The Twins’ Ten Greatest Games
October 27, 1991: The Perfect Ten
Jack Morris, born within mere miles of the Metrodome, only played one year for the Twins—but he’ll forever be a hero in the eyes of Minnesota baseball fans who saw him deliver in the decisive game of a spirited 1991 World Series with one of the greatest pitching performances in postseason history.
After coming from behind the night before to force Game Seven against Atlanta, the Twins sent Morris—3-0 so far in the postseason—to the mound on three days’ rest against the Braves’ Tom Glavine, a Michigan native who grew up idolizing Morris as he racked up wins for the Detroit Tigers. Through the first seven innings, the young southpaw and the crusty veteran engaged in a terrific scoreless duel, but the eighth inning brought trouble for both. Morris allowed a leadoff single to speedy Lonnie Smith, followed by a Terry Pendleton double—but Smith, who likely would have scored on the play, slowed up at second when he bought into a decoy set up by Minnesota middle infielders Greg Gagne and Chuck Knoblauch. Held up at third, Smith could not score as the next three batters failed to bring him home. The Twins themselves rallied a half-inning later, but with the bases loaded and one out, Kent Hrbek lined into a double play.
The eighth inning ended with Glavine taken out of the game, but Morris trudged on. Through the ninth. Then, with the game still scoreless, through the tenth, reaching a reasonable 126 pitches on the day. The Twins finally rewarded him—and themselves—with their second world title in five years Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the tenth with a double, was moved to third on a bunt, then came home on a single by Gene Larkin.
October 26, 1991: “We’ll See You Tomorrow Night!”
The winner-take-all battle for the 1991 World Series was set up the night before in another extra-inning thriller saved—and won—by Kirby Puckett.
The flamboyant center fielder answered the call at almost every opportunity he was given. He hit a first-inning triple to bring in the game’s first run, and scored the second on Shane Mack’s single; made a leaping catch at the very top of the Metrodome wall to rob a game-tying home run from Atlanta’s Ron Gant in the third; brought home Gladden on a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give the Twins a 3-2 lead; and most heroically, after the Braves had tied the game in the seventh to eventually force extra innings, belted a lead-off homer in the bottom of the 11th off Charlie Leibrandt to win the game, force Game Seven and keep the Twins alive in the hunt for the World Series trophy.
October 10, 1924: Two Bad Hops to Victory
As with the its two championship teams of 1987 and 1991, the Twins’ franchise known in 1924 as the Washington Senators came into Game Seven of the World Series after staying alive with a Game Six triumph—and would become the benefactors of the New York Giants’ habit of rotten luck at the Fall Classic during manager John McGraw’s time.
Fate actually seemed to side with the Giants early on at Griffith Stadium, taking a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning thanks to two Washington errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. That advantage held until the eighth, when the Senators loaded the bases with two outs. Player-manager Bucky Harris, bestowed with the moniker “Boy Wonder” for his first-year piloting of the Senators at age 27, next hit a sharp grounder toward 18-year-old New York rookie third baseman Fred Lindstrom, who helplessly watched as an expected last easy hop accelerated wildly over his head and into left field, bringing in two runs to tie the game.
To keep the Giants from retaking the lead, the Senators sent out legendary ace Walter Johnson, who had sparkled in a renaissance effort during the season at age 36—but was ineffectively out of character in two series starts thus far. Over the next four innings, the Big Train would not be overpowering—allowing six runners to reach base—but he kept the Giants from scoring and struck out five batters.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, the Senators punched out one stroke of luck after another. With one out, Muddy Ruel doubled—but only after surviving a foul pop-up that Giants catcher Hank Gowdy couldn’t reach because his foot got caught in the catcher’s mask he had just thrown to the ground. Johnson then bounced a grounder to shortstop Travis Jackson, who bobbled it and failed to make the play, moving Ruel to third. Earl McNeely then hit another sharp grounder right at Lindstrom; the young third baseman backed up, waited to take the ball—and watched it jump high over his head once again. Ruel scored and the Senators became champions of baseball for the first and only time in their 60-year existence in the Nation’s Capitol. As for Lindstrom, he blamed the bad hops on a pebble in the infield dirt.
October 25, 1987: Dome Sweet Dome
Just five years removed from the depths of a 102-loss campaign, the Twins—featuring many players who struggled as rookies during that 1982 season—rallied to the top of baseball’s podium despite a 31-56 record on the road, surging instead with a 61-25 record in the friendly, very loud confines of the Metrodome, packed with boisterous, hanky-waving fans who ratcheted up the noise to a decimal level on par with a 747.
Ignoring conspiracy theories that they were helped at home by team officials turning on the air flow behind home plate while at bat to give fly balls an extra push, the underdog Twins took the field against the swift-footed St. Louis Cardinals for Game Seven with a chance to win their first championship since moving to the Twin Cities 26 years earlier. They collected; after trailing early 2-0, the Twins scratched back behind ace Frank Viola (who went eight innings strong) and took the lead for good in the sixth when the Cardinals walked the bases loaded—leading to the ejection of St. Louis pitcher Danny Cox, who argued the calls—before Gagne reached on an infield hit. Minnesota added an insurance run in the eighth, and closer Jeff Reardon retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth to wrap up one of the unlikeliest World Series titles in history.
October 10, 1925: I’ll Let You Know When I’m Gone
One of baseball’s more famous, long-unanswered questions was initially asked in Game Three of the 1925 World Series, which featured a return of the Senators in hopes of winning their second straight championship.
The opposing Pittsburgh Pirates had held onto a tight lead throughout the seventh-inning stretch, but the Senators finally overcame the deficit after everyone settled back into their seats with a two-run rally capped by a Joe Harris single. Washington reliever Firpo Marberry, baseball’s first iteration of the modern-day closer, took over in the eighth for starter Alex Ferguson in an effort to hold the 4-3 lead, but looked to be in trouble when the Pirates’ Earl Smith launched a drive towards the temporary seats set up in front of the center-field fence at Griffith Stadium. Senators outfielder Sam Rice raced after the fly, reached high and disappeared with the ball behind a makeshift fence into the seats; 15 seconds later, he emerged with the ball in his glove, and umpire Cy Rigler ruled Smith out. The Pirates went berserk; even Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss tore out onto the field to argue. Finally, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis—seated in the front row—summoned Rice over to answer the question: Did you catch it? Rice would only say that the umpire said he caught it.
The Senators won the game, 4-3, lost the series—but long afterward, Rice would continue to be evasive on directly answering the question, saying he would only do so in a written statement after his death. That day came in October 1974, when Rice finally stated his position posthumously: He wrote that, indeed, he did catch it.
September 26, 1965: Rubbin’ it in at D.C.
After 32 years of suffering through incessant losing, baseball fans in Washington finally got to see the Senators win an AL flag. Only thing was, the team was now playing under the name of the Minnesota Twins.
Before a crowd of 8,302 at D.C. (later RFK) Stadium—many of whom likely were cheering on the Twins over the current, just-as-sorry version of the Senators—the Twins fell behind early on an unearned run, but starting pitcher Jim Kaat was otherwise on, going the distance and striking out ten while walking none. Minnesota tied it in the sixth when eventual AL MVP Zoilo Versalles led off with a triple and then scored on a passed ball by Washington catcher Don Zimmer. Versalles would bring in the ultimate winning run when, in the eighth, his sacrifice fly sent Frank Quilici home. The Twins secured the pennant when Kaat retired the side in the ninth and danced about on the Washington infield, completing a rise to the top that had started almost from the minute they left Washington.
And where was owner Calvin Griffith, whose father had run the franchise in Washington for nearly 40 years? Back in Minnesota, watching the game on TV as he wouldn’t meet the dare of returning to D.C.—where he was waiting to be served legal papers by former minority owner Gabe Murphy, who opposed the team’s move to the Twin Cities five years earlier.
May 15, 1918: Double the Effort, Double the Zeroes
Walter Johnson threw a major league-record 110 shutouts throughout his illustrious career, but none may have been more impressive than an 18-inning blanking he laid on the Chicago White Sox in the first Sunday baseball game ever played in Washington.
As sharp as Johnson was on the day, so would be his opposite number: The Chicago White Sox’ Lefty Williams, two years away from being implicated for his role in the Black Sox Scandal. The two hurlers equally dueled for the equivalent of a doubleheader and were deadly efficient; Johnson allowed ten hits and walked just one, striking out nine—while Williams allowed only eight hits and walked two. In the bottom of the 18th, Williams finally cracked, no thanks to Johnson—who stroked a one-out single to send Eddie Ainsworth to third base. With Burt Shotton at the plate, Williams uncorked a wild pitch, bringing home Ainsworth—and just like that, the game was done.
Every player who started the game finished it, and despite being played in the deadball era, the 18-inning battle produced not one error. For Johnson, it would be the longest shutout achieved in baseball history—only to be matched 15 years later by Carl Hubbell.
October 15, 1925: Struck in the Mud
One of the most controversial finales in World Series history ended on a darkening, wet day in which a disputed home run denied the Senators a second straight championship.
Bad weather had already delayed Game Seven between the Senators and Pirates by a day, but commissioner Landis—after being skewered in the press three years earlier for halting a World Series game in New York too early despite pleasant late afternoon conditions—demanded the game be played even as the weather remained lousy. The game would prove to be just as wild as the weather and boggy turf conditions at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field.
It was apparent that pretty baseball would not be in the forecast when the Senators struck for four runs in the top of the first thanks in part to two errors, two wild pitches, three walks and a case of catcher’s interference. Some assumed the 4-0 lead would be more than enough for Walter Johnson to carry through the afternoon, but he, too, would begin to fall victim to the conditions of the day—to say nothing of unusual ineffectiveness. The Pirates found him to be no mystery; what was head-scratching was why Washington manager Bucky Harris allowed him to go the distance, as the Big Train was practically derailed with nine runs on 15 hits, further done in by two errors from shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh (who committed eight for the series) that directly led to four unearned runs.
Leading 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Johnson retired the first two batters—but then the roof caved in, as the next five Pirate batters reached safely, scoring three runs to take a 9-7 lead. The last of those batters, Kiki Cuyler, pulled a drive down the left-field line that nearly got lost in the dimming light of a wet day, but the umpires claimed it hit fair and bounced into the crowd; Washington left fielder Goose Goslin was convinced that the ball touched foul and never came into play. The Pirates were allowed to take the umpires’ word for it and held on to win.
October 6, 2009: The Metrodome’s Wild Finale
The last regular season game played at the Metrodome (before Target Field’s opening in 2010) was among the most memorable—and pleasantly so for Twins fans who had grown to despise the facility. Having fought from behind in the season’s final week to tie Detroit for first place in the AL Central, the Twins now faced the Tigers in a tiebreaking, 163rd contest to determine the division champ.
Every inning brought nail-biting intensity that only deepened as the game progressed into extra innings. After Orlando Cabrera’s two-run, seventh-inning home run for the Twins erased a long-held Detroit lead—only to be followed by Magglio Ordonez’s game-tying shot a half-inning later—rallies from both teams were created and killed on a remarkably constant basis, exposing the desperation on both sides to avoid packing it in for the year.
The Tigers missed big opportunities to score in the ninth (first and third, nobody out), the 12th (bases loaded, one out) but notched one in the tenth on a two-out double by Brandon Inge. The Twins evened it up in the bottom of the tenth when Michael Cuddyer, reaching third on a poorly played single-turned-triple by outfielder Ryan Raburn, scored on a one-out hit by Matt Tolbert; the Twins’ chance to win it that same inning fell short when Raburn, atoning for his earlier gaffe, threw out pinch-runner Alexi Casilla at home after catching Nick Punto’s fly ball. After an uncharacteristically quiet 11th, the Tigers’ bases-loaded scenario in the 12th appeared to produce a run when Inge had a pitch from Bobby Keppel all but graze his shirt—Inge swore afterward that there was contact—but the umpire said no. Inge went on to hit into a force out at home.
There was no doubt about what the Twins did in the bottom of the 12th; the speedy Carlos Gomez singled to lead off, advanced to second on a Cuddyer ground out, then scored on a base hit to right by Casilla. The 6-5 win resulted in the Twins’ fifth divisional title in eight years.
July 16, 1909: Two Games’ Worth of Nothing
In a game utterly befitting of the deadball era—even more emblematic than Johnson’s 18-inning shutout above—the Senators and Tigers duked it out for 18 more innings in Detroit—this time without a single tally being notched. The game is the longest scoreless tie in AL history—and second in all the majors to a 1946 NL game between Cincinnati and Brooklyn that lasted 19 innings without a run.
Dolly Gray started for the Senators and allowed just one hit into the ninth inning—before an oblique injury knocked him out of the game. Bob Groom replaced him and faced more jams, but kept the Tigers from scoring the remainder of the way. Most impressively, both Washington pitchers combined to keep Detroit’s fearsome hitters, Ty Cobb, and Sam Crawford, each hitless in seven at-bats.
Meanwhile, the Senators posed no threat to Detroit starter Ed Summers, who tossed all 18 innings for the Tigers. Darkness kept the game from proceeding any longer.
Minnesota Twins Team History: Year-by year records, statistics and an oral history of the Twins, decade by decade.
The Twins' Ten Greatest Hitters: A list of the ten greatest hitters based on their productivity and efficiency.
The Twins' Ten Greatest Pitchers: A list of the ten greatest pitchers based on their productivity and efficiency.
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