New Book Revisits Ortiz Twins Career
A recently released local book about the era of the Twins in the Metrodome includes new insights regarding David Ortiz’s departure from Minnesota after the 2002 season. Ortiz created the impression over the years that leaving the Twins was something he welcomed, but quotes from former Minnesota teammates alter that perspective.
Ortiz, who played parts of six seasons with the Twins, became one of baseball’s most feared hitters after joining the Red Sox. The Twins gave up on the DH-first baseman after too many injuries and mixed results in his performance. Ortiz flourished, though, with the Red Sox where one season he hit 54 home runs, and closed his career as a 40-year-old in 2016 with a .315 batting average while hitting 38 home runs and driving in 127 runs.
Last spring the Hall of Fame-bound Ortiz was critical of his Twins experience in his new hardcover book, Papi: My Story. Among his digs at the Twins was Tom Kelly’s fondness for slap hitters, accusing the manager of trying to make the 6-3, 230-pound slugger into a lightweight at the plate to take advantage of the Metrodome’s bouncy artificial surface.
In an online review of the book last May, Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey offered this quote from Ortiz regarding Kelly: “So I kissed his ass for a couple of years and became the biggest slap hitter you’ll ever see.”
Dickey also wrote that Ortiz was critical of Kelly for once ordering the team back on the field after a game because of a poor performance. As a manager, Kelly was all in regarding fundamentals. Ortiz considered such post-game instruction inappropriate for professional players.
In Bob Showers’ book The Twins in the Dome, the local author quotes former Minnesota teammates Corey Koskie and Torii Hunter about Ortiz’s feelings toward the Twins after the 2002 season. Koskie was at Ortiz’s wedding in November of 2002 when Ortiz was suspicious he would soon be departing the Twins.
“He started to cry,” Koskie said in the book. “He saw the writing on the wall regarding his future with the Twins. He was sobbing and saying, ‘I am going to miss you guys so much.’ “
Ortiz was released soon thereafter and the move not only bothered him, but also Hunter who said in the book his friend called him expressing surprise and said, “I can’t believe it. I don’t know what I did. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Hunter told Showers he felt “blindsided” about the release of someone he thought was a valuable talent (Ortiz had his best Minnesota season in 2002, hitting .272 with 20 home runs and 75 RBI). “I made a phone call to the front office and we had some words,” Hunter said. “I fought for him but I had no voice. I was only four years (experience) in the big leagues, so I had no voice. I told them he was the best hitter on the team but they didn’t believe me.”
Showers also interviewed Kelly about his years of managing the Twins from 1986-2001. Regarding Ortiz, Kelly talked about injuries, mentioning a broken bone in Ortiz’s hand and also a bad knee. “We just couldn’t keep him on the field,” Kelly said.
Kelly managed the Twins to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, with Minnesota winning game seven both years in the Metrodome. The 1987 win was a shock to all of baseball and uplifted the local sports environment that hadn’t experienced a world championship since the 1954 Minneapolis Lakers won the NBA title.
Following the first World Series, Kelly received a surprise visit by police officials from Minneapolis and other local communities. “We want to thank you,” they said in Showers’ book. “You don’t understand how much life has improved in our cities this past month during the playoffs and World Series.”
The law enforcement officers cited declines in crime rates and gained Kelly’s attention. “These are things that don’t go through your head, things that don’t register while you’re playing,” Kelly said in the book.
Kelly was touched, too, by the boxes of letters he received from the public. “There had to be at least six or seven letters, mostly from women, describing how better their lives became during the playoffs and World Series,” he said. “They were having troubles in the household or facing possible divorce and the games brought them back together with their spouse. …Those letters absolutely knocked me over.”
The Twins played in the Metrodome from 1982-2009. Those years come alive in Showers’ book that includes interesting quotes from the players and others who were part of that era. Showers not only interviewed a lengthy list of sources, but filled his 275- page book with great photos. There are even pictures of every Twin from the Dome years—starting with Paul Abbott and ending with Delmon Young. The book will stir nostalgia in Twins fans.
Showers will be signing copies of the book from 5:30 to 7 p.m. July 21 in the Delta SKY360° Club at Target Field as part of the Twins’ 30-year celebration of the 1987 World Series. He will be at the stadium’s Majestic Clubhouse Store the next day at a time to be determined. Signed copies of the book are also available at www.itascabooks.com.
Showers is a Bloomington resident who while growing up in Iowa attended his first Twins game in 1971 at Met Stadium. He has also authored The Twins at the Met; and Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne.