Friday, January 30, 2015


"Sweet Music" is my all-time favorite Twins pitcher.  He was (along with Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, and Tim Laudner) one of six members of the Twins' famed "Class of '82" -- a crew that  took a 100-loss beating as rookies, only to to win the World Series five years later.

Viola had a breakthrough season in 1984, after learning his signature pitch, the circle change-up, from Twins pitching coach and Brooklyn Dodgers legend Johnny Podres.  He went 18-12 with a sparkling 3.21 ERA.  His best seasons, though, came during a two-year stretch in 1987 and 1988.  In '87, he won 17 games with a career-best 197 strikeouts and a best (to date) 2.90 ERA.  Most importantly, he shut down the St. Louis Cardinals in the first and seventh games of the World Series, earning MVP honors for the Twins' first championship club.  Not one to rest on his laurels, Viola went 24-7 in 1988 to take home the AL Cy Young Award.  No lefty has won more games in a single season since.  With the Twins out of contention at the 1989 trading deadline, Viola was traded to the New York Mets for a package of five pitchers.  Included in the return were Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani, who would help form the nucleus of the Twins' 1991 pitching staff.

Viola was inducted to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2005 and has regularly returned to the Twin Cities for ceremonies and special events ever since.  He has spent the past several seasons as a pitching coach in the Mets minor league system, and was rumored to be a candidate for the Twins pitching coach job this past offseason.  Viola has always seemed to be one of the nicest, most humble, and fan-friendliest superstars to ever wear a Twins uniform, and I am so excited to add his fantastic signature to this project.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


He may have lost his job in a program-crippling academic scandal, but Clem Haskins sure could coach some basketball.  The Gophers' 1989 Sweet Sixteen team and 1990 Elite Eight team are as responsible for my interest in basketball as anything.  And I know that technically the Gophers "didn't" make it to the Final Four in 1997... but that team was awesome.

Clem had the players... Willie Burton, Bobby Jackson, Melvin Newbern, Kevin Lynch, Voshon Lenard, Sam Jacobson, Quincy Lewis, Walter Bond...

And Clem had the sportcoat.  That's my lasting memory of Clem pacing the sideline in the Barn.  When that sportcoat came off, you knew he wasn't screwing around.

I'm genuinely excited about Richard Pitino's chances of building a lasting program at Williams Arena.  But until that happens, nothing's going to top the Clem years for me.


Linebacker Rip Hawkins was the second draft pick in Vikings history.  The expansion team selected him with the first pick of the second round in the 1961 draft.  He's sandwiched between the recently-passed Tommy Mason and the great Fran Tarkenton on the Vikings' 1961 draft ledger.  Hawkins played five NFL seasons, all in Minnesota, and was one of the Vikings first defensive stars.  He earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1963.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The Twins have a rich history of giving one last MLB gasp to aging stars and fading former stars.  But for every Jim Thome there are five guys like Mike Lamb, Tony Batista, Ruben Sierra, and Jasons Bartlett and Kubel (2014 models).

Bret Boone's decline in productivity was the sharpest of them all.  Some (including Jose Canseco in his book Juiced) speculate that Boone's ascendance to stardom was less than natural.  He had become a very solid second baseman by the late '90s, hitting in the mid .250s every year with around 20 homers and elite defense.  In 2001, the first year of his second go-round in Seattle, the 32 year old exploded for a .331 average, 37 home runs, and a league-leading 141 runs batted in.  In the three years that followed, he averaged about 28 homers and 102 RBI per season.

But in 2005, everything fell apart.  In July, he was hitting just .231 with only seven home runs.  The Mariners shockingly designated him for assignment.  A few days later, the Twins picked him up.  In less than three weeks with the Twins, Boone came to the plate 58 times.  He amassed nine singles, four walks, three RBI, and no extra base hits.  On July 31, after only 20 days on the roster, the Twins pulled the plug on Boone.  He did not play another major league game.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Originally a 13th round pick out of the University of North Dakota in 1965, Dave Osborn spent 11 of his 12 NFL seasons as a Viking.  In his third season, he exploded for 1,244 yards from scrimmage.  Two years later, he was the leading rusher on the 1969 NFL Championship team.  In all, Osborn totaled 4,320 yards rushing, 1,412 yards receiving, and 36 touchdowns over his illustrious career.  He earned one Pro Bowl berth and appeared in three Super Bowls.  In 2010, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings of All Time.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


One of my favorite Vikings of the last decade, Jermaine Wiggins had 50 career receptions to his name in four NFL seasons before signing with the Purple in 2004.  He certainly didn't have the physique of a playmaker -- he was built more like an offensive lineman than a tight end.  For that matter, he was built more like a potato on toothpicks.  Nevertheless, he made a huge impact with a team-leading 71 receptions during his first year in Minnesota.  He added 69 more catches in 2005, leading the team in receiving for the second time in two years.  He was great with the media, too, showcasing a personality as big as his torso.  That has served him well since retirement, as he's become a popular radio personality in his native Boston.

Friday, January 16, 2015


I'm a sucker for the underdog, which makes me a natural Heath Farwell fan.  He was an undrafted free agent when he first made the Vikings in 2005 as a reserve linebacker.  He would eventually establish himself as one of the premier special teams players in the NFL.  Following the magical 2009 season, Farwell was selected as the NFC's special teams specialist in the Pro Bowl.

Prior to the 2011 season, Farwell was let go for salary cap purposes.  He eventually signed with Seattle and quickly established himself as the Seahawks special teams captain.  His career reached its pinnacle last February when he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with his teammates.

During the 2014 preseason, Farwell suffered a season-ending, career-threatening groin injury.  Rather than release him with an injury settlement (an NFL custom for players of his age and talent level), the Seahawks admirably elected to keep him on-board this season as an unofficial coaching apprentice.  That says something about the Seahawks organization, but it also says a heckuva lot about Heath Farwell.


Tommy Mason was the first draft pick in Minnesota Vikings history.  They chose him with the first overall pick in their expansion season of 1961 and he immediately became one of the upstart team's biggest stars.  During his six years in purple, Mason was selected to three Pro Bowls and was named a first-team NFL All-Pro during his third season in 1963.


One of the largest men in the NHL, John Scott has carved out a decent career despite being part of a dying breed.  Now with the San Jose Sharks, his fifth team in his six NHL seasons, Scott has floated between defense and wing throughout his career.  Let's be honest, though.  His real position is enforcer.


For a brief period in the mid-'90s, Terrell Brandon was perhaps the most underrated player in the NBA.  During his early days with the Cavs, he even made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline "The Best Point Guard In The NBA."

Fast forward to 1999, with Brandon in his second slightly disappointing season with the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Timberwolves' vision of a Stockton-Malone dynasty were thwarted when young star point guard Stephon Marbury forced his way out of town.  Kevin McHale made the best of the situation by acquiring Brandon in the three-team deal.  While he was no longer an All-Star, Brandon was a consistent and dependable point guard, who had a couple of very solid seasons in Minnesota.  Chronic injuries limited him to just 32 games in the 2001-02 season.  Following that year, his contract was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in a salary cap deal.  However, he never suited up for the Hawks (or any other NBA team).

While I was very excited to get this card back from Mr. Brandon, I was disappointed in his pen choice.  It appears the silver paint pen he used was either running dry already, or was not allowed to dry before stuffing back into my envelope, resulting in a smudged and hardly-noticeable signature.  Oh well... it's the thought that counts.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


One of the more obscure names from the Cuban talent pipeline the Twins established in the 1960s, pitcher Bert Cueto made his debut on June 18, 1961.  His major league resume is comprised of seven games during that summer for the inaugural Twins squad.

Mr. Cueto passed away at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011.