Saturday October 19, 1991
Greg Gagne batted .265/.310/.395 during the regular season and managed eight home runs along the way. The ninth hitter for the Twins was likely not expected to supply the power in the Game 1 victory, but that is exactly what he did. From Jeff Lenihan’s story in the Star Tribune:
Nine days ago, Greg Gagne stood near the visiting dugout at Toronto’s SkyDome and, without prodding or solicitation or any real sense of timing, let loose with the revelation that he did not feel appreciated.
Around 9 p.m. Saturday night, the shortstop must have figured Game 1 of the World Series had been canceled and replaced by Greg Gagne Appreciation Night. Gagne’s three-run, fifth-inning homer sent the Twins on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at the Metrodome, giving them the early advantage in baseball’s 88th World Series.
With the Twins leading the National League champions 1-0, Gagne sent a 3-1 fastball from Charlie Leibrandt 15 rows into section 141.
Appreciation? What Gagne received last night was adulation.
A hanky-waving crowd of 55,108 stood and cheered Gagne, whose consistent defense has gone unappreciated by people outside the Twin Cities for years. Gagne pointed to his wife behind the plate and then his father in the upper deck down the third base line.
“A lot of times, players who go out and do their job and keep their mouths shut are overlooked,” said closer Rick Aguilera, who got the final four outs to save Jack Morris’ victory and the Twins’ eighth triumph in nine postseason games at the Dome.
The Twins always have looked at any offense they received from Gagne as a bonus. He hit .265 this season with 34 extra base-hits in 408 at-bats, certainly more than respectable totals for a No. 9 hitter.
His homer last night gave the Twins a 4-0 lead. They turned that advantage over to Morris, which is tantamount to dumping chum before a starving shark. Morris readily admitted he did not have his best stuff last night, but he held the Braves scoreless for five innings. He tired in the eighth, walking the first two batters. He retired having allowed five hits and two runs, one of which scored after he left the game.
Morris extended two impressive trends. He is 23-5 in the Dome, 14-3 this season. He is 6-1 in seven career postseason starts, 3-0 in three World Series assignments and 3-0 this postseason. “These guys made me a hero,” Morris said. “It’s good to know you won a game without your best stuff.”
Kent Hrbek, a power source Twins’ fans were more accustomed to, added a solo home run in the sixth. Rick Aguilera and Mark Guthrie combined to hold the Braves scoreless for two innings of relief.
One of the highlights of this game (and the series to come) was the play-by-play performance of Jack Buck, critiqued in the Star Tribune by Noel Holston:
When Twins shortstop Greg Gagne lifted a long fly ball to left in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday night, CBS play-by-play man Jack Buck immediately observed, “Pretty well hit.”
Then, “This ball is . . . GONNA GO!”
I loved it, just as I loved it when Buck couldn’t stifle a reflexive “You’re out!” when Twins starter Jack Morris blew a third strike past some unlucky Atlanta Brave.
I love it that Buck is not so busy broadcasting that he can’t enjoy the game which, in retrospect, was the shortcoming of CBS’ coverage of the American League Championship Series. ALCS play-by-play man Dick Stockton was so focused on doing his job that he conveyed little enthusiasm to the viewers. He didn’t provide the emotional bridge that makes home viewers feel as if they’re at the game, too.
Buck and analyst Tim McCarver did that in Game 1 of the World Series, though for some reason they weren’t quite as loose and conversationally informative as they typically were during the seven-game NLCS.
Was it the chilly weather? The noise in the Dome? Is there something in the water in American League cities? We’ll see as the Series progresses.
Speaking of the noise, Buck was impressed. “The crowd is like the Atlanta crowd,” he said. “They never stop. Particularly when their team is doing something.”
“The difference,” McCarver added, “is that in Atlanta, the noise has someplace to go.”
There were other good lines and good insights:
In the pregame show, CBS host Pat O’Brien said: “What we have here tonight is a pair of cabooses who have been magically transformed into locomotives.”
Buck displayed his knack for summing players up tersely. Commenting on hard-throwing Braves reliever Mark Wohlers, Buck said: “Nothing fancy about Wohlers. He’s a hummer.”
After Brian Harper’s two-strike double in the second inning, McCarver analyzed: “When you take the right approach to hitting, good things happen. With two strikes, good hitters protect the outside part of the plate.
“And look at Harper right there,” McCarver said, timing his comment to the replay. “(He) shoots one to right field. Fine hitting by Brian Harper.”
Fine, plain-spoken analysis by McCarver, too. Much, much better than the ballyhooed “Inside Pitch” feature that was supposed to give viewers a clearer understanding of the speed and motion of various pitches. Maybe it just needs a bit of fine-tuning, but I don’t think it’s as revealing as a good slow-motion replay.
Speaking of replays, the best of the night showed us Dan Gladden’s ill-fated slide into Atlanta catcher Greg Olson, who did a backwards roll worthy of a gymnast and still hung on to the the ball.
CBS also covered the Indians’ complaints during its pregame show. That, too, provided a memorable quote. “The best way to take care of the chop,” said Bill Means, national director of the American Indian Movement, “is four straight – for the Minnesota Twins.”
Game 2 tomorrow at the Metrodome will feature Kevin Tapani against Tom Glavine.