The Washington Senators played for 60 seasons in the nation’s capital. If we ever have a 2020 season, it will be the franchise’s 60th in Minnesota. The Twins have enjoyed a bit more success than the Senators. With 119 seasons in their history, there are plenty of players to choose from for the Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators Mount Rushmore. Let’s get started…
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Walter Johnson (1907-1927)
I honestly don’t know where to start. There are just so many mind-blowing stats. The Big Train is easily a top-5 pitcher in the history of baseball. He began his career in 1907 and showed his potential immediately starting 14 games and finishing 12 to the tune of a 1.88 ERA. After fine-tuning his repertoire over the next couple of years, Johnson had probably the most dominant decade of any pitcher, and possibly player, in history. Here are his numbers from 1910-1919:
HR: 29 allowed, he hit 15
BAA: .210, he hit .233
Needless to say…WOW. Johnson pitched his whole 21-year career with the Senators. He finally reached the World Series in 1924 and won a championship at 36 years old. The series would be decided in Game Seven with Johnson pitching four scoreless innings in relief and securing the win when Earl McNeely doubled in Muddy Ruel for the series-winning run in the bottom of the 12th.
When Johnson retired in 1927, he was the all-time strikeout leader. That record held until 1983. Nolan Ryan broke Johnson’s record with a K of Brad Mills on April 27, 1983 for number 3,509. Johnson’s record was later changed to add a strikeout to his total. Nevertheless Ryan struck out Hubie Brooks on May 2, 1983 to secure the lead. Ironically at the end of the 1983 season, Steve Carlton was actually the all-time strikeout leader with 3,709 to Ryan’s 3,677. By the end of 1984 Ryan would take the lead 3,874-3,872 and never look back.
The legend of The Big Train can’t be denied. He was one of the five players originally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 (The official ceremony was in 1939). His strikeout record stood for 56 years after his retirement and he is still 12th all-time in career ERA at 2.17. Truly one of the greatest ever, he is easily the first face on the Senators/Twins Mount Rushmore.
Harmon Killebrew (1954-1974)
Killer made his major league debut at the ripe old age of 17 in June of 1954. He wouldn’t play much over the next few years, but finally was given a starting spot in 1959. That’s when he started to turn heads. Killebrew led the American League in HRs with 42 that season. He was banged up a bit in 1960 and only played 124 games. He still banged out 31 HRs and had a .909 OPS.
When the Senators moved to Minnesota, Killebrew broke out as the team’s captain. In 1961 he slashed .288/.405/.606 with 46 HRs. The next three years Killebrew would lead the AL in HRs each season. From 1961-1970 he would crush 403 HRs, drive in 1,046 runs, and have an OPS of .937 (156 OPS+). 1969 was his best season. He won the MVP and became, at the time, only the second player ever to have 45 HRs, 140 RBI, and 140 walks. Mark McGwire would join Killebrew and Babe Ruth in 1998 with a season like that.
He was fifth on the all-time HR list when he retired with 573 and he is still 12th. His number 3 was retired by the Twins in 1975 during a game against the Kansas City Royals while Killebrew played for them. Killebrew was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Killebrew passed away on May 17, 2011 and The Twins President David St. Peter released a statement at the time:
“No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew. Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. However, more importantly Harmon’s legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man.”
Rod Carew (1967-1978)
Carew played for 12 seasons with the Twins from 1967-1978. In that time he won the Rookie of the Year award along with an MVP and seven batting titles. He didn’t strike out more than 62 times in a season after 1971. Carew’s breakout really came in 1973 when he started to steal bases and use his speed. He led the league in batting with a .350 average but also had 203 hits and 41 SBs while leading the league in triples with 11.
1977 was a career year for Carew. He batted .388 for the season which at the time was the highest batting average since Ted Williams hit .388 in 1957. Carew’s average was over .400 on July 11th, but a 2-13 minislump dropped his average to .391 and he never made it back to the .400 plateau. He won the AL MVP that season and not just because of his batting average. He also set career highs in hits (239), doubles (38), triples (16), runs (128), and RBI (100).
Carew led the league one last time the following year hitting .333. It would be his final year in Minnesota. He was traded to the California Angels before the 1979 season. While he didn’t win another batting title, he hit .314 with a .393 OBP in his seven seasons in California. He got his 3,000th hit off the Twins’ Frank Viola on August 4, 1985.
Panama City’s National Stadium was named for Carew in 2004. The AL Batting Title was also named for him in 2016. His number 29 was retired by both the Twins and the Angels. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 in his first year of eligibility.
Kirby Puckett (1984-1995)
Puckett made his big league debut on May 8th, 1984, collecting four hits, and never looked back. He was primarily a singles hitter his first two years but finally showed some power in 1986 blasting 31 HRs. He made his first of 10 All-Star games that year along with the first of his six Gold Gloves. In 1987, Kirby would be an integral piece in leading the Twins to their first World Series victory in Minnesota. He batted .357 in the seven-game series vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.
A Series for the Ages
After an off year for Puckett and the Twins as a whole in 1990 where they finished last in the AL West, 1991 brought success. The Twins won the division with a 95-67 record. They finished with a team batting average of .280 and Puckett led the group hitting .319. But Kirby would make his mark in the playoffs. In the ALCS, the Twins beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games and Puckett won the ALCS MVP going 9-21 with two HRs and six RBI.
The World Series was one for the ages as they squared off against the Atlanta Braves who also finished in last place the previous season. It’s considered one of the greatest championship series ever due to its five one-run games while four of them were won on the final pitch. Kirby tripled in the first inning to score Chuck Knoblauch and then scored himself to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. In the third inning, Puckett made what would prove to be a crucial catch against the plexiglass in left-center off the bat of Ron Gant.
Nevertheless, the Braves managed to tie the game at three and force extra innings. Kirby stepped to bat in the bottom of the 11th vs. Charlie Leibrandt and shot a 2-1 pitch over the wall. Puckett fist-pumped his way around first base to the deafening sound of the Metrodome faithful and the legendary Jack Buck telling everyone “And we’ll see ya… tomorrow night.”
A Career Shortened
Kirby would go on to have four more excellent seasons including leading the league in hits in 1992 and RBI in the strike-shortened season of 1994. On September 28th, 1995, he was hit in the face by Dennis Martinez and broke his jaw. Unfortunately, that would be the last time Kirby Puckett would play major league baseball. He was diagnosed with central retinal vein occlusion which caused the loss of sight in one eye.
Puckett was remarkably consistent. In his whole career, he didn’t hit below .309 in a particular month. He also batted over .300 against every team in his career except the Blue Jays (.279). Kirby Passed away on March 6, 2006 after suffering a massive stroke the night before.
David Ortiz has said that he took number 34 in honor of Puckett who mentored him and became a friend from Papi’s days in Minnesota. Andy MacPhail, who was the Twins GM from 1985-1994, spoke about Puckett to SI.com saying, “The players around him couldn’t dog it because he’s running out groundouts in spring training games. It was impossible for people to give half an effort when the best player on the team was going full bore at all times.”
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images