Twins Talk, July 22 22 Jul 16

Twins Talk

Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Three Classy Guys: Gordo, Torii, and Terry!

 

During a terrific Hall of Fame weekend at Target Field, I was walking through the service-level concourse when I saw Twins General Manager Terry Ryan and Senior Communications Director Dustin Morse heading toward me. Dustin, who is usually quite friendly, looked distressed. As we passed, I said, “Hello, guys.” Dustin forced out a little “Hey.” But Terry stopped, shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Hello, Gordy. How are you?” Looking back, I am guessing that they both knew Terry’s fate. That would explain Dustin’s disturbed look, and why Terry seemed so sincere. When he said hi, he was actually saying goodbye. I’ll miss him; he’s a great guy. Terry didn’t lose all of those games; the players did. But as GM he must take responsibility, and besides, the Pohlads had to prove to the fans that they won’t stand for losing — they want a change.

Many fans have complained that the Pohlads are tight…but they are not. They want to win, and they have said over the years that if Terry Ryan ever came to them asking for money to sign a player who would help the team win, they would not turn him down. But it’s not that easy to find players, and I believe it was Terry who was afraid of spending their money – afraid of losing their money in a bad deal. A little gun-shy after Ricky Nolasco.

But back to the terrific weekend. I had the honor of shooting family photographs for both Twins’ Hall of Fame inductees, Torii Hunter and John Gordon. I have known both of them for more than 20 years, and they have become dear friends. Both the previous Hall of Famers and the current Twins team were buzzing with excitement and kind words about the two inductees.

Jim Perry, the Twins’ first Cy Young Award winner, said of Torii: “What a great guy! I told Torii I wouldn’t miss this!”

Rod Carew seized an opportunity at the Hall of Fame breakfast to promote heart health. He told everyone to eat right, exercise, and not only see your doctor regularly, but listen to him or her. He then pulled up his shirt to expose three battery packs that were strapped onto him, which keeps his heart pumping. He told about traveling with spare batteries, because if they die, so does he.

Later, I talked with Joe Mauer about the weekend. He said, “I don’t think anyone is surprised that Torii’s being inducted. Both he and John Gordon are very deserving people. I’ve known Torii for a long time, and I have learned from him. I grew up listening to John, and now to know him on a personal level is pretty special.”

Soon after, Trevor Plouffe approached me, and he laughed and said, “I asked Torii Hunter to put a uniform on for us.” Then he continued, “I met Torii when I was younger, on my way up…but then he left. Getting to play with him last season was awesome. I got to know him very well – he’s a special guy. And every time he comes to visit, it’s a special time.”

Ron Gardenhire looking very relaxed and healthy was at Target Field for the Hall of Fame weekend, too. I invited him to lunch next week, but he said, “Gordy, the Twins have me so busy…I wish I could.” Then he proceeded to tell me all of the stops in his upcoming month of travel to watch baseball, and look at prospects. While he was telling me, he had a twinkle in his eyes. He’s back doing what he loves: working in baseball.   

Tom Kelly looked great, too. During the Hall of Fame breakfast, TK took the time to walk around to each table and visit with nearly every fan who had paid to be there. He is tough as a coach and a teacher, but has a huge heart and is a great guy. Torii learned a lot from TK, and said that TK formed him into the man that he is today. As Torii raised his sons, he said he tried to be Tom Kelly-like.

I asked Torii what kind of an influence his first mentors, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett, had on him. I wondered if he knew that he’d one day be a star like them. He gave me his trademark grin and said, “No. I just wanted one day in the big leagues. Give me one day and a cup of coffee, and I’ll be good. Then I can tell my grandkids I played. But when I stood there as an 18-year-old boy at spring training, with Dave Winfield on my right and Kirby on my left, they gave me wisdom and drive. I remember Kirby showed me his paycheck one day. He said, ‘Open it, my eyes are hurting.’ I opened it up, and it was a big amount. I said, ‘Oh my God! Is this what you make in the big leagues?’ That was kind of a motivation. And Dave Winfield, one of the nicest guys in baseball, was showing me his family pictures. There was an earthquake that damaged his home in 1993, and he took out a picture of his home to show me. I was really inspired by his home. Haha. But those guys helped me out, taught me how to carry myself in life.”

John Gordon told me he never dreamed he’d be inducted to the Twins’ Hall of Fame. He didn’t really think it was that big of a deal. He was always happy for those being inducted, but never realized the magnitude of what it meant until Rod Carew called and told him. As the days drew closer to the induction ceremony, it all sunk in. He began to feel nervous and said he couldn’t believe it was really happening. He was very excited and talked to Twins’ president, Dave St. Peter, nearly every day. He even worried that he’d be too emotional to speak.   

Gordo joined the Twins’ broadcast team in 1987, the same year TK became manager. They both went to the World Series their very first year. Gordo told me, “I’ll always remember when I interviewed for the position in 1986. Ironically — it’s really funny – I was in New Jersey, Tom Kelly was in New Jersey, and we flew out to Minneapolis together in search of jobs. Then, later that day, we flew back together. We laughed and said to each other, ‘Well, did you get the job?’ It was a riot…a really fun time!”  

Tom Kelly told me he recognized John first as they boarded the plane. They had met during their days in the minors. They both still have a good laugh when they talk about that crazy coincidence.

Except for losing Terry Ryan, it was a great weekend. I am so happy for my good friends Torii and Gordo. And maybe some year down the road, when the dust settles and the hurt has healed, Terry Ryan will return to Target Field, and maybe he’ll be inducted into the Twins’ Hall of Fame.