December 5, 1995
This is Fantasyland. Right? The Twins actually bumped into a real, live, big-time player who informed them that money isn’t everything? That he would sign on their dotted line because he likes the Twin Cities rather than because he was able to squeeze every last bit of green out of the Twins’ offices, including the plants? What is this, 1960? -Scott Miller, Pioneer Press
39 year old St. Paul native Paul Molitor signed a two year, $4 million contract to play for his home town team in 1995. At that point Molitor had been in the league for 18 seasons, most of which he played for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Though Molitor’s 1995 season was a disappointment (.270/.350/.423 with the Blue Jays), he had generated a lot of interest on the free agent market. The Twins found themselves in a bidding war against at least four other teams, including the AL Champion Indians and Molitor’s former team in Milwaukee.
In the end he chose the Twins for the reasons baseball fans like to hear (from the Star Tribune):
“I think what it came down to as much as anything is you have to trust your heart,” Molitor said. “It was one of those decisions in life that if I hadn’t made this choice, you would have wondered if you missed the opportunity.
“I’ve had a chance to fulfill a lot of dreams – coming to the major leagues and playing 18 years and winning a world championship. No question, one of the last dreams possibly to be fulfilled is coming back here and wearing a Twins uniform.”
It was expected that Molitor would be the third veteran in the Twins lineup in 1996, joining Kirby Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch. Manager Tom Kelly toyed with the idea of moving Puckett to bat cleanup and plugging Molitor in at number three in the order. Of course, it would be several months before the team would find out that the 1995 season was Puckett’s last.
Even with all of the optismism about Molitor’s return, Twins fans and media were still skeptical of the team’s chances in 1996. One of the headlines in the Pioneer Press read:
MOLITOR GOES TO BAT FOR THE TWINS
HE’S A LEADER ON/OFF THE FIELD, BUT ALAS, HE CAN’T PITCH