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Worst All-Time Twins Tournament, Park Round, Day 1: A game of pinches

Out of the dugout and into virtual history.

Washington Senators On The Field
Walk-off hero (third from right).
Photo by Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

It’s still best of five in the quarterfinals, but with eight teams, every win is a game away from escaping ignominy.

Gamble Regional (played)

(9) 1956 Senators 1
(1) 1909 Senators 3
‘56 trails 1-0

A battle which saw both starters record an 8 under “IP” in the box score was decided by the bats off the bench.

Singles by ‘09 pinch hitters Wid Conroy and Doc Gessler brought the go-ahead run to score in the seventh, allowing Walter Johnson to claim a 3-1 win over Chuck Stobbs and the ‘56 squad.

Stobbs pitched a complete eight innings in 91 pitches, most of them from behind after Bob Unglaub’s first-inning homer gave ‘09 a 1-0 lead. But Stobbs settled in after the long ball, allowing just four more hits over the next five innings of work, entering the seventh with only 55 pitches under his belt.

While Johnson labored, seeing the lead disappear after doubles by Clint Courtney and Karl Olson tied the game in the fifth, he received key help from his defense, who turned three 6-4-3 double plays. When Johnson departed after the eighth, he sported a 2-1 lead and had thrown 114 pitches, the final one flied into right field by Eddie Yost for an out.

That lead came about an inning before, when ‘09 bats finally strung together base hits off Stobbs. Clyde Milan led off with a single before a pair of outs put Stobbs one retirement away from a new frame. But Conroy was called off the bench to replace Warren Miller, and he responded by extending the frame with a base knock. The manager called for a replacement again, and Gessler, in the box instead of Bill Yohe, grounded a single up the middle, scoring Milan from second to tie the game. Jack Lelivelt continued the parade with a single to right, but Jim Lemon threw out Conroy at the plate to end the frame.

‘09 added an insurance run in the eighth, Milan doubling in Germany Schaefer, to set the stage for a tight ninth. Southpaw Nick Altrock entered in relief with a pair of lefties due up, but both Herb Plews and Pete Runnels singled to open the inning. Altrock retired Roy Sievers on a fly ball deep enough for Plews to take third, and with the dangerous Lemon scheduled to bat as the potential go-ahead run, the manager called for right-handed Roy Witherup to escape the jam. Witherup came through, whiffing Lemon and getting Courtney to fly to Gessler in right to finish the game.

Austin Regional

(13) 1958 Senators 10
(5) 1981 Twins 3
‘81 trails 1-0

A small lead turned into a massive one in the late innings as ‘58 turned a close fight into a rout.

Eddie Yost, Neil Chrisley, and Norm Zauchin homered for ‘58 as they topped ‘81 10-3 in their first quarterfinal matchup.

Yost’s solo shot and Chrisley’s two-run blast helped ‘58 stake a 4-1 lead after three innings, a lead which narrowed to 4-3 in the fourth when Dave Engle doubled in Mickey Hatcher and scored on Danny Goodwin’s single.

But ‘58 feasted on ‘81’s bullpen, hammering Jack O’Connor for four two-out runs in the seventh. After O’Connor loaded the bases on a single and two walks, Yost singled in a pair of runners and Albie Pearson doubled in the two now on base. Albert Williams replaced O’Connor to escape the seventh, but gave up a two-run homer to Zauchin in the eighth to cap the scoring.

Hayden Regional

(14) 1951 Senators 3
(6) 1948 Senators 4
‘51 trails 1-0

After nearly squandering a dominant pitching performance, ‘48 went to their bench in a key moment.

They emerged victorious.

Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Mark Christman clobbered a two-out walk-off home run to stun ‘51 4-3 and take a step towards departure from the bracket.

Al Evans opened the scoring for ‘48 in the second with a solo homer, but Ray Scarborough allowed a single and double to open the top of the third, both runners scoring on sacrifice flies to give ‘51 a 2-1 lead. But those two hits would be the only ones allowed by Scarborough in his six-plus innings of work.

’51’s seventh-inning insurance run, though, also fell under Scarborough’s name in the box score, as he walked Pete Runnels before being relieved by Dick Welteroth. Two Welteroth wild pitches moved Runnels to third, and a Mike McCormick sacrifice fly brought him home.

Meanwhile, ‘48 bats had been quiet since Evans’ home run, the team unable to send another runner around against Bob Porterfield. But after 1.2 relief innings from Tom Ferrick, ‘51 sent Mickey Harris in to close the game, and the defense unraveled.

With Harrris inheriting runners on the corners in the eighth, Clyde Kluttz let a pitch slip by him for a run-scoring passed ball. Harris got out of the eighth with no further trouble and retired the first two men in the ninth, but a strike away from ending the game, Evans singled to keep ‘48 alive. Number-nine hitter Sammy Meeks was due up, and the manager sent up Christman in his place.

Christman watched Harris’ first three pitches go by, then brought his bat around on a 2-1 fastball, launching it 406 feet into the night sky and bringing jubilation to the home team.

Zach Regional

(15) 2013 Twins 8
(10) 1982 Twins 5
‘82 trails 1-0

‘13 lived and thrived in their first quarterfinal game on the bat of Josh Willingham.

Willingham smacked two home runs, the first a three-run shot that gave ‘13 an early lead, the second a solo dinger in the fifth, to lead ‘13 to an 8-5 victory over ‘82.

Home starter Albert Williams opened the game by walking Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer before Willingham sent his first pitch over the wall. Williams allowed four more runs in the fourth, the key hits consecutive doubles from Oswaldo Arcia and Ryan Doumit, before yielding the mound to the bullpen. Willingham’s fifth-inning homer capped ‘13’s scoring.

Meanwhile, ‘82 pushed across a run in the third and three in the fifth, but their offense managed just five hits and one run, a Tom Brunansky solo home run in the ninth, before Glen Perkins’ one-batter save.

Morrison Round, Final Day | Park Round, Day 1 | Park Round, Day 2