On This Date in Twins Playoff History: October 17, 1987

After taking out the Tigers in five games, the underdog Twins were moving onto the World Series.

October 17, 1987
World Series, Game One

Cardinals: Vince Coleman (LF), Ozzie Smith (SS), Tom Herr (2B), Tim Lindeman (1B), Willie McGee (CF), Tony Pena (C), Jose Oguendo (RF), Tom Pagnozzi (DH), Tom Lawless (3B), Joe Magrane (P)

Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Greg Gagne (SS), Kirby Puckett (CF), Gary Gaetti (3B), Don Baylor (DH), Tom Brunansky (RF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Steve Lombardozzi (2B), Tim Laudner (C), Frank Viola (P)

Both the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays had better records than the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987, but the Jays finished two games behind the Tigers in the AL East and we already know that the Twins topped the Tigers. And so, having bested the best team in baseball, the underdog Minnesota squad took on another team that, unlike themselves, had a positive run differential.

Charged with taking on the Twins, and a rabid fanbase who literally couldn't buy enough Homer Hankies (I don't mean that figuratively), was 23-year old Joe Magrane. Magrane finished third in National League voting for Rookie of the Year, behind somebody named Mike Dunne and winner Benito Santiago. An elbow injury would wipe out his 1991 campaign and leave him half the pitcher he used to be, but from '87 through '90 he was among baseball's young and most effective pitchers.

Taking the mound for the home team was 17-year old lefty Frank Viola, who was supposed to be the best man at his brother's wedding that day. While Magrane was just making a name for himself, Viola had been among baseball's best young pitchers for the past four seasons. From '84 through '87 he averaged 17 wins, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting twice. Armed with his circle changeup, the common narrative was that Vince Coleman could be a big time catalyst against Viola.

Coleman stole 109 bases in '87, the third time in his three-year career that he'd crossed the triple-digit barrier, and it was the third time in a six-year stretch that he'd lead the National League in stolen bases; he'd successfully steal six bases in the 1987 World Series, although not all of them were the ignited St. Louis the way Whitey Herzog had hoped.

It was the Cardinals who drew first blood, but instead of Coleman it was Tim Lindeman whose second inning double kicked things off. Kirby Puckett, who was Lindeman's roommate in college, midplayed the shallow fly ball and the miscue allowed the St. Louis first baseman to reach second. Willie McGee's flyout and Tony Pena's groundout scored Lindeman, although analyst Tim McCarver believed Greg Gagne should have gone home with the play.

After that Viola and Magrane buckled down for a few innings, but the flood gates opened in the bottom of the fourth. The first six Twins reached base, and they all scored. Kent Hrbek's bases loaded single scored two, which was big time since he'd gone just 3-for-20 in the ALCS. When Magrane was lifted with the bases loaded, Tim Laudner pushed the lead to 3-0 on a single off Bob Forsch.

Then Dan Gladden ripped it open.



Notice how Gladden claps his hands emphatically, just once as he's about to get to second base? Somewhere, a three-year old Brian McCann was irate.

Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run shot in the fifth, and Gladden drove Lombardozzi in with a double in the seventh to push the score to 10-1.

It almost didn't seem fair for the Cardinals. The Twins were used to playing in the Metrodome, were aggressive, and with the crowd as loud as a jet engine (again, literally) it had to be a bit of a shock to the visitors.

In leading the Twins to a victory in Game One, Viola went eight innings, striking out five, not walking a soul, and scattering five hits. No Cardinals batter moved past first base after the third inning. The entire baseball world was conspiring with the underdogs from Minnesota, and it wouldn't get much better in Game Two.

How the Twins Got to the 1987 World Series:

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