Editor’s note: We were supposed to be sitting in the stands later today watching baseball. The Twins were to play six games over seven days at home. We won’t have that, but we still need baseball. We’ve asked Patrick Reusse to bring us baseball each morning. Six games over seven days. This is Patrick’s (Target) Field of Dreams.
The windup: Several thousand Brewers fans contributed to a full Target Field on Sunday. They seemed to congregate in the right field corner, with easy access to several beer locations. The pitching opponents were lefthanders: Twins standout Frank Viola against Milwaukee’s Juan Nieves, only 22 and an ace-in-waiting.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Luther Dorr, a newspaperman in Princeton, Minn., for 53 years and counting, and a townball player for 47 summers. He played so long Luther and his kid homered in the same inning twice.
The game: The weekend opened Saturday with Kirby Puckett beating out an infield dribbler. That’s the way it had been going for Puck in Florida, and then on the West Coast swing to open the season.
A dribbler, a bloop to right, a bouncer to left … enough singles to reduce the number of zeros in a boxscore, but not the damage he was used to delivering. Puck even had popped up a couple of hanging breaking balls, those morsels that he described as “gifts from God.”
This was enough of an irritant that Puckett sat down for a conversation with hitting coach Tony Oliva. No surprise that Tony O, the AL’s greatest free swinger in another era, had this advice for his free-swinging protégé:
“Tony told me I was not being aggressive, taking too many pitches,” Puckett said. “That’s not me. I’m usually up there hacking.”
A Saturday that began with an infield single was followed by two home runs and a hard-hit single, in a 12-3 Twins romp. And then on Sunday, Puckett’s hacking sent those Brewers fans back east, beaten for sure and perhaps beaned.
Puckett went 6-for-6 on this raucous Sunday, ripping Nieves, Chuck Crim and Dan Plesac for the three pair: singles, doubles and home runs. The final homer of the weekend came in the ninth off Plesac — an absolute rocket into those Brewers fans in right field — and concluded the Twins’ 10-6 victory.
Plesac, a lefty closer with phenomenal stuff, had entered the eighth with a 6-5 lead, and surrendered a double to Puckett in that three-run uprising. Later, Plesac shook his head when asked about Puck’s carnage and said: “I think that home run he hit might have killed three of our fans in right field.”
Paul Molitor, in his 10th Brewers season and in transition to a DH role that often signifies a career winding down, said:
“That’s one of the most impressive one-day performances I’ve seen in the big leagues. To hit six balls on the button like that is incredible.”
Over two days, Puckett hit two home runs to left, two home runs to right, and scattered six more hits hither and yon, causing his man Oliva to say:
“He used every angle of the ballpark. It was beautiful.”
To make sure six hits Sunday and 10 in two days didn’t pigeonhole him as a one-dimensional threat, Puckett lifted himself to the top of the fence to snare Robin Yount’s drive in center field.
That took away a grand slam from Yount, although Puckett’s return throw skipped past Greg Gagne (E-6) and two runs scored. Twins manager Tom Kelly made a nod to that fielding play with this review of Puckett’s Sunday effort:
“There’s not much more that one person can do in a ballgame.”
With all the Puckett heroics, the Twins did require a two-run pinch single from Gene Larkin off Plesac to break a 6-6 tie in the eighth. The switch-hitting Larkin has never had a bigger pinch hit in the majors and probably never will.
At least righthanded.
Footnote: This game was played on Sunday, Aug. 30, 1987, at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. Puckett remains the only Twins player with six hits in a game. He repeated that in extra innings on May 23, 1991, going 6-for-7 vs. Texas at the Metrodome.
Which means, every season Puck had six hits in a game, the Twins wound up winning the World Series.