4/3/82: The Twins beat the Phillies 5-0 in an exhibition game, the first Major League game played at the Metrodome. Pete Rose collects the first hit, and Bloomington-native Kent Hrbek hits the Dome’s first two homers. 4/4/90: The Twins trade future-KARE 11 anchor, Mike Pomeranz, to Pittsburgh in exchange for Junior Ortiz and a minor league pitcher. Ortiz, who wore #0, is best-remembered as Scott Erickson’s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. 4/5/14: The Twins beat Cleveland 7-3 for Ron Gardenhire’s 1,000th managerial win. 4/6 is the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland (1951). Blyleven grew up in Garden Grove, CA and was drafted by Minnesota out of high school in the 3rd round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Bert made his Major League debut on 6/2/70 at age 19. Blyleven would pitch for 22 seasons, 11 in Minnesota (‘70-’76, ‘85-’88). He is a 2x World Series champion, winning his 1st in 1979 as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and his 2nd as a member of the ‘87 Twins. Blyleven won 149 games as a Twin, 2nd only to Jim Kaat (190). His 3,701 career strikeouts rank 5th in Major League history. Bert Blyleven was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, his 14th year on the ballot. His number 28 is retired by the Minnesota Twins. 4/6/66: The Twins trade Nimrod, MN-native, Dick Stigman, to Boston. 4/6/73: Tony Oliva hits the first home run by a designated hitter in Major League history off of Oakland’s Catfish Hunter in an 8-3 Twins win. 4/7/70: Outfielder Brant Alyea drives in 7 runs to back winning pitcher Jim Perry in the season-opener. Alyea will go on to collect 21 RBI in the Twins’ first 12 games, and 19 in Perry’s first 4 starts. 4/8/88: The Twins beat the Blue Jays 6-3. Dan Gladden goes 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored, 4 RBI and 2 home runs. He homers in the 1st and 8th and, and steals home off of David Wells in the 7th with Kent Hrbek batting. 4/9/00: Ron Coomer, Jacque Jones and Matt LeCroy hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in win at KC.
A week before the start of their 1987 championship season, the Twins released fan-favorite, Mickey Hatcher, and traded for the much more dynamic, Dan Gladden.
In exchange for the Dazzle Man and a player to be named later, the Twins sent two minor league relievers and a player to be named to the San Francisco Giants. The player to be named that Minnesota would send to San Francisco wound up being Bemidji-native, former Golden Gopher pitcher and Twins ‘86 draft pick, Bryan Hickerson.
One of the appeals of Gladden was his game-changing speed. One newspaper headline the morning after the deal read “Popularity Sacrificed for Steals,” a motivation confirmed by Twins executive vice president, Andy MacPhail, who said that “the reason we got him is he gives us speed. He can steal bases, he’s a good turf player.” Hatcher, who had been with the Twins since 1981 and had peaked in ‘84, was a pretty one dimensional player. Though he possessed a career .281 average, he offered very little of the speed and versatility that the Twins sought with the addition of Gladden. “He just didn’t fit in,” manager Tom Kelly said of Hatcher. “There’s no place for him to play on this team. We have better athletes. We didn’t need him as a designated hitter or a pinch hitter, either.” It was a bold decision for the Twins to pull the trigger on the Gladden-for-Hatcher switch. Hatcher was owed $650,000 for the ‘87 season, and a $100,000 buyout for ‘88. It was the most expensive contract that the Twins would eat to that point in team history.
The decision would, obviously, pay dividends. Though Gladden wasn’t as good in ‘87 as he had been in ‘86 — or would be in ‘88, for that matter — he was a key component in the Twins winning their first World Series in franchise history. And the trademark grit and hustle he displayed on a broken bat Astroturf double in the bottom of the 10th of Game 7 put the Twins solidly in position to win the 1991 World Series. “Tonight,” Jack Buck said to the national television audience as the game entered the top of the 10th, “it’s so apparent that this is one of the most remarkable baseball games ever played.”
After being released by Minnesota, Mickey Hatcher returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had played the first two seasons of his career. After playing sparingly in the 1988 regular season, he replaced the injured Kirk Gibson in the World Series, batting .368 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI as the Dodgers upset the heavily favored Oakland A’s in five games. Hatcher retired after the 1990 season. He began coaching in 1993 with the Rangers, and served as Angels hitting coach from 2000 to 2012 under Dodger teammate, Mike Scioscia. The Angels won the World Series in 2002.
Bryan Hickerson, the final piece in the Gladden trade, graduated from Bemidji High School in 1982. He went on to the University of Minnesota, where he won the Gophers’ “Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year” award in ‘85 and ‘86. The Twins selected Hickerson in the 7th round of the June ‘86 amateur draft. He made his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants on July 25th, 1991, entering the game in the top of the 9th with the Giants leading the Mets 8-1. Hickerson struck out the first two Big League batters he faced, Kevin McReynolds and Howard Johnson, and induced a groundout from pinch-hitter, Vince Coleman. He pitched primarily in relief, but did start 29 games for the Giants between ‘93 and ‘94. After being released by the Giants, Hickerson pitched for the Cubs and Rockies in 1995 before retiring with a career 21-21 record and 4.72 ERA in 209 Major League games.
It’s the birthday of Washburn High School alumnus and Major League pitcher, Harold “Hy” Vandenberg, born in 1906. He made his Major League debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1935 at age 29, though he wouldn’t win his first game until 1940 with the New York Giants, and his 2nd not until 1944 with the Chicago Cubs. The 6’4″ right-hander, who got his professional start with the Minneapolis Millers, appeared in 90 Major League games, going 15-10 with 5 saves during seven seasons over an eleven year period. Additionally, he pitched in at least 435 minor league games, compiling a record of 139-128.
Hy Vandenberg was born in Abilene, Kansas. When Vandenberg was 4 years old his father died from tuberculosis and his mother moved the surviving members of the family to Minneapolis. Vandenberg began playing professional baseball with the Minneapolis Millers right out of high school, though he does not appear in the statistical record until age 24, when, in 1930, he pitched for the Bloomington, Illinois Cubs. He bounced around minor league baseball, going back and forth between Bloomington, Minneapolis and elsewhere before finally ending up in Syracuse in 1935 where he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox. Vandenberg, however, didn’t exactly think he was given a fair trial with Boston. He made only three relief appearances over a six week period, giving up 12 runs in 5 1/3 innings before heading back to Syracuse.
Vandeberg next appeared in the Major Leagues in 1937, getting 1 start for the New York Giants versus the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He allowed 7 runs over 8 innings in a 7-4 loss. He appeared in 6 games for Giants in ’38, and 2 in ’39, spending most of his time with the Jersey City farm club. He finally got his first Major League win in 1940 in a 5-2 Giants win against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The New York Times described the 5 hit, complete game victory as an “elegant mound triumph.”
After 1940, Vandenberg would not pitch in the Majors again until 1944 when he re-emerged with the Chicago Cubs, appearing in 35 games, more than the 25 appearances he had accumulated in his previous 5 stints in the Majors combined. He finished 1944 with a 7-4 record, 2 saves and a 3.63 ERA.
Vandenberg held out into the 1945 season, training at the University of Minnesota. Once he did report to the Cubs, however, he matched his success from the year before, compiling a 7-3 record and 3.49 ERA in 30 games. The Cubs played the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series. Though the Cubs lost in 7 games, Vandenberg provided solid relief pitching in games 4, 5 and 7.
Despite coming off of his two most successful seasons, the Cubs released Vandenberg during spring training in 1946. Possibly dispirited, he performed poorly in the minors with Oakland and Milwaukee. In 1947 his contract was purchased by Oklahoma City, but he chose instead to leave professional baseball and pitched for the Springfield, Minnesota team in the amateur Western Minor League.
Following his playing career, Vandenberg worked as an engineering technician for the Hennepin County Highway Administration. Hy Vandenberg died from cancer at his home in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1994. He was 88 years old.