This picture of the 1979 Twins (featured in the 1980 series) was the first of the post Rod Carew years in Minnesota. After winning the AL MVP and basically being the batting champ or close to it almost every year, Carew demanded out of Minnesota (and a management that was almost as racist as the Red Sox, which is saying something.)
The Twins got Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens and Paul Hartzell. The Angels got Carew and an AL West title. That was also the year Dan Ford was traded to the Angels for Ron Jackson and they traded young Jesse Orosco for veteran Jerry Koosman. It was a strange time for the Twins.
They still played in Metropolitan Stadium, which is now Mall of America. They had a hard time drawing, getting only 1,070,521 people all year. The team got off to a fast start, going 13-7 in April. They went 15-3 in a stretch in May and took advantage of an AL West that did not have a dominating Kansas City squad. On May 13, they had a 4 1/2 game lead in the Division.
Then they went 9-23, fell back to .500 and by June 21, they were BACK 6 1/2 games. That’s quite a swing. The Twins got hot again in mid June. By July 23, they won on a walk off wild pitch from Toronto’s Mark Lemongello, pulling them to within 2 games of first. With the Angels 2 games in front of them and the Rangers 1 behind them, the only thing standing between the Twins and a Division Title were two teams that have never sniffed the playoffs. It was theirs to lose.
And they lost it.
They went 29-38 the rest of the way. Only the recent expansion teams, Seattle and Toronto, had worst records over the final 77 games. Minnesota finished 82-80, 6 games behind the Angels.
John Castino would be the Co-Rookie of the Year and Roy Smalley made the All Star Team.
Manager Gene Mauch would eventually take over the Angels and join Carew in California. As was Mauch’s style, he found creative ways to lose the pennant in both 1982 and 1986 for the Angels.
Should Rod Carew have been a Twin for life? Should management, known for being penny pinching and racist, have changed their ways? They did not win the World Series until the team was sold and they moved into the Metrodome.
The Twins would go on, alternating between barely over .500 and being really terrible in front of small crowds until they won the World Series in 1987.
Carew has made peace with the new Twins ownership. If only that peace was made earlier.