With Brad Radke being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame over the weekend, I thought I would re-post my thoughts from the occasion of his retirement. Interestingly enough, my jab at Bret Favre still holds up almost three years later.
On a summer day in 2001 my dad and I decided to go catch a game between the two teams for which I had the most rooting allegiance. The Twins were playing the Astros on a Tuesday night at the Metrodome. What we saw is the single greatest pitching performance I have ever seen live (and this comes from someone who has seen a lot of Johan Santana in the past four years).
Brad Radke was at his absolute best, painting the corners, owning the strike zone. When he was on, the opposition merely hoped that the slow rollers or pop ups they managed to hit would find some open space. On this night very few of the Astros’ hits did that, and it amounted to a four-hit shutout for Radke. He even managed to strike out seven Astros that evening, a somewhat un-Radke like number.
At his worst, Radke developed a reputation for allowing early inning runs, particularly in the form of home runs. Most of the time, however, it seemed that he was able to “gut it out” and pitch well the rest of the game.
As far as “gutting it out” goes, it doesn’t get much better than Radke’s 2006 season. Though it wasn’t his greatest season, it may have been his most memorable. He essentially pitched through the season with an arm that many speculated was about to fall off at the shoulder. To somehow finish with 12 wins and an above average ERA under those circumstances was nothing more than remarkable.
I can’t help but to compare Radke’s exit to another sports hero’s potential exit in the state next door (the one with cheese and beer). Though Radke had talked of retirement throughout the year, he didn’t speak much publicly about it, and chose to wait to make an announcement until the offseason. True, there are some different circumstances (his arm still might fall off), but it would be difficult to imagine Brad holding the team hostage while trying to make up his mind about retirement, or implying that he may just stick around if ownership would invest and make the team a winner.
That’s just not his style. All Brad Radke did was pitch consistently well for 12 seasons in Minnesota.
And when I think of Brad Radke though, I still remember the masterpiece I saw that June night in the Metrodome.