Friday, February 13, 2015


There have been hundreds of players in Minnesota Twins history, and very few have had a better first two seasons than Marty Cordova.  When baseball reconvened in 1995, after the '94 strike, the Twins had some major holes in their lineup.  Kent Hrbek had retired.  Shane Mack and Dave Winfield were gone.  Cordova won the left field job in spring training and finished the season as the American League Rookie of the Year.  He followed his 24 home run, 20 stolen base debut with an even better year in 1996.  Although the homer and stolen base numbers dropped a bit, he set career highs with a .309 average, 111 runs batted in, 97 runs scored, 46 doubles and an .849 OPS.  Cordova was going to be the next Twins superstar.

Then back problems hit.  Cordova played three more seasons for the Twins, but spent significant time on the DL in each of them.  In the mid-'90s, my friends and I would often buy left field general admission tickets to see the Twins.  That meant sitting right behind Cordova.  My friend Laura loved to watch his cute butt.  Marty actually signed two of these cards for me -- I always send a copy of each for the player to keep, if they choose -- and I know who's getting this duplicate!


Jaime Sifers was undrafted, but after a terrific college career with the Vermont Catamounts, he signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  He spent four years in their system, Sifers earned a cup of coffee with the NHL club.  Following that year, he signed as a free agent with the Wild.  He spent most of his lone season in the organization with the Houston Aeros, but did appear in 14 games for the Wild.  He played in Germany over the last three years, but is now back on American soil with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.


When longtime third baseman Gary Gaetti departed as a free agent after the 1990 season, the Twins opted to replace him with a platoon.  They paired veteran left-handed hitting free agent Mike Pagliarulo with a rookie right-handed hitting converted shortstop named Scott Leius.  And they won the World Series.

Leius had a fine rookie season on the short end of the platoon, hitting .286 and flashing a solid glove.  His signature moment came in game two of the 1991 World Series, when he hit one of the biggest home runs in Twins history.  With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Leius took Hall of Famer Tom Glavine deep for the eventual game-winning home run, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead in the series.  The first two games of that series are overshadowed by the legendary performances of Kirby Puckett's Game Six and Jack Morris' Game Seven, but without Leius' shot, the Twins may not have even brought the series back to the Dome.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Known to millions of hockey fans as the goaltender for the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" United States Olympic team, Jim Craig's brief time with the Minnesota North Stars is remembered by only the most astute hockey fans.

As an Olympic hero, Craig is one of the most recognizable American hockey players to hit the ice.  However, success following the Olympics (and his stellar collegiate career at Boston University) did not follow him to the NHL.  He appeared in 30 games over parts of three different seasons.  His final three games came as a North Star near the end of the 1983-84 season, making him both one of the most recognizable and most obscure names in North Stars history.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Versatile offensive lineman Ken Dallafior won All-Big Ten honors as a senior for the Gophers in 1981 and was drafted by the Steelers in 1982.  He played in the USFL before catching on with the San Diego Chargers for four seasons.  He joined his hometown Detroit Lions in 1989 - the same season they drafting a running back named Barry Sanders.  For the final four years of Dallafior's NFL career, he was a fixture at right guard, blocking for perhaps the greatest running back of all-time.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Sir Francis is the undisputed greatest quarterback in Vikings history.  Taken in the third round of their inaugural 1961 draft, he came off the bench to shock the Bears in the Vikings' first-ever game and never looked back.  Tarkenton's 18-year career included two tours with the Vikings, broken up by a five-year sabbatical in New York.  By the time it was over, he owned every major quarterback mark in the NFL record book.  Also on his resume: the 1975 NFL MVP Award, three Super Bowl appearances, and the first retired number in Vikings history.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.  And he remains the only true franchise quarterback so far in the 55-year history of the Minnesota Vikings.


Some of my favorite cards that I have created for this project capture a specific, iconic moment in Minnesota sports.  This particular card of former Gophers hockey standout Justin Holl is a perfect example.

Holl was an outstanding defense-first blueliner for four years at the University of Minnesota.  His signature moment, though, was this miraculous short-handed goal in the Frozen Four, against arch-rival North Dakota, with less than one second remaining in regulation, to send the Gophers to the NCAA championship game.

The goal will forever be remembered as one of the biggest in the history of the storied program.  As for Holl, he is now playing professionally for the Indy Fuel - the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Casey Blake was one who got away from the Twins, but they can hardly be faulted for that.  Despite some solid minor league seasons, he showed little at the plate during his brief call-ups to the Twins over parts of three seasons.  His path to playing time was blocked by Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz, and David Ortiz (not to mention Justin Morneau rising through the ranks) and, at 29, he was no longer considered a prospect when the Cleveland Indians signed him to a minor league deal after the 2002 season.

Given his first chance to play every day in Cleveland, however, Blake showed great versatility in the field and averaged over 20 home runs a year over his five-and-a-half seasons.  Prior to the 2008 trading deadline, the Indians flipped him to the Dodgers for catching prospect Carlos Santana, who has been a fixture in the middle of Cleveland's lineup ever since.

By the time he was done, Blake had put together a solid 13-year major league career with 167 home runs, 616 runs batted in, and a career .778 OPS.  Not exactly David Ortiz numbers, but not bad at all for a guy who couldn't crack the early 2000s Twins lineup.


Bill Collins was an original North Star, claimed in the 1967 Expansion Draft from the New York Rangers.  He had spent two of his previous three seasons with the St. Paul Rangers of the CPHL, so he was certainly familiar with the area.  Collins was a solid winger on those early teams.  He scored nine goals in each of his first two seasons with the North Stars, then exploded for 29 goals in 1969-70.  Arguably the biggest impact that Collins had on the North Stars organization was the direct result of that breakout season -- he was traded to Montreal for an unproven young center named Jude Drouin.  While Collins was a steady NHL contributor for six more teams over the next decade, Drouin became a high-scoring star and top playmaker for the North Stars.