It’s been an interesting year, so far, in the world of baseball writing. I’ve personally written about my hatred of the Astros, my hatred of Covid and some of the ancillaries associated with that, and my hatred of the Twins record….in sum, I’ve mostly been…a hater. In my defense, I did write positively about Mother’s Day (I came out in favor of it), and I’ve complimented many players along the way.
Like so many of you, I imagine, I share a love/hate relationship with Byron Buxton and my wavering desire to either see him signed long-term or traded immediately before one of his body parts falls off for good. Depends on the day. Kind of like baseball, generally. We live large one day, and we are beaten down the next, kind of like life, generally. This season, like the past year, we’ve been beaten down more than we’ve lived large, but….tomorrow is another day and another game, and that, of course, is the ultimate beauty of baseball…and, life, of course.
But enough about the last year, this article is about last week. The Twins finally won a series, and I had a good week. One of my friends is a Yankee fan, and as you might expect, he feels sorry for me. Why wouldn’t he? We don’t have a rivalry, obviously, we have more of a “sorry your team can’t ever beat my team” sort of thing….not in a mean way but in a sorrowful way…as in “sorry your team can’t ever beat my team” sort of thing. I can’t argue, I can’t be angry….I just hang my head in shame, and wonder what winning at a consistently high post-season level must be like. But, I digress.
My friend (let’s call him Jimmy….since that’s his name), and I have often talked about our shared love of baseball. Our sons played basketball together, but as a Timberwolves fan…seriously, I couldn’t even go there with him. As one-sided as the Yankees versus Twins “rivalry” has been, it’s kind of amazing to think that it’s closer to being a rivalry than the Timberwolves versus anyone rivalry. But, I digress, again.
My friend, hardcore Yankee fan, often asked me about my memories of Twins of yesteryear…particularly, but not exclusively, Harmon Killebrew. For my friend, Killebrew stood out as the historical face of the Twins franchise.
I await the slings and arrows (possibly deserved…those are the best slings and arrows) of commentary regarding Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven, Kent Hrbek, Johan Santana, Justin Morneau…et al., and I’m a fan of all of them, but this particular article is about Harmon Killebrew, and my friend, Jimmy. If you want to disagree, get your own friend from New Jersey!
The Twins “Mount Rushmore” isn’t quite the same as the Yankees might be with Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, or even their second “Mount Rushmore” with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Yogi Berra, and Thurman Munson, or their third with Billy Martin…oh forget it…enough with the Yankee greats.
My point is, our beloved Twins still have had some impressive players, both in and not quite in the HOF. We should take pride in the fact that our players have been noticed….even by Yankees fans…which brings me back to my friend, Jimmy.
The one Minnesota Twin who might be most closely associated with the franchise throughout its history is probably Harmon Killebrew. Rod Carew was amazing, obviously, twelve outstanding years with the Twins and seven more quality years as an Angel. Blyleven played for the Indians, Rangers, and Angels and won a World Series with the Pirates, as well as with the Twins, and Puckett was instrumental in both World Series Championships that came our way. Mauer was pure Minnesota, but sadly for him and us, his teams didn’t always rise to his level of sustained excellence.
Which brings me back to Killebrew, who, even without a World Series win, was above all the rest as a representative of the Twins. When a Yankee fan thinks of the history of the Twins, after dealing with the combination of pity, and sorrow (and some good humor), they think Killebrew.
Last weekend, our families got together for dinner in Manhattan and Jimmy had a present for me. I didn’t deserve a gift, but there it was, an autographed Harmon Killebrew baseball. Jimmy had gotten it many years ago (obviously) at a celebrity golf outing featuring such baseball greats as Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, and Killebrew. Knowing I was a Twins fan, Jimmy thought it would mean something to me, even more than it did to him, and so, being a good guy, he gave it to me.
This made me think about many things, including the fact that I should really be a better human being myself. After I realized the chances of that were remote, at best, it mostly made me think about how fortunate we all are to have a rooting interest in our beloved teams, and moreso, how fortunate we are to have friends with whom we are able to share those rooting interests. Even in the down years, we have sports to get us through, and even in down times, and during hard years, we have our friends to make us truly appreciate how lucky we all are.
We live in turbulent times, and there’s more than enough division and hostility. I remain comfortable with my own petty jealousy of the Yankees and their 27 World Series Championships and the fact that they have more Hall of Fame players than any other franchise. Just because Jimmy’s a nice guy, and a good man, doesn’t mean I can’t be jealous and bitter. I remain bitter that we cannot beat them…ever….but I don’t hate them, my baseball hatred is too busy being channeled toward the Astros, and too much hate isn’t healthy anyway.
So, while 2021 doesn’t look like it’s going to resemble 1987 or 1991 for us Twins fans, 2021 will still have some good memories for me, and who would think, in the ultimate irony, my best baseball memory of 2021 was literally handed to me directly from a Yankee fan.