Q&A with Twins Curator Clyde Doepner

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Clyde “the Guide” Doepner, the curator for the Minnesota Twins.

Don’t know what a “curator” is?  Think about getting paid to collect, display and maintain Twins memorabilia for thousands of fans to enjoy at Target Field. Yes, somebody gets paid to do that.

Per his request, Clyde asked that I make this as little about him as possible and as much about the Twins as possible, but I want to provide you with a little background before jumping into our conversation.

“I was brought up to say thank you.”

In August 1966, he was hired on as a first-year teacher and varsity head baseball coach. In the spring of that same year, Twins owner Calvin Griffith had sent out free season tickets to all head baseball coaches, but the previous coach didn’t get them before he left and so they sat unused all summer.

When he saw these in his mailbox, he decided to go down to Metropolitan Stadium, find Cal’s office and thank him for the tickets. Back in 1966 it was that easy.

When he went to thank him, Cal noted that he was the only person to thank him for the tickets and brought him “down the hall, to the left, to the right and to the Griffith seats,” as Clyde would say. Cal invited him to sit in those seats anytime he came to a game rather than “sitting out in the thankless seats with those ‘hecklin son-of-a-guns’” and a relationship was forged.

It got to the point that Clyde could sit anywhere he wanted when he came to a game and he became good friends with the Griffith family.

“We’re not paying those son-of-a-guns…”

When the Twins made the move from the Met to the Dome, the sports commission was going to start charging the Griffith family for storage space. As Clyde tells it, “[Cal] being too frugal, too cheap to do that said ‘we’re not paying those son-of-a-guns’ and he told his brothers to ‘throw everything.’”

Clyde went out to the dumpster and collected about 3,000 items, and thus “Clyde the Collector” was born and he debuted all the memorabilia at the first Twinsfest in 1988. No matter how he got any artifact, he considers all artifacts as “a part of the Twins.”

If you’re interested to see a lot of the memorabilia then I suggest you check out this book. Speaking of books of sorts, due to being part of the Twins organization since 1966, Clyde is an endless book of stories.

“No Clyde, I’m all done, this is it.”

At the end of the 2015 season — before he made a public announcement — Torii Hunter gave Clyde his glove. Clyde’s response was, “I don’t want it because you’re coming back next year.” Doepner knew that Hunter only signed a one-year deal, but figured the Twins would likely offer him another contract.

“No Clyde, I’m all done, this is it,” Hunter said. A few days later, Hunter made it official and announced that he was retiring from Major League Baseball.

“I was thinking of my Mom.”

When Jim Thome hit his 600th home run at Comerica Park, Clyde made sure to get all the bases. He gave third base to Thome, second base to the Twins Community Fund for auction and first base was kept for the Twins.

Why did Thome get third base?  

“Well, once you touched third base you couldn’t screw up the home run,” Clyde reasoned.

So why did the Twins get first?  When Thome was asked what he was thinking about when he knew it was done and running down to first, he said, “My mother. She had died the year before.”

This struck a chord with Clyde as he also recently lost his mother. On the base, he signed “On the way to this base, I was thinking of my Mom.”

“Only Halsey could turn a sports coat into a blazer…”

Halsey Hall was a sports reporter for the Twin Cities and announcer for the Twins for many years. He was actually the first broadcaster to coin the phrase “holy cow!” although most fans credit Harry Caray.

Hall was described as having a “gravely voice because he smoked two cigars during every game.” Hall of Famer Herb Carneal said, “Halsey liked good cigars, but unfortunately that’s not the kind he smoked.”

The story goes that during one game, Halsey’s cigar ash fell into a wastebasket full of paper and started it on fire. He then blurted out over the air, “Oh my god, I’m on fire!” The fire ended up burning his hand, sports coat and pants and there was a delay in the game until the fire was put out.

Former Twins catcher Jerry Zimmerman said, “Only Halsey could turn a sports coat into a blazer!” Halsey was gifted a big red ashtray, and you bet that same ashtray is on display in the Target Field press box.

“Isn’t that the way it goes?”

Tom Kelly has the ball from the last out of the game that clinched the division in 1987, the game that clinched the pennant that year and the game that clinched the World Series as well.

As Clyde puts it, “When Kent Hrbek heard about that he said ‘Isn’t that the way it goes, Clyde? I caught all three of them, Tom took them, and you give him credit.’”

Other tidbits:

  • Clyde is one of the only curators in MLB. Recently, the Atlanta Braves added a curator when they built their new stadium.
  • Target field has 38 display cases that he is responsible for filling and maintaining with memorabilia. He does all of this himself.
  • Thome kept a champagne cork and lighter in his locker. Before eye black was a thing, players burnt part of the cork and put it under their eyes.
  • He was good friends with Harmon Killebrew. In fact, he was in charge of his appraising 6,000-plus items for his estate.
  • Kelly donated his entire collection to the Twins.

Lastly, but most importantly, Clyde wanted to thank the Twins organization. He would say that the ‘Twins Way’ isn’t just what happens on the field, but what happens in the clubhouse and what goes on in the community.

Clyde’s parting words to the reader are as follows: “You should always say thank you. Not for some ulterior motive, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

After all, if he hadn’t said thank you then many of the artifacts we have come to love around Target Field might have landed in a dumpster somewhere.

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