First and only game at the Met

It was 1977, Jimmy Carter had just become president.   New York City celebrated the opening of the World Trade Center and suffered through a 25-hour black out in the middle of a hot summer.  Two guys named Steve (Jobs and Wozniak) gave us the Apple II computer.  The Vikings were beaten by the Raiders in the Super Bowl and Seattle Slew won the triple crown.  In the movie theaters we were introduced to Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Rocky Balboa.   We also lost the King, Elvis Presley.

But for one 14-year old kid from North Dakota the highlight of the year was a 19-12 Twins win over the White Sox in Metropolitan Stadium.  This was my first and only trip to the Met.  The Twins had a pretty good team, lead by Rod Carew, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock  and 20-game winner Dave Goltz.  The game was played on Sunday, June 26th and the promotion was Carew’s jersey day.

From the farm to the big city

I made the trip with my parents and two of my sisters, ages 15 and 11,  from eastern North Dakota to Bloomington, home of Met Stadium.   My mother was a native of Mahtomedi, Minnesota so I know that we had other things on the agenda for this trip that included visiting family and friends.  However, I was so caught up in seeing a Twins game I have no memory of anything outside of the ballpark and game.

Our hometown is in the Red River valley, near Grand Forks, with a population of about 1,200 people.   I was a farm kid, so at the time I was bit overwhelmed by the “big city” and spent a lot of time with my mouth open looking up.   My sisters would tell you they were more sophisticated and not phased by it all, but I know better.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference I can look at the box score for this game and jog my memory about some specifics of the Twins’ 19-12 win.   But the game was just part of crazy day full of events triggered by a family out of their element in the Twin Cities.

As we walked into the stadium we were handed a crisp, white Twins #29 jersey with Carew on the back.   This became my prize possession as Rodney was my favorite player at the time.   It would be nice to say that I still have the jersey, as it would be a great keepsake.  But when I was a kid, if you had a jersey with the name and number of your favorite player, you wore it.   And wear it I did.   So much so that it did not survive long enough for me to outgrow it.   The two jerseys my sisters received are long gone as well although they did not prize theirs nearly as much as I did mine.

My next vivid memory is of walking into Met Stadium, looking through the opening and out onto the field.   I couldn’t believe the green grass, the white, straight foul lines and what seemed to me a massive stadium.   I couldn’t wait to get to my seat.

The heat takes a toll

At this point circumstances delayed our arrival to our assigned seats.  It was one of those hot, muggy afternoons in Minnesota; the box score listed the game time temperature at 87 degrees.   The game was a sell-out, so the combination of the weather and all the people made the stands a hot and cramped place.

Here is where it gets interesting.   My 11 year old sister, who probably had not eaten much if anything leading up to the game, was overcome by the heat and fainted.   My father had to scoop her up and carry her into the stadium.   Doing the math on my father’s age in June 1977 put him at 51 years old, ironically the same age that I am now.   My dad was a strong man, about 6-feet tall and worked a lot of physical labor during his life as a farmer.   But at this time of his life, to say that he did not take care of himself and was not physically fit would be an understatement.   So picture near 90 degree weather, humidity, a crowded stadium, and a 51 year old man  carrying an 11 year old girl.   Add to that, the pack of cigarettes my father had already polished off earlier in the day.  A certain recipe for disaster.   So it should be no surprise that my father got heat stroke and needed medical attention himself.

My mother, being the even tempered one in group, managed to find some security people, who in turn got my father and younger sister to the first aide room.   The air conditioned room did wonders for my dad and sister.   The medical staff put some fluids into my sister and got her back on her feet.   They got my dad cooled off and I’m certain something was said to him about it not being a good idea to smoke on such a hot muggy day.

I was certainly concerned for the well-being of my sister and father, but at the same time I was a selfish 14-year old, whose main concern was getting inside the ball park and finding my seat.   So I was happy to see the two of them bounce back.   We got to our seats in plenty of time.

Finally, the game

We had great seats, directly behind home plate, about 20 rows up.  Whenever my dad attended a game he wanted to have the best seats.   I  inherited that trait from him.  I did not know this until just a few weeks ago but our seats were actually compliments of one of my dad’s best friends, a man he served in the navy with during World War II.  This man and his wife were also responsible for getting my parents together.  So I am eternally grateful to him for helping to make this memory possible, and for making ME possible.

I learned of this and several other tidbits from this trip thanks to a letter given to me by one of my other sisters.   She was working in New York that summer, this letter was written by my mother on June 29, 1977.  It reviewed all our activities over the course of our three day trip.   As mentioned above, I forgot about everything except for the game.

The White Sox and Twins entered the game tied for first in the AL Central, with the Sox at 38-30 and the Twins 39-31.   Bill Butler made the start for the Twins that day and future Cy Young winner Steve Stone took the hill for the visitors.

There were a few interesting personalities on the field that day.  Besides Carew, there were two other members of the Hall of Fame in uniform.   Bob Lemon, a 207-game winner for the Indians in the 40’s and 50’s, was the Chicago manager.   Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League was the third base coach for the Sox.

The scoring started quickly with the Twins leading 2-1 after one inning.   In the second inning, after Butler held Chicago scoreless the Twins put up six runs to take the lead 8-1.   Carew plated two runs with a single and three batters later Glenn Adams hit a grand slam.   That ended the day for Stone.

In the third inning the White Sox chased Butler from the game, getting four runs when Lamar Johnson and former Twin Eric Soderholm hit home runs.   Two more runs were scored against Butler’s replacement, Tom Johnson, so in the middle of the third the Twins were up 8-7.   I was happy to see Johnson in the game as he was my favorite Twins pitcher that year.

The lead swelled to 12-7 at the end of three as the Twins managed four runs on four singles and a walk.   The White Sox got one in the fourth and two more in the fifth to counter the Twins’ three-run fourth.  After the Twins had their first scoreless inning in the bottom of the fifth their lead was 15-10.

Record days for Carew and Adams

Johnson settled in and retired 11 of the next 12 batters to shut the door on the visitors from Chicago.   But with the game no longer in doubt there was still some drama unfolding on the field.    Adams, a part time outfielder, in right field this day was having a career game.   He doubled in two runs in the first, hit the grand slam in the second, singled home another run in the third giving him seven RBI on the day.   In the bottom of the seventh he came to the plate with the bases loaded, his sacrifice fly scored Carew and set the single game standard for runs batted in by a Twin with eight, a mark he shares today with Randy Bush.

Carew had come into the game hitting 0.396 on the season.   He came up for the final time in the bottom of the eighth.   On the day he had already managed three hits in four at bats –  a double in first, a two-run single in the second, a run-scoring ground out in the third, and a single in the fourth that scored a run.   He also walked and scored in the seventh.   This would be his last plate appearance of the day.    As it turned out, it was the last time I saw him hit in person because it would be the late 80’s before I got to another Twins game.

With the 3-4 effort Carew’s average was right at 0.400 or 0.401 for the season.  A hit would put him over 0.400 and an out would put him under.   Everyone in the stadium wanted to see Rodney end the game over the magical 0.400 plateau.   His average was at 0.444 after the second game of the season on April 10.   But a 0-5 showing in the second half of a double-header that day dropped him to 0.286; it had taken him 69 games to get back to 0.400.   Adding to that, he had already scored four runs in the game, if he managed to cross the plate again the five runs would be a Twins’ record.

Carew did not disappoint.  He not only got his fourth hit, but it was a home run. The two RBIs gave him six for the day and the five runs in a game still holds up today, since tied by Tim Tuefel in 1983, Paul Molitor in 1996 and Luis Rivas in 2002.   It is interesting that all of these players played a lot of second base in their careers.   Carew and Molitor were not playing second when they set the record but they both came into the majors at that position.

Why did I have to get that hot dog?

So where was I when Carew hit this home run?   Well, as much as I love baseball, and the Twins,  you cannot get between a growing 14-year old and his appetite.   I thought I could dash up to the concession stand after the Twins batted in the 7th inning, get myself a hot dog and return before the Twins’ turn at bat in the eighth.   Needless to say I got stuck in line and the top of the eighth turned into the bottom of the eighth.   I soon heard the thunderous ovation while the Twins were batting.   I was curious what it was.   As I got back to my seat my dad was waiting for me with a big grin on his face.   “Did you see the home run?”  He says.    Followed by, “how was the hot dog?”

There were no TV’s in the concourse in those days like there are now so I was clueless.  I could not believe I missed seeing the Carew home run.   I learned my lesson that day, when I’m at a ball game I will most often stay in my seat from first pitch to final out (barring emergencies of course).

The White Sox got two in the ninth off Johnson to make it 19-12.   Besides the big days for Carew and Adams, Butch Wyanager was 3-4 with three runs and an RBI.   Smalley and Mike Cubbage each had a pair of hits.   Johnson had an interesting line as the winning pitcher:  six and two-thirds innings, ten hits, and seven earned runs.

Johnson went on to win 16 games out of the bull pen that season.   Adams finished 1977 with a 0.338 average in platoon duty on 290 plate appearances.   Carew kept his average over 0.400 for the next 12 games, falling below for good after a July 11 game against his future team, the Angels, in Anaheim.   He would finish at 0.388 and win the AL MVP award.

By defeating the Sox the Twins broke the first place tie in the AL West.   They held the lead until July 2, when they lost to the White Sox in Chicago.   After holding at least a share of the division lead since April 30 the Twins managed to get back into first place on August 12, flipping between first and second until August 16.   From that point they finished the season 16-26, giving them a record of 84-77 and a fourth-place finish behind the West champion Royals (102-60), the Rangers and White Sox.

Going back home

After the game it was back to the farm, where the days were hot and the mosquitoes big and hungry.  I got back to the business of driving my big brother crazy by breaking most of the equipment on the farm.  It’s no wonder I went into computers.   The summer ended quickly as it always did.  But the rest of the season I could listen to the game on radio and picture myself sitting behind home plate watching the game.

This ended up being the last real family adventure I was able to take part in with my siblings and parents.   Before the next year ended my mother had passed way, then my sisters and I got busy with high school, then college, plus family and careers of our own.  I cannot remember the next Twins game I saw in person, but it was at the dome, either in 1987 or 1988.  Around the year 2000 I was finally able to find the time to get to ball games on a regular basis.   Since then I have been able to attend several games each year.

I may not ever see another game like that 19-12 contest from back in 1977 but I do know I won’t miss another big home run because of a hot dog.

Game photos from my father

All the photos you see above were taken by father, William J. Shide (1925-1995).   He loved baseball, his big family and his many hobbies, one of which was photography.   However, it was my mother, Helen Shide (1925-1978) that really fostered my interest in baseball and the Twins.  She was a Twin Cities girl, she  told me about this team in her home town that played baseball, she also helped me organize my baseball cards. I believe it was her idea to take the three “little kids” (that was the term of endearment our six siblings bestowed on us) to the big city to see my favorite team.

 

Sources:

Baseball-Reference Play Index

Baseball-Reference 1977 Standings

Minnesota Twins Single Game Records

Met Stadium Photo

The People History

Posted in All Posts, Blog, Twins Discussion.

5 Comments

  1. Loved this recounting, Tom. There is so much similarity to my own story as an 11-year-old farm boy making his first and only trip to the Met. I say “trip” because we had actually gone to the game the day before as well. To add to the Glenn Adams story, he had gotten booed pretty badly during Saturday’s game, a disappointing 7-1 loss on a similarly hot and muggy day. He had misplayed a ball in right field, though no error was charged, so getting eight RBIs the next day was no doubt extra sweet.

    Another memory from the day is that the game was halted at one point because a drunk fan had climbed part way up the left field foul pole.

    It seemed like they were announcing a new team record every inning, and each time I see a copy of a Twins media guide I check to see how many records still stand from that day.

    One of the announced records was the crowd of 46,463. I know for a fact, however, that the crowd was at least two less than that. The t-shirt giveaway was only for kids under a certain age, and the brother-in-law who had taken me to the game wanted one of his own. He bought an extra two tickets for the cheap seats in left. We went in, I got my t-shirt, and we exited. Then, we went to the first-base side, where our other tickets were, and went in again so that we could get a second shirt.

    And like you, I didn’t get back to see the Twins until they were in the Dome. It was the spring of 1985, when I went to visit my then-girlfriend, now wife, near the end of her first year at a small college in the Twin Cities.

    • Lyle – Thank you for sharing that story. How great to hear from someone else that attended the June 26 game after all these years.

      Now that you mention it I do remember the guy climbing the foul pole, thank you for jogging my memory. I enjoyed hearing about how you got an extra shirt.

      Thanks for coming here and posting a comment.
      Tom

  2. Tom, I’m jealous as all h*ll that you’ve produced a far better account of this famous game than I did at my blog. My everlasting, professional dislike for you!! But I’d be less than accountable in not mentioning the fact that I used photos from this post at mine (http://classicminnesotatwins.blogspot.com/2010/08/classic-twins-game-of-week-carew-co-19.html). I did, however, post a link for my readers to take a gander at this, and likely marvel why I even bothered to write about it when yours is out there for enjoying! A choice equal to choosing a Jaguar over a Ford…

    I hope this arrangement is suitable for you! My many thanks!

  3. Again, I salute you for a wonderful account of that game, Tom. I just went back to re-read – a real pleasure! Super memories, and I will get your blog linked for others to see in my “Favorite Sites” section.

    • Hi Michael
      Thank you for the kind words and the link on your blog, which I read and very much enjoyed. I liked the news clips and the follow up information on the various players in the game. I learned quite few things and enjoyed the read. I am flattered that you used my photos in your post. Any photos on my site are there for anyone that wants them. The photos from this post are extra special to me because they were taken by my dad.

      I just realized that next year is the 40th anniversary of this game.

      Thanks again, I’m going be working on my blog in the coming weeks and will be including a link to your site.

      Enjoy the rest of the season, as best you can they way this season is going.

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