Friday April 18, 1980
Under the watch of manager Gene Mauch, the Twins had put up three winning seasons in the last four years of the 1970’s. Despite the very public and painful loss of the League’s best hitter in February of 1979, the team was able to finish two games over the .500 mark, an improvement over Mauch’s only losing season so far as Twins’ manager in 1978.
The lineup in 1980 was basically the same as in the previous year. Shortstop Roy Smalley was coming off a career season, and the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 1979, John Castino, figured to improve with a season of experience. The pitching staff featured veterans Jerry Koosman and Geoff Zahn, while the Twins hoped that 23-year-old Roger Erickson regained his form from 1978.
The Twins got off to a bit of a slow start in 1980. They were in the midst of a 12-game west coast swing to start the campaign. They started by splitting four games in Oakland, and nobody blamed them for dropping two of three to last year’s AL West champion California Angels.
The road trip would end with a five game series in Seattle, including a scheduled double-header on a Friday.
All Seattle had known since the Mariners franchise was born for the 1977 season was losing, but that was expected for expansion teams. The team hovered around the 100 loss mark in each of its first three seasons. The fourth season shaped up to be more of the same. Seattle’s best player was first baseman Bruce Bochte, but, if they had a strength, it was likely starting pitching. The top three on the staff; Floyd Bannister, Rick Honeycutt, and Glenn Abbott; made the Mariners a little more imposing than their previous records indicated.
The Mariners took the first game of the series 4-3 when a Bruce Bochte double off of Geoff Zahn, combined with a Bombo Rivera error in right field, scored Larry Milbourne from first base in the bottom of the ninth.
Gene Mauch 21st Season (5th with Minnesota)
Darrell Johnson 7th Season (4th with Seattle)
Game 1 Pitchers
MIN Roger Erickson 0-1 13.50 ERA vs
SEA Floyd Bannister (L) 1-0 1.00 ERA
Game 1 Lineups (Baseball Reference)
1. Willie Norwood CF .222/.222/.222 0 HR
2. Ken Landreaux LF .324/.361/.559 1 HR
3. Roy Smalley SS .172/.306/.379 2 HR
4. Pete Mackanin 2B .333/.333/.333 0 HR
5. Ron Jackson 1B .000/.118/.000 0 HR
6. John Castino 3B .200/.286/.440 0 HR
7. Jose Morales DH .300/.364/.300 0 HR
8. Bombo Rivera RF .300/.300/.300 0 HR
9. Sal Butera C (0 for 1)
1. Julio Cruz 2B .219/.306/.250 0 HR
2. Rod Craig CF .294/.351/.559 2 HR
3. Dan Meyer LF .379/.400/.448 0 HR
4. Bruce Bochte 1B .429/.484/.607 0 HR
5. Willie Horton DH .185/.324/.185 0 HR
6. Joe Simpson RF .333/.466/.611 1 HR
7. Ted Cox 3B .062/.200/.125 0 HR
8. Larry Cox C .083/.312/.083 0 HR
9. Mario Mendoza SS .182/.250/.455 1 HR
After a scoreless first inning, the Mariners went to work in the home half of the second. The first three batters Erickson faced; Bochte, Horton, and Simpson; all hit solid singles to the outfield. Simpson’s single scored Bochte to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.
37-year-old Willie Horton, most famous for his time with Detroit in the 1960’s, earned the second Mariner run on the base paths. He advanced to third when Ted Cox hit a fly ball to Rivera in right.
Reconstructing what happened next from the box score takes a little imagination. Here is my attempt: Horton then attempted to steal home, but the ball beat him by a wide margin, so he pulled a U-turn back to third. The throw from Butera to Castino would have been the second out of the inning, but Castino made an error on the catch, allowing Horton to score. On the play, Castion was called for obstruction, which moved Simpson to second base.
Here is the retrosheet recap if you are interested:
Horton was caught stealing home but was safe at home (error by Castino; assist by Butera) [Simpson to second]; obstruction on Castino
The final run of the inning scored in a more conventional way. Larry Cox singled to score Simpson from second. The three runs scored in the second would be all Seattle would get against Roger Erickson, but it would be all that they needed as well.
Erickson and Bannister exchanged scoreless innings until the eighth, when Bombo Rivera finally put the Twins on the board with his first home run of the season. That was all for the scoring, and the Mariners took game one of the twi-night double-header 3-1.
Stars of the Game
1. Floyd Bannister SEA 9 IP 6 H 1 R 1 BB 8 K
2. Roger Erickson MIN 8 IP 6 H 3 R 2 ER 1 BB 4 K
3. Bombo Rivera MIN 2-3 HR
Game 2 Pitchers
MIN Terry Felton 0-0 3.86 ERA vs
SEA Gary Wheelock (1st game of the season)
1. Rob Wilfong 2B .200/.259/.360 1 HR
2. Roy Smalley SS .152/.275/.333 2 HR
3. Ken Landreaux LF .342/.375/.553 1 HR
4. Glenn Adams DH .250/.250/.250 0 HR
5. Rick Sofield CF .160/.160/.280 1 HR
6. Butch Wynegar C .207/.233/.241 0 HR
7. Hosken Powell RF .235/.381/.352 0 HR
8. Mike Cubbage 1B .200/.200/.200 0 HR
9. John Castino 3B .172/.250/.379 0 HR
1. Larry Milbourne 2B (0 for 8)
2. Rod Craig CF .263/.317/.500 2 HR
3. Dan Meyer LF .406/.424/.469 0 HR
4. Bruce Bochte 1B .419/.471/.581 0 HR
5. Willie Horton DH .200/.324/.200 0 HR
6. Leon Roberts RF .222/.333/.889 2 HR
7. Bill Stein 3B .308/.286/.308 0 HR
8. Bob Stinson C .143/.143/.143 0 HR
9. Jim Anderson SS .308/.357/.308 0 HR
Once again the Twins and the Mariners found themselves in a pitcher’s ballgame early; but this time the Twins struck first. Castino led off the top of the third inning with a single to center. He reached third on Wilfong’s double to right. Roy Smalley knocked them both in with a single to put the Twins ahead 2-0. Wheelock was able to get out of the inning with no further damage, thanks in part to inducing Landreaux to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
The Mariners’ pitcher did not come out for the fourth inning. He was replaced by Byron McClaughlin, who held the Twins scoreless for four innings.
Felton ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fifth, when three singles and a walk for the Mariners tied the game at two.
Craig led of the Mariners’ sixth with a single, and was bunted to second by Meyer. Bruce Bochte followed with the biggest hit of the game; a double that scored Craig and chased Felton from the game. Doug Corbett came on to strike out two to end the inning, but the Mariners had already taken a 3-2 lead.
The Twins looked like they would at least tie the game in the eighth inning. Two straight singles ended McClaughlin’s night. Shane Rawley came in and got the first out before giving pinch-hitter Jose Morales and intentional pass to load the bases with just the one out. Pete Mackanin, hitting for Sofield, hit a grounder right back to Rawley who threw home to start a 1-2-3 double play. The Mariners escaped the Twins best threat to tie the game, and Rawley used another double play in the ninth to clinch the double-header sweep for Seattle.
Stars of the Game
1. Bruce Bochte SEA 2-4, GW-RBI Double
2. Byron McClaughlin/Shane Rawley SEA 6 IP 0 Runs Allowed
3. Roy Smalley MIN 2-4, 2 RBI
The Mariners 7-3 start to the 1980 season turned out to be more of a mirage than anything. The expansion franchise finished the season with in dead last in the AL West with 103 losses, the second-worst finish in the four-year history of the Mariners. Seattle baseball fans had a long wait ahead of them; the first winning season wouldn’t come for another 11 years.
The finish for the Twins, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as bad as the 3-7 start indicated. They took the final two games of the series with Seattle to break their five game losing streak, and went on to finish the season with a record of 77-84, good enough for third in the AL West.
While the on-the-field results wouldn’t be great for the Twins for several years, very quietly the team started stocking their minor leagues with talent. The Twins took a local boy named Kent Hrbek in the 1978 draft, and drafted Gary Gaetti, Randy Bush, and Tim Laudner in 1979. Over the next few years they would draft others like Steve Lombardozzi (1981), Frank Viola (1981), and Kirby Puckett (1982). Taken in conjunction with some trades that acquired young talent like Greg Gagne and Tom Brunansky, the Twins were positioning themselves to make some noise.