Thursday, December 29, 2011
Killebrew's passing, Thome's 600th marked 2011
Even with all of the negativity on the field, there were some signature moments that fans across Twins Territory will carry with them for the foreseeable future. There were on field triumphs and some moments off the field that go beyond the game of baseball.
But together they compose the year that was for the 2011 Minnesota Twins...
5. Liriano tosses no-hitter in Chicago
It was not a perfectly pitched game by any means but Liriano was able to avoid the White Sox getting any hits on the board. At the beginning of May, there was still plenty of hope left in the Twins season. It took 123 pitches and the defense behind Liriano was relied on for multiple plays in the game. The Twins only scored one run of support for Liriano, a fourth inning home run off of the bat of Jason Kubel. This would be enough for Liriano on the night as he pitched the fifth no-hitter since the Twins moved to Minnesota.
4. Nathan sets Twins all-time saves mark
There were many obstacles in the way of Nathan reaching this feat with the Twins. He came to the team with little closing experience and only one save to his name. When he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2010, it looked like his shot at the record could be over. He worked hard to get back on the mound and win the closer role to start 2011. After the first couple weeks of the season, it again looked like Nathan might not ever reach this historic mark. He gave up the closers role after two bad outings in Tampa Bay but this was not the last Twins fans would see of Nathan. In the middle of July, the closer role was given back to Nathan and he made the most of the opportunity. He would pass Rick Aguleria with his 255th save in club history on August 10th and he cemented his place as one of the best pitchers in the history of the franchise.
3. Blyleven enshrined in Cooperstown
The journey for Blyleven to the doorstep of Cooperstown was a long one in the making. It took until his 14th time on the ballot to reach the 75% mark from the writers. He became the first Dutchman to make be elected to the Hall and he is the first pure starting pitcher since Nolan Ryan to be selected by the writers in 1999. Blyleven followed in the footsteps of Killebrew, Carew and Puckett to become the fourth player to be wearing a Twins cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. The Twins organization also held a celebration the weekend before his Hall-of-Fame induction to honor his career and retire his number. It was a long wait for Mr. Blyleven but he can finally sign "HOF 2011" next to his name.
2. Thome reaches 600 home run plateau
When the Twins announced that Thome would be coming back for the 2011 season, many fans wondered how long it would take for Thome to enter the 600 club. After only one season with the team, he had already hit some memorable home runs. Passing Killebrew on the all-time list and his walk-off shot against the White Sox were two great memories from 2010. By the time the Twins had reached mid-August, there was little else to cheer for besides Thome's chase for 600. He would join seven other greats of the game on August 15 with his 599th and 600th home run in the same game. Shortly after he hit his 600th, the team would send him to Cleveland for a chance at reaching the playoffs. But Thome provided plenty of memories during his short time wearing a TC on his batting helmet.
1. Killebrew remembered for much more than baseball
There are many moments that can shape a baseball season but somethings are beyond the scope of the baseball world. Harmon Killebrew was that type of person and that type of player. The mark left by Killebrew on the Twins franchise is hard to quantify. He was a gentle giant who become a legend in Twins Territory for his play on the field and became more well-known for his kindness off of it. His memorial service at Target Field will not soon be forgotten by the fans who were able to take part in this celebration of his life. Mudcat Grant's stirring rendition of "What a Wonderful World" echoed through downtown Minneapolis. The moment of the night was when Nita Killebrew stepped up to the microphone and gave a tremendous speech to all fans of the Twins. After the strength she showed and the words she spoke, there was not a dry eye in the house, a fitting tribute to the man they called "Killer."