Do you remember where you were 10 years ago today? I do. I was in my dorm room in New York City, staring at my computer screen. I had (Classic) GameDay pulled up on the Royals at Tigers game. It was the bottom of the 9th, and the Royals were ahead. One out, then two. Then the the next "In play (outs recorded)" popped up. I went berserk.
See, if you don’t remember, the Tigers losing that final game meant the Twins had completed their improbable come back to win the American League Central Title. It was the only time all year the Twins were alone in first place in the division, and it was even technically after their final game of the year had concluded at the Metrodome. The fans stayed, and the Twins people put the Royals-Tigers game on the jumbotron. Everyone watched, including my Mom and aunt, to see if the Twins would be champions. When the Tigers lost, meaning the Twins won, the Dome roared. The Twins came back out and celebrated on the field with the fans.
My Mom attempted to call me during my little celebration in my dorm room from the big celebration in the Metrodome. I got the call, but it was only a bunch of screaming, and then the call dropped.
2006 remains one of my favorite Twins seasons of all time. It tends to be a favorite year among fans who remember it. It was crazy.
The year started off about as bad as it possibly could: with the sudden and tragic death of Kirby Puckett. 2006 was dedicated to Kirby, with video tributes, arm patches, and his number on the field. Minnesota’s collective grief—I to this day believe—helped finally push the legislature and governor into agreeing to a stadium bill to build Target Field. The Governor signed that bill into law May 26th, 2006, on the floor of the Metrodome.
Unfortunately, the Twins didn’t exactly get off to the kind of start that would honor a great like Kirby. They stunk. Going in to June 13th, the Twins had a 28-34 record, which doesn’t sound that bad compared to today’s standards, but was actually pretty bad. The Twins were 4th place in the division and 12 games back from first place.
June 13th, 2006 was a Tuesday, and the Twins began a series against the Red Sox that night in the Metrodome. It was Johan Santana versus Curt Shilling, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise the game was tied 0-0 going into the 7th inning. That’s when Jason Varitek hit a solo home run, but Michael Cuddyer answered back with his own solo-shot half an inning later. The game was still tied—just at 1-1 instead of 0-0. It ended up staying 1-1 going into extras.
The Red Sox managed to get a run across in the top of the 12th to take the lead 2-1. Expecting another loss—and it being late on a weekday night—most of the fans left. My Mom and I stayed, as we usually did back then, hoping for the best. The Twins loaded the bases with one out, bringing Jason Kubel came to the plate. Mom and I were pretty sure, then, that the Twins could actually win this one.
Sure enough, Kubel hit a long fly-ball to right field, far enough for Cuddyer to tag up and score from third. We watched in anticipation, but the fly-ball kept going, and going (seriously, I remember this as if it were in slow motion), and suddenly disappeared. It took a second or two for us, and everyone else in the Dome, to realize what had happened. The ball had just cleared the baggie by a couple inches. It was a walk-off grand slam.
There was a massive roar and celebration. It was one of those times where you run over a few seats in the sparse Metrodome crowd to high-five the closest stranger, because you have to, and it’s not at all awkward or weird.
I remember my Mom and I getting back to our car that night, well after 11:00 pm, still filled with excitement. "This is it!" my Mom declared. "This is the turning point! We’re going to win every game for the rest of the year!!!"
"YEAH!" I responded. "WE’RE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES!"
Here’s the funny thing, though: We were actually kind of right.
Well, not about winning the World Series, of course, because the Twins did not. But it was the start of what would turn out to be a massive comeback campaign for the Twins. In the following 18 games after Kubel’s walk-off bomb, the Twins went 17-1 and were suddenly 10 games above .500.
A lot of pieces just fell into place. The Twins called up a young starter named Francisco Liriano, who became one of the best pitchers in baseball (before calling his season short due to injury).
Brad Radke pitched his arm off—literally. He had a torn labrum and a stress fracture in his shoulder, but he just kept pitching, and pitched better than he practically ever had. He is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and severely underrated.
Oh, and Johan Santana won the Cy Young. Joe Mauer won the batting title. Joe Nathan was our savior. Justin Morneau won the AL MVP.
If you are a Twins fan, this was one to remember.
While dancing around my dorm in New York, I had remembered that the Twins would now face the A’s instead of the Yankees, because they were now the division champs. If the Twins had been the wild card team, and faced the Yankees, I already had really nice seats somehow luckily right on the baseline.
But the Twins won. And thinking back—do I, or did I, ever for a split second, for one iota, regret it? No. Not ever. I would never take any of that back. I would never take back the couple minutes I got to jump around by myself in my dorm. I would never take back the dropped call from my Mom.