Minnesota Twins: A New Start Sticks
The Minnesota Twins are a Major League Baseball franchise that turned to the northern climes of the Twin Cities for a new start.
The old Washington Senators brought a struggling team to Minneapolis and St. Paul and turned them into winners, enough to get baseball fans to buy tickets regularly.
The Twins went on to win 11 division titles, three American League pennants and two World Series crowns.
The franchise started in 1901 in Washington, D.C., as the Senators, one of eight original teams in the new American League.
The Senators had miserable seasons for most of their 60-year existence in D.C., but there were a few highlights.
Clark Griffith came on as manager in 1912 and became the team's owner in 1920. He worked to build a team around a pitcher who had joined in '07 - Walter Johnson.
His efforts finally came to fruition in 1924, when Johnson was way past his prime. That was when the team was led at the plate by Joe Judge, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice.
They knocked out 90-plus wins and defeated the heavily favored New York Giants in the World Series in seven games. Johnson closed out the win in the final game.
The Senators would make two more World Series appearances, again in 1925, and another in 1933. But they lost those title series and did little for the remainder of their time in the capitol city.
Move to Minnesota
Clark Griffith died in 1955, and his nephew, Calvin, took over and began to make changes.
Among the changes was to move the team out of town. The Senators had not made a dent in the league standings in years, and tickets weren't exactly flying out of the box office. Plus, the Baltimore Orioles had been established in the same market territory in 1954, further diluting tickets sales.
After considering San Francisco, where the Giants would land, Griffith looked at Minneapolis–St. Paul as a new home. But the American League would not approve the move until a replacement in Washington was agreed upon.
That happened, and the Senators would move and be replaced with an expansion Senators team for 1961. Thus, the old Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins.
In 1961, the new Minnesota Twins took up shop in Metropolitan Stadium, a stadium that had been built in Bloomington for a minor league team and expanded to accommodate a big-league outfit.
It wasn't long before the Twins were making an impression on the American League. Behind the hitting of Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, and the pitching of 21-game winner Mudcat Grant, the Twins were good enough to win 102 games and the American League pennant in 1965. Then they ran into durable Sandy Koufax, who pitched three games in leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 4-3 World Series win.
The Twins remained competitive. In 1967 they added Rod Carew, a player who would go down as one of baseball's greats.
Carew was Rookie of the Year in '67, and two years later, Killebrew won the MVP award as the Twins took the first of back-to-back titles in the newly formed American League West Division.
But in both 1969 and '70, when Jim Perry was a Cy Young winner, the Twins could not get past the Orioles in the postseason.
For the next 15 years the Twins' seasons were marginal, despite some good individual performances. Carew won the AL MVP once again in 1977, with a record .388 batting average, but left the team in 1979.
By the 1980s some big changes were in store for the Twins. They moved into the new Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982, and in 1984 the team was sold to financier Carl Pohlad. By 1987, Minnesota was back to championship form.
After some miserable seasons leading up to '87, the Twins had put together a solid lineup, led by Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and pitchers Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Jeff Reardon.
They won the AL West with just 85 wins, then rolled over the Detroit Tigers in five games to capture their first pennant in two decades.
Then in a dramatic seven-game World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Minnesota Twins emerged victorious for their first World Series title, the franchise's first since the 1924 Senators. Frank Viola was the series MVP.
The Twins remained tough for the rest of the decade and into the 1990s. They claimed another World Series in 1991, with many of the same stars, plus the additions of rookie Chuck Knoblauch and pitcher Jack Morris.
That World Series against the Atlanta Braves was one of the most memorable Fall Classic duels in history. Four games in the series were decided in the final at bat and three went to extra innings. The seventh game went to the 10th inning when Gene Larkin singled in the winner that gave the Twins their second world championship. Morris was named MVP for winning two games in the series and pitching 10 shutout innings in the seventh game.
Decline and Ascent
The team made a run at the AL West title the next season, but after that, went into a slump that lasted for the rest of the 1990s and into the 2000s.
It got so bad that Minnesota was one of two teams considered for elimination under a Major League Baseball contraction proposal in 2001.
But the contraction plan died, and the team soon gave folks a reason to buy tickets to Minnesota Twins games again.
From 2002 through 2010, the Twins won the American League Central Division six times.
The team was led during those years by AL MVP Justin Morneau, AL batting champion Joe Mauer, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
Though they did not go far in the playoffs, their success gave the franchise solid footing to continue in the Twin Cities region - solid enough to build Target Field as the new home starting in 2010.
The team arose again in 2019 to post only its second 100-plus win season in capturing the AL Central. But they were swept by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
Nevertheless, the Minnesota Twins have stood the test of time with an attractive product that offers ticket bargains at the same time.
- Venue: Target Field
- Location: Downtown Minneapolis
- Opened: 2010
- Capacity: 38,544
- In 1975 Rod Carew won his fourth consecutive AL batting title. He had already joined Ty Cobb as the only players to lead the major leagues in batting average for three consecutive seasons. In 1977, Carew batted .388, the highest since Boston's Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.
- The 1988 Twins were the first team in American League history to sell tickets to more than 3 million fans.
- Slugger Harmon Killebrew started as a Senator and retired a Twin, playing more games for the franchise than any other player - 2,329. He leads the franchise in home runs (559) and RBIs (1,540).
- The 2017 Twins were the first ever team to lose 100 games the previous year and make the playoffs the next.
Twins Retired Numbers
- 3 Harmon Killebrew LF, 1B, 3B
- 6 Tony Oliva RF, DH, Coach
- 7 Joe Mauer C, 1B
- 10 Tom Kelly Manager
- 14 Kent Hrbek 1B
- 28 Bert Blyleven P
- 29 Rod Carew 1B, 2B
- 34 Kirby Puckett CF
- 42 Jackie Robinson*
*-Jackie Robinson played with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his number was retired by all Major League teams in 1997.