Monday, Sep. 20, 2021


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Twins Ready to Celebrate 1991 Champs

 

Enjoy a Tuesday notes column:

The Minnesota Twins excel at celebrating their history and that will be evident before Saturday’s home game when the 1991 World Series championship team is honored.

Club president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners this morning that about 30 former players, coaches and front office folks associated with that team will be in attendance.

Dave St. Peter (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins)

Reunions like these are valued by the Twins not just for the fans but for those who made the World Series championship possible. St. Peter said it’s “the least” the organization can do to honor those who produced one of the franchise’s two world titles (1987 is the other). Attendees are transported and hosted for the weekend at the club’s expense.

The team came off a disappointing 1990 season and wasn’t expected to have a great year in 1991. But there was a core of talent led by Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. Prior to the season GM Andy MacPhail and manager Tom Kelly (both of whom will be part of the 30th anniversary celebration this weekend) sorted through options to improve the club. They hit the jackpot in acquiring pitcher Jack Morris and the productive bat of Chili Davis. Both were huge contributors to the 1991 success during the season and playoffs.

Alumni from the 1991 team will be on radio and TV broadcasts, sharing stories. Bally Sports North will telecast pregame activities honoring the team. The peerless Jim Kaat, a member of the Twins 1965 World Series team, will work the TV games in the booth with Dick Bremer.

After the Minnesota Vikings cut Jeff Gladney last week, the transaction furthered the second-guessing of not drafting former University of Minnesota All-American Antoine Winfield Jr.

In the 2020 NFL Draft the Vikings, in need of cornerbacks, made Gladney a first round selection. Available, though, was Winfield who the Tampa Bay Bucs took in the second round. He played safety for the Bucs last fall and made nearly 100 tackles while showing he was a draft day steal.

Winfield, who turns 23 next week, could have been the successor to 32-year-old Harrison Smith as Minnesota’s premier safety. This season it looks like Smith will be paired at safety with former Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick Xavier Woods who the Vikings signed as a free agent this offseason. Woods, 26, didn’t grade well last year in Dallas.

Since the 2020 draft the Vikings have strengthened their cornerback roster with the acquisition of younger players and vets. That’s happened without Gladney, who was cut from the team after an indictment for felony assault. He hadn’t been with the club since April following a rookie season when he struggled with mental errors.

Winfield, who was named to the Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie Team, had doubters among pro scouts because of his 5-9 height. But his tackling, instinct to track the football in the air and rare ability to make the biggest of plays was on full display with the Gophers. The Vikings often had personnel evaluators at Winfield’s Gopher games at TCF Bank Stadium but didn’t prioritize him enough to take him in the first round.

It’s an unfortunate draft saga for the Vikings who could have selected a legacy home town player. Winfield’s dad, Antoine Winfield Sr., was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Vikings and a fan favorite. Antoine Jr., beloved by Gophers followers, might have been even more popular here.

The Vikings franchise is worth $3.35 billion. That’s according to the new Forbes.com valuation of NFL franchises. The Vikings, ranked No. 18 in value, were purchased by the current ownership group for $600 million in 2005.

The Vikings practice today at their training camp in Eagan, then host joint practices with the Denver Broncos Wednesday and Thursday. After a players’ day off Friday, the Vikings play the Broncos in a preseason game starting at 3 p.m. Saturday in U.S. Bank Stadium.

Tickets for Saturday’s game are inexpensive on the secondary market, likely available at under $10 per ticket. Actual attendance at the game could be 40,000 to 45,000.

Figure the Vikings at 50/1 odds to win the 2022 Super Bowl.

Fans are welcome at Gophers football practice starting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Huntington Bank Stadium. Attendees are encouraged to donate school supplies and also decorated oars for display inside the stadium.

Looks like Minnesota will be about a 14 point underdog to Ohio State for the September 2 season opener in Minneapolis.

A gambler could probably bet $100 and win $20,000 if coach Ben Johnson’s Minnesota basketball team emerges next spring as NCAA champions.

Wendy Blackshaw, who leads the Minnesota Sports and Events organization, and husband John Blackshaw, are the latest “Behind the Game” guests of co-hosts Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. John is president of the Bloomington-based Tunheim public relations and public affairs agency. The program is available for viewing on the “Behind the Game” YouTube Channel and via cable access throughout the state.

The newly launched College Football Players Association is a national organization with Minnesota ties. Executive director Jason Stahl is a former faculty member at the University of Minnesota. Three of the seven advisory board members have Minnesota connections: former Gopher football players Gaelin Elmore and Pete Najarian; and ex-University of Minnesota regent Michael Hsu.

One advisory board member is anonymous on the organization’s website because he is a college football player. The CFBPA allows players, whether on the advisory board or paying members of the organization, to have the option of keeping their names private.

The CFBPA is an advocacy organization for current and past college football players. The following is the stated mission on its website: “The CFBPA will engage in nationwide advocacy for the rights of college football players and be dedicated to their health, safety and welfare. The CFBPA will make sure that college football players everywhere are finally organized to have a collective voice in the decision making within their sport.”

The organization allows others to pay the $24 membership fee for players and is having a membership drive targeting donors this month. As of late last week Hsu said there were less than 100 players who are members, but he expects substantial growth. The organization is interested in surveying college football players about many topics including the name, image and likeness issue, and expansion of Power Five Conferences. “There’s no doubt it (CFBPA) can work,” Hsu said.

The CFBPA is not a union and presently unions are not in play for college athletes because of legal precedent. Hsu said none of the CFBPA leadership is paid including Stahl.

Minnesota United CEO Chris Wright will leave his position after the season and his successor will be introduced to the media this afternoon (Tuesday).

Sports trivia enthusiast Bob Klas Jr. reminds friends Jim Thorpe was among the best Olympians ever. The gifted Thorpe excelled in several sports including track and field, and football—and won the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship!

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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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