Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Minnesota Twins are a professional baseball team who are currently playing in the Central Division of the American League.
Baseball in Minnesota dates back to the to baseball explosion which happened in America in the years following the Civil War. The success of amateur baseball grew and grew and soon it was an integral part of Minnesota life, generating the state’s first professional baseball team in 1884.
A number of minor league teams sprung up across the state, although, to begin with many of the teams were faced with financial difficulties and their professional status didn’t last long. St Paul were the first team from Minnesota to play a season in a major league, remaining one of the state’s most dominant teams throughout the first half of the twentieth century.
Arrival of the Twins
In 1961, after starting life as the Washington Senators in 1901, the Twins arrived in Minnesota, a major league team with star pitchers, Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat, and the legendary batting twosome, Bob Allison and Harmon ‘Killer’ Killebrew.
Although the Twins were slow to start, winning only 70 games in their first season (and losing 90) their potential became apparent when the Killer made a mighty 42 home runs in their first year as a Minnesota team.
Despite a less than staggering first season, the Twins, led by manager Sam Mele, soon rose up the ranks and in 1962 they placed second in the American League, just behind the New York Yankees. That year the Killer hit 48 home runs and Jim Kaat demonstrated some fearsome batting throughout the season.
1963 was another good year for the team but 1964 saw the Twins finish in a disappointing 6th place. That year also saw the arrival of Tony Olivia who led the league in batting average and won the 1964 Rookie of the Year title.
A Win at Last
After battling at the top for four years, the Minnesota Twins finally got the glory they had been waiting for, when they beat the long-reigning New York Yankees to finish top of the league. That year Minnesota was also host to the summer’s All-Star game.
During 1965 several star players emerged from the Minnesota Twins, including Zolio Versalles who hit 273 runs making him the American League’s Most Valuable Player that year. Versalles’ performance on the pitch more than made up for The Killer’s low average that season, after he was hit by injury and forced to miss a number of league games.
After winning the American League pennant, the Twins went to the World Series, where they faced the Los Angeles Dodgers for the title. Each team won three games but, in a tense final, Sandy Koufax batted the Dodgers to victory beating the Twins 2-0.
Can’t Make it Back
Despite noble efforts over the following years, it was a long time before the Twins took the league pennant for the second time. The team came second in 1966 and 1967 but dropped to seventh place in 1968.
The following year, as the sixties came to a close, the league structure changed and, with new manager Billy Martin in the ranks, the Twins looked to be on top form. The team played exceedingly well that season, led by the Killer who was back on his feet, making 49 home runs which saw him named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
As luck would have it, however, there was an even better team in the league that season. Facing the Baltimore Orioles in the league playoffs, the Twins were overshadowed and were disappointingly eliminated by the Orioles. On a brighter note Minnesota did win the West Division of the league that year, but it wasn’t enough and Billy Martin was forced to go.
A Challenging Decade
Under the direction of new manager, Bill Rigney, the Twins won the West Division of the league for the second year running but, echoing the happenings of the previous season, they failed to win the overall league, being beaten in the play offs by the Baltimore Orioles once again.
In 1971, the Twins’ performance dropped and they finished the league in fifth place. Although Tony Olivia won his third batting title that year, he suffered serious injury during the season and, from then on, he never fully recovered his stride. The Killer continued to play well but his average was much lower than in previous years and his home run total dropped to 28.
Over the next few years Minnesota’s star team went through a particularly rocky patch, struggling to win more games than they lost, despite having a number of top-class players, including Rod Carew who won the league batting title each year between 1972 and 1976. In 1976 the tide looked set to turn, however, when, under the management of Gene Mauch, the Twins found themselves back near the top, finishing the league in third place.
The Lumber Company
After a waning of fans during their difficult years, the Twins found their stadium full once again and 1977 looked set to be the most exciting season all decade. The team had a number of strong players, including batters Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock and Glenn Adams, whose combined strength led to them being nicknamed the Lumber Company.
The team played well all season and the final of the West Division was no exception. The atmosphere was electric as crowds packed into the Met Stadium to watch the Twins play the Chicago White Sox to be named the top Western team. Despite the dominance of the Lumber Company during the season’s earlier games, it was Rod Carew who shone in that particular game, scoring five runs and driving in six to lead his team to a 19-12 victory.
After their victory in the West, the Twins were in hot pursuit of the league title, attracting huge crowds for the rest of the season but although the Twins played well, they failed to make it to the league final.
The End of an Era
Despite their successful season in 1977, the year ended on a low note, when a number of the team’s leading players chose to leave the team. At that time there was a new era of free agency and the Twins didn’t have enough money to stop its players leaving for higher fees.
Hisle and Bostock moved to other teams and Rod Carew was traded to the California Angels. Minnesota’s demon batting company had been dismantled. Over the next few years, the fate of the team went from bad to worse and the Twins lost many of the fans they had fought so hard to win back.
A New Home…
After a few dismal years, spirits were back up in 1982 with the opening of the new Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Around the same time, a number of fresh young players joined the team, including Kent Hrbek who hit the first two home runs in the new stadium.
Other rising stars included Tom Brunansky, pitcher Frank Viola and enthusiastic batter Kirby Puckett. In 1984 the team changed hands and new owner, Carl Pohlad, replaced long-time boss, Calvin Griffith. The following year the Twins were back on form and after winning most of their games they tied for second place in the West Division of the league.
… and a Triumph of the Highest Order
After two uneventful years in the mid eighties, the Twins stunned baseball fans with their 1987 performance. After winning the West division with ease, the team went on to triumph in the League Championship Series, beating the Detroit Tigers in the league final.
Their defeat of the Tigers sent the Twins into the World Series where they met the St Louis Cardinals. Amazingly Minnesota were triumphant once again, beating the Cardinals four games to three to become the baseball world champions for the first time in their history.
Into the Nineties
Following their world success, the Twins’ performance was up and down, finishing a disastrous last place in the league at the end of the 1990 season. In 1991, however, the team couldn’t have played more differently, winning the division championship, the league title and stunningly the World Series for the second time in four years.
During the rest of the nineties the team were faced with struggles, although there were some excellent performances by individual players, including that of Paul Molitor who had his 3000th hit in 1996 whilst playing for the Twins.
A New Millennium
Between 2001 and 2006 the Twins had their longest winning streak in history, winning the Central Division championships in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 and the American League Pennant in 2001 and 2005.
In 2006 they had a particularly memorable year when they won the division championship, the first time a major league team had won a division title without having had sole possession of first place earlier in the year.
In 2007, however, the tide turned for the Twins and they lost the Central Division league to the Cleveland Indians, the first time they had failed to win a title for six years.