The day is finally here, the one that Minnesota Twins fans have been waiting since April 5, 2004 for. That's when Joe Mauer took his first at-bat, and began a career that was expected to finish right where it might on Tuesday night.
Mauer was more than just a generational top prospect for the Twins, he carried the weight of being a Minnesota legend. Born and raised in St. Paul, Mauer was the sort of hometown hero of that baseball lore was born around, and he lived up to the billing in every way.
When he was at the peak of his powers between 2006 to 2011, Mauer won three batting titles, three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, was named to three straight All-Star teams and won an AL MVP. Beyond that he was a .306 career hitter, with a 55.2 career WAR that ranks seventh among catchers all-time.
As if manufactured for a Ken Burns-ian romanticism, he did all of this while spending his entire 15-year career playing for the team he grew up rooting for.
Maybe it was the era or maybe it was the position, but there was always a debate about whether Mauer was a true Hall of Fame catcher. He didn't have the postseason accolades that others had, but collected just about every individual stat he needed to be in the conversation.
Take, for example, the fact that Mauer could have made an out in every one of his next 1,050 at bats, he would still finish with a higher career OBP than elite Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk.
Is Joe Mauer a Hall of Famer?
Note: We will officially update this when the announcement is made on Tuesday.
It turns out the question was less if Mauer would make it to Cooperstown and more whether he'd do it on the first ballot. Only Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew were first ballot Hall of Famers with Twins caps on their busts -- and what an absolutely legendary trio it would be to have Mauer join them.
Joe was already a Hall of Famer in the eyes of fans, and also in the eyes of organization. His number was retired back in 2019 and he was enshrined into the Twins Hall of Fame in 2023.
What's the deal with the infamous Joe Mauer high school strikeout?
Every Minnesotan has their Big Fish legend, some mock-heroic story that gets exaggerated with time until it becomes strangely mythological. Baseball has this too, as it's a sport steeped in its own romanticism.
Look no further than one of the first popular instances of this, the famous 'Casey At Bat' poem that DeWolf Hopper made a name for himself performing. Mauer has his own version of this, and it happened back in his high school playing days.
As the story goes, Paul Feiner stood on the mound during the 2000 Minnesota State High School Tournament and recorded the only strikeout of Mauer's high school career. The moment followed the future Hall of Famer throughout his entire career, as he jokingly brought it up from time-to-time culminating in Feiner delivering three ceremonial balls to Mauer during his Twins Hall of Fame induction in 2023.
When did Joe Mauer retire?
It seems like just yesterday that Mauer was making his Major League debut in 2004, but it's already been five years since he walked away from the game. Mauer retired from baseball back in 2018, but he's been on a victory tour celebrating his career ever since.
The Twins retired Mauer's jersey less than a year after he hung up his mitt, hanging his iconic No. 7 in on the wall out in left field where it sits next to other greats like Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Tom Kelly.
He was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame last August, which was an omen of things to come.