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.