Results tagged ‘ Terry Steinbach ’

Junior’s Circuit, No More

The other day, upon hearing that Ken Griffey Jr. had announced his retirement from Major League Baseball, I wanted to take a moment here to reflect on one of my favorite baseball players of all-time:

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Though I grew up a Minnesota Twins fan in the mid 1990s, those Twins teams didn’t exactly have the type of superstars that can captivate the imagination of a youngster (sorry Ron Coomer, Terry Steinbach, and Butch Huskey).  Thus, I naturally gravitated towards the best (with respect to Barry Bonds, a phrase I never thought I would write) player in baseball at the time: Ken Griffey Jr.

Junior could do it all: Hit for decent average (career .284 hitter), tremendous power (630 career dingers, back-to-back seasons of 56 jacks), steal some bases (particularly early in his career; 184 career), and track down balls in center field like Torii Hunter would later do for my favorite club.

In fact, when the big power/steroid boom of the late 1990s occurred, it was the Griffey/McGwire show before Sosa juiced up and changed everything in ’98.  Fortunately, Griffey has never seen the smear of performance-enhancing drugs touch his name.  He also has none of the tell-tale signs (huge musculature, sudden growth, etc.).

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Sadly, the career of KGJ took a down-turn after he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000.  Though he was the darling of Seattle with the Mariners, I couldn’t blame him for wanting to play for his hometown Reds.  However, the Reds never challenged for any sort of title during the “Griffey Years”, and Griffey himself endured so many injuries it would have made Mickey Mantle flinch.  At one point, he was projected to “easily” surpass Hank Aaron’s home run record, and may very well of done it had not the injury bug bitten hard.

After a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox (that, despite good performance, never quite seemed right)…

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…it was nice to see Junior in an M’s uniform once again in the end:

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Perhaps the fondest memory I will take away from Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball player, though, is how as a child I sent him a letter asking for an autograph.  Some time later, I received a glossy 8X10 of Junior that had me nearly bouncing off the walls in excitement.  A first-ballot Hall of Famer in every sense of the word:

 

The End Of An Era

For as long as I have been following the Minnesota Twins, one thing (well, besides the one rubber-armed old fogey left-handed reliever) that has remained constant is a grizzled, experienced catcher to either handle the pitching staff in the abscence of a long-term starter, or to mentor guys like Joe Mauer and A.J. Pierzynksi.

In the late 1990s, that guy was Terry Steinbach…

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Then, in the 2000s, the torch was passed from Tom Prince…

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…to Henry Blanco…

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…and finally to Mike Redmond…

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However, it was announced a few days ago that Redmond, a free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, meaning the Twins will go with young Jose Morales…

morales-jose1.jpg …as their primary backup to Joe Mauer during the 2010 season.

This decision makes sense, as it is either boom (catch all year) or bust (lose a large chunk of time due to injury) for Mauer, it seems.  Red Dog was no longer an overyday player, although an apt fill-in on Thursday and Sunday afternoons, and thus probably couldn’t hold the job alone in Mauer’s abscence.

I enjoyed watching Red over the past few seasons, and will miss that inside-out swing and all those little dinks between first and second that always seemed to drop in for hits.  I wish him the best in Cleveland and have always thought that, if he wanted to and the opportunity presented itself, he could be a big league manager someday.

Thanks For The Memories


dome6.jpgDuring the early goings of September of the 2009 Twins baseball season, it looked as if game number 162 (the contest that typically ends the MLB season unless you happen to play in the Midwest) would be a great remembrance of all the baseball that the Metrodome had produced before giving way to Target Field next season.  A post-game ceremony down on the field after that game was both parts touching and entertaining, but there was just one problem…the old Dome wasn’t done; it would go on to host two more games!

Thus, it never really felt as if the Metrodome got that proper sense of ending as maybe it should have…that moment when you just look around and soak it all in.  Obviously, with the New York Yankees celebrating, it wasn’t the time for that feeling.  That is why I would now like to relive my favorite moments of being at the Dome.  Perhaps you will remember some of these as well:

-1990: My first memory of the Dome recalls seeing Kirby Puckett being given the Silver Slugger award for winning the batting title the previous year.  While going through the turnstiles that day, I got a black bat “signed” by Puck that I believe I still have stashed away to this day.

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-1991: Though most fans may only remember the ’91 seaons for Puckett’s Game Six and Black Jack’s Game Seven, there was also quite a heated race (at least for awhile) with the Oakland A’s.  Back then, when both teams were part of the AL West division, the A’s were the powerhouse team of the circuit.  They came into a summer series at the Dome and jumped way ahead of the Twins in every game thanks to the power of guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Dave Henderson (looking back, can you imagine all the steroids coursing through those veins?).  However, the Twins scrapped back in every game and won them all.  I was lucky enough to be at the one that everyone remembers, where the Twins rallied against Dennis Eckersley (the Mariano Rivera of his day) on a triple from Chili Davis that RF Canseco played like a pin-ball down in the corner.  As Jose was bouncing around, a fan overhanging right field chucked an unravelling roll of toilet paper down onto the field, only adding to the mayhem!

 
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-1996-2000: I really began following the Twins with a passion in ’96, but from then until ’00 the Twins were perennial cellar-dwellers. Not to be deterred, though, my Dad and I would still get down to the Dome a few times each year to watch guys like Bob Tewksbury, Pat Mahomes, Brent Gates, Rich Becker, and Scott Stahoviak (among others) battle to not lose 100 games.  I didn’t seem to care about the futility, I guess, as I still root-root-rooted for the home team with all I had.  The attendance was so poor during those years that one could (and we often did) guy a cheap ticket and move right up behind the infield.  Believe it or not, there were no users to stop people!

A more specific game from that time period involves a field trip with my sixth grade class.  My exact recollection of the event is understandably a bit hazy, but the Twins were facing Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox.  The game went into extra innings, the Twins loaded the bases with no outs, but then two guys (one of which I’m positive was Terry Steinbach) struck out.  The next batter then singled to win the game (I want to say it was Pat Meares, but I could be wrong).

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-2002: Fifteen innings of baseball against the Atlanta Braves.  Bobby Cox got tossed in the first inning, the Twins roughed up Greg Maddux, and Christian Guzman’s double off the baggy scored Tom Prince (pictured above) to win it.  Once you do the fourteenth-inning stretch, you never forget it!

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-2002: With the Twins already having locked up the division title, they hosted the beaten White Sox to close out the season.  I was at the final two games, both won by dramatic, late-inning home runs from Bobby Kielty.

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-2008: With the Twins needing to sweep the White Sox in the final homestand to stay in the playoff race, they do just that.  I was at all three thrillers, but of course momst remember the final contest when the Twins fell behind early but clawed back into it thanks to a dramatic triple from Denard Span.  A walk-off hit from Alexi Casilla sealed it in extra innings.

So, those are my fondest, brightest memories of the Metrodome.  Though many malign it as a dump and unfit for the National Pastime, it is the only home turf I have ever seen the Twins play on, and no one can take that from me.  Though Target Field may prove to be a rousing success (or a miserable failure, whatever the case may be), it will always be the Dome that holds my childhood baseball nostalgia.

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