The arrival of my 75th birthday took place Saturday. In marriage, 75 is platinum, and in birthdays, it beats the alternative, and in Twin Cities sports writing, it’s this:
“Why are you still working? Are you trying to be another Sid?”
Many times you’ve heard the cliché, “There will never be another one like him (or her),” as a testimonial, right? With Sid Hartman, that’s not a cliché.
The real answer for “why” is this:
I’m working FOR the people. The warm messages that arrive regularly (there was another one just a couple of weeks ago) recognizing my relentless support in public forums of all things Minnesota sports. No one could shuffle away willingly from that.
Thus, to mark the completion of Year 75 on Planet Earth, my birthday request is a gift for Minnesota fans.
This can’t be a wish for a Lombardi Trophy or a Stanley Cup. Those can’t be gifted, only earned.
A gift must be subjective. It must be, “Here it is; take this.”
So, here it is:
The Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, started with their 40th season in 2000, never can be a satisfying look at the franchise’s history as long as three glaring omissions remain from the 1960s.
Those would be Cesar Tovar, the ultimate utility man; Al Worthington, the bullpen ace in and around the 1965 World Series team; and Halsey Hall, Minnesota legend and colorful commentator on Twins broadcasts for the first 13 seasons.
The issue that prevents Tovar and Worthington from getting the required support from the 60 voters is that very few are well-seasoned enough to have witnessed the importance of these two to the Twins’ first decade.
That would lead to voters looking at the raw numbers and applying them to the enormously changed approach of the current game. In today’s context, Worthington’s 88 career saves and Tovar’s .335 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter are not dazzling.
As for Halsey, my experience when mentioning his absence to other Boomers is disbelief that he wasn’t included in the first few classes of Twins inductees.
Take a look:
IF-OF, 1965-72You want Tovar in a capsule? In 1967, there were still official ties and the Twins had two, thus playing 164 games. Tovar played in all 164 and started 162 — 60 in center field, 56 at third base, 31 at second base, plus a handful at shortstop, left field and right field.
Tovar’s seasons from 1968 to 1971, at a time when pitching was dominant, were tremendous. In 1970, he batted .300, scored 120 runs and led the AL in doubles (36) and triples (13). The next year, he led the AL in hits with 204.
On Sept. 22, 1968, he actually played one inning apiece at all nine positions against Oakland at Met Stadium. He started on the mound and struck out Reggie Jackson.
Tovar was 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, filled with energy, and it was shocking when he died at 54 from a heart attack in 1994 in his native Venezuela.
Al Worthington, RHP, 1964-69
Worthington had been a standout starter for the Minneapolis Millers in the mid-50s and again in 1960. He was purchased from Cincinnati in June 1964 as a 35-year-old and had a 1.35 ERA in 41 games.
The next season, he was the “stopper” — meaning ready to pitch in any close game after the sixth inning and finish it — on the World Series team. He had 17 decisions (10-7) and 21 saves. Not impressed? In 1968 he led the league with 18 saves.
Big Al, as we called him, is 91, still living near Birmingham, and still married to my second cousin Shirley, the gorgeous gal he met while pitching for my father in Fulda, Minn., in the summer of 1950.
Which has nothing to do with Al’s missing status as a Twins Hall of Famer. Love Eddie Guardado, and with Everyday Eddie in as a closer, Big Al has to be in as a stopper.
Halsey Hall, broadcaster, 1961-73
Herb Carneal was inducted as a Twins broadcaster in 2001. If still with us, Herbie would tell you the greatest time he had in radio were his 12 years with Halsey — including the day Hall’s ever-present cigar started a Western Union ticker-tape fire in the booth.
Halsey started writing sports in the Twin Cities in 1919. He covered the Millers and was part of the Gophers’ football broadcasts for years. He bellowed “Holy cow!” before Harry Caray. He used “golden” to describe the Gophers as they came on the field and it turned into the official nickname.
He was a grand storyteller and the grand homer to the more objective parties — Carneal and Ray Scott — that made up the greatest radio booth in the history of Minnesota professional sports.
Halsey died of a heart attack at 79 on Dec. 30, 1977. He’s in numerous Minnesota halls and has local baseball organizations named after him, but he’s not in the Twins Hall of Fame.
Come on, selectors. Take the plea from this selfless 75-year-old, who wants nothing more in sports than to see Cesar, Big Al and Halsey in the Twins Hall of Fame … as always, FOR the people.
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