Monday August 24, 1981
The Twins spent the bulk of the 1981 season platooning Ron Jackson and Danny Goodwin at first base. Both players had come to the team from California in the Dan Ford trade after the 1978 season, the same year that scout Angelo Giuliani signed a young Kent Hrbek to a Twins contract. When the Twins traded Jackson to Detroit for a player to be named later (Tim Corcoran), it opened a roster spot for a local kid who had been putting up some impressive numbers in single A Visalia.
The California League was a hitter’s league at the time, and Hrbek was hardly the only player to put up gaudy-looking numbers; but the Bloomington native stood out enough from the rest to be named league MVP even though he missed the last two weeks of the season due to his call up to Minnesota.
The Bloomington native was penciled in to manager Billy Gardner’s lineup batting eighth in a game at Yankee Stadium. After flying out in his first at-bat, Hrbek found success in the bottom of the fifth when he knocked in the Twins first run with an RBI infield single. Then, with the score tied at two in the 12th inning, Hrbek led off with a solo home run, which ultimately became the winning run.
“I should have slowed down my home run trot, so it would have lasted longer,” Hrbek said, “Right now it’s like I’m dreaming, like I don’t know where I am. It will take a while to sink in.” -Hrbek quoted by Patrick Reusse in TSN
Manager Gardner was at a loss for words:
“I had to get some smelling salts first,” Gardner said, “A home run… we don’t see many of those in this dugout.” -quoted by Patrick Reusse in TSN