1987: Twins Clinch the West

Originally posted as part of the Hot Stove 1987 series.

Monday September 28, 1987

Twins 5, Rangers 3

Twins Clinch AL West Title

For 24 out of 31 players on the Twins’ roster, the celebration was completely new. Those players had never won at the major league level before Monday’s clincher in Texas.

For six players, the win had to be particularly sweet. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Frank Viola, Tim Laudner, and Randy Bush all came up together in 1982. That season, the Twins lost 102 games, the worst record since the franchise moved to Minnesota. Now, six seasons later, they were pouring champagne on each other in the clubhouse at Arlington Stadium.

It didn’t look as though the celebration would happen early. Joe Niekro allowed three runs in the first inning. That Texas lead held until the top of the fourth. With two on and two out, Steve Lombardozzi launched a drive into the left field bleachers. The score remained tied until the eighth.

Once again, Lombardozzi came through with an RBI single to put the Twins ahead. An insurance run scored on a balk, but the Twins focus turned towards finishing the game before the Royals-Mariners game (a game the M’s led throughout) became a final.

At about 10:35 PM, Jeff Reardon coaxed Geno Petralli to hit a liner to Lombardozzi at second; Lombo relayed to Hrbek for the double play, and the celebration began.

The night’s hero summed it up to Mark Vancil in the Star Tribune:

“We wanted to get it over before they flashed a final on the Kansas City game,” Lombardozzi said. “We wanted to win it ourselves. And we went out and did it. I wanted to make the 1987 highlight film. Now I’m in Twins history forever.”

Though the celebration continued into the night, all eyes now turn to the AL East race that will determine who the Twins play in the 1987 ALCS.

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