Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 20 greatest Twins Sports Illustrated Covers

20. 3/17/03 - I didn't care to read Frank DeFord's article on Kirby Puckett. All I know is that the cover made me extremely sad, and the piece pissed off the Twins so much that no players or executives would ever talk to DeFord again. You can read a really good critique of the article here.
19. 7/5/82 - The Twins were certainly awful their first year in the dome, losing 102 games. But Hrbek was the face of that great bunch of rookies (Gaetti, Brunansky, Viola) who would become the nucleus of the '87 championship team. And you gotta love that red batting helmet.
18. 7/18/77 - A hokey shot of Ted Williams with Rod Carew. I guess it would have become a legendary cover if Carew had hit .400 that year, but he finished at .388. This is a dumb cover because all of Ted Williams' attempts at analyzing hitting turned out to be stupid, wrong and ego-driven. I hope Rodney completely ignored him.

Carew also graced the cover of TIME magazine that summer, which probably has stood the test of time much better than this.
17. 6/29/09 -Tom Verducci is a hack. Can't a national sportswriter find a Joe Mauer angle that doesn't include tired Minnesota cliches? Surely Mauer is interesting enough to find something else. Wait, what?
16. 7/29/69 - Billy Martin doesn't look particularly fiery in this picture. But that attitude would end his only year managing the Twins after he punched out his own player, Dave Boswell. The Twins would win the AL West that year, but were swept by the Orioles in the first ever ALCS.
15. 10/4/65 - I guess this is their attempt at being artsy. That's AL MVP Zoilo Versalles. Or his hands, anyway.
14. 4/10/78 -  Rod Carew and George Foster. Photographer: "alright, give my the good baseball player bad baseball player routine." Carew: "can I be the good one?"
13. 10/19/87 - Twin killing. Gagne turning a double play. I get it. Major League copied this headline when the fictitious Indians went on their amazing winning streak in montage form.
12.  5/15/61 - The Twin Cities are officially Big Time. Well, sorta. Manager Cookie Lavagetto looks like he's just taking a break from painting his house. Which he had plenty of time to do later that summer, because he was fired just five weeks after this issue hit the newsstands.
11. 7/1/74 - When this photo was snapped, Rod was on his way to the third of four consecutive batting titles. How did he do it? Until this cover, no one knew.
10. 8/7/06 - Did he win American Idol that year? I didn't watch the show, so I can't say for sure.
9. 8/23/65 - Going into the 1965 season, the Yankees had won the AL pennant 14 of the past 16 seasons. (!!!!) This cover helped tell the world that the dynasty was over.
8. 4/6/92 - This is a cheesy shot, but it's a sentimental favorite. This picture was also used on his '93 Topps.  It's too bad Mickey Hatcher and his giant glove were long gone by then. They could have had some fun.
7. 10/21/91 - This was the start of three straight weeks of Twins covers. Brilliant headline here, twisting the title of a David Lynch TV series, and sealing the deal with the "American League Pinnacle" line.
6. 11/4/91 - This isn't as great a shot as the 1987 championship pile, but I like how they let the picture speak for itself by not including a pointless headline. I can't imagine SI doing something so minimalistic nowadays.

Fun fact - almost no issues of this magazine exist in Minnesota, because they were destroyed in The Perfect Storm/ halloween blizzard.
5. 10/28/91 - Ohhh Danny Gladden. That's a classic shot, although I think this one is better.
4. 10/26/87 - The Twins were on the cover for three straight weeks in '87 as well. I love it. In 2010, I can't imagine baseball going for three weeks straight during football season. (cover #13 was came first, then Gladden, then...
3. 10/2/87 - The Champs! That's a good photograph. You feel like you're right in the middle of the pile. Kent Hrbek is under there somewhere. A lesser man would have been crushed.
2. 4/30/01 - This is my favorite because I remember buying it and staring at it in pure amazement. Of course, the Twins could only hold on for about four more months, but the foundation was laid.
1. 9/27/10 - I don't need to tell you why this cover is great, but I will anyway. The Minneapolis skyline, the blue sky, the great Thome swing while wearing that throwback. The Garrison Keillor reference. The stadium. And it's a fantastic article written by a fantastic writer (and the inspiration for this piece). Of course, this cover will look even better if Thome indeed brings October magic to Minnesota.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Craig Finn Does It Again

This song kicks a whole bunch of ass. Craig Finn, leader of The Hold Steady and a Minneapolis native, recorded this song with something called The Baseball Project. I'm not sure what that is, but I know they rock. The song is entitled "Don't Call Them Twinkies," and sounds like an upbeat, rocking Hold Steady song. But the lyrics are the pure genius, and speak of a true Twins fan experience. (see the rough transcription at the bottom of this page)

You may remember The Hold Steady from their so-so Twins-themed cover of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Craig Finn is a lifetime Twins fan - he even has a 20-game package to Target Field, although I haven't spotted him there yet.

This also could spell the demise of the nickname "Twinkies." There has been a small underground campaign against the term for quite some time, but I doubt if the general population knows about that backlash. This should create a whole legion of annoying fans, eager to correct someone when they say,"Twinkies."

Here's what Finn says about the song:

I wrote the lyrics quickly on tour about a year ago, and then over the next few months played with a few lines that bugged me over time. My intentions were twofold: I wanted to remind people of the proud history of my team, but also to try to capture the language that real sports fans have when boasting or arguing about their teams. I love living in NYC but I really don't like Yankee fans and the way their team outspends everyone and calls it part of baseball. I had to bring up the fact that the Twins win at baseball in a more admirable way than teams like the Yankees. I had to bring up the awfulness that was the Braves fans' Tomahawk Chop in the 1991 World Series. I had to bring up Ron Gant, and his infamous brush with Kent Hrbek at first base.
I recorded the vocals this summer at Wild Arctic Studio in Brooklyn with Dean Baltulonis, who knows just about nothing about baseball. I ended up having to explain all the references to him, and when he heard about the Ron Gant play, he suggested we do a harmony on that line, just to make it stick out. I liked that idea.
Since collaborating on the song with The Baseball Project I've gone to the new stadium a few times. Downtown Minneapolis is so alive, the bars are bustling, and the Twins are winning. It's a great summer, and hopefully this song is some way of giving back some of the joy that the Twins have given to me.

Anyway, here's a link to the streaming audio at The Current.

Please Don't Call Them Twinkies


In 1965, I wasn't quite alive yet
But I'm told they gave the MVP to Zoilo Versalles
Oliva hit the singles and Harmon hit the homers
Mudcat Grant won twenty games and we didn't play in a dome yet
The Dodgers came to Bloomington to play for the World Series
The Twins took the first two, you can even ask Vin Scully
but Sandy Koufax proved to be a bit too much to crack
and the Twins went down in seven but they vowed that they'd be back

From Nicollet to Hennepin, from St. Paul to St. Cloud
The Minnesota Twins are making Minnesotans proud
and we don't buy our titles, so there's summers where we stink
But these are grown men, these are heroes
So please don't call them 'twinkies'

In the fall of '87 I was pretty much in heaven
I got my license and a girlfriend, the Twins had won the pennant
I prayed more in the dome than I ever did in church
Kirby Puckett had the smile, Kent Hrbek has the smirk
First we tamed the Tigers then we were dealt the Cards
And they came to the Twin Cities tried to make sense of our park
It was loud and it was close, and it went to seven games
But the Twins took home the title and that Sweet Music played

Edina to Duluth, from the south side of downtown
Minnesota Twins are making Minnesotans proud
so hear us make some noise, c'mon wave those Homer Hankies
These are grown men, these are heroes
please don't call them 'twinkies'

in 1991 the Twins were once again on top
we faced Atlanta in the series, and they thought that they were hot
And I ain't seen somethin' so lame as that Fonda-hawk Chop
But we were up against the ropes when Kirby called his shot
And as he ran around the bases, smilin', pumpin fist
We all knew that he had won it, and it was only just game six
And the next night Jack Morris came and made his hometown proud
You should watch it in slow motion:
Ron Gant was clearly out.

From Mankato up to Brainerd, from Burnsville to Bemidji
Now we're playing outdoor baseball and that's the way it should be
Raise a toast to Kirby Puckett, raise another to Tom Kelly
They're the Minnesota Twins
So let's not call 'em 'twinkies'

We got Justin, we got Joe, that's enough reason to party
We don't buy our titles but we still won two World Series
So grab yourself a 3.2 beer and raise a toast to Gardy
They're the Minnesota Twins
So please don't call them 'twinkies'

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homer Hanky History

 Everyone knows the two famous Homer Hankies, the ones that directly contributed to the World Series Championships of 1987 and 1991.

These are the classic Homer Hankies. The font and simple slogans were great. They were perfect for their time and place - they just fit right in there.

The next Homer Hanky came in 1997:

As you can tell, these Homer Hankies really aren't technically Homer Hankies, as I believe the Star Tribune owns the rights to that name. But that didn't stop the Twins marketing machine from calling them Homer Hankies and giving them away to fans during the 10th Anniversary celebration of the '87 championship.

The next "Homer Hanky" came in, you guessed it, 2001.

This atrocity is more like a golf towel than a hanky, but whatever. This was given away at the 10th anniversary celebration of the '91 championship.

Then the winning Twins came back, and started making the playoffs again. The return of the genuine Homer Hanky was a much anticipated event in the Twin Cities.

This Homer Hanky is just okay. It has the classic look of the red baseball, but the block lettering is ugly. And the slogan "PROUD AND LOUD" is being overly loud and proud of the loud, to the point of football fan-esque conceit.

The 2003 Homer Hanky strayed from it's roots noticeably, but it's not so bad. The blue is actually kinda badass. .

The 2004 Homer Hanky is really pretty cool. I'm not sure if they got the dimensions correct of the field at the Dome, but it's an original idea and still incorporates the old school feel, what with the horizontal red lines and everything. The block lettering is still ugly though; almost as ugly as Jason Kubel's at-bat against Mariano Rivera in Yankee stadium that October.

Somehow, the Twins made it back into the playoffs again in 2006. A classy, circular design was incorporated. I dig it.

The Twins and the Star Tribune pulled out all the stops as they commemorated the 20th anniversary of the '87 championship. The bi-colored, fancy logo and return to that classic serif typeface make this Hanky really stand out. It was given away to the first 40,000 fans on Saturday, August 18th 2007.

This is the 2008 Homer Hanky, which was never available to the public because the Twins lost to the White Sox in the AL Central Tie-Breaker game. They simply reused the already printed hankies for the 2009 Homer Hanky. Going green = jinx.

Here's the ugly 2010 Target Field opener souvenir Homer Hanky. They just took the inaugural TF logo, slapped come non-congruent banners above and below it, then added more corporate logos. This barely counts as a Homer Hanky.

The 2010 Homer Hanky is, again, without a year, but is otherwise a nice simple design. This marks the first postseason Hanky printed with two colors.

The 2014 All-Star Game came to Minneapolis and the Twins naturally slapped a logo on some cloth and called it an official Homer Hanky. The horizontal lines up top are nice, otherwise it's very Target giveaway. If you're keeping score at home, we now have eight hankies for playoff years and five for other.

The super obscure Homer Hankies are only myths, really.

Just look at that thing. It boggles the mind. Apparently, it was printed at the beginning of the 1988 season. The slogan is pretty damn funny, and it turned out to be ironically prophetic. The Twins were actually better in '88 than '87, winning 91 games, but they failed to make the playoffs. Fuck you, Oakland.

And there is a rumor that the Twins printed a Homer Hanky at the beginning of the '92 season, but I can't find a picture of that one. If you have one, let me know. I can only imagine what the slogan was.

Further reading: The story of the first Homer Hanky.

note: this post appeared in original form on September 4th, 2007. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Blog Notes Post

Updated AL standings: (Tuesday morning)

Yankees         91-59
Twins             90-60        1     
Rays               89-60       1.5
Rangers          83-66      a bunch

If it were 1968, the Twins would be in the middle of a massive pennant race, just a half game from the World Series. The game is certainly slower, with lower stakes now, yes?

I suspect Gardenhire will give some guys a break and start setting the playoff rotation. Which is fine, because the Twins will host the first round of the playoffs no matter what. But it's natural to go for the number one spot after dispensing of the White Sox.


The magic number is eight. Here's the obligatory sentence explaining what the previous sentence means: any combination of eight Twins wins or White Sox losses and the division is officially wrapped up. So, the earliest the Twins can clinch is Monday, but that would only come if the Twins won their next four games and the White Sox lost their next four.

Division clinch night could be a long one, since the White Sox head to the west coast on Monday, meaning their games won't be over until about two hours after the Twins are done. Here's the best case scenario: Twins win their next four in a row, White Sox win one over the weekend, but lose Monday night, whittling the magic number to 1 going into the Tuesday game. Twins win. Take a lap. That's that. Although it would be neat to celebrate at home during the daytime on Wednesday afternoon.

But don't be surprised if they clinch in Detroit next weekend.

White Sox - Lovable Losers?

There was an interesting take in the Chicago Sun-Times today by something called a Rick Morrissey. He basically says he'll take the chaotic, unpredictable ride that the White Sox provide over the Twins steady winning ways. The author clearly has a huge home-town bias, but it's a natural blow back to all the, Twins do it the right way garbage that people in Chicago hear all the time garbage. (including from their own manager.) I think the whole column is a bunch of crap.

I'll ask all you admirers of the ''Twins Way'' which you would prefer: A franchise that year after year does things by the book or a franchise with a feuding general manager and manager that has the 2005 World Series title in its possession?
Well, maybe he has a point.

Brent Lillibridge - Lovable loser with a great sense of humor? (This is the last time we'll have to mention the White Sox this season)
Light-hitting White Sox infielder Brent Lillibridge got some press earlier this week for tweeting about his midnight date with a video game store. Yep, he stood in line late Monday night for the release of the new Halo game, which reminded many Twins fans of Lew Ford (although he was an old-school nerd.)

The part that I find funny about the whole thing is Brent's lame Twitter bio.  
Play for the Chicago White Sox. Have a great sense of humor. Have a great wife, come join me on the magic carpet ride.
Who says, "I have a great sense of humor."? Is this eHarmony? He must laugh at all his own jokes.

Or maybe he's just trying to be funny?

Fanatic Jack - free to be you and me

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short poem about Twins curmudgeon, Fanatic Jack.It was meant to be a playful jab, but Jack apparently took it hard. After he mentioned the ode on his podcast (14 minutes in), he announced he was done with Twitter. Which is truly a shame, because I really did enjoy his opinions. The Twins blogosphere is rich with differing thought and opinion, and that's what makes it great. If everyone felt the same way and had the same things to say about the Twins, the internet fan experience would be very boring. To borrow a phrase from Savoy Brown - wouldn't it be a real shame if we were all the same?
Have a good weekend, dudes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Twins Wreck White Sox

Frank did fine, but seemed to throw wild after he got a bit frazzled.

Last nights MVP:

Jesse Crain struck out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez with the bases to preserve a one run lead. Great Job.

He was the Crainwreck earlier this season, and was almost released. Then he became the Crain Train. How is this possible? Asian titanium ion balancing necklaces? Braided hemp necklaces? Buca shell anklet? Something non-jewelry related?

How did he get that nickname, anyway? Crain-Train.  It's genius. Perhaps a scout said his fastball looked like an Amtrak. Or maybe his father worked for Canadian-Pacific, and he called young Jesse, My Little Engineer. Probably something even more witty and cool. But the long, complicated story behind it will probably remain unknown to the general public. Forever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gopher Football Free Verse

South Dakota??
South Dakota..
South Dakota!!
Brewster "feels your pain",
After another perplexing performance.
And now he must go.

Student sections half empty.
Weber whines pessimistic.
"Unacceptable" results.
Please go away soon.

Where is Mason?
Free, untethered to new heights.
Where is Brewster?
Rock bottom, out of sight.

The pass drops from the receivers palm
Flies away, away. away. 
bouncing from the campus.
Brewster should go along.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The part where I jinx the Twins by talking about the playoffs

The Twins start a three-game series on the south side tomorrow night. It's nice to know that we're no longer looking at the central standings, but compiling some standings of our own:

Yankees        88-57       - -
Rays             87-57    .5 GB
Twins            86-58     1.5 GB

Those are the best records in the American League. The playoff picture is pretty darn clear, especially compared with the NL, but there are still some interesting things to look for in September. ITSET (if the season ended today) the Yankees (best record) would face the Rangers (worst record) while the Twins would host the Rays. Starting the playoffs at Target Field? Great. We're not greedy - we're Minnesotans.

But heck, one look at the standings will tell you that the Twins have a real shot at locking up home field for both the ALDS and ALCS. Not only would it be nice to have a bunch of games at TF, but it would really change the way the fans, media and players view the Twins. If they pulled it off, they would probably have the most wins in all of baseball. Now, grabbing one more win than the Yankees in the regular season won't convince everyone that the Twins are a better and World Series bound team, but it might change a few minds in the clubhouse.

Or I'm just looking for some sort of reason to believe the Twins can beat the Yankees in the playoffs. Last year, I convinced myself that they had a better shot than ever because of the way they streaked into the postseason. Of course, they streaked right back out.

Unless the Rays win the east, the Twins wouldn't have to face the Yankees until the ALCS (assuming they beat the Rangers, who just swept them in Texas.) So here are my two questions:

1. If you had to face the Yankees in the playoffs, would you rather face them in a 7-game or a 5-game series? It stands to reason that the better team will win over a longer period of time, and the underdog has a better chance taking a short series. However, this hasn't exactly worked for the Twins in the past. (If the Rays won the east with the best record in the AL, the wild card Yankees would have to travel to Minnesota.)

2. Would winning the championship without defeating New York be as satisfying? Would you rather lose in the World Series after beating the Yankees in the ALCS? Or would you rather win it all but miss the Yankees?