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The history (and expedience) of Twins retired numbers

All this happened, Mauer or less.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

In just over a week, the Minnesota Twins will retire Joe Mauer’s familiar #7, permanently marking him among a short list of team greats that includes four Hall of Famers. The team has chosen to grant this distinction quickly, placing his number on the Target Field facing just months after Mauer announced his decision to retire. In the team’s nearly 60-year history, they have retired only seven other numbers (excluding the league-wide #42), but how quickly have they taken those digits out of circulation?

#3: Harmon Killebrew

Last worn: Killebrew, 1974
Retired: May 4, 1975

After Killebrew’s 21 seasons with the Senators/Twins franchise, he joined the Royals in 1975. Before the finale of a May three-game series, his new team’s first appearance in Minnesota that season, the Twins retired Killebrew’s number, not even waiting for him to retire as a player.

#29: Rod Carew

Last worn: Carew, 1978
Retired: July 19, 1987

After Carew’s trade to the California Angels of the Los Angeles and Anaheim Area, he played seven more seasons before his career ended after the 1985 campaign. The Angels retired his number first, against Minnesota on August 12 the next year, and the Twins followed suit July hence. (But without symmetry - that July 19, the Twins faced the Blue Jays.)

#6: Tony Oliva

Last worn: Oliva, 1976
Retired: July 14, 1991

The 15-year gap between Oliva’s final at-bat and his uniform number’s retirement was mostly filled by Oliva himself, who served as a Twins coach during two intervals within that time frame, ending as the team’s bench coach through the 1991 season. Midway through that year, the team raised his #6 to the rafters.

#14: Kent Hrbek

Last worn: Hrbek, 1994
Retired: August 13, 1995

Like Oliva, Hrbek spent his entire career in Minnesota. Hrbek announced his pending retirement on August 4, 1994, and when the players went on strike August 12, that retirement came. The Twins promptly retired his number a year and a day later.

#34: Kirby Puckett

Last worn: Puckett, 1995
Retired: May 25, 1997

Puckett’s sudden occurrence of glaucoma cost him not just 1996 but his career, as he retired that July. Less than a year later, his #34 was added to the Metrodome banners. (And 20 years after that day, another #34 was retired in another ballpark in honor of a player who wore that number to remember Puckett - the Red SoxDavid Ortiz.)

#28: Bert Blyleven

Last worn: Jesse Crain, 2010
Retired: July 16, 2011

After Blyleven’s last game in a Minnesota uniform in 1988, no Twin wore his #28 for eight seasons until Greg Colbrunn joined the team in 1997. Colbrunn would be one of five Twins to wear the number after Blyleven; the last of these, and longest tenured, was reliever Jesse Crain. But three weeks after Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 14th year of eligibility, the Twins announced they would retire his number. (This did not affect Crain, who had joined the White Sox a month earlier.)

#10: Tom Kelly

Last worn: Kelly, 2001
Retired: September 8, 2012

After Kelly ceded the Twins’ helm to Ron Gardenhire, his #10 remained unworn until the team announced in January 2012 that it would stay unworn.

#7: Joe Mauer

Last worn: Mauer, 2018
To be retired: June 15, 2019

And now we come to Mauer. The Twins have generally retired numbers quickly, with the exceptions of Blyleven and Kelly (and you might count Oliva), and they did so again with Mauer, announcing only a month after his retirement that they too would hang up #7.

Next weekend will surely add to how special the 2019 season has been, thanks to one player who has not cracked a home run, swung a bat, or sat in a catcher’s crouch since the calendar flipped to October 2018. Until then, we wait... and we watch baseball.