Monday, October 09, 2006

Well, That Was Disappointing

This morning a co-worker asked me if I’d heard the rumors about Joe Torre possibly being fired as the Yankees’ manager. I hadn’t.

Really, it’s not as bad as it was in 2004. That year, when the Twins were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, I spent the entire rest of the weekend on the couch in my pajamas watching Sex and the City reruns with my good friends Ben & Jerry. It was much the same heartbreak as having been dumped by a boyfriend.

But this past weekend, even though my darling beloveds were swept by the As in game three on Friday, I managed to remain mostly functional. I cleaned my house, I played with my sister’s new puppy, I spent time with my niece.

Maybe it would be different if it seemed like my team had actually shown up for those three games against Oakland, but I don't know who those guys were out there. Johan Santana doesn't lose at the Dome. Joe Nathan does not throw wild pitches. Joe Mauer is NOT a .182 hitter. And Torii Hunter MAKES THAT PLAY. None of it made any sense. So I'm choosing to think of the whole thing the same way I think of The Godfather, Part III--so bad that it doesn't even really count.

Still, I know I haven’t grown completely cynical because I have not been able to look at anything remotely baseball related in days. Which means that I didn’t learn until after it was over that the Tigers had knocked the Yankees out as well.

So, you know. There’s that.


Friday, October 06, 2006


In October of 2002, after the Twins beat the A’s in game five of the ALDS, WCCO radio announced that the team would be arriving at the Minneapolis airport from Oakland later that night. Maybe I was still a little woozy from all of Eddie Guardado’s ninth-inning drama (frankly, I still haven’t totally recovered), but all of a sudden I got it into my head that I wanted to be there to welcome the team when they arrived.

I’d never done anything like that before, so I didn’t realize until I arrived at the airport, about an hour before the plane was due, that they’d be flying into a small charter terminal separate from the main airport. I had assumed I’d be waiting inside the main terminal, but when I got there, the group of fans that had already gathered had to wait outside a chain link fence that bordered the charter terminal’s parking lot. At 11:30 p.m., the temperature outside was about 40 degrees and dropping, and I was not dressed for standing outside.

The plane was delayed, and as we waited, the crowd grew steadily larger. I chatted with two 13-year old girls standing near me, twin sisters who were big fans of A.J. Pierzynski. As we waited, one of them wrote, “I (Heart) A.J.” on a piece of notebook paper to use as a sign. I had brought along my Homer Hanky and a Sharpie pen in the hopes of maybe getting an autograph or two (again, not something I had ever done before), and I loaned the girl my pen so she could make the lettering on her sign stand out better. The girls were also under dressed, but they, like me, had no intention of leaving.

Finally, a little after 1:00 a.m., Ron Gardenhire emerged from the building. He walked across the parking lot and thanked us all (there were about 300 of us by that time) for coming out. Because I had arrived early, I had a prime spot, right up against the fence, so when Torii Hunter appeared, and then Doug Mientkiewicz (in a remarkably ugly sweater), and one by one the rest of the team, I saw it all. The players moved up and down the fence signing autographs and greeting fans, and the girls next to me started screaming when they saw A.J. cross the parking lot. A little after that, Brad Radke was standing on the other side of the chain link from me.

Radke had been the starting pitcher in Oakland that day, and had given up only one run and six hits, with four strikeouts and not a single walk. It had been a huge game for him, sending the team to the next round of postseason play, but you’d never have known it by his demeanor that night. He signed my Homer Hanky, and then looked at the two girls next to me. In unison, the two of them cried, "We're TWINS!" Radke laughed and said, "Oh yeah?" Then he asked us, “Aren’t you guys cold?” He was the only player we talked to that night who seemed genuinely concerned about our well-being.

Which is why, a few days later, when I bought my very first authentic Twins jersey to wear to the playoffs, I chose #22. A Radke jersey.

This past season was Brad Radke’s 12th with the Twins. They were the only Major League team he’s ever played for, even though other teams offered him lots more money. Since early 2006, Radke has said that he will probably retire after this year. Today he’ll take the mound in Oakland again, to face the A’s in another do-or-die playoff game. But this time, it might very well be his last. And he’ll be pitching with the same stress fracture in his shoulder that had him on the disabled list for most of August.

After a Twins season that has had far more than its share of astonishing turnarounds and improbable comebacks, and after he has pitched solidly through the pain in so many games already, it really doesn’t seem fair to lay this one on Radke’s injured shoulders. But there it is.

Whatever happens today, these last few months have been nothing short of amazing. Thank you Bradke. And GO TWINS!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Holy Shit!

First, before the game, the Twins awarded Brad Radke a new jet ski, and the Metrodome full of fans gave #22 a standing ovation in honor of his 12 seasons with the team, and in gratitude for all those games he pitched really well in even though his arm was about to fall off.

Then, while the 45,000+ crowd watched the Twins on the field, we also watched events unfolding in Detroit on the scoreboard. The Royals tied, and everybody went crazy. Detroit pulled ahead, the Royals tied again, the game went to extra innings and the Twins fans cheered every time there was a Royal on base or Detroit got an out, chanting "Let's Go Royals! Let's Go Royals!"

Somewhere in there the Yankees game ended, and the scoreboard announced that Joe Mauer had won the AL batting title. The crowd went crazy again as Joe poked his head out of the dugout and tipped his cap to the stands.

The Twins beat the Sox 5-1, but most of the fans stayed in their seats as the Detroit/Royals game, now in its 12th inning, appeared on the jumbotron.

We watched from the seats, the Twins players watched from the dugout, and a half-hour after the last out of the Twins' last regular season game, the Royals beat Detroit 10-8. My darling beloveds were the AL Central champions, and the whole team streamed back onto the field to celebrate in front of me, My Ho, and the rest of the hometown crowd.

We were at the Metrodome last spring for the first pitch of the Twins' home opener, we were there for the last out of this crazy season, and we were right there, yelling our heads off, when the Twins won the division.

What a team.

What freakin' season.

I love you guys.