Before he became the only full-time curator in Major League Baseball, a position he has held with the Twins since 2009, Clyde Doepner was both an avid collector of Twins memorabilia and a longtime history teacher at Tartan High School.
Before he became a filmmaker, Andrew Putschoegl was one of Doepner’s history students. Given a chance to work on a documentary sponsored by Samsung, Putschoegl knew he wanted to dig back into history and make Doepner his subject. The result was the short film, “The Curator,” which was screened for the first time last week in New York.
“He would always bring in artifacts on Tuesdays,” Putschoegl said by phone Tuesday. “At the time, I knew he was a fan of the Twins and collected memorabilia. But it wasn’t until years later that I had this idea to document and share with the rest of the world this passion.”
That passion for preserving baseball and Twins history goes back to the franchise’s first season in Minnesota in 1961, nearly a half-century before he became a full-time team employee as the Twins prepared to move into Target Field.
It’s a truly unique job, one that is captured well in the documentary as Doepner handles items with white gloves and talks about his favorite pieces of Twins history through the years. A crew followed Doepner for an entire day in July when the Twins were at home against the Yankees.
“I fought Andy on it for quite some time to not do it,” Doepner, 71, said. “I don’t like things to be about me. I like things to be about the Twins and the memorabilia. … But it was a real thrill to have fans that can’t get here see just how much stuff we have at Target Field. It’s a great showcase of the archives.”
His association with the Twins grew out of a chance encounter with former owner Calvin Griffith, and his collection of team memorabilia became particularly notable when the organization had its first TwinsFest at the Metrodome in 1989. Being hired in 2009 as a full-time employee, he said, was a dream job.
Doepner of course has logged memorabilia from all generations of Twins baseball — Harmon Killebrew to Kirby Puckett to Joe Mauer and now the new generation with Miguel Sano and co. Among his favorite pieces are those from Killebrew, a player he considers his hero. But the collection still is growing, as evidenced by an addition from the very recently retired Torii Hunter.
“We knew something was up when after his last game here he gave us his 2015 game-used glove,” Doepner said. “We’ve got his glove, his last jersey and his last hat.”
Preserving that history for future generations is his passion and joy.
“All I am is just a humble caretaker that gets to show off the Twins archives,” Doepner said. “Boy this is cool; I get to be a part of this.”