Last night after I finished my blog post I decided to do a little channel surfing — but I didn’t get far. My thumb was barely warmed up before I came across FSN re-broadcasting Game 5 of the 1987 American League Championship Series between the Twins and the Detroit Tigers. By the time I tuned in the game was in the bottom of the 8th inning but I settled in to watch the exciting conclusion because I’d never seen it before.
Yes, Twins fan that I am, I had missed one of the seminal moments in Twins history; had, in fact, missed all but a few innings of this series. “What, where you out of the country or something?” you might ask. As a matter of fact, the answer is “yes” and “something.” I was honeymooning in Puerto Vallarta with the not-yet Reverend Mother, having gotten married on the same afternoon that the Twins played game three in Detroit (which fortunately caused me to miss the otherwise demoralizing Pat Sheridan homerun off of Jeff Reardon in the 9th).
I knew this team very well, however. I’d been working as a scoreboard operator for the Twins since the Dome opened a few years earlier and had watched this squad come together, working 40-50 games a year and watching most of the others on television (didn’t have a blog to take up my time then). I was the same age as most of the guys on the team and felt a certain identification with them as we came into our own in our respective careers. I could sense there was something coming together with that group, but never anticipated playoffs in the early days of 1987; hence wedding plans were made for October with confidence.
It was spell-binding last night, however, to have those heady days brought back to me on the big screen, to see Rat and Herbie and Puck and Bruno all young again and mighty. To be reminded again of how smooth Gags was in the field and to see Dan Gladden and Steve Lombardozzi on the same field — and to laugh again at the memory of how Gladden would eventually punch Lombo out for being such a putz. Watching Stevie run home with a clinching run in the ninth last night I found myself thinking, “the guy even runs like a jerk.”
I also got a little misty at how natural it seemed to see Kirby at the plate, lashing those practice swings, and to see Joe Niekro on the bench as the camera did a slow and unintentionally nostalgic pan through the dugout: hey, there’s Mark “Country” Davidson, Sal Butera, and Bushie, Baylor and Gene-O, and there’s Al “No-No” Newman (the nickname was one I used whenever Newmie had to come to the plate) and Bert Blyleven when his hair and beard were still orange, watching intensely and, uncharacteristically, not trying to give anyone a hot foot or a shaving cream facial. Finally, the crusty old skipper, Tom Kelly, not looking old and crusty at all back then.
Then there were the shots of the Tigers. My God, did the Twins really beat Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker, while Sparky Anderson watched? Did anyone, even Gaetti, look more like a rat than Darrell Evans? And yeah, Sheridan, I saw you, too, you stiff prig with your ridiculous glasses, acting as if you belonged on the same field.
It was a strange sensation watching those two innings. Even though I knew the outcome of the game already there was still a lot of drama — probably because I knew of so many other outcomes still ahead. I also remembered what that time in my life, watching these guys in those seasons leading up to ’87, had meant to me, and I thought about how one of the greatest things that could happen to them was about to happen, just at the time that one of the greatest things that ever happened to me happened. And we were all so young!