With the offseason drawing to a close, the Twins are looking to the past and honoring three men who have contributed to the team’s legacy. Over the past few days the team announced that Camilo Pascual, Tom Kelly, and Kent Hrbek will all receive their deserved days in the sun this year. The Twins will immortalize them with a team Hall of Fame induction, a retired jersey, and a statue respectively.
The three tributes allow us to reflect on a very wide swath of team’s half century long history. The trio includes a pitcher, a hitter, and a manager, and they represent the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 1990s.
Pascual was one of the original Twins. He started his career with the Washington Senators, then moved with the team to the upper Midwest in 1961. He stayed until the end of the 1966 season, when the Twins traded him back to the nation’s capital. In the meantime, Pascual won 88 games, good for eighth in Twins history (if you include his days in Washington, he won 145 total). He led the American League in strikeouts three times, from 1961-1963, with 221, 206, and 202 respectively, then added 213 more in 1964 to finish second in the league. His 994 strikeouts in a Twins uniform ranks as the seventh highest total ever.
This offseason Twins writers in the press and online started voicing support for Pascual’s candidacy. Whether this had anything to do with his election or not is unclear, but the Twins announced that Pascual will be inducted into the team HOF on July 14th.
Tom Kelly is already a team Hall of Fame member, having been elected back in 2002. So the Twins took the next step with Kelly by announcing on Thursday night that they would retire his #10 jersey on September 8th before a game against Cleveland. Kelly is being honored for his stellar career as a Twins outfielder and first baseman, during which he hit .181/.262/.244 with one glorious home run in 147 plate appearances.
Just kidding. Kelly is being honored for his long stint as Twins manager, a career path that went in the opposite direction of what one might expect. He won the World Series in 1987, his first full year at the team’s helm, and stayed among the league’s contenders most of the first six seasons. In 1991 he led the Twins to another title. But then he had to suffer through a long period of decline, during which the Twins had rosters full of subpar players that no amount of managerial magic could turn into winners. In 2001, just as the team was showing signs of life again, Kelly retired as manager and handed control to Ron Gardenhire. But when a Twins leader retires, he doesn’t leave the organization. Kelly has stayed on as an assistant to the GM ever since.
Interesting Tom Kelly trivia tidbits: he was drafted by the Seattle Pilots, a team that most people forget ever existed, in 1968. Bonus trivia: his only career home run was hit off Tiger rookie pitcher Vern Ruhle.
Hrbek is already several steps ahead of Pascual and Kelly. The Minnesota native and 1987 World Series star had his #14 retired in 1995, joined the Twins Hall of Fame five years later, an action bobblehead of him lifting Ron Gant off first base, and has landed some sweet starring roles in local air conditioning commercials. So what do you give the man who already has everything? How about a freakin’ bronze statue?
Done. Hrbek will join Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Tony Oliva in the elite club of Twins players who get statues outside Target Field (former owners Calvin Griffith and Carl and Eloise Pohlad also get statues, but nobody really cares about a statue of a team owner). There have been rumors that Hrbek would join this uber-elite Statue Society for several months, but now it is official.
Herbie hit .282 with 293 homers in his Twins career. He also had an impressive .367 career OBP in an era when the Twins did not emphasize on-base percentage at all. In a stat that many may find surprising, he holds the Minnesota Twins record with 2,304 career hits. He’s second in Minnesota history in homers and RBI (1,086), third in doubles (312), fifth in WAR (42.0), and fifth in slugging percentage among Twins with at least 1,000 plate appearances (.481). But he is remembered primarily for one swing – a grand slam off pitcher Ken Dayley in the sixth inning of the sixth game of the 1987 World Series. That shot put the game out of reach for the Cardinals, and it guaranteed the Twins would have a shot to win their first World Series the next day.
I think he deserves a statue for that.