Clearly it’s no secret that the Minnesota Twins have not been playing all that well, and that they, quite frankly, frustrating to watch at times. With a plethora of new names cycling through faster than water through a garden hose, it’s tough to remember who is indeed playing for your Twins as you no doubt have googled several of their names on your phone lately.
My mother always had a favorite when I was growing up and his name was Steve Lombardozzi. If you know who this is, consider yourself a true fan of the team. It didn’t matter if the teams were playing poorly, winning a World Series, or somewhere in between. Whenever she was asked who her favorite Twin was, Lombardozzi was the answer. But not just her favorite Twin. It’s also one she associates to the franchise if someone were to ask her who she thinks of when she hears the name Minnesota Twins, even today.
Now Steve Lombardozzi wasn’t all that flashy. He was a career .233 hitter, and flamed out of baseball at the age of 30. However, even after he spent his final two seasons in Houston, my mother will always remember him as a Minnesota Twin.
Now, I have to believe that most every fan, of each fan base, has those players they always remember as their own. Whether they were a flashy showman, tremendous hitter, a clutch performer, fantastic teammate, or insanely good looking (admittedly the reason for my mother’s fondness of Mr. Lombardozzi), there is a player, or players, that when discussing their said franchises, that fans will always fall back on as being “one of their own”. This does not mean that they were particularly good, played for their franchise for an extended period of time, or whatever else that set them apart. The player, for whatever reason, just sticks in the brains of the fans.
I have compromised a list of the five players that think of when I hear Minnesota Twins. Now, for the sake of article length, I have only included players from when I started watching the team. This means from roughly from 1987 (the details I remember when I was 5) until present. Your list may be vastly different than mine, but that’s part of the fun. Everyone likes different things in this world so there are no wrong answers, especially when discussing your favorite franchise.
Kirby Puckett – I would think a fairly obvious selection for most. Sure he had some clutch plays that are etched into baseball history (i.e.- Game 6 10th inning home run in 1991 World Series), but I can remember hearing the announcer extend the name Kirby when announcing it like he was trying to win a bet about how long his could hold it. Perhaps it was the slightly stout figure that at times didn’t seem to fit the mold of a “traditional player”. Or his seeming ability to always get a hit when I prayed for one as a kid watching him on TV. Naturally it helps that he ONLY played for the Minnesota Twins, but he will always come to mind first as a “Twin”.
Denny Hocking/Nick Punto – Ok, perhaps I’m cheating here as I have listed two-for-one, but Twins always had a propensity for a making sure their roster had some sort of super utility player. Even up until recently a player like Marwin Gonzalez would fit that mold. From 1993-2010, one of these guys filled a roster spot, always getting in the game somehow, whether pinch hitting/running or playing a different position. They are interchangeable in their roles for me, hence why I’m listing both. Each played for different franchises in their respective careers, but I will always remember them as Twins for the variety of roles they filled.
Eddie Guardado – When I started going to games more, “Everyday Eddie” was a bullpen arm that eventually transitioned into our closer. He ended up playing for a few other teams after the Twins (and subsequently returned for part of the 2008 season). He seemed like a lovable guy, and by all accounts was beloved my teammates. What stood out for me, however, was his ability to work himself into a jam in the 9th, and somehow always seemed to get out of it. I can remember on several occasions of watching him pitch, he’d load the bases with 1 out, give me a TIA and shorten my life by a year, then suddenly get the job done. I cannot think of Twins bullpen history and not include this man.
Chuck Knoblauch – A fantastic rookie who contributed mightily during the magical 1991 season, it was easy to let him cement himself in my personal Twins’s lore. Several All-Star appearances, then a sudden inability to throw the ball 25 feet from 2nd to 1st, also helps me remember his run with the Twins. Even though he eventually joined the team from New York who shall remain nameless (it rhymes with Spankees), and played fine there for a few years, his entrance to the baseball world will make me think he will always be remembered a Twin.
Joe Mauer – Hometown boy, batting titles, bilateral leg weakness, sideburns, entire career with Minnesota, good Lord even his wife gave birth to twins while he was playing for the Twins. Perhaps his career fell short in some eyes, and was not worth the money later in his career (or in the beginning, but that’s another story for another day), but he has firmly ensconced himself in my own personal Twin’s memory. Another no brainer.
And there you have it. Like I mentioned, not always the best players or even remembered for anything in particular, but strictly remembered as a “Twin” for me, and not as anyone else’s teammate. Who do you have on your list of people you remember as Twins?