Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1977 Minnesota Twins

By 1977 the glory days of the mid 60's and early 70's for the Twin franchise now resembled mediocre baseball at it's best.  A string of 3rd and 4th place finishes ran from 1972-1980.  With Gene Mauch at the helm you could count on everyone being as tight as a snare drum.  At 84-77, the Twins finished a half game worse than they did the previous season and 17 1/2 games behind KC.  As late as the August 15th, Mauch had his troops maintaining sole possession of 1st place in the NL West.  The team hovered close to the top, but began losing a string of games where their offense couldn't hit their way out of the holes that their pitching staff put them in.  They would go 16-26 down the stretch, while the Royals zoomed past them to a 101 win season.  Back 9 games on September 9th the Twins dropped 3 straight to KC to put the kibosh on their season.  On top of the pennant race, which lasted 4 1/2 months was Rod Carew's quest for .400.  Minnesota's future HOF'er eventually finished the season at .388, but for most of the summer he was at or above .400, which brought national attention to the sometimes forgotten franchise.  The Twin bats as a whole were alive.  They led the AL in average (.282), but finished near the bottom in homers.  Carew (100) and leftfielder Larry Hisle (119) both eclipsed the century mark in RBI's.  In a normal year, Lyman Bostock's .338 and 90 RBI's would have been a huge attention grabber, but with Carew flirting with .400 Bostock went virtually un-noticed.  Glenn Adams hit .338 coming off the bench in a utility role and Craig Kusic and Rich Chiles split the DH duty and combined for 15 homers and a .260 average.

What went wrong ?  You don't have to be a SABR-mathematician to figure it out.  Other than Dave Goltz (20-11, 3.36) the Twins did not have a reliable starter to go to.  Paul Thormodsgard (11-15, 4.62), Geoff Zahn (12-14, 4.68) and Pete Redfern (6-9, 5.18) put the offense's back up against the wall night in and night out.  The pen reflected the rotation with close Tom Johnson (16-7, 3.13, 15 Sv) as the only reliable guy that Mauch could call on late in games.  Johnson, despite his great win/loss numbers, did blow his share of saves, which accounted for the wins thanks to the comeback-ability of their run producers.  Despite their status as contenders well up until mid August the Twins had troubles at the turnstiles finishing 11th in the league at attracting fans.  Metropolitan Stadium was definitely showing it's age.

To complete this set of 1977 Topps Cards 18 new cards needed to be created.  This was by far the easiest set for me to create, since I didn't have to create them.  Sole credit goes to our friend Jim from www.Twinscards.com.  Jim sent me the missing cards and all I needed to do was crop them down to the standard size that we use and update 1 or 2 of the fonts for the player names.  I thank him for being so gracious in allowing us to use his great creations as part of our updated 1977 Topps Cards pack.

Chiles was a rule 5 draft pick from the Houston organization during the '76 off season.  After bouncing around the minors for the better part of the decade the Twins were able to catch lighting in a bottle over the course of the next 2 seasons.  In '77 he hit .264 as a part time DH/4th outfielder.  In '78 he bettered that mark with a .268 average.  For his troubles he was dealt to Cleveland where he was farmed out and never again returned to the majors.  Interesting tidbits about Chiles that I found while searching the web:  He is the cousin of HOF'er George Kelly and he was Dustin Pedroia's first batting coach (Pedroia was a 7 year old little leaguer at the time).

Gorinski was the Twins #1 draft pick in 1970.  It took him 7 years to get to the big leagues and based on his stats (.195-3-22) in 54 games, he blew his chance big time. He would return to the minors in '78 and hit in the .230's.  The Mets took a flyer on him in '79 and he was so bad he couldn't even make their 95+ loss team.  After a season in Tidewater he was released by the Mets and his baseball career was caput.

24 year old rookie reliever Jeff Holly got off to a rocky start in his major league career by going 2-3 with a 6.89 ERA in 18 games for the Twins during the '77 season.  Things looked better for him in '78 as his ERA dropped to 3.57 in 15 games, but when it ballooned up to 7.11 in 1979 the Twins were done with him.  In December of 1979 he was dealt to the Tigers for Fernando Arroyo, but never made the Tigers major league roster.  Detroit cut him outright and no other team picked him up despite the fact that he had a solid 1979 season at Toledo (4-3, 2.88). 

Poor Dave Johnson.  He got his start in the Baltimore chain and must have been referred to as "the other Dave Johnson", since the O's had an All-Star secondbaseman with the same name.  Johnson rose very slowly through Baltimore's farm system and seemed to stall at Triple A Rochester, where he spent 4 seasons.  Baltimore had some of the best arms on the planet with the parent club, which made them a pennant contender year in and year out.  It also served to discourage their young draftees down on the farm.  Johnson got into 11 games and went 2-2 (2.93) in 1974, but found himself back on the farm.  His cup of coffee in '75 was not good at all.  Expansion in 1977 rescued him from the Orioles quagmire.  After the first year Mariners selected him from the O's they sold his contract to the Twins.  In 30 games during the '77 season Johnson worked mainly (24 games) out of the pen.  His 2-5 (4.58) record in 72 2/3 innings was sub par.  The Twins gave him another shot in '78, but he failed miserably (0-2, 7.50).  His return to the minors must have been very discouraging.  After sporting a 9.00 ERA in 4 games the Twins released him.

Norwood was hitting over .400 at Triple A Tacoma when the Twins called him up during the middle of the '77 season.  His success in the minors did not translate to the majors.  In 39 games and 83 at bats he hit .229 with 3 homers and just 6 stolen bases.  Norwood could play all 3 outfield spots and had great basestealing ability.  Unfortunately during his major league career he was unable to steal 1st base.  Based off of his minor league numbers he was given a starting spot in the oufield in 1978.  He stole 25 bases, but hit just .255.  1979 saw his playing time dwindle and his average dropped to .248 and his stolen bases dropped to 9.  His final shot with the Twins was in 1980 where he hit just .165 in 34 games.  A return trip to the Triple A saw him hit just .275, which earned him his unconditional release at the end of the season.

Legend has it that going into the last game of the 1977 season Perlozzo's teammate, Rod Carew, had 99 RBIs. Perlozzo started the game at shortstop in place of Roy Smalley, and just as Perlozzo was about to bat for the first time in the game, manager Gene Mauch grabbed him by the arm and said, "I want you to go up there and hit a triple, right now, this at-bat. You hit a triple, understand?" Perlozzo did hit a triple, and Carew hit a single to gain his 100th RBI of the season.  Perlozzo made the most of his limited time with the Twins by going 7 for 24 (.292) during his brief stint in the majors during the '77 season.  1978 saw a return to the minors.  His .244 average earned him a release.  He wound up with the Padres and hit .301 for their Triple A affiliate Hawaii, which earned him a brief call up.  After the Padres cut him he became a player coach for the Mets Tidewater AAA affiliate.  He spent many years as a coach in the Mets organization before getting his big break to manage the Orioles.

Just days before the 1977 season began, the Minnesota Twins purchased Schueler from the Phillies. With the Twins, he pitched as a reliever and spot starter, as he did in Philadelphia. Schueler's stay with the Twins lasted only one season, as he became a free agent after the 1977 season.  Schueler went 8-7 (4.41) in 52 games in Bloomington.  He logged 134 2/3 innnigs in 45 relief appearances and 7 spot starts.  In 1978 he signed as a free agent with the White Sox and spent the next two seasons there before leaving baseball as an active player.  He has spent the last 30 years as a coach, GM, special advisor and scout for a host of major league franchises. 

From 1973 to 1977 he played in the minor leagues on Twins affiliate teams, making his debut with the Twins in September 1977. After spending the full 1978 season with the Minnesota Twins, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Dave Coleman. He spent the 1979 and 1980 seasons with the Boston Red Sox.  In 1981, Wolfe returned to the minor leagues and played for the Indianapolis Indians, then an affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1982, Wolfe played in Japan for the Kintetsu Buffaloes.  Wolfe played in 8 games as a utility infielder during the '77 season and hit .240 (6-25) with no homers and 6 RBI's.

20 year old Gary Serum was rushed to the majors to help the Twins solve their pitching woes.  He contributed 22 2/3 innings out of the pen and posted an 4.37 ERA.  The following season he pitched in 184 innings and posted a 9-9 record as a full time member of the starting rotation.  His 4.10 ERA was about around the league average.  The following season (1979) he bottomed out going 1-3 (6.61).  He would spend the next 5 seasons shuttling back and forth between AAA and AA ball for the Twins and Yankee organizatioins.  After going 6-1 (5.14) for the Columbus Clippers in 1982 he was let go by the Yankees and his career was over at the age of 25.

Shellenback has been a longtime coach in the Minnesota Twins' minor league system, and served on their Major League staff in 1983. He has been the pitching coach of the Rookie-level Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League for 17 consecutive seasons, since 1994.  Known more for his coaching than his playing, Shellenback was given one final chance during the '77 season to resurect his career.  In 5 games with the Twins he did not have a decision and his ERA was 7.94.  Prior to 1977 his last major league appearance was in 1974 with the Rangers in a career that started in Pittsburgh way back in 1966. 

Thormodsgard played three seasons in the majors, all of them as a member of the Minnesota Twins from 1977 to 1979. In 50 career games, Thormodsgard had a 12-21 record with an ERA of 4.74. He allowed 4 home runs, 33 runs, and had 118 strikeouts.  In 1977, Thormodsgard started 37 games while posting a 11-15 record and striking out 94 batters. In Thormodsgard's final season in 1979, he pitched one inning in one game in relief, allowing one run and getting a no decision.

23 year old rookie Rob Wilfong played in 73 games for the Twins during the '77 season and hit .246 in 193 plate appearances.  In 5 1/2 seasons playing in the Twin Cities he would hit .262 and play a rock solid second base.  His peak year was 1979, where he hit .313 and led the league with 25 sac hits.  Midway through the '82 season he was traded to the Angels and help lead them to the AL West crown.  In exchange the Twins acquired future star Tom Brunansky.  In total he would spend 11 seasons in the big leagues.

Geoff won 10 or more games for 6 consecutive seasons (1977–1982) with the Twins and Angels, totaling 81 wins over that span.  After being released by the Cubs after the '76 season he signed with the Twins and spent the next 4 seasons in Minnesota.  His 12-14 (4.68) was not outstanding, but certainly more than what could have been expected from a guy who bounced around baseball since 1966.  Like most soft tossing lefties, it took Zahn time to figure it all out.  He started to really figure it out at the age of 31 during his first season in Minnesota.

Bass came up with the Minnesota Twins as a first baseman in 1977. In his six seasons in the Major Leagues (divided among five teams), he was never a day-to-day player, usually coming off the bench just to pinch hit. After his contract expired following the 1982 season, Bass signed with the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League, who made him their starting first-baseman. Bass is often credited as single-handedly turning the fortune of the Tigers which resulted in the team's run and eventual victory of the Japan Series in 1985.  Bass took advantage of the differences between Japanese and American styles of pitching, and immediately became the Tigers' star slugger. He won four consecutive league batting titles; in 1986, he nearly became the first player in Japan to bat .400, finishing the season with a .389 average, a record that still stands, despite Ichiro Suzuki's formidable challenges to it in 1994 and 2000. Bass won consecutive batting Triple Crowns (1985 and 1986), a feat no player has accomplished in the U.S. Major Leagues since the 1960s. In 1985, he was on a pace to break Sadaharu Oh's record of 55 home runs in a single season, but fell short by one, because in the last game of the season the pitcher from Oh's Yomiuri Giants threw only intentional walks (allegedly to prevent the Westerner from breaking Oh's record).

Bulling's biggest claim to fame during his short 4 year major league career came in 1982 when he caught Gaylord Perry's 300th win.  Other than that you're looking at a catch and throw catcher who wasn't much of a threat at the plate.  In 1977 he got into 15 games and hit .156 for the Twins.  He would spend the next 3 seasons in the minors before resurfacing in Seattle and hitting .247 in 62 games worth of action.  The following season he dropped to .221 iin 56 games and by 1983 he was on his way out.

Adams was the first round pick in the 1968 amateur draft of the Houston Astros (fourth pick overall). During his career, Adams appeared in 373 games as a designated hitter, and 145 games as an outfielder. Adams finished his Major League career a .280 hitter, with 34 home runs.  After 2 cups of coffee with the Giants in '75 and '76 Adams moved over to the Twins and made the most of his golden opportunity by hit a robust .338 as a part time player (269 at bats).  He spent the next 5 seasons reprising his role as 4th outfielder / DH for the Twins before signing as free agent with the Blue Jays for his final major league season. 

Butler was an "original" KC Royal and pitched rather well for the expansion team (9-10, 3.90) as a 22 year old rookie.  The sky was the limit for him, but he was never able to attain any type of sustained success.  Various trips between Triple A and the majors occurred during the next 7 seasons.  At the age of 30 he was given his final shot at the biggs with the Twins and posted an awful 0-1 (6.86) record in 6 games (21 innings).

Carrithers showed great promise during his 8 year major league career, but was a victim of constant injuries.  After 4 injury plagued seasons in San Fran he was dealt to the Expos, where he showed flashes of brilliance, but was once again bitten by the injury bug.  The Twins purchased his contract from Montreal just before the '77 season started.  He got into just 7 games and his 0-1 (6.91) record was hampered once again by injury, which eventually ended his carrer at the age of 27.


  1. Araig, sure enjoyed your piece, heckuva good writeup - - and such excellent new Twins '77s. I'd like to link to this from my Twins page. Look for an email! Thanks and good day!

  2. Did you know you can shorten your long urls with Shortest and get money for every click on your shortened links.