The 1980’s were a strange time for the New York Yankees. They did not win a World Series in a decade for the first time and they had a hard time developing a new young core.
Sure Don Mattingly and Dave Righetti came of age in that decade. But young pitching stars like Jose Rijo and Doug Drabek were shipped off as were young bats like Fred McGriff and Willie McGee for veterans who did not help their cause.
George Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness was always in the way.
With Bucky Dent, hero of 1978 fading, the Yankees also had a revolving door of shortstops. As always, the team coveted proven veterans in place of young up and comers.
Greg Gagne was a young prospect in the Yankees farm system from Massachusetts. At the start of the 1982 season, he joined the parade of talented future big leaguers who would be dealt away. He was sent to the Twins for Roy Smalley, an established big leaguer.
By 1985 he was the starting shortstop of the Twins at age 23 while the Yankees were still struggling to fill the void in the infield.
Steady but hardly spectacular, Gagne provided some pop at short in an era where they were expected to field and not hit much. He would smack double digit homers and get his share of doubles and triples as the Twins formed a slugging team that resembled a beer league.
He hit a pair of inside the park homers on October 4, 1986, being just the second person since 1930 to achieve that feat.
In 1987, the Twins shockingly made the post season. Gagne homered twice in the ALCS win over the Tigers, posting a 1.187 OPS. He also homered in the World Series against St. Louis and the Twins won the franchise’s first World Series title since they were the Washington Senators in 1924.
Former Yankees Joe Niekro and George Frazier were also on that team. Also on that team? Roy Smalley, who was reacquired by Minnesota. Being a Twin was an easier path to a World Series than being a Yankee.
That was the case in 1991 when the 29 year old Gagne was once again starting in the World Series. (The Yankees had not appeared in a Series at that point since dealing away Gagne. )
He hit a key homer in Game 1 of the World Series, helping give the Twins the win over Atlanta. The two would play one of the great World Series in baseball history with the Twins coming out on top.
He bounced between the Royals and Dodgers between 1993 and 1997, making the post season again with Los Angeles in 1996.
That was the year the Yankees finally DID win a World Series title. They did so with a lot of homegrown players including a young shortstop named Jeter.
Maybe they would have made it back to the World Series sooner if they held onto a few of their homegrown players.
I’m just saying.