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Twins make World Series exciting
10/27/2004 9:00 AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins haven't been to the World Series too often -- three times in 44 years -- but they have made their trips quite memorable.

All three Fall Classics -- in 1965, 1987 and 1991 -- needed deciding seventh games.

In only their fifth year after the move west from Washington, D.C., the Twins clashed with the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series and wound up surprising many by easily defeating future Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in the first two games at Metropolitan Stadium.

Drysdale lasted just 2 2/3 innings in Game 1 as the Twins won, 8-2, with homers from Don Mincher and Zoilo Versalles and a complete game pitching performance by Mudcat Grant. In Game 2, lefty Jim Kaat also went the distance and outpitched Koufax in a 5-1 victory, giving Minnesota a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

The momentum shifted when the series shifted to Dodger Stadium. The Twins lost three straight as they were outscored by a combined 18-2. In Game 7, Koufax returned on two days' rest and tossed a three-hit shutout. In the fourth inning, Kaat gave up a home run to Lou Johnson and an RBI single to Wes Parker, the difference in a 2-0 loss.

It took 22 years for the World Series to return to the Upper Midwest. This time, the results were different.

The 1987 World Series between the Twins and Cardinals brought new meaning to the term "home-field advantage." Now that Minnesota called the five-year-old Metrodome home, it was also the first time that World Series games were played indoors.

Inside the ballpark, a national baseball audience was introduced to deafening decibel levels and the Homer Hanky, which was waved by 55,000 screaming fans.

Considered the underdogs to Whitey Herzog's St. Louis club, Minnesota -- led by first-year manager Tom Kelly -- took the first two games of the series. In Game 1, Dan Gladden slugged a grand slam, and Frank Viola pitched eight solid innings in a 10-1 win. In Game 2, Bert Blyleven pitched seven innings and was helped by Tim Laudner's 3-for-3, three-RBI effort in an 8-4 victory.

The Cardinals took the next three games, played at Busch Stadium, and it was back to Minneapolis for Game 6. Trailing 5-2 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Twins put together a four-run rally to take the lead. Hometown native Kent Hrbek provided the exclamation point with a sixth-inning grand slam that gave the Twins an 11-5 win and forced Game 7.

With Viola, the staff ace, back on the mound for Minnesota, St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a four-hit second inning. But more runs for the Cards were not in the cards.

Viola made sweet music the rest of the way, allowing just two more hits. He worked eight innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. Greg Gagne's RBI single scored Tom Brunansky with the go-ahead run, and Gladden's eighth-inning RBI double scored Laudner with the insurance run in a 4-2 win.

For the Twins, it was their first world championship. And there was one more historical first -- the home team won all the games in this series.

The Twins finished out of the playoffs the next two years, then last in their division in 1990. It made their 1991 World Series meeting against the Braves all the more improbable. Atlanta also finished last in its division the previous year. Yet the two teams combined to provide one of the most thrilling and tightest World Series ever, with three extra-inning games and five one-run decisions.

Again the home team won all the games of this clash. Minnesota claimed Game 1, 5-2, behind the pitching of Jack Morris and Greg Gagne's three-run homer. A Scott Leius solo homer in the bottom of the eighth provided a 3-2 victory for the Twins in Game 2.

The series shifted to Atlanta, where in the bottom of the 12th of Game 3, Braves second baseman Mark Lemke's two-out RBI single broke a 4-4 deadlock. In Game 4, Atlanta evened the series with yet another dramatic victory. Pinch-hitter Jerry Willard's sacrifice fly barely scored Lemke with the decisive run in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves pulled out a 3-2 win. Game 5 was no contest. The Braves won, 14-5.

With the Twins facing elimination before Game 6, Kirby Puckett addressed his teammates in the clubhouse. He told everyone to jump on his back and he would carry them to victory.

Then Puckett made good on his promise. He went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs while making two of the series' signature plays. First, Puckett made a leaping catch on Ron Gant's deep drive at the plexiglass fence in left-center field, robbing an extra-base hit and killing a third-inning rally.

Then in the bottom of the 11th inning off Charlie Leibrandt, it was Puckett's home run to left-center field that gave Minnesota a thrilling 4-3 win and forced Game 7.

"And we'll see you tomorrow night," shouted television play-by-play voice Jack Buck in a very famous call.

The homer is so revered in Twins folklore that the seat in the Metrodome where the ball landed was painted gold and remains that way to this day.

Game 7 could only top it.

In what many consider the greatest Game 7 in World Series history, Morris and Braves starter John Smoltz dueled for nine scoreless innings. Morris returned for the 10th and kept the shutout alive.

In the bottom of the 10th, Gladden led off with a bloop hit and legged it out for a double. Rookie Chuck Knoblauch's sacrifice bunt moved Gladden to third. Puckett and Hrbek then were intentionally walked to load the bases.

That set up pinch-hitter Gene Larkin, who drove a long single over the drawn-in outfield for the game winner. The Twins won Game 7, 1-0, and were world champions for the second time. Morris' gutsy pitching performance and a 2-0 record made him the World Series MVP.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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