Minnesota Twins Draft…Gary Sargent
By Ben Noble
There are currently 40 rounds in the MLB draft held each June. A chosen few will make it to The Show, but infinitely more will flail and fail in the minors before hanging up their cleats and moving on to greener—or grayer—pastures.
When we think of Twins draft picks, we usually think of the high picks who succeeded like Joe Mauer, those who failed like Adam Johnson, or the recent picks still full of promise and potential like Byron Buxton.
The list of players who were drafted by the Twins but never signed is chalk-full of star athletes in other sports, guys who got drafted again by another team and went on to MLB stardom, and high school studs who just sort of drifted out of memory.
Last time we looked at the Twins 39th round selection in the 1971 draft: Joe Theismann. Today, the Twins 22nd round pick in the 1972 draft: Gary Sargent.
Along with Phil Housley, Gary Sargent is one of the top high school defensemen in Minnesota hockey history, and he played parts of eight seasons in the NHL, making the All-Star team in 1980. At times a key player on early 80s North Stars teams, his career was cut drastically short by injuries.
Born on the Ojibwa Red Lake Reservation, Sargent was Bemidji High School’s leading scorer as an eight-grade center. By the time he was a senior, Sargent was a solidly-built defenseman who handled the puck well and understood how an offense worked, having been moved to defense his sophomore year. He led Bemidji to their first appearance in the state tournament in 1972; they won the section championship before losing to International Falls in the next round.
Gary’s younger brother, Earl, also played hockey. After being drafted by both the NHL’s North Stars and the WHA’s Fighting Saints, he established a six-year minor league career as a high-scoring wing willing to throw down. Earl is at left, when he played for the 1977-78 San Diego Mariners of the PHL.
The brothers also played baseball and football in high school; Gary earned All-State honors as a fullback and linebacker, and was offered over a dozen college football scholarships.
Gary Sargent was a hard-throwing pitcher with impressive home run power. When not pitching, he played third base or, when Earl was at third, across the diamond at first. The brothers Sargent showed up in local newspaper accounts of high school baseball games throughout the early 70s. In 1971, Gary led the Bemidji American Legion team to the Marble Invitational championship with seven innings of no-hit ball with six strikeouts and a pair of hits in three at bats. He finished the tournament batting 8-10.
In 1972, the Twins drafted Gary Sargent as a third baseman in the 22nd round out of Bemidji High School. Sargent was a good power hitter, but he was a great hockey player. He held out for a career in the NHL.
Sargent went to play for his hometown Beavers, registering 47 points in 30 games in his lone season at Bemidji State. The following season, he scored 83 points in 43 games in his only major junior season playing for the Fargo-Moorhead Sugar Kings.
First drafted in the 11th round of the 1974 WHA draft by the Indianapolis Racers, Sargent held out again and was rewarded by being taken three months later with the 48th overall pick by the NHL’s LA Kings.
He excelled as an amateur player on the international stage the next season, being named the top defenseman at the unofficial 1974 world junior championships in Leningrad. He scored 24 points in 27 games for the Springfield Kings of the minor-league AHL that season but suffered a devastating knee injury that winter when he was hit into an open penalty box door.
The next year, Sargent debuted solidly for the Kings and was a member of the 1976 US team for the inaugural Canada Cup. He played in all 80 NHL games in 1976-77, finished with 54 points on the season, and was plus-18 on a Kings team that was minus-2 as a whole.
He became a restricted free agent after the following season and signed with his hometown North Stars for the 1978-79 season. That year, Sargent was on the ice for a record 53.1 percent of his team’s goals.
Sargent was selected for 1980 NHL All-Star team, but was unable to play due to a slipped disc in his back suffered in February of that year. He missed a good portion of the following season, too, with a lower back injury suffered in December, followed by spinal fusion surgery performed at the Mayo Clinic in March of ’81. He was injured for the North Stars run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1981, then missed most of 82-83 with a knee injury, effectively ending his career. All told, Gary Sargent played in just 56 games over the next three seasons.
Sargent was injured at the time, but here’s the North Stars record-setting 392 PIM game against the Bruins on February 26, 1981. First fight is seven seconds into the game:
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