By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The Twins' second World Series in 1991 against Atlanta was one of the tightest ever played: five of the seven games were decided by two runs or less, and three of them went into extra innings. Tension was already high in the noisy Metrodome for game two, with Minnesota having won game one.
The Twinks had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead when Atlanta was threatening in the third. The Braves scored one run and had two outs when Ron Gant hit a single to left. The Braves' Lonnie Smith tried to go from first to third, and Twins left fielder Dan Gladden threw to third. The ball got loose, and Twins pitcher Kevin Tapani picked it up and fired to Kent Hrbek at first. Gant had rounded the bag too far, and scampered back, initially beating the throw. But, depending on which team you were rooting for, Gant either lost his balance or Hrbek pulled him off the bag. Umpire Drew Coble called Gant out, to the disbelief of everyone who wasn't rooting for a Twins win.
Hrbek was unapologetic: "If he had slid, he would have been safe." An Atlanta rally was effectively killed, and the Twins went on to take the game 3-2. Hrbek and his family were jeered by Atlanta fans for the rest of the series, but it's a safe bet that Herbie, an ardent pro wrestling fan, loved playing the heel.
Number 2: 1987 World Series
No one gave the 1987 Twins a chance, and for good reason: During the season, they weren't much better than an average team. But they squeaked into the post-season, made surprisingly quick work of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series, and were poised to take on the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Dan Gladden set the tone early, hitting a grand slam in the fourth inning of game one, and the Twins won handily, 10-1. The Twins took game two, and then proceeded to drop the next three in St. Louis.
Luckily, the Twins came home to the Dome, where they won the next two. Game six featured fireworks from the usual suspects—Kirby Puckett went four-for-four, and Hrbek hit a grand slam. Though the Twins were clearly outmatched, it was a Bad News Bears moment of triumph when they put Minnesota, improbably, on the world champion map for the first time ever.
The on-field celebration after game seven was matched only by the antics of the team off the field. Even in this scrappy bunch, reliever Juan "Señor Smoke" Berenguer drew the most attention by dressing in a fedora and trench coat and carrying a briefcase in a rally at the Dome after the team beat Detroit in the ALCS.
"It's that celebration I remember most," says Lester. "I saw that get-up on Berenguer and just thought: That totally sums up the team."
Did he ever find out what was in the briefcase?
"He just told everyone that's where he kept the sandwiches."
Number 1: 1991 World Series
As sweet as the first World Series victory was in '87, the '91 Series had more drama than a Spanish telenovela. In addition to a spate of tight, extra-inning games, this series featured Hrbek's controversial tag of Ron Gant (see Best Moment No. 3). It also featured Puckett's game-six heroics. First, Puck leapt and snared a Gant rip to center, snatching the ball just before it hit the Plexiglas wall, and saving the Twins a run in the top of the third. (Is there anyone who hates the Dome more than Gant?) Puckett wasn't done, of course. Aside from being one shy of hitting for the cycle, he also crushed the legendary walk-off home run off Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the 11th.
Jack Morris, who had already pitched in games one and four, summed up whether he was ready to pitch again in game seven thus: "In the immortal words of the late, great Marvin Gaye, let's get it on." And get it on he did, hurling 10 innings of shut-out ball in what is probably the best pitching performance in World Series history. An injured Gene Larkin came up in the 10th with the bases loaded, blooped a single to left, and scored Dan Gladden from third. Unbelievably, the Twins were World Champions for the second time in four years.
Afterward, then-Major League Baseball commissioner Faye Vincent gushed, "It was, I think, probably the greatest World Series ever!"
The only problem, of course, was that it was played in that ugly, laughable non-ballpark known as the Metrodome. Even so, the place was full of joy and magic once again. And it's certain that the legendary call by Jack Buck after Puckett's game-six homer—"And we'll see you...tomorrow night!"—will reverberate in fans' heads long after the walls of the Metrodome crumble into dust.