Most fans of the 1991 Twins have vivid memories of The Puckett Game. That’s when Kirby Puckett put the team on his back in Game 6 of the World Series, finishing a double shy of the cycle, levitating against the plexiglass to rob Ron Gant and drilling the home run in the 11th inning that enabled Jack Morris to take the ball in Game 7.
Joe Mauer’s memories of that game, however, are a little sketchy. It stemmed from his belief — one he holds to this day — that he should have been one of the 55,155 in attendance at the Metrodome on Oct. 26, 1991.
Baseball already was in the Mauer family blood by then. Brothers Joe, Bill and Jake were all playing as kids, and spent time in the yard at their home in St. Paul challenging each other while pretending to be Twins players Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti.
“I was always Kent Hrbek because I was the lefthanded hitter,” Joe Mauer said. “Playing in the backyard, that was pretty cool.”
The Twins were in their worst-to-first campaign and headed to the World Series against the Atlanta Braves. Hrbek, the man Mauer emulated is his back yard, was one of driving forces on that club.
But the Twins’ appearance in that World Series led to a night Joe Mauer, 8 years old at the time, will never forget.
The Mauers acquired four Game 6 tickets, which created a family dilemma. There were the three boys, plus the parents, Jake and Teresa. That’s five people for four tickets, so someone had to stay home.
The parents took themselves out of the equation, because someone would have to stay at home with whichever son didn’t go to the game, and Teresa couldn’t get out of work anyway. So an aunt and uncle went instead.
That left two tickets for three boys. The decision was made for Bill and young Jake to go, and for Joe — the one who has gone on to win three batting titles and one Most Valuable Player Award — to stay at home with the parents.
“We decided that the oldest brothers would go,” said Jake Mauer, Joe’s father.
“That didn’t sit well with me,” Joe Mauer said.
Mauer protested the decision by stomping off and sitting in a closet for the first few innings of the game. He missed Puckett’s grab of Gant’s drive in the third inning.
“Back then, he had a pretty good temper,” Jake Mauer said. “He didn’t let go of things too well.”
Joe Mauer eventually entered the living room to watch the rest of the game with his parents on their remote-less television. He saw the Braves tie the score in the seventh inning when Mark Lemke scored during a force play. Then came Puckett’s homer in the 11th, one of the biggest postgame hits in what was one of the best World Series ever.
Mauer did watch Game 7 — on TV — and Morris’ 10-inning masterpiece.
“I was excited that we won,” he said, “but I don’t think I fully understood it at the time.”
Maybe that’s because he was still mad at his parents for not picking him.
“I told them I would never let them forget about it,” he said.
And he has kept his promise. “He reminds us of it,” Jake Mauer said, “at least once a year.”