Friday, October 31, 2014
The 1984 team was the first competitive Twins team of my lifetime. They finished 81-81, missing the playoffs by just a handful of games. 1984 featured the debut of a speedy centerfielder named Kirby Puckett and an MVP-deserving season from Kent Hrbek. But the biggest reason for the Twins sudden transformation to contenders was the emergence of a decent starting rotation. Viola blossomed into an ace that year, but the next two spots in the rotation were solidified by a couple of guys who were acquired in the offseason. In December of 1983, power-hitting outfielder Gary Ward was traded to the Texas Rangers for pitchers Mike Smithson and John Butcher.
Neither had much of a track record in Texas. Butcher spent the majority of his four years with the Rangers as a swingman. Meanwhile 6'8" former Tennessee Volunteers basketball star Mike Smithson (the tallest player in the league for most of his career) was coming off a 10-14 mark in his first full season. Both accumulated well over 200 innings, double-digit win totals, and sub-4.00 ERAs for the Twins in '84.
As for Smithson, he was never a great pitcher, but he was extremely dependable. From 1984-1986, he was good for about 36 starts, 250 innings and 15 wins each year. His ERA would rise and his strikeout totals would drop each season, but he was there every fifth day. Unfortunately for Big Mike, everything gave out during the Twins historic 1987 season. His ERA ballooned to 5.94 and his record fell to 4-7. He spent part of the season in the minors (for the first time since 1982), and was ultimately left off the post-season roster during the Twins' run to the World Series.
If not for the injury, there is no doubt in my mind that Keith Millard would be right next to his longtime teammate Doleman in Canton. Four weeks into the 1990 season, though, his knee was obliterated in a game that the Vikings eventually lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Millard never again played for the Vikings. He fought hard to return, but it took him two years to get back into the NFL. In 1992 he got into two games for the Packers, got released, and got into two more games with the Seahawks. In 1993, he managed to stay in the league all year for the Eagles, but was a shell of his former self. That was curtains for the career of a man who was on his way to being mentioned in the same breath as Alan Page and John Randle among Vikings defensive tackles.
On a personal note, I was thrilled to get this card back from Mr. Eufemia. I'm also grateful that he added a signed 1986 Topps rookie card (which I did not send to him). I was a bit disappointed, though, that he kept the 1983 Visalia Oaks and 1986 Toledo Mud Hens minor league cards I sent, as they were for two projects I am working on (the 1983 Fritsch Visalia team set and the 1986 ProCards Project). If anyone has signed or unsigned copies of these cards out there, please let me know!
Monday, October 27, 2014
Also of note: check out that signature! Gilles Gilbert is the Harmon Killebrew of hockey autographs.
After a long minor league playing career, Boudreau embarked on a far more successful coaching career. He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best coach after his first season behind the Washington Capitals bench in 2007-08. Since then, he has won six division titles in seven seasons as an NHL head coach (four with Washington and two with Anaheim).
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Always one of the more insightful voices in the Vikings locker room, Irwin earned his law degree near the end of his football career. He opened his own practice after retiring from football, and is presently a juvenile court judge in Knoxville, Tennesee.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Following tenures in Washington and Kansas City, Gannon blossomed under Jon Gruden in Oakland. He went to four consecutive Pro Bowls for the Raiders from 1999-2002. He was a first-team NFL All-Pro selection in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, he led the league with 4,689 passing yards, was named the AP NFL MVP, and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl.