (including three ties), 65 more games than the second team – Detroit – on the list of games played.
The Twins also would see Chicago in spring training, what with the White Sox encamped in beautiful Sarasota from 1960 to 1997. Those March exhibitions were infrequent when the Twins were in Orlando, and then a regular occurrence when the Twins moved to Fort Myers in 1991.
One of the better spring training moments came at the White Sox’ Ed Smith Field in 1995. The previous season had ended on Aug. 11 with the players’ strike, and with the labor hostilities still in place, management went thorough the charade of bringing replacement players to spring training.
The players took action to end the strike in late March, and then it turned into a lockout. It would have been baseball’s greatest fiasco of modern times, if a legal opinion didn’t arrive to protect the owners from themselves.
The season was postponed, and the real players arrived in Florida and Arizona to prepare for what would be a 144-game schedule.
The Twins were in Sarasota for an exhibition and the grand Chicago baseball reporter, Jerome Holtzman, was in attendance. Referred to by all in the baseball writing world as “The Dean,’’ he was the inventor of the "save'' statistic, and also was wired in early-on with the marvelous union leader, Marvin Miller. Holtzman broke a large number of stories in the long battle between ballplayers and baseball moguls.
I’m not sure we were still using that term “moguls’’ in 1995, but I hope so, because it was a great word.
The Dean was looking for other information on this late morning, as the Twins took batting practice. He sauntered toward the batting cage – “sauntered,’’ another great word – and said to me:
“I love Kirby Puckett, but every time we play the Twins, I’ve written the ‘Puckett, the kid from Chicago’ story. I need something else. What else is good?'’
I offered a quick answer. “Knoblauch. Next to Robbie Alomar, he’s the best second baseman in the American League. I even have the angle for you, Dean: ‘Chuck Knoblauch … adds something to his game every year.’ ‘’
The Dean was sold. “Where is he?’’ he asked.
I pointed to the middle of the infield and said, ‘”The shorter guy, with the beard.’’
Three, four minutes later, The Dean was talking with Scott Leius, a taller Twins’ infielder with a beard, and Leius was pointing in the direction of Knoblauch.
I did some sauntering myself for a quick interview. And when I happened to look toward the dugout a few minutes later, there was Knoblauch, teaching The Dean how to operate his new miniature recorder, so he could record an interview with the second-best second baseman in the American League.
That was my No. 2 favorite Holtzman story, trailing an event that took place as the Dean and I were sitting next to one another in an auxiliary press row during the 1991 postseason in the Metrodome.
The Dean still was a using a Porta-bubble computer, sort of a giant, electronic typewriter. He had a keytop come off, leaving only the wire dangling. Wily fellow that he was, Holtzman decided that Super Glue was the answer.
It was a 10-minute battle to affix the keytop and, by the time he was finished, Holtzman nearly had his famous bushy eyebrows Super Glued to the bottom tray of the computer.
The Dean died in 2008, after a fantastic career that included the Spink Award at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As for the White Sox, they abandoned Sarasota and headed for Tucson for spring training in 1998. They have done their springs in Arizona since then, making Friday night’s game at Target Field the first time the ballclubs have seen one another in any form in 2019.
Out of nowhere, the Twins have become the team of the present in the AL Central, what with the decline of Cleveland – due to injuries to outstanding starting pitchers, and the Tribe owner's unwillingness to fund either a bullpen or a worthy lineup.
Wouldn’t be a good idea to get too comfortable, though.
The White Sox have turned loose Eloy Jimenez as a potential super-duper-star, with other emerging talent in the lineup. Two Tommy John surgeries for starters Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon have waylaid them for now, but the Mighty Whiteys are the next club to watch in the much-ridiculed AL Central.
And, hey, playing the White Sox always is worth a smile for me, because I remember The Dean, the miniature recorder and the Super Glue.