We’re gonna win, Twins

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

Art and Jamie are happy this week because the Twins and Cardinals, their favorite teams respectively, are in the baseball playoffs that begin this week.

I’m not much of a baseball fan any more, but when I was a kid I rooted for the Yankees, who face the Twins in the opening round of the playoffs this week. My favorite player was Mickey Mantle, who wore number 7 and played centerfield. I was thrilled when I wore number 7 and played centerfield for the Bruins of the Little League Minors. But the similarity between Mick and me ended there. He was one of the greatest players in baseball history. I was one of the worst. My problem: I was scared of getting hit by the ball.

Like most other kids that age, I collected baseball cards, and I had a lot of good ones, but Mickey Mantle’s eluded me. No amount of Hank Aarons or White Fords could persuade my friends to give up their Mick.

The first big league game I attended was in Detroit around 1960, when I was about 10-years-old. We were in Michigan for a Cullen family get-together and Dad and his brothers took us older kids to the game between the Tigers and Chicago White Sox in old Briggs Stadium (later Tigers Stadium). The game had just about everything you’d want to see in baseball, including home runs and extra innings.

We stayed at the Sheraton Cadillac hotel downtown, where by coincidence the White Sox were housed. On game day we met them at breakfast and I got autographs from the players. I was especially proud to meet Nellie Fox, the great White Sox second-baseman later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Another highlight of that trip was riding on the Milwaukee Clipper, a passenger ship that ferried autos across Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Muskegon, Mich. That was probably the first time I was on a boat, and I remember being awestruck that you couldn’t see land across the lake. It was like sailing the ocean.

Milwaukee Clipper

Back to baseball. Dad took us to a few Twins games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., now the site of Mall of America. It was easy to get in and out there because you didn’t have to drive into the city, Dad was a big baseball fan and was a pretty fair player himself. He listened to the Twins games on WCCO radio with a can of Grain Belt beer at his side. When he needed a beer I volunteered to get it for him from the refrigerator because he’d let me have a sip. That was back in the day when Coors beer was exotic. It wasn’t available east of Colorado, so when friends traveled to Denver, Dad would have them bring back a six-pack and save it for special occasions.

I lost my passion for baseball with the arrival of free agency. Before then, players were tied to a team for most of their careers. You could build an allegiance to a team and its players, knowing they would stay together. That bond was shattered in the 1970s after Curt Flood pushed for free agency, as players worked deals with whatever team would pay them the most. Even arch-competitors like outfielder Dexter Fowler, who left the Cubs in 2016 after they won the World Series, joined the hated Cardinals.

Mary and the kids are Cubs fans. That passion comes from her dad, Doc Tolan, whose gravestone in Pocahontas reads, “I’d rather be at Wrigley Field.” The forever hopeful Doc never saw the Cubs win a World Series in his 89 years on earth.

The Cubs didn’t make the playoffs this year after a September swoon, which cost manager Joe Maddon his job after he led them to their first World Series title in 108 years in 2016.

Although the Yankees, my once-favorite team, play the Twins this week, I have shifted my allegiance and officially jump on the Minnesota Twins bandwagon and join Art in this hearty chorus:

We’re gonna win Twins, we’re gonna score!

We’re gonna win Twins, watch that baseball soar!

Knock out a homerun, shout a hip-hooray!

Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!

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