Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My favorite Twins

This is the most sentimental day on the calendar for me. It doesn't have anything to do with baseball (although I did take a tour of old Busch Stadium in St. Louis on that same weekend in 1987). So I avoid slipping into mushy thoughts here by putting a baseball spin on the day.

Last year I celebrated a milestone moment for this day by opening a rack pack of 1987 Topps. And in previous years, I've talked about my fondness for the city of St. Louis because of Oct. 29, 1987.

But since that time, I've soured on the St. Louis Cardinals, the media there, and some of their fans. In 1987, I rooted for the Cardinals against the Twins in the World Series and turned off the TV in disappointment when Minnesota won. But if the same two teams were involved today, I'd be rooting for the Twins.

I'm not sure why I rooted for the Cardinals that year anyway. It was two years removed from Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog and GOD, I hated that team. So what possessed me to root from them shortly after that?

I think I owe the Twins an apology for that one, and I'm going to offer my apology in the form of this post. The Twins are a team I have ignored almost all of my life. I can never remember who is on the team and they always have these weird-named guys like Gary Serum and Lenny Faedo and Paul Thormodsgard who appear for a year or two and then vanish.

In years past, the Twins were that team where Dodgers prospects who couldn't crack the L.A. lineup would go to get playing time (think Geoff Zahn, Mickey Hatcher and Bobby Mitchell). Decades later, the Twins were flops that I selected for my fantasy team (think David McCarty, Shane Mack and Rich Becker).

But it's time for me to stop thinking that way. The Twins are a major league team independent of my preferences and biases. It's time for me to find my favorite Twins -- as in my favorite Twins cards.

So that's what I did. It took up way too much of the day and I couldn't whittle it down any lower than my top 20. And then there were a few I just had to show that didn't even make the list.

There had to be a lawsuit involved after this one.

Greg Gagne has some odd cards.

I know there are lots of product placements in cards these days and I know that nobody cares anymore whether kids buy cards or don't buy cards or drink beer or don't drink beer, but this has to be the point where everyone threw up their hands and said, "who cares, where's my money?"

I am so happy I have this card.

Finally, THIS is a rookie card. This is how you should appear on your rookie card. Dan Ford did it to perfection. You want a memorable rookie card, this is how you should BE.

And now, here are my top 20 favorite Twins. Please enjoy:

20. Ben Revere, 2012 Topps

I didn't review any 2013 cards because I don't think they should be in this conversation. But I didn't rule out modern cards completely. This is an example of the superb photography with which we are spoiled as collectors today.

19. Rod Carew, 2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites

I have mentioned before how Carew didn't smile a lot on his cards. Kudos to Topps for unearthing this photo as proof that Carew was happy when he wore a Twins uniform.

18. Tony Oliva, 1976 Topps

I know this isn't Oliva's best card and it's the final one of his career, but it's also the first Oliva card I ever pulled or saw. I thought it was pretty cool as a 10-year-old in 1976, probably because of that shadow thing going over Oliva's eyes. Not a great card in retrospect, but you can't get rid of those childhood feelings.

17. Terry Felton, 1983 Fleer

This isn't here so much for the card but for what made Felton famous in 1982. Felton lost the first 16 decisions of his career and made news by going 0-13 in 1982. He was released after the 1982 season and never received another card.

Those are his career stats on the back of his 1983 Fleer card.

But only the Donruss card issued that year references his unfortunate record:

Felton would receive cards from Donruss, Fleer and Topps in 1983, but I like the Fleer one best because he's smiling on his card -- despite that career 0-16 record and 5.52 ERA. At least he made the majors.

16. Dick Woodson, 1972 Topps

His name is Dick Woodson and he's damn pleased about that.

15. Greg Gagne, 1992 Stadium Club

OK, this is not an odd card of Gagne. This is when Stadium Club was at its peak and it's one of my favorite SC cards of all-time. You have to enjoy everything that's going on in that photo, although it's obvious that the girl in the front row feels the same way about bunting that everyone does today.

14. Jack Morris, 1991 Topps Traded

The only night card in the entire 1991 Topps set (base or traded) and a perfect card to complement Morris' World Series performance in 1991. At least I rooted for the Twins that year.

13. Steve Brye, 1977 Topps

This will make sense to no one and barely makes sense to me now. But because Steve Brye was designated as the "favorite player" of my brother's stuffed lion when we were kids, we talked about Steve Brye as much as any player who was around at that time. Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn, Jim Palmer, whoever. Steve Brye was right up there. One of those players who will always make me feel like a kid with a talking stuffed animal.

12. Rod Carew, 1978 Topps

Shockingly, this card did not make "The Golden Age of All-Star Cards" Countdown from a few months back. That doesn't mean I made a mistake, it just means that there were a LOT of terrific all-star cards at the time and I picked only 20. Let's consider this No. 21 because we thought it was epic in 1978.

11. Eric Soderholm, 1975 Topps

This is one of the first Twins cards I ever saw and it arrived the very first year I collected cards. I salvaged a ripped up version of this card from the toy chest of my friend Jennifer back in 1975. It's meant a lot to me ever since.

10. Shane Mack, 1991 Topps

One of my favorite cards from the '91 set and you know how many good ones are in that set. Mack is clinging to that base like I clung to last place in my fantasy league when I had him on my team. So it's like a metaphor, man.

9. Lyman Bostock, 1976 Topps

The rookie card of someone who first taught me what "gone too soon" meant. It deserves to be here.

8. Ron Washington, 1982 Topps Traded

Ron Washington player cards are fantastic fun. But his first solo card is the funnest of all.

7. Kent Hrbek, 1982 Donruss

Back in the early '80s when the first stirrings of "rookie card fever" began, we knew something was afoot. Rickey Henderson showed us the way. I don't think we even called them "rookie cards" at the time. Maybe we did. I don't know, it was very vague and we really didn't know what we had. That's what I think of when I see this Kent Hrbek rookie. It was special and worth keeping, but we didn't really know why yet.

6. Butch Wynegar, 1977 Topps

More rookie greatness. Wynegar was huge news in 1976, hitting his first major league home run in Yankee Stadium as a 20-year-old. When I pulled Harold's card it was the closest I'd had ever been to being the same age as a major leaguer.

5. Roy Smalley, 1980 Topps

Wait? What? Smalley's all-star card didn't make it into the "Golden Age of All-Star Cards" Top-20 Countdown either? Sheesh, sorry Twins. I guess make Carew No. 22 and Smalley No. 21. At least Smalley is a former Cardboard Appreciation topic.

4. Harmon Killebrew, 1970 Topps

Killebrew signed this card and you'll never be able to tell me otherwise.

3. Bert Blyleven, 1975 Topps

A borderline iconic card. I've called this photo an example of whistling in the graveyard. Blyleven is blowing bubbles in what looks like a torture chamber. Everything looks terribly dark where he is, but with gum and the bright blue uniform and the crazy-colored '75 border it's all positively super. Love this card.

2. Dan Ford, 1978 Topps

The list of "The Most '70s Card of the '70s" should be a short one. Oscar Gamble, Mark Fidrych, J.R. Richard. But I think Disco Dan Ford deserves inclusion. This has '70s all over it and it's one of the best cards in the 1978 set. Shake Your Groove Thing. Shake Your Groove Thing. Yeah, Yeah. Show 'Em How We Do It Now.

1. Rod Carew, 1975 Topps

The last card I needed to complete the 1975 Topps set, even though I believe I had the card way back in 1975 as a 9-year-old kid. At that time, you couldn't have convinced me that Carew didn't hit 30 home runs a year. This card is precious to me.

Believe it or not, I could have made this 50 cards strong. There is a stack of unscanned Twins cards on the desk in front of me right now.

But we don't want anyone thinking I'm really a Twins fan. I've got to be able to name more than five players on the current team to qualify.

As for those who showed up here thinking I was writing about a different kind of favorite twins ... 

Well, let's keep it in Minnesota with the Twin City Twins.

Everybody happy now?


  1. That Vic Power card is flat out awesome!

  2. lots of good twinkies there. the 78 carew and 80 smalley might be my favorites. and, with a name like thormodsgard, i thought for sure that calvin griffith had plucked the guy from the iron range and brought him to the cities, but no - thormodsgard was from san francisco.

  3. The Rod Carew fan favorites photo was a re-purpose from his 1977 Time Magazine cover.


  4. I was the same way... back in 87 I totally cheered for the Cardinals. I was already a Padres fan... but I still liked a lot of Cardinals players during that era: Tudor, Ozzie, Coleman, and McGee were the key people I liked. But if the Twins were up against the Cardinals today... I totally would support the Twins.

    My favorite Twins base card has to be the early 90's Score "shirtless" Dream Team card of Kirby Puckett. Just kidding. What was Score thinking? Anyways... I'd say my favorite Twins card is either my 85T Puckett or 77T Carew. However... if I had a 75T Carew... that would definitely be in the running.

  5. I was just about to comment that I was expecting at least one photo of hot Twins. Then, BAM! Thank you.

  6. Don't worry, sir. I'm one of the biggets Twins fans I know and even *I* can barely name 5 players on the current Twins roster. Mauer, Mor... no. Ha! See what I did there?