Monday, December 29, 2014


Bubby Brister had a decent little run as the Steelers' starting quarterback in the late '80s and early '90s.  He led the Steelers to a Wild Card upset of the Houston Oilers in 1989, giving the legendary Chuck Noll his final playoff victory.  Eventually Bubby would settle into a long, fruitful career as an NFL backup.  His most notable stop was in Denver, where he would win two Super Bowls while holding John Elway's clipboard.  He finished his 14-year career with the Vikings in 2000 as a veteran presence behind first-year starter Daunte Culpepper.


MarQueis Gray is a supremely talented athlete who has shown great versatility over his young football career.  Recruited as a quarterback, he began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota as a wide receiver before taking the reins from Adam Weber.  Gray pulled in 42 catches for 587 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore, then switched to quarterback full-time as a junior.  He had a nice all-around junior season, with 1,495 passing yards, 966 rushing yards, and 14 total touchdowns (eight passing, six rushing).  Still, he split his senior year between quarterback and wideout.

Undrafted out of college, Gray's caught on with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 and spent the season learning the H-back and tight end positions.  He was brought back to Minnesota prior to this past season and made the Vikings as a backup tight end.  Gray appeared in eight games for the Vikings, catching one pass.  He was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills and finished out the season with them.


David Cobb might symbolize the resurgence of the Gophers football program more than any other player.  He has been overshadowed his entire career.  Even this year, as he broke the school's all-time single-season rushing record, he was overshadowed by three other backs in his own conference when considered for national post-season honors.  No matter.  Cobb has been spectacular for the past two seasons.  In a few days, the team MVP leads the University of Minnesota into its first New Year's Day bowl game in 53 years.  That will be a fitting end to the collegiate career of an all-time great Golden Gopher.


I became a big Allan Anderson fan in the late 1980s, probably because he was such an unlikely star.  Although he was a second-round draft pick in 1982, he never did anything to set the minor leagues on fire.  When he debuted with the Twins in 1986, he was a soft-tossing lefty who looked overwhelmed against big league hitters.  In fact, he was pretty atrocious in both the majors and minors for most of 1986 and 1987.

Following the 1987 World Series (Anderson was not a part of the post-season roster), Anderson was removed from the Twins' 40 man roster.  Every other team in baseball had a shot at him, and they all passed.  After a nice start to the 1988 season at Triple-A Portland, Anderson was added to the Twins' rotation at the end of April.  He pitched surprisingly well for through mid-June -- good enough to keep his spot in the rotation anyway.  Superstar teammate Frank Viola was dominating the AL, on his way to 24 wins and the Cy Young Award.  Anderson quietly mirrored Viola's steady control and usurped future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven as the Twins' #2 starter.

The defending champion Twins were in a tight pennant race with the Oakland A's all summer long.  With pinpoint control, Anderson was one of the biggest reasons why the Twins were able to remain in contention into September.  While his mentor Viola ran away with the Cy Young award, Anderson closed the season with a three-hit shutout against the A's to lock up the AL ERA title.

In 1989, the wheels fell off for the Twins.  Viola got off to a rough start and was eventually traded to the New York Mets.  With Blyleven and Viola both gone, Anderson was suddenly thrust into the ace role.  He responded with a career-high 17 wins, though his ERA jumped over a full run, to 3.80.

He had a remarkable two-year run, but Anderson came crashing back to Earth in 1990, with a 7-18 record and 4.53 ERA.  Things got even worse in 1991.  While the Twins were on their way to another World Series title, Anderson lost his rotation spot during the summer and was, once again, left off the post-season roster.  He would never again appear in the majors.

Monday, December 15, 2014


13 of the 20 members of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" US Olympic hockey team were born in Minnesota.  13 of the 20 went on to play in the NHL.  Bill Baker fit into both groups.  After a legendary career at the University of Minnesota, Baker joined his coach Herb Brooks and several of his teammates on the Olympic squad.  His biggest claim to fame in Lake Placid was scoring the game-tying goal late against Sweden in the opening game.  After turning pro, Baker played for four NHL franchises over a three-year career.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


In reality, only three years passed from the time Roy Smalley was traded until Greg Gagne took hold of the Twins shortstop job.  But for those of us who watched the likes of Lenny Faedo, Ron Washington, Chris Speier, and Alvaro Espinoza get trial runs, it felt like an eternity.  One of the guys who got the biggest auditions was Houston Jimenez, a free agent from Mexico City.

Jimenez, had an all-glove, no-bat skill set, but his glove didn't really play in the big leagues.  In two years with the Twins, he threw up an abysmal .195/.231/.257 slash line at the plate, and ranked as a below-average defender.  So speed must have been his game, right?  Wrong.  0 for 2 in career stolen base attempts.  In fact, Jimenez's most memorable moment as a major league ballplayer was staring at the Metrodome ceiling, waiting for Dave Kingman's pop-up to come down (which it never did).


A 2003 inductee into the US Hockey Hall of Fame, Dick Dougherty teamed with the great John Mayasich, under the guidance of John Mariucci, to create the golden age of Golden Gophers hockey in the 1950s.  Dougherty finished his Gophers career second only to Mayasich in career points (in the 60 years that have passed, he has dropped to tenth on the list).  He was a part of the Gophers' first two WCHA championship teams, was a first-team All-American in 1954, and won a Silver Medal as a member of the 1956 US Olympic team.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Yet another Green Bay Packers great who wrapped up his career in Vikings purple, Paul Coffman was an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State who worked his way to three Pro Bowls and a spot in the Packers Hall of Fame.  Coffman teamed with wide receivers James Lofton and John Jefferson to give quarterback Lynn Dickey an explosive aerial arsenal for the Packers squads of the early 1980s.  He was a Pro Bowl selection from 1982-1984 and is arguably the best tight end in Packers history.  After years of tormenting the Vikings, Coffman joined them for his final season in 1988.  He played in eight games for the Vikings and did not catch a pass.