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Minnesota Twins 2024 Anniversaries (Pt. 3 of 4): 1984

Conquest—then collapse

Minnesota Twins v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Part 1: 1964

Part 2: 1974

One could argue that 1984 was the greatest single year in the history of pop culture...

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Karate Kid, Footloose, The Terminator, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Sixteen Candles were all released in cinemas
  • Cheers re-defined the depth-to-comedy sitcom ratio
  • Purple Rain, Thriller, Jump, & Time After Time flowed from your radio
  • Some “fruit company” made personal computing useful and aesthetically pleasing
  • Hulkamania and Reagan-omics ran wild!
Promoting Temple Of Doom
Back when a crew like this could rule the world
Photo by Bryn Colton/Getty Images

For most of the 1984 MLB season, it looked like the Minnesota Twins would jump on the cultural relevance bandwagon—until it all came crashing down.

40th Anniversary: 1984

The story of Billy Gardner’s 81-81 unit wasn’t so much the final tally—but how it got there.

On offense, Kent Hrbek (635 PA, 27 HR, 107 RBI, .311 BA, 145 OPS+) had perhaps his career campaign, and Mickey Hatcher (624 PA, 174 H, .302 BA, 104 OPS+) was surprisingly potent. Talents like Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti (pictured in header), & Kirby Puckett—4 hits in his MLB debut!—also began contributing on a regular basis.

MLB Photos Archive
Vintage ‘84 Herbie
Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Pitching-wise, the organization’s faith in Frank Viola (18-12, 257.2 IP, 3.21 ERA, 131 ERA+) finally began paying dividends, while Mike Smithson (15-13, 252 IP, 3.68 ERA, 114 ERA+) and John Butcher (13-11, 225 IP, 3.44 ERA, 122 ERA+) kept the rest of the staff afloat. The bullpen? I’ll get to that shortly.

On May 4, something exceedingly strange—and hilarious—happened:

Only the Metrodome.

As late as August 25, the Twins were five games up on the AL West pack—a remarkable feat considering their 102 L’s just a few years earlier. On September 23, they were tied for the division lead when disaster struck.

A 6-game losing streak closed out ‘84 for the Twins, with embattled reliever Ron Davis blowing saves and taking multiple losses. My uncle is famous for his “throw the ball and immediately look over shoulder” RD impression. Minnesota fans of more recent vintage would call it Emilio Pagan-esque.

Sports Contributor Archive 2020
Avert your eyes, Twins fans
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Despite that epic collapse and recruiting just 1,598,692 souls to the Dome (10/14 in the AL), 1984 represented a step towards respectability for the Minnesota Twins franchise. Ultimately they finished 3 GB the Kansas City Royals, who were slaughtered by the 104-win, eventual World Series champion Detroit Tigers.

A final ‘84 milestone: after owning the club since its 1961 inception, Calvin Griffith sold the Twins to banking magnate Carl Pohlad late in the year.

New team owner Carl Pohlad, right, wearing #84, shook hands with Minnesota Twins pitcher Len Whitehouse at the Metrodome, Friday night June 22, 1984.
New team owner Carl Pohlad (right) in his new duds
Photo by MARLIN LEVISON/Star Tribune via Getty Images