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Broadcaster and two-time Twin Roy Smalley turns 64

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Yesterday, on Gene Larkin's birthday, I mentioned my appreciation of players who spent their entire career with one team. Another oddity that fascinates me is guys who played for the same team for two or more stints, separated by time with other teams. Ken Griffey, Jr, Rickey Henderson, and Jim Thome are some high-profile examples who immediately come to mind, but for every Griffey there's a handful of Kurt Bevacquas, Mike Gallegos, and Luis Sojos. Roy Smalley, who turns 64 today, falls somewhere between those extremes into a subset within a subset including guys like Aramis Ramirez and Vinny Castilla: All-Stars who wrapped up their careers back where they made their initial impact. Smalley does share even more in common with the less-successful Bevacqua; both stuck around the cities they returned to, finding another career on the microphone.

The son of another major league shortstop with the same name, Smalley came to the Twins the first time in a 1976 trade that sent another eventual two-term Twin, Bert Blyleven, to Texas. He took over at shortstop in place of Danny Thompson, who was packaged with Blyleven in the trade, and provided Minnesota with stability they hadn't had at the position since Leo Cardenas was traded to the Angels after the 1971 season. Smalley stuck around until April, 1982, when he was traded to the Yankees for reliever Ron Davis and two minor leaguers: Paul Boris and Greg Gagne. During his first stay in Minnesota, Smalley played for his uncle, manager Gene Mauch, and anchored the Twins' infield. He led the club with a WAR of 5.9 in 1978, and was the starting shortstop for the American League All-Star team the next season when he played in every game, led the league in plate appearances, and set career highs in hits, runs, home runs, and RBI.

Smalley was solid in his first two years in Bronx, but faltered in 1984 and was sent to the South Side of Chicago, where he slipped to offensive lows across the board. The off-year allowed the Twins to reacquire him for the low price of two decidedly non-prospect minor league depth pieces before the 1985 season, and he was back where he made his name after less than three years away. With Gagne having settled into his old job as starting shortstop, Smalley got most of his work as designated hitter, and hit .258/ .357/ .402 in his first year back, each slash component better than his career line of .257/ .345/ .395. He followed that up with his fourth and final 20-homer campaign, then called it a career after a solid 1987 season in which he earned a ring in his first trip to the postseason. He reached base in three of the four times he came to the plate in the World Series, doubling his first time up and walking twice. His last major league appearance came on his thirty-fifth birthday; he worked a full count walk against Cardinals reliever Todd Worrell to load the bases with the score tied at 2-2 in the sixth inning of the final game.

Like the aforementioned Gene Larkin, Smalley made Minnesota his home after his playing career came to a close. Also like Larkin, whose first season was Smalley's last, he became a financial advisor, although that has become overshadowed by his far more public gig with FOX Sports North, for whom he performs in a variety of analyst roles before, during, and after Twins games.

While his work on the field and in front of the camera is well known by Twins fans and students of the game in general, there is of course much more to the man. I learned a lot about him in an early installment of The Quaz, a long-running weekly interview series conducted by sportswriter and bestselling author Jeff Pearlman on his personal blog. In it I learned that Smalley's favorite film is one that I love and can quote from beginning to end, while our views on climate change as well as Snoop, Dre, and Eminem are wildly differing. Of course it's understandable that he's not a hip-hop fan, as most of us tend to gravitate toward music that came out in our formative years. This leads me to wonder if the 14-year-old Smalley was a fan of The Beatles and found himself singing along to When I'm Sixty-Four. Whether he did or not, here's hoping that someone still needs him and feeds him now that that day has come.