Minnesota Twins 1987 World Series Anniversary Profile: Tom Kelly

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24 Apr 1997: Manager Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins watches his players from the dugout during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics won the game 12-11. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /A
24 Apr 1997: Manager Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins watches his players from the dugout during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics won the game 12-11. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /A /
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With the celebration of the Minnesota Twins’ 1987 World Championship this weekend, it’s high time to profile the players!

This weekend, the Minnesota Twins will be honoring the 1987 World Series championship team. As we get ready for that weekend, we at Puckett’s Pond want to highlight some of the best players and moments from that season.

The Twins have had a total of 13 managers in their franchise history since moving to Minnesota in 1961. No manager managed the Twins for longer, won more games at the helm of the Twins, nor experienced more success as the Twins manager than Tom Kelly, the man who was the manager of the 1987 Twins.

Background

Kelly was an outfielder and first baseman originally born in Minnesota that was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in 1968 out of high school in New Jersey. He was released in April of 1971 by the now-Milwaukee Brewers, and was quickly picked up by the Minnesota Twins.

He worked his way up the minor league system with skills that likely would be more appreciated in today’s game, with a high OBP and good (albeit not great) power. He got his on major league cup of coffee in 1975 with the Twins, hitting .181/.262/.244 with a home run over 49 games.

After one season in AAA in the Baltimore Orioles organization, Kelly returned to Minnesota as a player-manager in 1977 of AAA Tacoma. After moving to Visalia for two seasons, Kelly moved up to Orlando for one season in 1982, managing many of the future stars he would manage on the 1987 Twins.

Kelly was added to the Minnesota Twins coaching staff in 1983, and in 1986, when manager Ray Miller was fired, Tom took over.

1987 Notes

1987 was Kelly’s first full season as manager with the Twins. However, it was not his first season managing his players.

He had managed Greg Gagne in 1982 with Orlando. He had managed Tim Laudner in Visalia in 1980. He also managed Sal Butera in his first managerial gig, in 1977 with Tacoma, when he was just two years older than Butera.

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Kelly had worked on the bench with the Twins as a number of guys established themselves in the mid-1980s, so he had an established repertoire with the team as the 1987 season began. The Twins did make it to the playoffs with a less-than-stellar record. In fact, the Twins’ .525 regular season winning percentage would be the lowest for a future World Series champion until the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals had an even lower percentage.

Kelly set up the team well to maximize the Metrodome, and he threw his best guys in the park, knowing his team would be able to hit in the stadium and the Cardinals would not be used to the sound/roof/turf of the Metrodome.

Post-Twins

The Twins announced that Kelly was resigning after the 2001 season. In later interviews, Kelly discussed burnout and the threat of contraction as reasons that he felt that was the right time to leave. Ron Gardenhire took over as manager and reaped the benefits of the young club that Kelly left behind, winning division championships in 2002, 2003, and 2004 primarily with that same group that Kelly left behind in 2001.

Next: Garcia trade falls through

Kelly had his #10 retired by the Twins in 2012. Friday night, the team revealed a statue in honor of Kelly outside of Target field.

Excited for the anniversary weekend?! Who should we profile next? Let us know in the comments!

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