We’re a little odd around here (and I hear those snickers saying “we had that figured already”). But I’m a Dodgers fan, my wife tends to root for the Cardinals, and my son, well, he’s the oddest of all, a Minnesota Twins fan.
Back in 1987 my son was still small and was beginning to show a real interest in baseball. He’d get the Sunday sports page and find the baseball stats page and look them over very seriously. He couldn’t read yet, but he knew that it was important and he was determined to decipher those long lines of numbers. And to top it all off, some of his friends had a few baseball cards, which were wonderfully mystic pieces of cardboard. Well, I also had a few, including a couple of spares.
It was obvious from the look on his face and the hints that he wanted his own baseball card. So I looked around and sort of absently discovered I had those spares. Without any serious thought, I picked up one and handed it to him as his own first ever baseball card. His smile was worth it and I’ve never regretted giving it to him. I have come to question his reaction.
He was not just happy, he became a prophet. We’ve never had a lot of those in the family. We’ve tended to believe in the old Churchill comment that “It is always easier to prophesy after the event.” But my son was struck by a moment of divine inspiration (I’ve never had one of those so I don’t know how it feels).
The card was a Roy Smalley card in Minnesota Twins uniform. You might remember Smalley. He was Roy Smalley III and his dad had been a Major Leaguer in the 1950s. His uncle was Gene Mauch. He came up with Texas in 1975 as a 22-year-old middle infielder (more time at short than second), didn’t do much, and was sent to the Twins. He developed into an All Star shortstop (1979), then ended up with the Yankees back when they were trying to keep alive the 1976-1981 run. He didn’t do much in New York, went to Chicago (the White Sox, not the Cubs), then finished up in 1985-1987 with the Twins.
So the next day, this would be about the All Star break, my son (who slept with his Smalley card) walked into the living room and announced that the Twins would win the World Series and that Smalley, by then a part-time player, would be a hero. OK, kid, sure thing. My wife and I both nodded knowingly, agreeing with him, and he left the room.
“Are the Twins any good?” my wife asked.
They were in second place, percentage points behind the Royals (I just checked), but no one was picking them to knock off KC, so I told her, “They’re OK, but nothing special.”
You know what happened don’t you? Of course he was right. The Twins stumbled through July and August, then went 16-11 in September and won the American League West by two games. They stunned most everyone by knocking off the favored Tigers 4 games to 1. Then, with home field for the World Series, they won all four home games, while dropping all three road games to St. Louis. My son was right, the Twins were world champions.
And Smalley? He hit .275 in 110 games with 32 runs scored and 34 RBIs. So he certainly helped his team to the playoffs. Then he sat out the AL championship series. So far, nice, but no big deal. They used him four times as a pinch hitter in the World Series. He had two walks and a hit (a double). The double was in game two and didn’t lead to a run. The other play was in the game four loss. An error put him on second and he advanced to third but didn’t score. The first walk was in game five and he got as far as second without scoring. In the Series clincher he walked in the sixth with the scored tied 2-2. It kept an inning alive and the Twins took the lead two batters later on a Greg Gagne single. So was he a “hero”? Not sure, but he did help his team.
We were all stunned, except my son of course (had it all the time, Pop). It led to general rejoicing in the home, although the Cards loss was a small downer. And it made my son a Twins fan for life. He was overjoyed at the 1991 Series (which was a great Series regardless of rooting interest) and died a little when Kirby Puckett retired (When Smalley retired, Puckett became the new favorite.). We had a youth baseball team that I coached. He insisted it be called the Twins. I still have his old jersey with 34 (Puckett) on the back. I’m going to give it to his son when he gets old enough to wear it.
Oh, and the power of prophesy? I asked him who’d win the Super Bowl in 1987 (the 1988 Super Bowl). He immediately picked the Redskins. They won (42-10 over Denver). On a roll, I asked about the Kentucky Derby. He hashed it. Apparently the power of prophesy had run its course. Real shame. I had a lot more bets to get down. BTW, there went your college fund, kid.