Detroit was at Target Field for five games in four days over Labor Day weekend. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire ran into a bout of food poisoning and still wasn't feeling well 10 days later.
The Tigers were in the middle of a four-game home series vs. Cleveland. General Manager Al Avila came for a meeting with Gardenhire and heard this:
"I said to Al, 'I'm done,' " Gardenhire said. "He was great, as always, talking about the end of the season, and I said, 'No, Al, I'm done right now. I can't do this for another game. I feel terrible. I'm afraid I might have a heart attack.' "
The Tigers made the announcement on Sept. 19. Lloyd McClendon managed the final eight games of another last-place season, and now A.J. Hinch — fired amid the Houston cheating scandal — gets to start his rehabilitation process as Detroit's manager for 2021.
Gardenhire and his wife, Carol, have spent the winter at a home in Fort Myers, Fla. He turned 63 in October, which is 13 years younger than new White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
"Opportunity or not, I won't be coming back," Gardenhire said on Thursday. "All of us are beat up emotionally over this COVID thing, but this life feels comfortable.
"I can go fishing or play golf. Carol and I can go to dinner when we want, go to Oklahoma and spend time with the grandbabies. And, if we have a season, spend time in Minnesota in the summer and watch Toby's team."
That would be the St. Paul Saints, newly reconfigured as the Twins' Class AAA affiliate, and due to be managed by Toby Gardenhire, Ron and Carol's 38-year-old son.
Baseball is in such flux right now it hasn't yet been announced officially the Saints will be in the International League rather than the PCL.
Toby was named as the Saints' manager on Jan. 18. Not exactly a secret, since he was set to be the manager of the Class AAA farm club in Rochester, N.Y., before the 2020 minor league seasons were COVID canceled.
Plus, Gardy was getting regular updates, since he's been playing golf two or three times a week in Fort Myers with Toby and a couple of members of his Saints staff.
Toby was married to Sara Hanson from Minnetonka on Dec. 2, and they are living in Fort Myers.
There was a horrible twist of fate on Jan. 18. On the same day Toby was in a headline as the Saints' manager, it was reported Tom Kelly Jr., 42, had died overnight in a hotel room while on a golf trip with friends in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Ron Gardenhire became the Twins' third base coach in 1991 under Tom Kelly. Tom Jr. was 12 and a frequent presence in the home clubhouse at the Metrodome.
"He was a quiet kid, but like his dad, he took in everything," Gardenhire said. "We watched him grow up, from little Tommy to a nice young man. Tom Jr. and Toby were a few years apart, so they didn't overlap much in the clubhouse.
"On Sundays, though, that was kids' day with T.K. All the kids showed up and we threw batting practice to them.
"You feel so bad about this, you don't know what to say."
• Gardenhire on new Twins signee Andrelton Simmons: "He not only makes all the plays at shortstop, he's one of the smartest players in the American League.''
• Simmons is from Curacao, as is Jonathan Schoop, a Twins second baseman in 2019 and with Detroit in 2020. "Great guy, and a very good player for us,'' Gardenhire said. "When he got hurt, we were wiped out in the middle of the infield.''
• Gardy's grandkids, Ronnie, 6, and Ember, 3, live on a farm near Beggs, Okla. (pop. 1,350) with daughter Tiffany and her "country'' husband, Michael. Daughter Tara works in the Twin Cities.