Tuesday, June 24, 2014


It's nice to be surprised.  I knew the name Art Powell quite well.  I was already aware that he was one of the great players in AFL history.  He was a game-breaking receiver with the New York Titans and Oakland Raiders in the pre-merger upstart AFL.  He was a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl selection.  He led the league two times each in receiving yards and touchdowns.  He should probably be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I somehow did not know that Art Powell played his final professional game as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.  In 1968, he appeared in one game for the Vikings, catching one pass for 31 yards.


Mike Adams may have had one of the best batting eyes of his day, but he never received an extended opportunity in Major League Baseball.  He had brief big league stints with three teams over five different seasons.  His most extensive action came with the Twins in 1973, when he appeared in 55 games.

Looking at his numbers, his high walk rate really jumped off the page.  In that 1973 season, he picked up 17 walks in just 84 plate appearances, turning an underwhelming .212 batting average into an exceptional .381 on-base percentage.  For his big league career, his OBP sits .180 points higher than his batting average (.375 to .195).  Looking deeper at Adams' career minor league statistics, he posted a career .413 OBP and .891 OPS.

With a .195 batting average in 152 career plate appearances, Mike Adams is about as anonymous as any 1970s big league ballplayer.  I have to wonder, though, if he's a guy who simply slipped through the cracks.


Glenn Adams arrived in Minnesota in 1977 and started hitting immediately.  Playing primarily against right-handed pitching, he crushed the ball to a .338/.376/.468 slash line, including a Twins record eight RBI in one game against the White Sox on June 26 (a record that was tied by Randy Bush in 1989, but still has not been bested).  The professional hitter spent five of his eight big league seasons in a Twins uniform, finishing with a .281 career average in Minnesota.  After retiring, he spent over 20 seasons as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Prior to NHL expansion, Murray Hall had spent most of the 1960s in the minor leagues, with occasional stints on the Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings.  He received another shot at the NHL with the North Stars in 1967 and appeared in 17 games.  He finally received his first extensive NHL action with the Vancouver Canucks in 1970-71, and has his biggest pro success with the Houston Aeros of the WHA from 1972 to 1976.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


The Twins acquired a lot of veterans to round out their roster heading into the 1987 season.  Guys like Jeff Reardon, Dan Gladden, Juan Berenguer, and Al Newman were instrumental in capturing the club's first World Series title.  Randy Niemann did not have quite that kind of impact.

Niemann was drafted by the Twins in 1975, but didn't sign.  Twelve years later, the journeyman left-handed relief pitcher was coming off his best season (2-3, 3.79 ERA, a career high 31 appearances) for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.  Niemann didn't make the Twins out of spring training, but was recalled from Portland in early June.  He spent a couple of weeks in Minnesota, winning one game.  Since retiring, Niemann has put together a long coaching career, including time on the Major League staffs of the Mets and Boston Red Sox.


Like so many members of the 1967 North Stars expansion squad, Ted McCaskill was a longtime minor league player who was finally getting a shot at the NHL.  He appeared in four games for the North Stars that season, picking up two assists.  The following year, he went west and enjoyed several productive seasons in the WHL and WHA.


Prior to coming to the Twins in 2004, I had two significant memories of Joe Roa.

1) I remember watching a Cubs-Giants game when Roa was with San Francisco.  When he entered the game, the great Harry Caray (as he was prone to do) loudly and proudly discovered, "His last name backwards is A-OAR!"  I had watched hundreds of Cubs games on WGN from the mid-1980s until Harry's passing, and heard him do that with countless players.  I can't recall if Roa was the last player whom I heard Harry pronounce backwards, but for some odd reason he always stuck with me.

2) While with the Phillies in 2003, Roa started the final home opener in Veterans Stadium history.  Don't ask why I know that.  It's just one of those facts that occupies space in my brain that could be used to program computers or trade stocks.

Anyway, Joe Roa signed with the Twins before the 2004 season and made the team as the long-man in the bullpen.  He had arguably his finest big league season that year, appearing in a career high 48 games and going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA and a career high 47 strikeouts.  Despite spending the entire regular season with the Twins, Roa was left off the post-season roster.  As rumor has it, he left the team, refusing to accompany them to New York for the Divisional Series against the Yankees.  And that was that for Roa's big league career.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


"Sweet Lou from the Soo" is as synonymous with Minnesota hockey as anybody.  For over 50 years now, since arriving in Minnesota from his native Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Lou has done just about everything imaginable for hockey in Minnesota and the United States.  He was a star defenseman and team captain for the Gophers in the early 1960s.  After becoming a U.S. citizen, he captained the 1968 U.S. Olympic team.  Once those games were over, he signed with the North Stars (at the tail end of their inaugural 1967-68 season) and stuck with them for the next ten years.  During the 1977-78 season, while he was still playing, he was offered the dual roles of head coach and general manager of the North Stars.  He gave up coaching duties at the end of the season, but stayed in the GM's chair through 1988, when he was named team president.  He has been a part of the broadcasting crew for the Minnesota State High School Tournament for many years, serves as the fundraising chair for the University of Minnesota's athletic department, and makes weekly appearances on the state's two largest sports-talk radio stations.

He has done it all and been a tireless salesman for the sport and the state the entire time, but Lou Nanne is best remembered for his time with the North Stars.  He was a part of the organization for 24 of its 26 seasons in Minnesota.  Though he had a long career and a defenseman and wing, his legacy is as the GM.  When he took over, the North Stars were the doormats of the NHL.  In his first draft at the helm, he added Bobby Smith, Steve Payne, Steve Christoff, and Curt Giles to the roster.  In his second, he picked up Craig Hartsburg, Tom McCarthy, and Neal Broten.  In September of 1979, Nanne signed an undrafted free agent named Dino Ciccarelli.  In the second round of the 1980 draft, he drafted a goaltender named Don Beaupre.  By the end of that 1980-81 season, the North Stars were in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Nanne's track record as GM dropped off drastically from that point.  He deftly maneuvered to acquire Brian Bellows in the 1982 draft, but no other draft choices made a major impact until Mike Modano in 1988.  Fans are still upset over his trading away of Bobby Smith and his choice of Brian Lawton with the #1 overall pick in the 1983 draft (passing over the likes of future Hall of Famers Steve Yzerman and Pat LaFontaine, and two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Tom Barrasso).  It's hard to argue with the talent he acquired during his first five years on the job, though.  Most of the great players in North Stars history were acquired by Lou Nanne.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


The Candy Man was a star starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the '70s and early '80s.  By the time he signed a one-year free agent contract with the Twins in 1990, he was a 36 year old reliever.  He had a fine year for a bad Twins team, going 7-4 with four saves and a 3.39 ERA before getting flipped to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline for Pedro Munoz and Nelson Liriano.  Munoz, an underrated offensive player who had four straight seasons of double-digit home runs for the Twins from 1992-1995, was a particularly nice return on the Candelaria rental.


Sandy Fitzpatrick was a prolific scorer in juniors, but had a hard time cracking the New York Rangers lineup during the end of the "Original Six" era.  The North Stars selected him from the Rangers system in the 1967 expansion draft and he was called up to play in 18 games during the inaugural season at Met Center.  Sandy eventually found his was to the San Diego Gulls of the WHL and he has remained a fixture of the southern California hockey scene ever since.

For much more on Sandy and his time with the North Stars, please read the interview I conducted with him in early 2013.


At 6'7", Reggie Slater was an undersized NBA power forward.  He was a grinder, though, and he managed to carve out an eight-year NBA career, which included two stints with the Timberwolves.  His finest season with the Wolves came in 2000-01, when he got into 55 games, starting 16 of them.  After splitting the following season between the Nets and Hawks, Slater returned to Minnesota for 26 more games in 2002-03.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Ted Hampson first arrived in Minnesota in 1971 when the North Stars acquired him from the California Golden Seals.  He was already a veteran of ten NHL seasons, and was a Masterton Trophy winner, All-Star, and captain for the Seals.  He spent a season and a half with the North Stars as an outstanding defensive center.  For the 1972-73 season, he moved across town to the upstart WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints.  His leadership and consistency was on display throughout the Saints' original run -- he scored 17 goals in each of his first three seasons and won the Paul Deneau Trophy (the WHA equivalent of the Lady Byng).  Mr. Hampson, now 77, remains a Twin Cities resident.


Far and away the Wild's gem of the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft, Filip Kuba enjoyed five very good years in Minnesota.  He was the team's top offensive threat from the blue line for the first half of its history and in 2004 was the first Wild defenseman to be selected for the NHL All-Star Game.  Kuba left for Tampa Bay in 2006, but remains the highest scoring defenseman in Wild history.


Tom Windle was a three-year star for his home state Golden Gophers, highlighted by a phenomenal junior season in 2013.  He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, leading the conference in strikeouts while going 6-4 with a 2.14 ERA.  He also became the first Gopher to toss a complete game no-hitter in over 80 years.  In June, he was chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the MLB draft -- the highest a Gopher pitcher had been selected since the Twins took Glen Perkins in the first round back in 2004.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


If you're reading this blog and following this collection, you already know Bud Grant is the stoic Hall of Fame coach who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances.  He is a giant of Minnesota sports on that alone.  In case that's not enough, though, Grant was a three-sport star for the University of Minnesota in the late 1940s, lettering in baseball, basketball, and football.  After college, he played two seasons of pro basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers, and was a part of their 1950 NBA Championship team.  He left the Lakers for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.  He played two years there, at two different positions: in 1951, as a defensive end, he led the league in sacks.  In 1952, he switched to offense and finished second in the NFL in receiving yards.  Bud Grant is still the only man to play in both the NBA and NFL.  But most importantly, he is the greatest coach in Vikings history.


Lenny Green was the original center fielder of the Minnesota Twins.  He led the team in plate appearances in both 1961 and 1962 and was rock solid in each of them.  He was an excellent fielder with good speed and decent pop.  Those first two seasons in Minnesota were by far the finest of his twelve year big league career.  He slumped in 1963, eventually losing his job to rookie sensation Jimmie Hall.  With the emergence of another great rookie outfielder in 1964 (this time some kid named Oliva), there was no room left on the roster for Green.  He was dealt to the Angels in early June.


Mike Mularkey signed as a rookie free agent in 1983 and spent six years in purple as a backup tight end.  He was an excellent blocker, but only caught 42 passes over his six seasons with the Vikings.  He moved to Pittsburgh as a free agent in 1989 and immediately found increased playing time, catching 60 balls over three years there.  Following his playing career, he ascended through the Steelers coaching ranks, ultimately becoming their offensive coordinator.  He parlayed that success into a head coaching gig with the Buffalo Bills.  After two years, he was made a scapegoat for the talent-starved Bills roster, but rebounded as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.  Thanks to an explosive offense led by Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, Mularkey re-established his reputation as one of the more innovative offensive minds in the NFL.  That earned him a second head-coaching gig, this time with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He would last only one season there before a new regime cleaned house.  He has landed on his feet again this year, his first as the tight ends coach for the Tennessee Titans.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I'm very excited to add another Minnesota hockey pioneer to this collection!  Dick Meredith was a star for the Gophers in the early 1950s.  Americans were scarce in the NHL during his era, so he continued his career in the minor leagues and on the US National Team.  He represented the USA in both the 1956 and 1960 Winter Olympics, and was a part of the "Original Miracle" - the 1960 Gold Medal Winners in Squaw Valley.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Ken "Bulldog" Sanders spent most of his first ten pro seasons bouncing around the Athletics organization, interrupted only by a brief Rule V stint with the Red Sox in 1966.  He finally became a full-time major leaguer during the Brewers' first season in Milwaukee in 1970, and for three years he was one of the best relief pitchers in the American League.  After going 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 13 saves in 1970, he exploded for a league leading 31 saves in a league leading 83 appearances in 1971, and still kept his ERA below 2.00.  He was traded twice immediately following the 1972 season -- first from the Brewers to the Phillies, and one month later from the Phillies to the Twins in the Cesar Tovar deal.

Bulldog began 1973 as the Twins' top fireman, but was released in June after posting a rough 6.09 ERA and 1.67 WHIP.  After being claimed by Cleveland, he immediately found his game, picking up five wins and five saves to go with a sparkling 1.65 ERA for them over the rest of the season.