I wrote in more detail about Game Used: My Life in Stitches with the Minnesota Twins, the new book from Dick Bremer earlier this morning. Not only do you get my two cents there, but you can also read some excerpts from the book. I was also able to have the opportunity to talk to Dick for awhile, and truly enjoyed the conversation. On the off chance he actually reads this, I want to thank him for being gracious with his time and patient with my questions. For the rest of you, here is our conversation.
TJ: I’m excited to talk to you about your book, its been a very interesting read so far.
DB: It was a fun project to work on, and I was committed to writing a light-hearted, self-deprecating, funny book about my life in baseball and with the Twins, and quite ironically, it was released during one of the most somber periods in America’s history, but I can’t do anything about that.
TJ: One thing I’ve noticed is that there is a lot of Twins history, there’s a lot about you, but its really not a history book, its really not a biography. How exactly would you describe the book you ended up writing?
DB: Well, I’ve always thought autobiographies tend to be a little pompous, just because the authors expect the reader to spend five or six hours reading about their life. So, one of the things I wanted to be clear about before I agreed to write it is that I wanted it to be reflecting what I hope I’ve proven that during my years as a Twins broadcaster, that while I take my job seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously. Now that the book is released, the only one who has any room to be upset about its publication is me, because i’m harder on myself than anybody else in the book.
TJ Gorsegner: How exactly did the concept of doing a book come about?
Dick Bremer: The people at Triumph books reached out to me about two years ago to do a book, or to see if i’d be interested in doing a book that would be part of a series they were, and are still running called If these walls could talk. Basically, they have gotten sportscasters who have served a long time in one market to write a book as a part of a series that the have put out on the bookshelves. They’ve gotten somebody from Milwaukee, Kansas City, Boston, Oakland and a bunch of other markets as well. I thought about it, and after thinking about it for about a week, I thought it’s very flattering, but if I ever was going to do a book I wanted it to be a standalone book and I wanted it to have a unique format, something I could roll up my sleeves and get after in terms of actually doing the writing myself, and so I told them I appreciated the interest but I really wasn’t interested at this time, and then about two weeks later they reached back out to me and said “okay, we’ll do it your way,” and so they relieved all the concerns I gave them about doing the initial project, and pretty much said “Yeah you can do it the way you want it, it will be a hardcover book, and you can write it yourself, and all that.” So I frankly didn’t have any reason not to do it, and I had plenty of free time between the 2018 and 2019 season to put it together. I just thought I wanted to do a book that catered to the fact that we all have shorter attention spans than we used to. I wanted it to be a book that was easy to pick up and hard to put down. That’s true in the case of anybody who’s written a book, but I wanted people to feel free to go ahead and read some, if they only had ten minutes, they wouldn’t be committed to reading a full 25 page chapter or anything like that. So I wanted it to be written in bite sized portions if you will, and so that’s why we came up with the format of 108 stories, because there are 108 stitches in a baseball.
TJ: With the concept of 108 stitches or 108 stories, what would you say would be like stitch number 109, the story that just missed the cut, that you wished you could tell, but you just didn’t get in there?
DB: Well, obviously, if the book hadn’t been released when it was released, what were going through right now would be stitch 109, I don’t think there’s going to be a sequel, but if there is a sequel to the book, it will probably start with the COVID-19 and all that. There actually was a 109th stitch. Triumph books wanted the final manuscript to be submitted in June 2019, and I told them we have to allow for the possibility that the 2019 season would be a notable one for one reason or another for the twins. somebody might throw a perfect game, somebody might hit four home runs in a game, or as actually happened, the team was really really good and got to the playoffs. So they agreed to that before the season unfolded, with the idea being if something happened in the 2019 season, that whenever that season ended, I would have the final manuscript submitted, ready to go within 48 hours after the season ended. So of course, the Twins won 101 ballgames, within the season there were so many interesting individual stories and then the Twins were eliminated by the Yankees in the playoffs and I went back to work in the office, tapped out the final story, and then took one out that was in the original manuscript that dealt with my little league playing days in Fulton, Missouri.
TJ: Obviously the 2019 Twins were a really good team, and a really interesting team. Of course you’ve seen the early 2000’s piranha teams that were really good, and you’ve seen two World Series teams. How would you say the 2020 team stacks up against some of the good teams you’ve seen in Twins history?
DB: What we’ve experienced in Minnesota, and its been experienced in Kansas City, and Detroit, and Cleveland too, these things in markets this size tend to go in cycles. I really believe that the 2019 season was the start of a really good cycle for the Twins organization and their fans. I think this team is going to be good for quite a while. I was down in spring training before they closed it down, and I think its fair to say that the most impressionable performances were put on by players that aren’t even expected to be with the team 2020. Some of the prospects that they have really had good springs going before the plug was pulled on spring training. So I think the Twins are in an enviable spot because the 25- to 40-man roster is really good, but they’ve also got some really good prospects that have yet to see the light of the major leagues that should be really significant players for the Twins for years to come.
TJ: Speaking of really good teams, one of the things that amazed me, reading through the book, was the fact that they only broadcast a couple dozen games from 1987, from the World Championship season. For some of us that are a little on the younger end of the spectrum that’s almost unthinkable in today’s world. What would you say are some of the other changes and things you’ve seen happen in and around the game that has evolved over your life in baseball?
DB: Just to clarify, in 1987 I did just home games. There were still 50 over-the-air road games that were broadcast, and so the Twins added some some of the home telecasts to their broadcast schedule, and that’s what I was doing in 1987. But you know, its really changed since I started in the business in 1983, now days, every game is on television for all thirty teams on one outlet or another, every game is on television, and so it is now how it used to be on radio. Every game was broadcast on radio, but now TV has really mushroomed in its coverage of major league baseball, and that’s why it makes it even more important for someone who does what I do to be very cognizant of the fact that people are watching, can watch at least, every night. And if you’ve got a good team, like we did last year, then there is a real good chance that somebody that is watching on Tuesday is going to be watching on Wednesday. And so its incumbent on the broadcasters to do everything within their power to make sure that Wednesday’s telecast is different than Tuesday’s. There is no room for repetition or anything like that. It needs to be fresh, and that’s the biggest challenge I think that television broadcasters have had to adapt to over the years, because now everything is on TV, and if someone heard a story or an anecdote on Tuesday night, they sure don’t want to hear it again on Wednesday.
TJ: Another thing you talk about a lot in the book is growing up as a Twins fan, being a lifelong fan of the team. Being a big fan of the team, as a fan, what would you say is your favorite moment you’ve seen as a fan of the Twins.
DB: Probably the first Twins game that I went to, in 1964, to actually see the players that I had seen on black-and-white TV, heard on the radio, and read about. To actually see them in person, and as I describe in the book, I remember going to our old ballpark here in Minnesota, Metropolitan Stadium, and being very distracted from what was going on on the field, looking into the press box and seeing what was going on there. Because the announcers who I saw in person for the first time from, a distance of course, but saw though, those were the guys that connected me to my team, whether it be on radio or on TV. Never imagining, of course, that at some point my career would be spent in a baseball broadcasting booth. I remember the first game, but just the whole scope of my childhood was dominated by Twins baseball, you know, waiting for the pocket schedules to arrive in the grocery store, and committing to memory which games were on television, and which games were not. If the game was on TV, you know this was a really small town in Western Minnesota, there wasn’t a whole lot to do otherwise, but that’s what everyone was doing. They were watching the Twins. I make the case sometimes in talking about my childhood and the arrival of the Twins in 1961, that although the Twins play their games in the metropolitan area, probably their arrival in 1961, probably, meant more to the outstate region than it did the Twin Cities area.
TJ: If you hadn’t ended up being a sports broadcaster, what would you have ended up doing with your life?
DB: I actually got my broadcasting start professionally, out of college in television as a sportscaster, and I never imagined making baseball play-by-play, having it be the nucleus of my career. You know, back when I got started there were 26 teams in the major leagues, so basically there were 26 people in the world doing what I ended up doing, and I never imagined, I wasn’t foolish enough to think, dreaming about being a major league baseball announcer. I was quite content at the time just being involved with sports in the television news business. My route to the big league broadcast booth wasn’t typical at all, I ended up getting hired from a television station here in the Twin Cities rather than going through the minor leagues and then graduating, if you will, to the big leagues.
TJ: You’ve mentioned being from a small town out in western Minnesota, and the other day I saw something, on Twitter or somewhere, that you wanted to do your first book signing out there. Obviously that’s been postponed, but where are people able to go get some updates, see whats going on, when that stuff starts happening?
DB: That’s all up in the air because the baseball schedule is up in the air. We’re imagining a world that has the season starting weeks, maybe even months later, and then I would imagine that whenever a date is set to start the season, there will be three weeks at least of training camp. Where that training camp will be held, I have no idea. If its late enough you can imagine the teams will probably have camps in their home ballparks perhaps. If that’s the case, and if there’s time, I would like to have some book signings during that time to be sure, but certainly I want to try to have the first Minnesota book signing in Dumont. The first four stories in the book are from there, and the people there, the population is listed right now at 85, but it was going to be the highlight of the book writing process for me, for some reason. Just to go back there and throw a party, and talk baseball with some of the people who I grew up with a long, long time ago. Even though we can’t have it on April third, the commitment is still there I think, both from me and from the people who were going to organize it in Dumont. We want to try to get something done, maybe before the season gets started.
TJ: Who would you say is the best baseball player you have ever seen? Across any team, any generation.
DB: I was so lucky because in my childhood we moved to central Missouri, and so the major league games I saw back then were in St. Louis, and so I got to see Bob Gibson pitch, I got to see Hank Aaron play, I got to see Willie Mays play. I consider myself lucky because I was able to see some National League players at a time before there was inter-league play, but the best I ever saw, I’ve got to be a little parochial here and keep it within the Twins organization. I know that Kirby Puckett was the most charismatic, championship caliber ballplayer I’ve ever been around. You’ll get arguments here regionally whether he was better, greater than Rod Carew or Harmon Killebrew, but on the basis of covering him as a broadcaster and the fact that the Twins have won two world championships largely because of Kirby Puckett, if you really twisted my arm, I’d probably say Kirby.
TJ: Before I let you go, is there anything you else you’d like Twins fans to know about the book, about you, anything else that I haven’t asked?
DB: I really hope fans enjoy the book obviously. I hope they appreciate the fact that I’ve tried to make it a Twins history book, because I guess I’m unique. I’ve followed the team since day one, literally. I have vague memories, as I explain in the book, about hearing about the first Twins game ever played in 1961, and from that day forward, I was a Twins fan. So it is a Twins history book, from two different perspectives—a fan, someone who is distant from the team—but still very much a fan of the team; and then later as a broadcaster. I tried to write the book to appeal to Twins fans of any age group; people my age or older, and younger fans such as yourself who never were able to go to Metropolitan Stadium, maybe some of them never got to go to the Metrodome, but they are aware of some of the key players in Twins history. I hope fans enjoy the perspective of what intended to write, which was a Twins history book.
This is a transcript, and every effort has been made to be faithful to the original conversation. If any mistakes, typos, misspellings, or other human errors have been made, they are all mine.