Rod Carew played a road game against the Washington Senators on June 7, 1968, and then started his annual three-week obligation to the Marine reserves.

That roster opening was used to call up Tommy Hall, a 20-year-old lefthander tearing it up at Class AA Charlotte as a starter. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Senators and wound up with Class AAA Denver, where Billy Martin was the manager.

The Twins were in the middle of another East Coast road trip and decided to beckon Hall for a start on Aug. 9 in Yankee Stadium.

In spring training that year, Hall was shagging flies next to Bob Allison, the 6-4 former University of Kansas football player.

"Allison looked at me and said, 'Man, you're thin; I'm going to start calling you 'Blade,' " Hall said Friday from his home in Riverside, Calif. "And 'Blade' I was for the rest of my baseball career, and for life, really.''

Hall was 5-11, 140 pounds. "At the most,'' he said. "When I first signed in 1966, I met Cesar Tovar, we weighed, and we were 130 and 132.''

The Hall call-up was not planned when the Twins left for that August road trip, and thus there was no suitable uniform when he arrived in the Bronx to pitch.

"They put me in a size-44 jersey and 46-waist pants,'' Hall said. "The jersey was No. 1. They pulled it down into those huge pants, tightened up the belt, and half of the '1' was invisible … tucked into my pants.

"I couldn't find the strike zone for nothin'.''

The Blade failed to get an out in that first big-league start. He pitched in six more games for the '68 Twins. With a total of 29⅔ innings, he maintained his rookie status for 1969.

A half-century later, Hall's name surfaced Thursday when Twins manager Rocco Baldelli announced the Opening Day starter would be Joe Ryan — the second rookie to land that task, joining Tommy "The Blade'' Hall in 1969.

You look at the Twins' pieced-together rotation for this season, take into account that veteran Sonny Gray was eased into duty in this short spring training, and Ryan's assignment is more intriguing than shocking.

You look back at 1969 and this was the planned four-pitcher rotation: Dave Boswell, 20-game winner that season; Dean Chance, past Cy Young Award winner (1964) and only 27; Jim Perry, future Cy Young winner (1970); and Jim Kaat, past 25-game winner (1966) and future Hall of Famer (2022).

Thus, how did a 21-year-old rookie wind up on the Municipal Stadium mound to start that April 8 opener, the first game for Martin as a big-league manager, and the first for the expansion Kansas City Royals?

The Twins had stopped on the way to K.C. in New Orleans to play the New York Mets in an exhibition game at Gormley Field, a rain-soaked, makeshift ballpark with a left-field fence 240 feet from home plate.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith informed Bill Hengen from the Minneapolis Star that his team's share of the gate in New Orleans was $5,600.

Martin confirmed while there that Chance's ailing back eliminated him for Opening Day. Rather than change the rest of the rotation, he decided to go with Hall.

Hall was lefthanded and a hard thrower, and he impressed Martin in Denver the previous summer.

"Calvin liked you, too … that outstanding fastball coming out of that small frame,'' I said to him Friday.

The Blade laughed and said: "Really? I wish he had told me that.''

Hall pitched into the sixth inning. The Twins scored two in the top of the inning to take a 3-1 lead, then the Royals tied it in the bottom of the inning and won 4-3 in the 12th.

Martin was not happy after the game. He was miffed at Tovar for showing up late to the park. Cesar's excuse: His watch was set wrong and he spent an hour sitting in the hotel lobby "wondering where everyone was.''

Billy was more upset that Cesar called off center fielder Ted Uhlaender and then let a ball drop "10 feet behind him.''

And worst of all, Martin fumed that he had run to the mound to tell Hall not to throw a fastball to pinch hitter Jim Campanis, and then The Blade did so on an 0-2 pitch, resulting in a single that assisted the Royals' tying rally in the sixth.

Dave Mona, covering the game as Twins beat writer for the Morning Tribune, quoted Martin thusly: "Hall's fastball was the pitch that lost the game for us.''

That, and Billy's rips of Tovar, caused Mona to suggest this was "frankness unusual in Minnesota managers.''

And just think — that was unusual frankness 50 years before Baldelli's daily dose of postgame syrup.


Born Nov. 23, 1947 (74). Raised in Riverside, Calif.

Signed by Twins as third-round selection in 1966 January draft out of Riverside Junior College.

Debuted with Twins as 20-year-old in 1968.

Pitched in major leagues for all or part of 10 seasons from 1968-77; 52-33, 3.52 ERA in 358 career games with Twins, Reds, Mets and Royals.

Tom and Grace Hall have been married for 52 years. He went home to Riverside after end of baseball career and worked 20 years for U.S. Postal Service.