If you’ve read these before, you know that I love watching old games on YouTube. It doesn’t necessarily have to be old Minnesota Twins games — but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
In fact, I’d willingly pay for a channel or subscription service that allowed me to watch old Twins games on demand. Any old random game, too. A 1988 game the Twins lost 3-1 in August? I’d watch the heck out of that.
Anyway, last week on Flashback Friday, we watched the MLB debut of Alex Rodriguez at Fenway Park amidst an otherwise dreary 1994 season.
This week, we turn the clock back 10 years to find the Twins in Toronto playing the Blue Jays — but not at Skydome. They’re at Exhibition Stadium, which was about as amateurish as it sounds.
To give you a good look at what it looked like when it was set up for baseball — it otherwise hosted the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts until 1988 — here’s an image pulled from online that was taken prior to a 1988 game against the White Sox:
The Blue Jays moved into SkyDome — now the Rogers Centre — in 1989.
This week’s Flashback Friday features the first baseball game televised on TSN, which is like the Canadian equivalent of ESPN.
It takes place on Sept. 1, 1984, and you can watch the footage here:
Let’s set the scene a bit.
The Jays came into the game 77-57 and in second place in the AL East. Now remember, this was in the four-division era — East and West in both leagues — and the 1984 Detroit Tigers were something special. Of course they had to be special since the won the World Series, but they also opened the season a staggering 35-5 and cruised to the division title with a 104-58 record — 15 games clear of Toronto, which finished 89-73.
The grapes had to be particularly sour for the Blue Jays, considering the AL West winner was Kansas City, which finished just 84-78 — three games ahead of the California Angels and fading Minnesota Twins.
The Twins came into this game 69-65 and two games ahead of the Royals. However, the Twins were just 12-16 in September, while the Royals played some inspired ball:
Let’s take a quick peek at the lineups, which will no doubt stoke some memories if you’re a Twins fan and maybe if you were a baseball fan back then you’ll recognize some of the Jays as well:
With the benefit of hindsight, there are some fun things going on here. First of all, “In the Mood” playing while Jays starter Dennis Lamp — a journeyman and a swingman at the time — warms up.
Then, a rookie Kirby Puckett steps into the box to lead off. He’s scarcely recognizable to Twins fans from later generations — not only physically but when the graphic shines on the screen with zero home runs on the season.
Puckett made his MLB debut four months earlier, and was holding his own despite the lack of power. He wound up hitting .296/.320/.336, and didn’t tap into his power until bopping 31 homers in 1986 under the watchful eye of hitting coach Tony Oliva, who taught him his signature leg kick.
Puckett hits a sizzling liner that is corraled in right field by George Bell, but in the meantime, the broadcasters — Fergie Olver and Bobby Mattick — heap effusive praise on the young center fielder.
- “It’s an old cliche, but they say this is the guy that makes the Twins go.”
- “They say he’s got great instincts.”
- “Puckett’s built like a fireplug out there. Reminds you a little of (Bill) Madlock when he came up.”
- “Third base coach Tom Kelly told me that Puckett has been sensational in center. He can really go get it.”
One of the other mainstays who’d be immediately identifiable to Twins fans of most ages is Kent Hrbek, though he’s hardly recognizable as he dons these bodacious baby blues.
It’s not just that it’s a svelte, 24-year-old version of Hrbek — more on that later — but check out the difference in his stance between here and 10 years later in his final MLB season.
And believe ir or not, one of the first things that comes up between the announcers is Hrbek’s weight. Specifically that manager Billy Gardner openly told Mattick that he was worried about Hrbek’s weight, and then later in the at-bat he references a conversation with the club’s hitting coach where he intimates that the first baseman’s swing slowed as he put on weight.
If you’re looking for a reason as a Twins fan to sit down and enjoy this, you’ll have to look past the score. But there’s plenty of fun to be had. Bell ends up winning an MVP for the Jays three years later — the year the Twins win the World Series — and you can even see future Rangers manager Ron Washington hold down the fort at third base for the Twins.
Sit back and enjoy!