Twins fans had very little to cheer about from 1993-2000, so when the opportunity to watch a couple of local players make baseball history in a Twins uniform came around, it was about as exciting as it got for the team during that time period.
Thursday September 16, 1993
When the hit finally came, it was almost as good as Dave Winfield had pictured it. Time and again, in dreams, on buses and at stoplights, the Twins’ 41-year-old designated hitter had played out the moment in his mind, and this was one scene: Runner in scoring position. Ninth inning. The very best opponent he possibly could face, maybe Oakland relief ace Dennis Eckersley, on the mound.
When the hit finally came, it wasn’t a screaming line drive that split two outfielders and rolled to the wall for a double. It didn’t win the game outright – Chip Hale’s single in the 13th gave the Twins a 5-4 victory.
But when Winfield’s ground ball with one out in the ninth snuck between two diving A’s infielders, third baseman Craig Paquette and shortstop Mike Bordick, for a clean hit to left field, it was good enough. Good enough to earn Winfield hit No. 3,000.
-Steve Aschburner (Star Tribune 9/17/1993)
At the time, Winfield was just four months removed from major surgery on his back. It was a bit of a wonder that, at age 41, he was even able to make a run at the milestone. Winfield entered the 1993 season, his first with the Twins, with 2,866 career hits. By the time September started, Winfield was just 10 hits away from 3,000.
It was clear that the pressure was starting to get to the 20-year veteran, however, and Winfield hit a slump during the first two weeks of September. From September 1-15, he managed just eight hits in 49 plate appearances (he batted .182/.245/.364 over that time period). Prior to the game against Oakland, Tom Kelly admitted that his chase had been a distraction, not only to Winfield, but to his teammates as well.
The pressure was lifted once Winfield made it to 3,000, a hit that helped the Twins stay close in a game that they would eventually win in extra innings.
A couple of other St. Paul native players were present for the milestone. Jack Morris and Paul Molitor were both on hand to witness the milestone. Both were on the Toronto roster at the time, and the Blue Jays happened to have a day off in Minneapolis before they started a weekend series with the Twins. Molitor, of course, would make some history of his own three years later… (to be continued)