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1991 World Series hero Gene Larkin turns 54 today

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I have always had a certain fondness for players who spent their entire career with one team - not just the Kirby Pucketts and Tony Gwynns of the world, but also less-heralded guys like Randy Bush and Tim Flannery. The latter category includes Puckett and Bush's teammate on both of the Twins' World Series winning teams, Gene Larkin. Even if he hadn't spent his entire career in Minnesota, Larkin would still be a legend there thanks to his game-winning tenth inning single in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Larkin was longshot to even reach the majors, let alone stick around for seven seasons, when the Twins snagged him up in the twentieth round of the 1984 draft. In fact, he was the only player out of Minnesota's 37 picks that year who ever wore a Twins uniform. Jay Bell was their first pick, eighth overall, but he was flipped to Cleveland a little over a year later as the centerpiece in the trade for Bert Blyleven. The Twins' next 18 picks never reached the majors at all; their only selection other than Bell and Larkin who got to the bigs was twenty-first rounder Clay Parker, who declined to sign and went to the Mariners in the fifteenth round the next year.

The right-handed-throwing switch-hitter climbed the minor league ladder quickly, getting bumped up one level at the beginning of each season. He hit over .300 with an OBP around .400 at every stop until the Twins called him up in May, 1987 after just 35 games at AAA Portland. Larkin hit well for a rookie while splitting time between serving as the designated hitter and spelling Hrbek at first base, and was included on the postseason roster. He added the outfield corners to his defensive repertoire and was ridiculously consistent offensively the next several years, even posting identical OPS totals of .734 in the Twins' worst and first seasons of 1990 and '91.

His performance fell off for the first time in 1992, and he played in a career-low 56 games in 1993 before his season ended in August due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. Unbeknownst to everyone at the time, his final major league action was a pinch-hit groundout on August 11 against Juan Guzman of the Blue Jays; his last hit came two games earlier when he hit a ninth-inning double off Steve Howe of the Yankees. A free agent after the season, Larkin signed a minor league deal with - who else - the Twins, but was released before Opening Day thanks to hitting .175 in Spring Training.

After his release, the New York native stuck around Minnesota and turned his focus to the world of finance. He couldn't stay away from the game forever, and eventually teamed up with Edina-born and raised 13-year minor leaguer Tom Nevers to train and instruct young players.