Posts tagged ‘Minnesota Twins’


killebrew book

By Steve Aschburner
Baseball Biography
256 pages
Published by Triumph Books
ISBN: 9781600787027

I came of age just as the Minnesota Twins came into being – 1961. One of the first names I ever learned in baseball was Harmon Killebrew. He was our hero, our slugger, or epitome of how a baseball player uses his skills and how his demeanor, on and off the field, matter. We had his baseball cards, we wanted bats and gloves with his signature on them. He was a role model for the young boys of the summers of the 60s.

Steve Aschburner brings a precise and clean story to the reader in his book HARMON KILLEBREW: ULTIMATE SLUGGER, even to the point of explaining how he selected the title. We meet Harmon as he grew up in Idaho, where he was a star in many sports. We see him advance through his early years in baseball (the 1950s) as a bonus baby for the Washington Senators – which served as on-the-job training for him, picking up skills that would serve him very well through his more than twenty years in the majors. We see him off the field as well; his wife, their children, a divorce, some financial problems, his charitable work, his post-playing career as a broadcaster.

And centered in all of this, the author Aschburner makes sure we see Harmon’s character; that of an inestimably warm gentleman, hardly one who would carry the nickname “Killer”. Harmon’s career exemplified what we want sportsmanship to be – accepting the umpire’s calls, honor in defeat, humility in victory, joy in a job well done. Aschburner brings this to the forefront at all times, even from Harmon’s high school years and right on through to his last years where he is feted as a Hall of Fame inductee and at many other functions designed to pay tribute to this wonderful baseball player and gentleman.

This one is for every baseball fan who prefers his basbeball heroes with honor and class, on and off the field.


Books about the Minnesota Twins

books twins.JPG

A quick bit about some books I have about the Minnesota Twins
COOL OF THE EVENING by Joe Thielman– The story of the 1965 Twins, as they win the American League Pennant and face the Dodgers in the world series. Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Earl Battey, and more led by manager Sam Mele. It’s an easy read for any baseball fan.

E-6 by Danny Thompson with Bob Fowler- The story of Danny Thompson, shortstop for the Twins who has a few good years with the Twins in the 1970s. He contracts leukemia and dies in 1976. This is a very personal story that gives the reader a good look inside the hearts of team mates as they deal with the news of Danny’s disease.

SEASON OF DREAMS by Tom Kelly and Ted Robinson– All about the Twins and their amazing 1991 season. They finished last in 1990, and now here they are, on top of their division, win the playoffs, and then take on the Atlanta Braves in one of the best World Series ever, culminating in a 1-0 win by the Twins and pitcher Jack Morris in the tenth inning of the seventh game. This series also gave us the famous line “And we’ll see you tomorrow night” upon the home run by Kirby Puckett to end game 6.

HELLO, EVERYBODY by Herb Carneal with Stan Thornley – This is the life of Twins announcer Herb Carneal, who sat in the radio booth as the voice of the Twins for decades. He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work with the Twins and is also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster section.



Father/Son Banquets and Baseball

Back in my confirmation years at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Virginia, Minnesota, it was a tradition to hold a Father/son banquet sometime around the depths of winter. I had occasion to attend this twice with my dad in the winters of 1968 and 1969. Both times it had to do with baseball.
My dad and I dressed up for these nights – sport coat and tie – a full blown men’s regalia. Dad tied his own tie, I was still in the ‘clip-on’ stage. On go the winter coats to fend off the cold evening weather, and out we go to jump into our 1965 Chevy Impala, head down the driveway, and make our way to church, where we join a group of other dads and sons the basement of the church. The room was set for a meal – each place setting had a glass, a coffee cup, the necessary silverware, a napkin from the local Lutheran Brotherhood insurance agent, and a small program of the night’s guest speakers. We all took our places and were lead in a short table grace by the pastor. I don’t recall if we were served our meals (fried chicken, etc etc etc – you know the type) or if we got up table by table and went through a line. In any case, we ate.
I do know our guests were served. There they sat at a head table with the pastor, the congregational president, and perhaps a few others from the banquet committee.
We ate, and then we heard from our guests. Like the title says, the topic was baseball.

In 1968, we first heard from a gentleman named Joe Hutton. I had no idea who he was, but he had something to do with the University of Minnesota. Joe spoke for a while about college sports. But I wanted to hear from the real reason I wanted to attend the banquet
And there he was. Earl Battey, catcher of the Minnesota Twins. Here was this chubby guy who I had seen on TV. I had his baseball cards. He was an accomplished baseball player – accomplished enough to be an all-star once or twice. At that time, he was pretty much in the last years of his playing days. It was exciting to see a real live baseball player. I had my old kodak camera with me, but I will be hanged if I can find the pictures I have of those guys.
Then 1969 – pretty much the same drill at home, the same car to church, and probably the same menu. Mr. Battey and Mr. Hutton had done their turn; this year’s guests were not just one Twin, but two. Rich Reese and the up and coming rookie Rod Carew.
Rich Reese spoke first, talking about his year as a rather successful first baseman for the Twins, backing up the starting first baseman, Harmon Killebrew. Reese presented a burly, strong figure – the kind of guy who had hit his share of home runs and played a good first base. Then he introduced this young kid Rod Carew.

Mr. Carew rose and took his place at the podium and spoke about playing for the Twins and what it was going to be like to be a rookie for the Twins. He had spent a little time in the previous season with the Twins, but not enough to spoil his standing as a rookie for the 1969 season. He would be the new second baseman. He spoke of how he’s excited to be working with the new manager Billy Martin, who was relieving former Manager Cal Ermer. He thought Martin would be a thrilling leader in the American League race this year, and that the Twins could very likely be in the race for the pennant.

Carew Poster.JPG
Following the speeches by the two Twins, a question/answer session came up next.
There were several questions about who knew who and what was it like to travel – and so on and so on. Then, Carew saw my raised hand and pointed to me. I asked, “Mr. Carew, what team is the hardest to play defense against?” Not exactly worded like a sports guy on TV, but there it was.
I will not forget that next moment. He looked at me, rather surprised, and then said, “Young man, that is a very wise question. Good for you.”. Wow. Just wow. I was floating and so very tickled with that kind of reaction. I do remember his answer, too – he said the Oakland A’s were hardest, because they liked to run and steal bases so much.
Later on, I got his autograph on a cardboard poster showing the home schedule of the Twins for the upcoming 1969 season. I still have it, and it is my best baseball keepsake I have.

Carew autograph.JPG
NOTE: In 1969, The Twins took first place in the new western division of the American league. They lost to the Orioles in the playoffs. Billy Martin, as popular as he was with the fans, drove Twins owner Calvin Griffith rather nuts, so Martin found himself without a job after one year. Rich Reese played through the 1973 season. Rod Carew went on to play many more years, almost batted .400 in 1977, was traded to the Angels, where he continued his fantastic career and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. He suffered a heart attack in 2014 and recently received a heart transplant.

Dad’s Jacket

Johnson; Chet and Little Heidi.jpg

Dad and Heidi – very likely the same night as this event . . .

The Minnesota Twins were in the hunt for the division championship in the summer of 1987. My folks were visiting us for a few days – we were still in our house in northeast Brainerd – we were out in the back yard. We had just had supper – burgers on the grill. Our daughter Heidi was two years old – our son Steven would be born the following summer.
So there we were. Mom, dad, me and Sue, with Heidi playing around the wading pool and our cat Belle roaming the neighborhood as she loved to do.
The Twins were on TV, which we could hear through the open window. I have no idea who they were playing because I was wrapped up more in my family. We fooled around, we talked, we watched Heidi toddle around the swing set. At some point, I went in to get something to drink for all of us.
That year, the Twins telecasts had this promotion. Send in your name with the name of a Twins batter, and if your card gets drawn and that player hits a home run in the inning you state, you win a big prize. As I entered the house, they announced my dad’s name as this evening’s home player.
Out to the yard I went with the big announcement. We all came in to watch as the Twins batted in that inning. Dad’s player came to bat and did not get a home run, so the announcer explained that Chet Johnson, instead of the big prize (whatever that was) would get an insulated Twins warmup jacket. Well, that was good enough for all of us. It came in the mail to their house a while later.
Dad died in 1991, having worn that jacket many times. I am now the owner of that jacket, and though it is now 26 years old, I still wear it.


The jacket … as it looks now

Julio and Josh and a Baseball

DSC06547.jpgJosh and Julio

Occasionally, my baseball interest brings along circumstances that are difficult to explain.

Take Julio Becquer. He played for the Twins in their first years as a backup first baseman to Harmon Killebrew. He didn’t play much and didn’t last in baseball past that year, having played since 1952 with the Senators, a short time with the Angels, and then back to the Twins, who were the Senators before they came to Minnesota.


Take me. I taught in Pillager Public Schools from 1976-2010. I had many students over those years as a band director and music teacher. I’ve been retired seven years now and have time to write about how I love baseball and the Minnesota Twins.

Take Josh Brekke. He was my student in the late 1990s and a little into the 2000s. He took drum lessons and played in the percussion section in band. I didn’t see him much after he left Pillager school. He is now living down in the Twin Cities, working for a lawn care company. The picture here is Josh with his fiancé, Nicole.

josh nicole.jpg

Now tie them all together.

Josh had read some of my Facebook baseball musings a few weeks ago, and contacted me, sharing how he, too, enjoys baseball, among other sports. In our conversations, he offered to send me an autographed baseball that he owned. He wanted to do this as thanks for how much he enjoyed band back in his Pillager days. (That makes a guy feel so good – and humble). He didn’t tell me who signed it. Over the weekend, he messaged me a picture of the post office receipt that showed he had sent the ball. I really wondered whose name would be on that ball.

The ball showed up in the mail yesterday. It was signed by Julio Becquer, who, as outlined above, played in the first year of the Minnesota Twins. I sent Josh a note of thanks, asking where he got the ball. Josh explained he had been to the Twins Fest last year, getting the ball and autograph at that event.

So now, thanks to contact with a former student from just over 15 years ago, I have a ball signed by one of those 1961 Twins, when I first started to love baseball.

How cool is that?

My thanks to Josh and Julio!


My baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, have played in three different stadiums.

The Met.jpg

METROPOLITAN STADIUM. Very bare bones for sure. Metal framework, very little glitz and decorative items – unless you count the TWINS-O-GRAM out by the scoreboard. Box seats, bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. It was located far south of downtown Minneapolis, so to get there from my Uncle Paul’s house in Anoka (where we always stayed when we went to a game) it was a good hour-long car drive. Stupid little fact for those who don’t know: The Mall of America now sits where the Met used to be, and includes a home plate at the same spot where the MET home plate was. I’ve seen games from the third deck (my first ever, with my Grandpa Johnson, my dad, and who knows who else … I was maybe 8.) and along each baseline, and in the left field bleachers. At that last game, I was there with the sixth-grade school patrol kids from Parkville and we saw the Twins hit four consecutive homers in a row. I saw Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski there.


HUBERT H. HUMPHREY METRODOME. Used for both the Twins and the Minnesota Vikings (I think that’s a football team or something like that . . .). A covered dome, with a cloth roof the same color as a baseball … now, there’s clear thinking … and a guy even hit a fly ball so high it got caught up there. The dome collapsed often, which led to its eventual demise. To prepare it for baseball (from that shape that the other game required) seats had to be folded up and a large tarp (called the BAGGIE) hung in the right field. I’ve had occasion to watch games from every side of the field – including a few playoff games (Angels in 2002 and Yankees a few years later.) I saw many big names – George Brett, Jeter, Bo Jackson, various White Sox players … Pretty weird for a stadium, really.

target field.jpg

TARGET FIELD. Opening in 2010, this is a REAL baseball park. I’ve only been to a few games so far – left field bleachers for our first game, in which Jim Thome hit a tenth inning walk off home run to beat his old team, the White Sox … and up high above third base with my friends the Stengels and a few with Sue … and then over at the far end of right field when I got to be at a game when my fourth grade teacher John Pagliaccetti was the veteran who got to raise the flag during the anthem. One very cool thing that the other stadiums lacked: I can get there on the North Star Train, saving me parking and the headache of downtown Minneapolis traffic. This is a big improvement over the first two stadiums. I trust it will be there for a long time and be the home of many championship teams.

The Minnesota Twins, Veterans, and my fourth grade teacher

(this article was written for and appeared in the Aug. 13, 2016 issue of the Hometown Focus of Virginia, Minnesota)


Grandson Ryan Rossman and Mr. John Pagliaccetti

Baseball is a very American thing. So is honoring our veterans.

For every home game at Target Field, the Twins select a veteran to raise the flag during the Star Spangled Banner. At the game against the Atlanta Braves on July 26, 2016, that honor fell to John Pagliaccetti, retired Mt. Iron school district teacher, and his grandson Ryan Rossman. Mr. Pagliaccetti served in Korea, discharged as a sergeant first class. Major Rossman, still on active duty, has been deployed twice to the Middle East. Proud family members and friends were there to and share in the pride of the night. When I saw the event listed on Facebook, I knew I had to go.

In 1963-64, John Pagliaccetti was my fourth grade teacher in Parkville. People ask me who my favorite teachers were, and the name Pagliaccetti comes instantly to lips. My classmates and I recall an exciting, enthusiastic teacher, whether he was in the front of the classroom delivering a science lesson or playing baseball with us on the playground. I became a teacher, influenced in part from Mr. Pagliaccetti.

From my home in Brainerd, I caught the North Star train in Big Lake, headed for Target Field. When the train stopped at the Ramsey station, I looked out the window to see several Pagliaccetti family members boarding the train – John Pagliaccetti, his wife Loretta, their daughter Sandi Scott and her husband Tim, and their daughter Abby. In a lucky turn, they boarded the same car I was riding. We greeted each other with smiles, hugs and introductions. I learned that it was Abby who had arranged for the day. Abby, a music teacher in the Cities, had led a group of students who sang at the stadium awhile back, and when she saw how the Twins honored veterans, she thought of her grandfather and her brother, and how it would be so grand to have them selected for that duty. She completed the necessary paperwork, and the rest was all set. Then she posted the event on Facebook, and that’s how I learned about it. I asked if I could take pictures, and that’s how I got to be there.

The train pulled into the stadium with plenty of time. We found our way through the concourse of the stadium to our seats, where more friends and relatives joined the group, including my sister and brother-in-law Cher and Ger Anderson, who were students of Mr. Pagliaccetti as well.

Abby had instructions for us to meet at the flagpole at 6:30. Once there, Mark, the Twins official in charge, described what would happen, and that he’d be the cameraman – meaning that images would be on the huge jumbotron screen. As the time neared, Mark arranged the two veterans at the foot of the pole, with the family in a line extending from the flagpole. The flag was spread out among the family and friends and then connected to the flagpole cable. As a local church choir began singing the Banner, Ryan started cranking the handle that winched the flag up the pole as John guided it from the hands of those standing alongside. When the flag reached the peak of the flagpole, John and Ryan raised their eyes and saluted the flag, grandson and grandfather side by side.

Cheers arose as the anthem concluded. The family shook hands and embraced in prideful hugs. Mark arranged for family pictures around the flagpole, allowing those of us with cameras to take more shots as well. We returned to our seats to take in the Twins/Braves game and to visit and enjoy the evening.

There was another bonus on the night. Mark arranged for John and Loretta to be part of the Kiss Cam tradition at the stadium. In the break during the sixth inning, cameramen all around the stadium focused on couples as they kissed, their images appearing larger than life on the jumbotron. Several couples appeared on the screen, including a few couples from the Pagliaccetti group. The best couple of the night, saved for last, was John and Loretta Pagliaccetti as they kissed and then embraced in front of the nearly 27,000 fans in the stands. The ovation they received would almost rival any Iron Range celebration of similar joy.

Though the game ended in a Twins loss, we returned to the train, where we again ended up on the same car, and then saying goodbye with more smiles and hugs and handshakes. What a wonderful way to honor our veterans, and what a way for me to honor a teacher I so much respect.

John Pagliaccetti and his wife Loretta recently moved to Champlin to be near family. They have lived in Parkville, Mt. Iron and Buhl. Mr. Pagliaccetti graduated from Chisholm in 1950 and then joined the army, where he served one year in Korea. Loretta graduated from Hibbing in 1952. The two married in 1953. They have 3 children; Sandy, Gary and Debra.

Major Ryan Rossman, Sandy’s son, graduated from Chisholm in 1997. He attended St. John’s, where he was part of the ROTC program. He has been deployed twice to the Middle East over the years. Ryan is a brigade operations officer and works out of the Bloomington armory. Major Rossman is married to Andrea and they reside in Brooklyn Park with their 3 children: John, Lia and Grace.