A Fan's Notes

Ballpark fixture Thomas Hodne on a season for the ages

This team is absolutely superb. They've melded into a great team. And the main thing is this: The attitude of that team, I can judge by watching that dugout every day, and it's wonderful. To me, it's the best team that the Twins have ever had in terms of spirit and humanization, the aspects of what I believe in. They've had their setbacks. The beginning of the season, they were still melding, and now they're together. That's the main thing.

Gardenhire is a genius. He's got a tremendous record, and even on seasons when they don't make the playoffs. Tom Kelly, well, he won two World Series. But he didn't, really. The players did. Remember when he went to go get the ball from Jack Morris in [game seven of the '91] World Series, and he wouldn't give it to him? To me, what Kelly did, certain players he built them up, and then other players and coaches, he'd just brutalize them. I don't know why they keep him around now. Those players won those two World Series.

Gardy is a human being. Kelly was not a human being. He was—I don't want to use a swear word. When people were questioning of him, he'd rip them, openly. And I think that's wrong.

I loved some of those players back then. Bert Blyleven, I'm still friends with him. And Killebrew—Kirby wasn't a friend of mine, but Harmon is still a great friend and so is Bert. I loved Paul Molitor too. A great friend, though I don't see him as often.

I don't keep track of the number of home runs or the hitting percentages. It's the players themselves and how they react and how they are as humans. Kent Hrbek, I loved the guy. And they did wonderful things as far as statistics and baseball, but I don't keep track of those things. I collect memorabilia and the posters each year, so I can remember the players. And I've got tons of autographs—though I don't collect them anymore. I don't have the energy I used to have. I collect the bobble dolls, but that's about it. But people at the Dome, my Cheers bar, people there help me now. I'll soon be 80.

And I still do my architecture, and that's my fun. But baseball is my work. This is my work, and it's good work. I put more time into going to home games and watching them on television than anything else.

I think Santana's one of the most marvelous pitchers the Twins have ever had. I think he'll be around for the long haul. And the two "Mr. M's" [Mauer and Morneau]. The infield now is all there. They didn't have it initially this season. They've got the best infield now, I think, in major league baseball. The plays Punto made the other night, well, I couldn't believe them. He's made great plays every game, almost. Every game. It's marvelous how he can do that. Bartlett is very good—he's made some extraordinary plays, too. I'm sad about Torii Hunter, because he's hurt. His hitting has been wonderful lately, but he can't jump up as high as he used to, or cover the ground like he used to. I feel bad for him.

Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, then Hunter. That's a great lineup. Castillo is a good leadoff, he's always on base. Even their seventh, eighth, and ninth guys are hitters. It's very seldom that teams have nine hitters, and we've got nine hitters now. Rondell White now is hitting. See, Gardy senses where the players are at, and he moves people around because he wants them to have experience, and he makes them all important. He didn't give up on White, and people would have. Gardy's one of the best.

The thing with Radke is sad. I hope that Brad can come back for the playoffs. We're going to be in the playoffs, there's no question. It doesn't matter who they play at this point. I think this team can win the World Series, that's my prediction. This is the best team they've had for many, many years. This team is doing it.

But that's not just empty. They work with each other, and don't get all clogged up speaking behind each other's backs. I watch them on the bench. They talk straight, and Gardenhire does too. He's gentle, kind, and straight. And he stands up for his team, and that's important because the players know it.

This team feels much better than either in 1987 or 1991. I was down there in spring training this March, and things weren't working out. But Gardy was juggling, and was trying to make the pieces fit. And Terry Ryan is sharp. Some of the players then weren't with this team, and those two could tell that. Every player is with this team now, and with each other. That's the biggest change that occurred. They're the best team in the major leagues. Not based on experience or big names, but as far as what they've done to pull themselves out of where they were.

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