You may have heard that long-time Twins play-by-plan man Dick Bremer wrote a book, which was released a couple weeks ago. That his book, Game Used: My Life in Stitches with the Minnesota Twins, is well-written, humorous, and full of astute baseball observations probably won’t surprise fans who have watched the Twins on an occasional-or-more basis any time since 1983. In almost four decades calling games on TV for our hometown nine, Bremer has seen almost everything baseball can throw at him, and the book reflects that. He also took a unique approach to structuring a book. The book contains nine “innings” that represent an era of Twins history, each broken down into “stiches.” There are 108 stitches, to be precise—the same number of stitches on a baseball. Each of these stitches, or stories, only take a few minutes to read.
The book starts with a young boy in the tiny hamlet Dumont, Minnesota falling in love with the game of baseball, and the new-to-town Minnesota Twins. Since 1961, Bremer has been a Twins fan, and its clear from his writing he has never lost that passion in all his time with the team. From 1961, he tells the story of Dick Bremer a little bit, and the story of the Twins a lot more, as he weaves through major events in American, baseball, and Twins history with self-deprecating humor. There were chapters that literally made me laugh out loud, and others that literally brought a tear to my eye. If your life has been intertwined with the Twins, as most fans’ lives have, there will be chapters that you just can’t avoid catching a feeling. Reliving Joe Mauer’s final game, and the final appearance at catcher was one of the most touching moments of the book for me, as Joe’s career was largely the common thread in my adult life and fandom. For others, it will be the stitches detailing the life of Kirby Puckett. Meanwhile there were stories I laughed so hard my wife looked at me like I was crazy.
Bremer told me “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.” and I think he succeeded in his endeavor. Oh yeah, the rest of that interview will be coming out in a couple hours right here at Twinkie Town. Anyway, rather than listen to me, read the excerpts below, and judge for yourself. The first story comes from the early-nineties version of the Twins Winter Caravan.
Without question, my most memorable caravan stop involved Kirby
Puckett. By the late ’80s Puckett had established himself as the most
beloved and revered person in Minnesota. The caravan stops that included
Kirby were packed to the rafters. Prior to the 1990 season, Kirby was the
lone ballplayer on our caravan leg. We simply didn’t need anyone else. He
was enough of a draw to pack any ballroom or school gym we went to.
We were working our way from Detroit Lakes to Fergus Falls one
afternoon when a thought crossed my mind. At the time, my parents
were living in a senior citizens’ high rise in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.
We would be driving right through Pelican Rapids on our way to Fergus
Falls. I asked the caravan coordinator, Betty Piper, whether we could
make a quick visit to my parents since they were on the way. She said
that we were a little ahead of schedule and we could stop for about 15
minutes. Kirby was on board with it so we pulled up in front of my
parents’ apartment building. Kirby stepped out of the SUV we were
riding in and drew some of the most astonished looks you can imagine.
As we walked through the lobby and made our way to the elevator, there
were more disbelieving eyes and dropping jaws.
There was some risk involved because I wasn’t sure my parents were
even home; there were no cell phones to check on their whereabouts.
I had Kirby knock on the door. When my mother answered she could
not believe her eyes. There at her doorway, unannounced, was the most
popular man in the state. She and my father invited us in, although it
may have taken them five minutes to acknowledge that I was there as
well. Kirby was nice enough to sign a baseball to my parents and after
a nice visit, we got up to leave. Before we left, Kirby asked if he could
use the bathroom, something that delighted my mother to no end. It
became a source of pride for her. After bragging about the visit and
what occurred as we left to anyone who would listen, my mother’s
best friend made a needlepoint bathroom hand towel that read, “Kirby
Puckett peed here.”
The second story I’ll pull from is the story of the 2006 Twins. Most of you probably have some fuzzy recollection of what happened, but this is the perfect, succinct way to refresh your memory, or introduce it to a new fan—after all, that was a decade-and-a-half ago, and now I feel old.
The 2006 season turned into one of the most significant seasons in Twins
history. Personally and professionally, it was a year filled with the broadest
spectrum of joy and sadness. The Twins were really good. Johan Santana
won his second Cy Young Award, the only Twin to win that prestigious
award more than once. Yet, for a good part of the season, he was not
the best pitcher in the American League. In fact, he wasn’t even the best
pitcher on his team.
Francisco Liriano was as dominant as any pitcher in Twins history
before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. Justin Morneau won the
American League Most Valuable Player Award. Joe Mauer won the first
of his three American League batting titles. The team won 96 games and
its fourth American League Central title in five years. The turning point
of the season came when the Twins went to Houston to play the Astros
in June. Both teams were hovering around the .500 mark at the time.
The Astros were hoping that Roger Clemens would help get them over
the top and into the playoffs. He would make his 2006 debut against
the Twins in the series finale. For two days, everywhere we went we were
reminded that Clemens was going to start for the Astros, Clemens was
going to get the Astros to the World Series, Clemens was going to bring
world peace. His mound opponent would be Liriano.
We were all thinking that our guy was pretty good too. He was at his
best that night. He held the Astros to two singles through seven innings
and beat Clemens and the Astros 4–2. The Astros continued to floun-
der around the .500 mark and finished 82–80. The Twins took off after
Liriano’s gem. It was the first of 11 straight wins and they ended up going
60–31 after Liriano dominated the Astros.
Two months later his season was over. He blew out his elbow and
needed Tommy John surgery. Not only was his 2006 season over, he
wouldn’t be able to pitch in 2007 either.
The Twins were locked in a tight American League Central race with
the Tigers. Heading into the final day of the season, the Tigers and Twins
were tied for the division lead. If one team lost and the other team won,
the winner would be the division champion and would host the Oakland
A’s; the loser would head to New York to play the Yankees as the wild
card team. If both teams either won or lost, the Tigers would be crowned
division champions because they won the head-to-head competition
against the Twins 11–8. With four different scenarios possible and three
of them relegating the Twins to the wild card berth, bags were packed
and arrangements made for the probable trip to New York.
The Twins beat the White Sox 5–1. Joe Mauer got two hits to clinch
his batting title. The Tigers had lost four in a row but, after a long rain
delay, jumped out early on the Royals. Kansas City had already lost their
100th game yet found a way to come back to force extra innings. Because
of rain delaying the first pitch and the fact that the game went into extra
innings, one of the most surreal episodes in Metrodome history unfolded.
The Twins had already won their game and were in the clubhouse
watching the contest in Detroit. Someone came into the clubhouse and
said, “Boys, none of the fans have left. They’re all watching the game on
the scoreboard.” The players rushed back to the field to watch the end of
the game with over 40,000 of their fans. Still in uniform, the players sat
down on the Metrodome turf as if they were at a church picnic, watch-
ing the Royals-Tigers game on the video board. When the Royals scored
two runs in the top of the 12th to beat the Tigers, the players and the
crowd went crazy. Wearing AL Central Champions T-shirts and caps, the
players ran a victory lap around the warning track. Instead of having to
go to New York and face the Yankees again in the playoffs, the Twins, as
division champs, would host Oakland. As it turned out, it was a classic
example of being careful what you wish for.
This excerpt from Game Used: My Life in Stitches with the Minnesota Twins by Dick Bremer with Jim Bruton is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or www.triumphbooks.com/DickBremer.
While these are just two (partial) stories, but Game Used covers pretty much every significant chapter of Twins history with wit, humor, and grace, and you could do a lot worse for a way to spend part of your quarantine. Make sure you check back later today for that interview I promised you.