An Interview With the Star Tribune's Howard Sinker

Last year I did an email interview with Howard Sinker, the former Star Tribune reporter covering the Twins and current blogger at the paper's web site. I was starting up a blog on Twins history that I recently shut down, so I'm republishing the interview here. (I wound up reposting some of that blog's content elsewhere.) We talked about the Twins from the mid-'70s and the Met up to looking forward to the return of outdoor baseball. This is part one of our discussion (read part two here):

Q: I don’t know how far back you go as a follower of the Twins, but is there one player from the pre-Metrodome years who stands out for you?

A: I moved to Minnesota in 1974 to attend college and wasn’t much of a Twins fan during the pre-Metrodome years. Of course, back in the day and being a sarcastic college student, you couldn’t help but take note of guys like Bombo Rivera, Hosken Powell and some of the others whom the twins were trying to pass off as quality major leaguers during Calvin Griffith’s ‘Mr. Cheap’ days. I have to imagine that it was hard for anyone to be a serious Twins fans when Carew, Hisle and Bostock were allowed to leave and replaced by Bart Simpson, Beaver Cleaver and Linus von Pelt.

Q: What sorts of memories do you have of Metropolitan Stadium?

A: Beer. That was back when the drinking age was 18 and we took full advantage of that in the left field bleachers. My friend — we’ll call him "The Bueno" — used to walk into the Met with a can of beer in each sock (and therefore long pants even on 90-degree days.) The ushers just thought he walked funny. He got busted once when there was a home run ball photo in the Strib and there he was on the front of the sports section, reaching for the ball with his non-beer-holding hand. I remember seeing Mark Fidrych pitch for the Tigers, which was a fun event, and I vaguely remember some Kicks soccer games.

Q: Comparing the 1987 and 1991 Twins, which of those years is the more memorable? And which was more stunning to see the Twins emerge as champions?

A: Winning the World Series is always memorable so it’s hard to compare. My fondness for ‘91, though, is enhanced because I was writing stories from Page 1A of the Strib, kind of game stories for people who didn’t want to read the sports section. So I was on the front page for Games 6 and 7 against Atlanta, which were two of the best baseball games ever. Each of those titles had factors that made them memorable.

Q: How do you compare Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, in terms of their coaching styles, their personalities, their qualities as manager?

A: Gardy likes people, TK likes horses. I think that Kelly went from being thrilled just to get a chance to manage in the majors to being frustrated with some of the players he was having to use after the 1991 title. While he would often say,"I’ll work with the players that Mr. MacPhail gives me," I think he felt that he deserved better than what he had on some of those rosters. Gardy still has solid personnel to work with, and I think that keeps him more fired up about the job than TK was toward the end of his tenure. He’ll also get a chance to manage in a real ballpark starting in 2010, which I think has to juice him a bit.

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