This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
We’re gonna win Twins,
We’re gonna score.
We’re gonna win Twins
Watch that baseball soar.
Crack out a home run
Shout out a hip hooray
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!
That is the theme song of the Minnesota Twins. However in 1982, the Twins didn’t win very much. In fact, they lost many times over!
The Twins were in a transitional period in 1982. For years, the Twins called Metropolitan Stadium in suburban Bloomington, home. While it was great in the summertime, the Met was considered outdated and downright cold, especially early in the season. It wasn’t uncommon to see snow, on opening day.
So the Twins, along with their NFL counterparts, the Minnesota Vikings, decided to build a downtown domed stadium. The Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome, named after the former Vice President of the United States, and one time mayor of Minneapolis.
The dome had its issues. In November of 1981, 5 months before opening day, the fibreglass roof collapsed after a snowstorm hit the Twin Cities. The roof had to be re-inflated and the stadium did open on time.
When the stadium finally opened, the right field fence was so short, lazy fly balls were turning into cheap home runs. Left handed batters were having a field day with the short fence in right, so the Twins decided to put in a 16 foot plastic wall, known at “The Baggie.” The Baggie was to prevent video game homers and it did become the stadium’s answer to the Green Monster at Fenway Park. However, it did look like a giant garbage bag that hovered over right field. The people at Glad Extra Bags, had the best advertising ever, without putting their name on it.
Another stadium oddity was the white roof. A low-lying roof that caused chaos with outfielders. Many pop ups or fly balls, were difficult to see, as the ball sometimes got lost with the brightly coloured roof. Both the Twins and the visiting teams, had many adventures in the outfield, trying to deal with the roof.
And then there was the Twins themselves. Some experts believed a new stadium and having manager Billy Gardner around for the whole season would turn the Twins around. Minnesota did finish strongly in 1981, despite missing the playoffs. The exact opposite happened. The Twins finished with their worst record, since moving from Washington to the Twin Cities, posting a meagre 60-102 record.
The main issue for the Twins was pitching. The Twins posted a whopping 4.72 ERA, which was the worst in all of baseball. It felt like the Twins were throwing underhanded at times. The Twins also surrendered 208 home runs, which was the worst in Major League Baseball. Clearly, this pitching staff had no idea what they were doing.
The only starter who could claim to have a decent year was Bobby Castillo. The veteran right handed starter, who came over in a trade from the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, led the Twins in wins (13) and ERA (3.66). Castillo went 13-11 on the season, and was the most consistent pitcher on the Twins. The rest of the staff was a mess.
Young southpaw Frank Viola would go on to a great career with the Twins, but he struggled mightily in 1982. “Sweet Music” finished with a 4-10 record with a laughable 5.21 ERA. Another left hander, Brad Havens posted a 10-14 record with a 4.31 ERA. Unlike Viola, Havens faded into oblivion not long after.
The bigger mess was the bullpen. The Twins acquired relief pitcher Ron Davis from the New York Yankees just before opening day for Roy Smalley. Davis was expected to be the Twins new closer. While Davis did record 22 saves, he also blew 5 save opportunities, and finished with a 3-9 record with a 4.42 ERA. Davis also gave up 16 home runs, which is abnormally high for a closer. The one good thing about the trade, is that the Twins also picked up a minor league prospect in the Yankees organization. That prospect turned out to be Greg Gagne, who had a solid career as the Twins shortstop and helped the Twins to 2 World Series titles.
No relief pitcher had a worse year though, than Terry Felton. The right handed reliever posted a horrendous 0-13 record with a 4.99 ERA and 3 saves. Felton surrendered 18 home runs which was the highest amongst relief pitchers. When 1982 finished, Felton never played another game, in the Major Leagues.
The one thing the Twins could do was hit the baseball. Benefiting from a hitter friendly ballpark, the Twins did pound the baseball out of the yard somewhat frequently. 4 players topped the 20 home run mark, including rookie first baseman Kent Hrbek. The man known as Herbie had a terrific rookie season, leading the team with a .301 average, swatting 23 homers while driving in a team best 92 runs. Hrbek finished second in rookie of the year balloting behind Cal Ripken Jr.
Another youngster, third baseman Gary Gaetti was also finding his stride. The rookie on the hot corner only batted .230, but he did belt 25 big flies and drove in 84 runs. Gaetti was an integral part of the Twins youth movement.
Right fielder Tom Brunansky was another member of the youth movement. In his first full year, Brunansky hit .272 with 20 home runs and 46 RBIs in 1982 and was part of the Twins team that won the World Series in 1987.
Left fielder Gary Ward had a breakout season in 1982, after toiling in the minor leagues for 8 seasons. Ward had career best numbers in home runs (28) and RBIs (91) while batting a respectable .289. Sadly this was as good as it got for Ward, whose numbers steadily declined over the years.
So yes, the Twins could hit, but their pitching let them down far too much, either blowing leads late, or falling behind so much, that the Twins had to comeback large early deficits.
One night in particular that the Twins couldn’t come back was on July 15 against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers scored 11 runs in the first inning off Jack O’Connor and proceeded to destroy the hapless Twins 18-2. Mercifully, only 19,000 cared to watch the game inside the Metrodome. In fact attendance was an issue for the Twins as well.
A lousy team combined with the fact, the air conditioning didn’t work most of the time, made the Metrodome feel like a sauna more than a ballpark. The Twins were last in attendance, as they were the only team in the Major Leagues not to draw a million fans into the park. Nobody wanted to watch this team play as people in Minnesota had better things to do in the summer than watch the hopeless Twins.
Things would turn around though in Minnesota. The Twins slowly improved every year, picking up pieces while watching their young stars blossom. It all paid off in 1987, as the Twins won their first ever World Series title. The Metrodome was a key part as well, as it became known as the “Thunderdome” for the noise level generated by the fans. Teams were terrified to play inside the Metrodome, and it became the most intimidating building in all of baseball.
However for the Twins to reach to highest of highs, they had to sink to the lowest of lows. 1982 was the lowest of lows.
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