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I thought I would break up my Twins Fest weekend by days. My original intent was to post something each day, as things happened, and to some degree, I did that on Twitter. But I did want to blog some of the events in some more detail as well. I took Thursday off of work and drove down to the cities. I worked all day on Friday at the office down there, but after work, I drove up to Carpenter’s Hall in downtown St. Paul for the 3rd Annual Last Ballpark Tours Hot Stove League Banquet. I had been to the 2nd annual Last Ballpark Tours Hot Stove League two years ago and had a blast.
Julian and “Sammy” did another tremendous job of putting together a great event. I got there a little bit before 6, and Sammy instantly greeted me and found me a table. Soon after Howard Sinker from the Star Tribune and John Bonnes (Twins Geek) with The Voice of Reason and the four of us were at a table. There was a nice baseball-related dinner of hot dogs, brats and burgers, beans and chips. It was great!
I was washing my hands in the bathroom before the program began when Juan Berenguer came in there, so that was pretty cool.
I don’t know the official count, but I would guess there were over 200 people there. Brad Zellar from The Rake was the night’s MC and he was absolutely tremendous. The program began by remembering a couple of the Ballpark Tours group that had passed away, followed by a mention for many baseball people who had passed away. The national anthem was sung, and it was followed by the Canadian National Anthem, which is so cool!
Then it was time for Jim Kaat to speak. He had just arrived in town from Florida, and he had to leave around 7:45 to get over to Twins Fest to sign at the Bob Feller Museum booth. I assumed he’d talk for 15 minutes and then take off. But he just told story after story, and I honestly could listen to him talk all day. He had stories from growing up and following the career of Lefty Grove. He told several stories of the 1965 World Series. And of course, there were a few mentions of the salary differential between when he played and now which also brought some laughter at the expense of Calvin Griffith. He spoke of a “quiet, young Dutch kid” named Bert Blyleven. He spoke of his offseason radio shows on a station in Shakopee, because he had to have a job in the offseason. He spoke of winning the World Series in 1982 with the Cardinals, and his broadcasting career. The audience was full of die-hard baseball fans, and it was just great to hear someone who is a legend, like Kaat, just share story after story.
He finished and soon after Peter Schilling, a local author who wrote The End of Baseball, spoke. He wrote an article for the upcoming Maple Street Press/TwinsCentric 2011 Twins Annual (which you can now pre-order here) on the art of heckling. He spoke for nearly 15 minutes on heckling and I have to admit, it cracked me up.
Next up was Juan Berenguer who many may remember for the Berenguer Boogie as much as his role in the bullpen of the 1987 Twins. Did everyone realize that he played in four World Series? He was born in Panama, and two years before he signed, he met Tony Oliva in the Dominican Republic. Oliva spent time with Berenguer, and it became Juan’s goal to get to pitch to Oliva in a game. In 1975, Berenguer signed with the Tigers, and soon, he got into a game against the Twins. Oliva was due up, but since it was late in the game, Oliva was replaced by a pinch hitter. After speaking for a few minutes, Berenguer answered a lot of questions. He loves living in Minnesota. It is family to him. He did not want to leave the Twins as a free agent and said he told Andy MacPhail that he would sign with the Twins for a half-million dollars less, but he ended up with the Braves. He noticed that Kirby Puckett was really, really good at leaving him with the dinner bill. It was fun.
Next up was an auction. MinnPost’s David Brauer was the auctioneer and did a nice job, particularly reminding the crowd that the money was ‘for the kids.’ The money made on the evening goes to the Dunning Field baseball program in St. Paul. The event has raised over $50,000 for the group. Kaat signed a few items that went for over $400. Berenguer signed a baseball and it went for $140. The St. Paul Saints donated an great package for a game with a dozen tickets, a couple dozen hot dogs and more. Then they had a couple of framed piece of the Metrodome roof. One went for $500, so they made the second one available at it went for $525.
Next up was the State of the Twins portion of the event. LaVelle Neal and Howard Sinker were to be a panel on the stage to discuss the Twins and answer questions. However, as Zellar was calling them up, he also asked John Bonnes and me to be on the panel. LaVelle spoke for about ten minutes on the Twins offseason, their lineup, the questions in the bullpen, but the many options that they have for those spots. At that point, Zellar opened the floor up for questions from the crowd. It was honestly pretty neat to be up there. It was fun also because there were a lot of questions on the minor leagues, players who could be traded or players that could have a big impact on the Twins in 2011.
With that, several people came up and asked more questions, and at the end of the night, it was great just talking with Sammy, Julian, LaVelle, Peter, John and TVOR for a few minutes before calling it a night.
It was a great night. Hopefully there will be a 4th Annual Last Hot Stove League Banquet next year, and hopefully many more will be able to make it. Later, I will post Part 2 of my Twins Fest series, which would be Saturday at Twins Fest in Blaine, so be sure to check back. Thanks!
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.