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Twins Clarify Buxton 100 Games Target

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June 14, 2022

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Reports this spring left fans with the impression the Twins want to limit star center fielder Byron Buxton to 100 games this year. Derek Falvey told Sports Headliners yesterday there is no “stop light” at 100.

Buxton, a do-it-all talent capable of becoming the American League’s best player, is invaluable to the Twins, but an unusual number of injuries have prevented him from playing 100 games each season dating back to 2018. The club wants to proceed with caution, while maximizing Buxton’s availability to help produce a Central Division title and playoff run.

“We’re not shooting just for 100 games,” said Falvey, the Twins’ baseball operations boss. “I think we’re trying to eclipse what he has yet to eclipse over the last five years. Playing him the way we had in prior years didn’t get us there. We would like to try a more sophisticated way to keep him on the field as much as possible….”

Falvey also said the 28-year-old Buxton is on pace to play in 115 to 120 games. He acknowledged the player who “can put us on his back” and carry the team has low-level inflammation in his right knee. The knee became news in April and Buxton was briefly sidelined. He was also diagnosed with a low-level hip strain this spring.

Derek Falvey

Falvey indicated Buxton is able to manage his health issues—and no differently than teammates who face challenges. Buxton played a MLB career high 140 games in 2017, his third season with the big league club. This year in 45 games for the 36-27 Twins he has hit a team leading 18 home runs and driven in 32 runs.

Fans grumbled over the weekend that neither Buxton nor shortstop Carlos Correa played in Saturday’s Minnesota’s home game against the Rays. Ticket buyers wanted to see the club’s two marquee players and box office attractions.

“Hey, we want both of those guys out there as much as possible,” Falvey said good-naturedly. “That wasn’t pre-planned or designed by Rocco or me or otherwise.”

The Twins played the Rays Friday night and then Saturday afternoon. Falvey said sometimes in that situation manager Rocco Baldelli will go to players and talk about the possibility of not playing in the afternoon game.

Correa, the All-Star the Twins signed as a free agent during spring training, has missed time with an injury and more recently with COVID. He was absent from 11 games with a right finger contusion and then eight because of COVID, returning to the active roster last Wednesday.

Falvey said there are no lingering health issues with the 27-year-old Correa but it can require time for players to recover their muscle strength after COVID. “We’re trying to bring him back thoughtfully,” Falvey said.

With the pandemic, a shortened spring training and the normal physical demands on players in today’s modern game, teams in Major League Baseball have dealt with a lot of roster disruptions. Among the more serious for the Twins was placing first baseman Miguel Sano on the 60-day Injured List in mid-May following knee surgery.

Falvey departed for Fort Myers yesterday and he will see Sano who is working out with the organization’s minor league players. Falvey said it will be awhile before a return date to the Twins active roster can be determined. “But hopefully he is a boost for us at some point during the course of the end of June and into July.”

NFL Films Visits Dick Jonckowski

NFL Films came to Dick Jonckowski’s home in Shakopee yesterday to relive moments from the famous 1975 Vikings-Cowboys game at Metropolitan Stadium. Jonckowski’s visitors included Drew Pearson who caught the famous “Hail Mary” touchdown pass in the final minute to give the Cowboys a 17-14 fourth quarter win in the NFC title game.

Jonckowski, known best by many Minnesota sports fans as the public address voice of Gophers basketball for decades, was a field usher at the stadium back in the 1970s. A passionate Vikings fan, the colorful Jonckowski had his name on the back of his usher jacket and drew attention throwing behind-the-back passes with the football.

Before the “Hail Mary” pass, the trailing Cowboys, trying to sustain what would be the winning drive, had a fourth and 16 situation. Quarterback Roger Staubach passed to Pearson who picked up 17 yards and a first down. The catch was controversial, though, with many observers insisting Pearson caught the ball out of bounds.

The reception was made near Jonckowski who wasn’t happy about it. “I was frustrated. I just kind of (gave) a sissy kick. I kicked the bottom of Drew Pearson’s shoe which really wasn’t much, but (Dallas coach) Tom Landry’s wife saw it from the stands. After the game was over, she called Pete Rozelle, who was then the commissioner.”

Rozelle phoned Bob Sims who ran the ushering operation and said Jonckowski had to be reprimanded. Sims decided Jonckowski could continue as an usher but not be on the field. He was banned as a field usher for two years.

“Somebody told me…if it (the incident) happened today you would probably go to jail,” Jonckowski said. “You know the way the world is, I probably would. Who knows?”

There was animosity between Pearson and Jonckowski prior to the 1975 encounter. “We didn’t like each other way before that. He was pretty cocky,” Jonckowski said. “I just didn’t like his attitude. So one day I yelled at him, ‘You couldn’t carry (NFL Hall of Famer) Charley Taylor’s jock.’ And he came running over to me and was going to pound me, but he let it go.”

After the 1975 run-in, Staubach told Jonckowski Pearson was a good guy and the two should patch things up. They did so before Pearson retired in 1983.

Several years ago Pearson was in town for an autograph appearance. “He remembered me right away and we had kind of a fun time,” Jonckowski said.

Arlene and Dick Jonckowski in their sports memorabilia-filled basement.

Things went well yesterday when Pearson spent about two hours talking with Jonckowski. Both are outgoing and enjoy humor (a Jonckowski calling card with his endless jokes and stories he uses while speaking to groups). Wife Arlene was also interviewed during the nine hours spent by NFL Films at the Jonckowski residence.

Before coming to Minnesota Pearson didn’t know much about his friend’s background. “He wants me to come to Dallas to sign autographs and speak,” Jonckowski said.

The game remains vivid in the minds of Jonckowski, Pearson and thousands of NFL fans, mostly because of its controversial finish. Staubach, who would later describe the play as a “Hail Mary” desperation heave, threw the winning 50-yard touchdown pass to Pearson who appeared to push Vikings’ defender Nate Wright on the play.

But no penalty.

Jonckowski saw the play and that evening newspaper columnist Sid Hartman called him at home to ask if there was a shove by Pearson. Jonckowski said he thought there was. “…Sid slammed the phone down. Didn’t even say thank you. But that’s typical Sid.”

The 1975 Vikings, 12-2 during the regular season, were led by NFL MVP Fran Tarkenton and might have been one of the best teams in franchise history. The team was a Super Bowl favorite but instead saw its playoff march end in bitter disappointment.

Jonckowski didn’t have details yesterday as to how the filming will be used and when it will air.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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