Saturday, July 26, 2014

TIM YOUNG

His legacy seems underrated now -- he is rarely mentioned in the same regard as Bobby Smith, Neal Broten, Dino Ciccarelli, Brian Bellows, and Mike Modano -- but Timmy Young was one of the greatest scorers in North Stars history.

As a young player on some dreadful Stars teams, he led them in scoring in each of his first two seasons.  In his sophomore year of 1976-77, Young was an NHL All Star selection.  That same year, he scored 95 points, shattering Dennis Hextall's previous team record of 82 in a season.  (That record would stand until 1981-82, when Smith, Ciccarelli, and Broten each passed him.)

One record Young will hold for all time is the North Stars mark for goals in a single game.  On January 15, 1979 at Madison Square Garden, Young lit the lamp five times in a 8-1 North Stars victory over the Rangers.  He was the only North Star to ever have a five-goal game.

On the North Stars all-time lists, Young ranks eighth in goals (178) and fifth in assists (316).  His 494 total points as a North Star is sixth all-time, trailing only Broten, Bellows, Ciccarelli, Smith, and Bill Goldsworthy.

STU VOIGT

Viking-for-life Stu Voigt appeared in three Super Bowls during his 11-year playing career.  Upon retirement, Voigt jumped into the broadcast booth and served as the Vikings' radio analyst for the next decade.  Voigt was a solid blocker and an excellent security valve for Fran Tarkenton.  His best statistical seasons occurred during the Vikings' best stretch -- when they advanced to three Super Bowls in four seasons from 1973-1976.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GARRY BAUMAN

The North Stars selected goaltender Garry Bauman from the Montreal Canadiens in the 1967 Expansion Draft.  Bauman was Cesare Maniago's primary backup on the first two North Stars squads, but was out of a job when Gump Worsley arrived in 1969-70.  Mr. Bauman passed away in 2006.

RUSS NIXON

Russ Nixon had a nice 12 year career as a backup catcher, including two seasons with the Twins in 1966 and 1967.  He followed his playing career by spending another four decades in the game as a coach, manager, and scout.  That included two stops as a big league manager: for the Reds in the early 1980s, and for the Braves at the end of the decade.

Monday, July 21, 2014

BRAD MAXWELL

Here's Maxy!  The former All-Star owned one of the most powerful slap shots in North Stars history.  He has worked tirelessly for the past several years as the President of the Minnesota NHL Alumni Association.  He's one of the best people I've met, in sports or otherwise, and I'm proud to call Brad Maxwell my friend.

DAVE JENSEN

Like me, Dave Jensen is a Robbinsdale Armstrong High School graduate.  He starred for the Falcons under legendary coach Bruce Johnson when I was in diapers, then spent four years with the Gophers.  The blue-liner played in 18 games over three seasons with the North Stars.

TOM YOUNGHANS

Youngy is Minnesota hockey personified.  Saint Paul born and raised, a national champion under Herb Brooks at the University of Minnesota, a longtime North Star, and a high school coach.  Younghans debuted on some awful mid-'70s North Stars teams and was still here when the Stars became Stanley Cup Finalists in 1981.  These days he coaches, plays in local senior leagues, and is the head barkeep of the Black Top Bar.

J.P. PARISE

An entire generation of Minnesota hockey fans now know of Jean-Paul Parise as "Zach's dad."  But he was, of course, one of the great players in Minnesota North Stars history.  Although he was never the high-scoring superstar his son would become, J.P. had the same fire in his belly that has made Zach one of the hardest working players in today's NHL.  He was a three-time 20-goal scorer and two-time All-Star during his first run with the North Stars (1967-1975).  After a half-season with the Cleveland Barons in 1977-78, J.P. returned to Minnesota after the Barons-North Stars merger.  He would serve as Captain in his final season in 1978-79.  After retiring, Parise served as a North Stars assistant coach for eight years.

BOB PARADISE

Big and tough Bob Paradise had a legendary high school hockey career for Cretin in the early '60s.  He had a decorated college career for Saint Mary's and was a U.S. Olympian in 1968.  After four more years in the minor leagues, he finally made his NHL debut at the age of 27 for his home state North Stars in 1972.  He only suited up for six games with the North Stars and was traded to the Atlanta Flames following the season.  For the next seven years, Paradise established himself as a physical stay-at-home defender for the Flames, Penguins, and Capitals.  In 1989, he was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

LARRY HISLE

I have always been fascinated by the 1977 Minnesota Twins.  It was the year I was born and it was, of course, the year Rod Carew famously flirted with a .400 batting average (eventually finishing at .388 en route to the AL Most Valuable Player award).

It wasn't just Carew who had a career year for the '77 Twins, though.  Minnesota native Dave Goltz was a 20-game winner.  The late Lyman Bostock finished second in the AL (to Carew) with a .336 average, while adding 14 homers, 90 RBI, 104 runs, and a .897 OPS -- all personal bests in his tragically short career.  Tom Johnson had an incredible year of of the bullpen with 17 saves and 16 relief wins.

In the shadow (and, in part, because) of Carew, Larry Hisle had the finest season of his career as well.  He hit .302 with 28 home runs, 21 stolen bases, and a league-leading 119 runs batted in.  Unfortunately for the Twins, that was also the final season of Hisle's contract.  Notorious penny-pincher Calvin Griffith would predictably not pony up to sign him, and Hisle left for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

GENE LARKIN

Gene Larkin spent his entire seven-year big league career with the Twins and was one of seven players to be a part of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series teams.  He will forever be remembered for driving a fly ball over a drawn-in outfield to score Dan Gladden with the championship-winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning of game seven of the 1991 World Series.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ALAN PAGE

For my money, Alan Page is the greatest player in Minnesota Vikings history.  His list of on-field accolades includes nine Pro Bowl selections, six first-team All-Pro selections, the 1971 NFL MVP Award (the first defensive player to ever win that award and, to this day, one of only two defenders to receive it), and induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Off the gridiron, Page has been just as successful.  He has served as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court for over 20 years and has headed the Page Education Foundation for over 25 years.

Friday, July 11, 2014

ELGIN BAYLOR

Oh, what could have been?  A lot of folks around my age, a generation or more removed from the existence of the Minneapolis Lakers, know of them as the NBA's first dynasty.  I get the feeling that we do not all realize they had fallen on seriously hard times during the post-George Mikan era, and were in danger of folding altogether after finishing at the rock bottom of the NBA standings in 1957-58.  The Lakers selected Elgin Baylor first overall in the 1958 NBA Draft and found themselves in the Finals at the end of his 1958-59 rookie season.

While Baylor may have saved the Lakers from folding, he could not save them from moving to Los Angeles.  After his second season in Minneapolis, the team headed west.  In L.A., Baylor would team with fellow Hall of Famers Jerry West and (later on) Wilt Chamberlain to lead the Lakers to seven NBA Finals appearances, though they would lose each time to the Boston Celtics.  The Lakers would finally break through in 1972.  Baylor retired earlier during that season and did not appear in the Finals, but he was awarded his first NBA Championship ring anyway.

TODD RICHARDS

Todd Richards was a star defenseman at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minnesota (also my alma mater!) and an eventual captain of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team.  He went on to a 13-year professional playing career that included six games in the NHL for the Hartford Whalers.

He is now best known nationally as the head coach who has helped turn the fortunes of the perennial doormat Columbus Blue Jackets.  This past season he guided the Blue Jackets to their first-ever playoff win while taking the heavy-favorite Pittsburgh Penguins to six games in their first-round series.  Of course, prior to landing in Columbus, Richards spent two years at the helm of his home-state Wild.  Despite talent-starved and injury-plagued rosters, Richards finished over .500 in both of his seasons with the Wild, but was still ousted after just two years on the job.  Perhaps I'm biased because he's a fellow Armstrong Falcon, but I still feel he got a raw deal in Minnesota.  It's cool to see him having so much success in Columbus.

TERRY CROWLEY

Terry Crowley had a fifteen-year big league career, primarily as a pinch-hitting specialist and reserve outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles.  He came to the Twins in 1991 as the hitting coach, and had immediate success.  During that championship season, Crowley was instrumental in the development of rookies Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Leius, and in reviving the careers of veteran free agent signings Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo.  Crowley spent eight years as the Twins' hitting coach before returning to Baltimore to take the same role with the Orioles. 

RAY SMITH

Ray Smith hit .219 in 83 games for the Twins over three seasons in the early eighties.  Here's the part where I tell you he's one of the all-time great unsung heroes of the Minnesota Twins organization.

Smith is presently in his 21st season as the manager of the Elizabethton Twins (the Twins' rookie-ball minor league affiliate in the Appalachian League).  Over two stints (1987-1994 and 2002 until now), he has led the E-Twins to 13 post-season appearances and seven Appalachian League championships.  Smith's teams have not had a losing record since 1988.  Among the players who have played for Smith: Marty Cordova, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Corey Koskie, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Matt Garza, Brian Dozier, and many more, including most of the Twins' current crew of top prospects (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, etc.)

STEVE DILS

The Vikings drafted Steve Dils in 1979, following a decorated college career at Stanford.  As a senior, Dils won the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation's top passer (two years after future teammate Tommy Kramer won the same trophy).  Dils played sporadically as a back-up during his first four NFL seasons, but after an injury knocked Kramer out for most of 1983, he started 12 games for the Vikings.  The team went 5-7 under Dils, who established career highs across the board, including 2,840 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.