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: The opening homestand concluded Wednesday with a matinee, this time with lefthander Dick Stigman making his first Twins start against Cleveland’s Barry Latman, a hard-throwing righthander.
The ceremonial first-pitch duties were shared by Stigman’s brothers, both Minnesota townball legends: lefthander Al, primarily for Perham and a member of the state’s amateur baseball Hall of Fame; and righthander Dave, primarily for Wadena.
The game: Blue sky. Just enough of a breeze. Almost felt like summer. And those in attendance will remember even such small details for the rest of their baseball-loving days.
Stigman would admit later to feeling some nerves, facing his former team in his first Minnesota start, although there was no evidence of this in the top of the first: Reaching back to that live fastball discovered in the outpost of Nimrod, Minn., Stigman struck out Willie Tasby, Tito Francona and Chuck Essegian.
Stigman and his 6-4 frame would be seen again before the inning was over.
Latman kicked at the dirt after walking Bill Tuttle to open the bottom of the first. Vic Power, a hot hitter since being acquired with Stigman for pitcher Pedro Ramos right before the season, followed with a single. Latman made a throwing error trying to pick off Power.
Rich Rollins singled in a run. Latman walked Harmon Killebrew to load the bases. Bob Allison was next and pulled a grand slam to left. It was the fifth slam of his career.
Latman was fuming and tried to throw a fastball past Earl Battey. He also homered.
That was it for Latman: zero outs, six runs and two home runs allowed.
Jim Perry arrived from the bullpen. Bernie Allen singled before the Indians finally got an out on a fly ball from Zoilo Versalles. Stigman batted and bounced out. Two outs, five runs in … quite a start to celebrate for Twins fans.
But not to remember for all your days.
Tuttle drew another walk and Power singled again, this time for an RBI. Rich Rollins walked, loading the bases. And then another mighty strong Twins righthanded hitter unloaded them:
Killebrew blasted a pitch into the left-field stands for the second grand slam of the inning — the third career slam for The Killer — to cap an 11-run inning.
Later, there would be photos taken of Killebrew and Allison holding baseballs with indications of the feat, and The Killer would go deep as usual with a postgame quote:
“I didn’t think we’d get the bases loaded again in that inning. I was trying to hit the ball somewhere. I didn’t want the last out to be me.”
Killebrew homered again off Perry in the third. That was the inning when Perry buzzed a fastball near Power’s head, causing Vic to walk rapidly toward the mound.
Power had played 3½ seasons in Cleveland, making the American League All-Star team in 1959 and ’60, and was a popular figure with fans. The Indians already were taking heat for the Ramos deal, and now here was Stigman going nine innings with 11 strikeouts in a 14-3 victory and Power getting three hits.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Indians were unhappy with Power’s “antics” in leading off first base. So Perry buzzed him, and Power said he went to the mound because he figured it was on orders from manager Mel McGaha.
The day’s last laugh belonged to Power, with those hits, and the chance to slap hands with Killebrew, Allison and Battey after four home runs.
Colorful character from Puerto Rico that he is, Power offered this clubhouse tribute to the Twins’ power:
“When you’re hitting a lot of bombas, everybody’s hitting bombas … everybody’s happy.”
Footnote: This game was played on July 18, 1962. After that game, Killebrew was tied for second in the AL with 24 home runs. Power was third in batting average at .313 (yes, Vic was from Puerto Rico, as is Eddie Rosario).
Reusse attended the game as a 16-year-old fan. Got in the family station wagon, went to the game and, in a style taught by his father Richard, sneaked into an empty aisle seat in the fifth row behind home plate and watched the first-inning fireworks with eternal wonder.
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