The Turkey Banquet was first held in 1978. It has become more than Thanksgiving's most famous feast. It has become an event filled with prophecy.
Way back in '78, Woody Hayes, the Ohio State football coach, was honored as Turkey of the Year. Five weeks later, Hayes was fired for trying to punch a Clemson player. Lou Holtz was honored in 1985.
On the day after the Turkey announcement was made, the Music Man dug up those deep Minnesota roots and headed for Notre Dame.
Kenneth Keller, the University of Minnesota president, was the chief Turkey in 1986 for presuming the guilt of three Gophers basketball players who later were acquitted of rape charges in Madison, Wis. Later, Keller had problems with remodeled kitchens and mysterious funds, and was run off the job.
Carl (Mr. Cheap) Pohlad was the winner in 1987, even though his Twins were a month removed from winning the World Series. The Turkey Committee had confidence the old skinflint would ruin a good thing. He has.
Last Thanksgiving, long-time contender Mike Lynn finally was named the winner. In the months that have followed, Remarkable Mike has proven to be a bigger turkey than his severest critics could have imagined.
Thus, the 1990 Turkey of the Year should be forewarned: Things are apt to get worse before they get better.
Please rise as the class of 1990 struts into the banquet area:
Keith Millard/ There was a widely held impression that Millard was a stereotypical, Neanderthal football player. Now we know better. Millard has scooped everyone, including the New England
Journal of Medicine, with the revelation that nearly all patients undergoing major surgery become addicted to pain pills.
Dave Pallone/ Read his book. Not the part about being gay. The part about being an umpire. This guy is a pure-bred Turkey. Bob Vecchione and Keenan Delaney/ These are two of the half-dozen assistant/associate athletic directors in Rick Bay's department at Minnesota. Someday, we'll find out what they all do, particularly these two.
Tony La Russa and Lou Holtz/ These gentlemen are here to represent remarkable two-time losers. La Russa has managed to lose two World Series with baseball's best players. Holtz has managed to lose twice, right there in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, with college football's best players.
Dino Ciccarelli/ Dino has been assigned to a table all by himself and right up front, where the committee can maintain a watchful eye. Dino will be served by our robot waiter. The little guy has a hormone problem.
Norm Hitzges/ Before it turned loose Norm, ESPN was forecasting a 4.0 rating for its first year of baseball broadcasts. After the sporting public heard Norm for five minutes, ESPN was lucky to get 2.0 . . . and those viewers had the sound turned off.
Mike Krzyzewski and Dan Reeves/ These two fellows will be the featured guests at what traditionally is called the Bud Grant table - the gathering for coaches who can't possibly win the big one.
Johnny Johnson/ The Turkey Committee had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Mr. Johnson when he brought his fighter, Buster Douglas, to Duluth for a visit. Considering the
discipline Johnson showed when ordering cocktails that night, it is no surprise his fighter showed up in Foremanesque condition for his title defense. Obviously, Johnson's training advice went like this: "Eat some more ice cream, Buster. I'll just slide over here and have another drink."
Karen Baldwin/ There was much quibbling within the committee room on the proper party to honor from the North Stars' ownership fiasco: George and Gordon Gund, Louie Nanne, Jack Ferreira, Norm (Pink Slip) Green or Howard Baldwin. Karen - the bride of Howie the Hairdo - was invited as a compromise candidate. The committee has felt guilty for several months, since making fun of Karen's promotional ideas (remember the potential mascot called Hiawatha the Indian Lady?) As it turns out, Karen was ahead of her time. Green's promotional ideas have been similarly ridiculous. Harvey Mackay/ The committee had no doubt on the identity of the biggest turkey in the North Stars' mess. Mr. Mackay, the old grandstander, stepped up for a few more bows, but disappeared when it came time to put together a deal that would have saved the franchise and preserved the integrity of the roster. Harvey never has won the Grand Gobbler. This is the equivalent of Dave Stewart not winning the Cy Young. Year after year, Harvey is so deserving, but someone comes along to edge him out.
Tom Kelly/ After leading the Twins to a last-place finish, the bubbly skipper has a choice: Get the boulder off his shoulder and get the fans and media on his side, or get fired as soon as the Twins drop five games under .500. Jack Kelly/ Kelly spearheaded last summer's U.S. Olympic Festival, and what a gala 10 days it was. We got to see Wendy Lian Williams dive and we got to see . . . well, there must have been something else. Kelly drained the Twin Cities of a mere $8 million in corporate sponsorships, but how about all of those out-of-town visitors the Festival attracted? Rumor has it they filled almost an entire floor at a suburban Budgetel and pumped $700, maybe $800, into the local economy. Oh, please, Jack, can you get us the 1998 Goodwill Games?
Marge Schott/ You win the World Series, your star player gets hurt diving for a ball in the final game, and you make the guy pay for his own medical plane to get back to Cincinnati. Why not? You wouldn't expect Marge to hock Schottzie the St. Bernard's doggie bed to pay for Eric Davis' hospital bed, would you?
U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame/ An invitation was issued to anyone in Eveleth who wanted to take credit for this joke.
Herschel Walker/ Herschel was sent a gold-flaked invitation. It came back with this notation: "I Am Not a Turkey. Sincerely, Herschel." The committee can sense Herschel's disappointment. Obviously, Herschel thought he was the front-runner for Turkey of the Year and was dejected to learn he is merely the first runner-up. All we can suggest is, "Keep your head up, Herschel."
You're ready, right? You want the name of the person who will join this prestigious list: Hayes ('78), Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn ('79), Bobby Knight ('80), George Steinbrenner ('81), Billy Martin ('82), Paul Giel ('83), Les Steckel ('84), Holtz ('85), Keller ('86), Pohlad ('87), Nanne ('88) and Lynn ('89).
Kent Hrbek.
That's right. Big Herbie.
The guy who made an enormous sacrifice to remain in the Twin Cities, settling for a measly $14 million contract. The guy who sat back and continued to be one of the boys while his team went in the dumpster. The guy who again failed to reach 500 at-bats and knocked in a mere 79 runs. The guy who finished the season with a broken foot, suffered while chasing a playmate through the clubhouse.
There he is - symbolically sitting next to a big, stuffed bird: Kent Hrbek, the 1990 Turkey of the Year.
By the way, the turkeys being devoured by Big Herbie and today's other guests were not free-range. These babies were raised in crowded pens, fed growth hormones, jammed into crates for shipping to market and, goodness, are they plump and beautiful.