Wayne Terwilliger, the infectious baseball lifer who broke into the big leagues in 1949 and spent the rest of his life around the game, died on Wednesday at age 95.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Terwilliger had dealt with dementia and bladder cancer before a brief stay in hospice care in Weatherford, Texas.
Terwilliger first joined the Twins working for manager Ray Miller in 1986 and stayed on when Tom Kelly took over later that season. He was known through his career in baseball as "Twig."
He would work as first base coach from 1986 to 1994, helping the club win two World Series titles. Afterward, St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck tabbed him to be the independent minor league team's first base coach. He would stay with the Saints until 2002. He was a minor league coach and manager through 2010.
Terwilliger finished his MLB playing career hitting .240 over 666 games with the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators, New York Giants and Kansas City Athletics.
His managerial career in the minors and independent leagues stretched from 1961-2005. He retired with a career record of 1,224-1,089.
He spent 62 years in professional baseball.
"I really enjoy the game," he told the Star Tribune in 2002. "And to be part of the game, in uniform and on the field and with the guys, makes it all the more entertaining for me. And I still get excited."
At the time, Terwilliger was being honored with a bobblehead by the Saints for his 77th birthday. Staff writer John Millea detailed the unique life, both inside and outside of baseball, that Terwilliger had lived.
He was on the Brooklyn Dodgers bench when Bobby Thomson ("The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!") hit his famous home run in 1951 . . . he hit a game-winning single off 47-year-old Satchel Paige in 1953 . . . he was a backup middle infielder behind Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese . . . he was a teammate of Willie Mays . . . he played against Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn, Harmon Killebrew . . . he was the third-base coach for a Washington Senators team managed by Ted Williams . . . and he finally got to the World Series as the Twins first-base coach in 1987 and 1991.
There's more. Terwilliger was a Marine radio man and machine gunner during World War II. When the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion helped lead the June 1944 attack on the island of Saipan — 3,500 miles from Pearl Harbor, 1,200 from Tokyo — Terwilliger saw combat for the first time. During another Pacific assault a few months later, he watched his countrymen raise the American flag over Iwo Jima.
"On Saipan, we were lined up — I can still vividly see it — we were lined up on a coral reef," Terwilliger said at the time. "We had to go past the coral reef and start into Saipan, and as soon as we got down off the coral reef, it started in. Little pops were going around. We had periscopes on the tanks, and our periscope got shot off. Right then I realized, `They're trying to kill us.'
"I was very fortunate. I just got a few scratches. I was awful lucky."
Terwilliger had two children, Marcie and Steve, with his first wife Mary Jane, and two stepsons Mike and Kevin, with his second wife Linda, who he married in 1974 and remained with until his death.