Minnesota Twins Greatest Right-Hander No. 3: Bob Allison (1958-1970)
Bob Allison was an up-and-coming slugger when he arrived in Minnesota in 1961 as part of the franchise move. He already had posted a 30-home run season in 1959 playing for the old Washington Senators, so the Twins knew he had talent.
His performance that year earned him a trip to the AL All-Star Game, and he was named the AL Rookie of the Year at seasons end. Over the next 8 seasons, Allison averaged 25 homers and 76 RBI’s and was named to two additional All-Star Games.
Allison was a hard-nosed player and was a very agile and aggressive player while on defense. He also was blessed with a powerful throwing arm and base runners were very hesitant to take an extra base when he was roaming the outfield. The highlight of Allison’s defensive career was a stunning diving backhanded catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of Jim Lefebvre in the 1965 World Series against the Dodgers.
In his later years, Bob was afflicted with the incurable, degenerative disease, Ataxia. He eventually succumbed to this disease in 1995. Leonard Schechter in Sport Magazine said of Allison: “Anyone can be successful in baseball if he follows the path of Bob Allison,” “All you have to do is be 6’4”, strong as a weightlifter, handsome as a shirt model, have the personality of an honor graduate of Dale Carnegie, and also work your head off.”
Minnesota Twins Greatest Right-Hander No. 2: Kirby Puckett (1984-1995)
“K-I-R-B-Y-P-U-C-K-E-T-T.” The immortal words of long-time Minnesota Twins PA Announcer Bob Casey are what instantly comes to mind when I think of this charismatic Hall-of-Famer and arguably greatest Twin of all time.
Kirby was from the South Side of Chicago and he was a productive but unheralded player when he graduated from high school. That didn’t matter to him though, as with perseverance and a boatload of talent, Puckett advanced through college ball and the minor leagues before being called up by the Minnesota Twins in 1984. The rest, as they say, is history.
In his first game in the majors, he became only the 9th Major League ballplayer to have four hits in his debut, and he never looked back. By the time he ended his tenure with the Twins, he had been named to 10 All-Star Games, won 2 World Series Championships, was the recipient of six Gold Gloves, and had won the 1989 AL Batting title.
Puckett could hurt you both at bat and in the field. Blessed with a strong arm and great mobility as a centerfielder, I have numerous great memories of Kirby going back, jumping up, and stealing another home run from a dejected batter.
Of course, all of this was on display in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. In the third inning, Puckett stole a home run off the bat of Ron Gant to help maintain the Twins 2-0 lead in the game. Then in the11th, he hit a line drive homer off reliever Charlie Leibrandt to win the game for the Minnesota Twins.
Kirby’s career ended prematurely due to an eye disease in 1995, and personal issues really damaged his reputation. Kirby Puckett passed away in 2006 from a stroke, just a week shy of his 46th birthday, but he will always be remembered as a Twins legend.
Minnesota Twins Greatest Right-Hander No. 1: Harmon Killebrew (1958-1975)
Harmon “The Killer” Killebrew was one of the greatest power hitters of all-time and a sweet soul of a man. He was a legend in Minnesota during the 60’s and early 70’s for the Twins, and was the first star the team had. In his time in Minnesota, Harmon hit 559 home runs, added 1540 RBI, and 1258 runs scored.
Harmon’s towering home runs that flew out of Metropolitan Stadium were a thing of beauty. It was always so exciting to arrive at the ballpark early to watch him crush the ball during batting practice.
His greatest season occurred in 1969, when he hit 49 homers and drove in 140 runs for the playoff bound Twins. He was awarded the AL Most Valuable Player award for his outstanding performance that year.
Harmon won numerous awards for his record-setting play throughout his career. Besides his MVP award, Killebrew was named an All-Star 13 times, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, and he still holds numerous Minnesota Twins batting records.
Friends and teammates would often describe Harmon with this short saying: “He would do anything for you.” One of the most beloved athletes in Minnesota history, his death in 2011 at the age of 74 was heartbreaking.
So that’s it folks. There are many talent players, and some Hall of Famers on both of my lists. Did I miss someone? Is there someone who should not be on this list? Please comment and let me know.