Who is the best Minnesota Twin of all time?
It’s a fairly subjective question.
Unless you ask Roy.
Roy will occasionally draw me into a conversation in the locker room at a local health club by making eye contact and saying “Hey! Newspaper Guy, what do you think of ...”
Roy goes about my height (5-feet-5 with Nikes on) and has gray hair. I assume he’s retired, but our conversations never go past the sports stories of the day.
I don’t know if Roy knows my name, but I’ll take “Newspaper Guy” as a term of endearment, considering some of the things I’ve been called.
I’m not even sure Roy’s name is actually Roy. He’s never told me his name, but I heard another locker room acquaintance call him Roy one time, so that’s what we’ll go with.
Roy had a burning question for me last week.
The conversation started like this: “Hey, Newspaper Guy. Is Mauer a Hall Of Famer?”
The Twins retired Joe Mauer’s jersey over the weekend and Roy was on the fence about whether or not the St. Paul-born-and-raised catcher who retired last year deserves a bust in Cooperstown.
My quick response was, “yes.”
So I brought up Mauer’s three batting titles, his .306 lifetime average, his three gold gloves, five silver sluggers and six all-star appearances.
The look on Roy’s face said he’d like to bean me with a fastball, and he changed the question quickly.
“I suppose you think Mauer is the best Twins player ever?”
The look on Roy’s face said “answer wisely, Newspaper Guy.”
I’ve had this debate enough with other Twins fans, especially those who have watched the franchise from its earliest days in Minnesota.
The answer Roy was looking for was obvious, but the topic of the best Twins player of all time is always a fun debate.
So I told him I couldn’t answer his question fairly. I wasn’t born when Harmon Killebrew played his last season in Minnesota (1974), nor when he returned to Minnesota the following summer as a member of the Kansas City Royals and had his number retired.
Killebrew was a monster at the plate at a time when neither the baseballs nor the players were juiced.
I didn’t see any of his 573 home runs or 1,584 RBIs. But to ask anyone who did, it’s clear that Killebrew’s emotional ties to Twins fans go well beyond what he did on the field.
But for all those reasons that a greater generation fell in love with Killebrew, my generation fell in love with Kirby Puckett.
The 2,300-plus hits, the 207 career home runs, 1,085 RBIs, .318 career batting average and two World Series championships were all just icing on the cake to Puckett’s laugh, smile, his infectious love for the game, and the effort he gave every time he stepped on the field.
So, my answer to Roy was that I couldn’t answer. Puckett is my favorite Twins player ever and the best I ever watched. Kent Hrbek has to be in the mix, too, with his nearly 300 homers, and his Game 6 grand slam in the ‘87 series that sent it to a Game 7.
But having never watched Killebrew or Tony Olivia, and remembering only the very tail end of Rod Carew’s career, I can’t say who’s the best.
Roy — if that is, in fact, his name — can: “It’s Killebrew, Newspaper Guy. No debate.”