Minnesota Score Latest Magazine

Minnesota Score on Facebook Minnesota Score radio on Facebook Minnesota Score on iHigh Minnesota Score Magazines latest headlines on WordPress


Star Tribune Golf

View Minnesota Based Sports Camps

Turcotte Stickhandling Hockey School

Country Chev

Nice Rink

Pearle Vision

Coffee Mill

Northwest Acceleration

Web design by Rempel Design and Photo

Hurwitz Law Firm

Winter 2002

Summer 2002

Q&A: Ernie Harwell
Broadcasting Major League Baseball for 55 years has given Detroit Tigers play by play man Ernie Harwell a prospective on America's pastime like no other.
A Case for Cooperstown: Bert Blyleven
Bert Blyleven left the game after a 22-year career with 287 victories, a mere 13 short of 300.
Miller Time
Twin sisters Coco and Kelly Miller top off their careers in the WNBA

Q&A: Ernie Harwell

Interview by Eric Nelson and Thomas Tuttle
Summer 2002

"Contraction reminds me a little bit of Aesop's Fable..."
Broadcasting Major League Baseball for 55 years has given Detroit Tigers play by play man Ernie Harwell a prospective on America's pastime like no other. During one of the Tigers' trips to the Metrodome this Spring, we spoke with the Hall of Fame broadcaster about the state of the game and the Minnesota Twins.

MS: Comerica Park opened three years ago replacing Tiger Stadium. How important do you think it is for the Twin Cities to get a new ballpark, something similar to Comerica?
EH: I think it's important. I think the real answer though, is in winning.If the Twins won and played there at the Metrodome they would still continue to draw. You1ve got an economic problem where you don1t have a lot of sky-view boxes and all those amenities that come with a new ballpark, and I can understand the economics of that is much better. But, I think the basic in baseball is winning. The Twins have proven previously that if they win, people are going to come out there and pay the money. But, it would be nice to have a new ballpark.

MS: What are your reactions to contraction and the possibility that the Minnesota Twins might not be around?
EH: The part I didn't like about the contraction situation was the unsettled feeling that everybody got. You didn't know whether you were coming or going. Baseball couldn't tell anybody in any definite terms what would happen. Contraction reminds me a little bit of the Aesop's Fable where the rats were going to put a bell on the cat's tale. It's a great idea to do it, but nobody wants to do it! Contraction might be a pretty good idea, but what team are you going to pick to contract? That1s the tough part.

MS: You've said that what you like about (Twins broadcaster) Herb Carneal is his steadiness.
EH: Absolutely. He1s a wonderful performer. He has a high degree of consistency. He's always right on the game. He's got a passion and a love for it and he1s got a very fine voice. And, I think his descriptive powers are excellent. All that put together makes Herb Carneal a top announcer in my book.

MS: Do you have any Halsey Hall (former Twins broadcaster) stories?
EH: Halsey had a little bag that he would carry with him that had the little whiskey miniatures in it. He said "Well, you gotta be careful cause you might run into an election day somewhere where you can't get whiskey." He was a beauty.

MS: Talk about the Twins-Tigers rivalry and what you remember about the 1987 playoff series where the Twins upset the Tigers and eventually went on to win the World Series.
EH: That was a black mark on the Tigers' history. The Twins were the underdogs in that playoff series. I think [the Tigers] were sacheting into the playoffs thinking they would beat the Twins. The Twins had a much better series. They played very good ball and certainly deserved to beat the Tigers. And, then they went on to have a great World Series. That's what I remember about the rivalry. Gaetti was poison to the Tigers. Gagne did his job too. It was a good all around team that fought and scratched and deserved everything that they got.

MS: What does major league baseball need to do to get back to being America's true past time?
EH: I think the most important thing is to try to get harmony between the players union and the owners. Even when you don't have a strike, there seems to be always a threat of one. There's always talk about a lock-out or strike and people have an uneasiness about the game as long as that happens. If we could get together and let each side say 'we've got a great game, let's move forward by compromising a little bit', making a sacrifice on one side or the other and get it going. That worries me a lot more than the small market, big market and so forth or the haves and the have-nots. The haves and the have nots, that's existed forever. I remember back in the '30s when the season started in those 8-club leagues. We knew for instance in the American League that Washington, the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Athletics and the St.Louis Browns didn't have a chance. Probably wouldn't even have a team that finished .500. Everybody accepted that then. Nobody worried about it. But, now because the money is so big and people concentrate on writing and talking about the money of the game and the financial side, I think it's been emphasized so much its become important. Probably too important.
(back to top)

A Case for Cooperstown:
Bert Blyleven

by Thomas Tuttle
Summer 2002

Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series, the story of Tony Oliva will appear in the Fall '02 issue.

Baseball is a game of numbers. The national pastime is more than that, certainly, but it is the numbers that tend to drive the inductions at Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. If a pitcher from this century wins 300 games, he is a lock for membership at the holiest of baseball shrines.

Of course, mere numbers don't tell all of the story. There is always more to a player's career than statistics. Bert Blyleven left the game after a 22-year career with 287 victories, a mere 13 short of 300. When you talk to people who had the privilege of seeing Bert Blyleven pitch one of his 60 shutouts, it's notjust the numbers, though formidable, that get talked about. It's about the men themselves and the way they played the game.

Bert Blyleven was born a Dutchman. Or more accurately, Bert Blyleven was the son of a powerful Dutchman, his hard-working, strong father brought the family to Canada and then the United States when Bert was a young boy. It was through his father that Bert became a fan of baseball.

"It was my dad who really taught me a great love for the baseball. He was a devout fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers when I was growing up, and many is the night when we wouldn't get to bed until the game had been decided. He loved those Dodger teams, and my father helped to ignite my passion for the game."

Blyleven didn't start to take the game seriously as a player until he was around 14 years old, and it wasn't until he was 16 or 17 that his focus started to narrow. He was a big, athletic kid, an admirer of Sandy Koufax, and while he was just starting to develop his famous curveball, it was his power that the scouts noticed first. Drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 1969 free agent draft, Blyleven spent that year mowing down minor-league hitters before moving to the big club in 1970, at the age of 19.

In fact, when Blyleven won 10 games in his rookie year, he became just the 25th teenager to win in double digits the first year in the major leagues. His curveball had become a hard-breaking weapon, and his fastball had movement as well as high velocity. He was on his way to becoming the Twins all-time leader in complete games (141), shutouts (29), and strikeouts (2,035).

Interestingly, almost two decades after being named the Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year in '70, he was named the comeback player of the year by that same esteemed baseball publication for going 17-5 with the California Angels in 1989. That helps to shed light on the kind of pitcher Bert Blyleven was during his long big-league career: resilient, durable and a winner.

Says Twins general manager Terry Ryan, "He always wanted the ball and gave it his best shot, which was usually pretty darn good. He'd give you his 250-300 innings year after year, and he was very effective. That's the kind of stuff you don't see much any more, except from Clemens and a couple of others. I know that Clemens recently passed Blyleven's total of 287 victories. They don't seem to make 'em like that as much any more.2

"What really stands out for me," continued Ryan, "is the fact that he struck guys out the way he did. A remarkable achievement, and those are numbers that are not going anywhere. They will stay up there for a long, long time."

A very long time indeed. Besides Clemens, there's no active player near Blyleven's total of 3,701 strikeouts in his career, which places him fourth on the all-time list. Want some more numbers? How about 51 major-league games with 10 or more strikeouts, and eight seasons with more than 200 strikeouts, including six in a row from 1971-1976.

He had 25 complete games in 1973 and yet had a record of 20-17. That helps to explain his 287 wins (making him 24th all-time with no challengers in the foreseeable future) and 250 losses during his career. If Hall of Fame voters are challenged by the number of losses, they should note the words of Herb Carneal: "He lost more 1-0 games than anyone I have ever seen or heard of, and he lost a lot of one-run games in general. It was uncanny, but you do need a team to score runs for you or you're going to lose, no matter how well you pitch."

Indeed, of Blyleven's 250 losses, 74 were decided by one run and 41 were decided by two runs. One would think that with any kind of luck, or support, he could have found another 13 wins in there to get to the magical 300 mark. Carneal doesn't think the 300 wins should be critical in Blyleven's case. "To win 287 games is just a terrific accomplishment," notes the veteran broadcaster, with authority in his voice. "Think about it; that's in the top 25 of everybody who has ever pitched in the major leagues. The fact that he lost so many close games reinforces the point."

"Some have said it took him a long time to get to 287 wins," Carneal adds. "So what? It took Hank Aaron longer than Babe Ruth to get 715 homers, if you want to look at things that way. But,that shouldn't matter. In baseball, longevity is a good thing."

Other Blyleven numbers (as Twins broadcaster John Gordon said, "Look at his numbers!"): 17 seasons with ten or more wins, including ten consecutive from 1970-1979; in ten of those seasons he had 15 or more wins, including five consecutive from 1971-75. He had two ten-game winning streaks during his career, one spanning the 1971-72 season and the other in 1989. Blyleven threw a no-hitter against the California Angels in September of 1977 and had five one-hitters, nine two-hitters and twelve three-hitters lifetime.

Three times in his career he went 11 innings, losing twice (not a surprise, given the number of close games he lost). He became a 20-game winner in 1973 at age 22, the 13th-youngest in modern baseball history. You want endurance? He had the fifth lowest ERA of his career 17 years after he won those 20 games, when he won 17 in 1989. Blyleven led the American League in shutouts three times (1973, 1985, and 1989); he led in innings pitched twice (1985 and '86). He is ninth all-time in games started, ninth all-time in shutouts, and 13th all-time in innings pitched.

And, as noted earlier, he was fourth all-time in strikeouts because Bert Blyleven, who could throw 90-plus heat at the batter, also had one of the meanest curve balls of all time. The break was hard and it was large, frequently coming at a right-handed batters shoulder, and then curving while dropping to the hitters ankle.

"His curve was one of those nasty things with the real sharp break," recalled Tom Mee. "It was one of the greatest strikeout pitches I've ever seen," said long-time Detroit announcer Ernie Harwell. "Like they say, it broke off the table," says Herb Carneal. "When it was working, which it usually was, the hitters needed some luck to get a good swing at it," remembered ex-Twins outfielder and Blyleven teammate Dan Gladden.

And remember this: Blyleven was a world champion twice, with the Pirates in 1979 and with the Twins in 1987. He played a critical role in helping each team to the title. "Bert was a winner," says the Twins Ryan. "He was a key player on championship teams; he elevated those clubs to be the best. That is a big part of who he was. A great pitcher, but a leader and a winner, too."

How does Blyleven feel about all the Cooperstown talk? "I'm flattered to be in consideration; there is no honor in baseball like it. But I'm truly grateful to be considered for the Hall, to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the greatest players in the game. I think I have more appreciation today for the fact that I played with and against such great competitors, guys like Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva, to name just a few.

"What an education it was. I will say that if I'm going to make the Hall, it would sure be special to make it while my father could enjoy it. I would like for him to see that day, if and when it comes.

"We had a lot of fun playing the game, and I was able to experience so many different outstanding players and people. I really worked at being a student of the game. It took a lot of learning, but it was all a great experience. That's why I feel the gratitude. It's been a privilege to be a part of it all."

(back to top)

Miller Time
Twin sisters Coco and Kelly Miller top off their careers in the WNBA

by Jim Burke
Summer 2002
In 1995, twin sisters Kelly and Coco Miller led Rochester- -Mayo to the Minnesota state basketball championship in their sophomore season. It was around that time that plans for a women's professional basketball league with the backing of the NBA began to take shape. In 1997, Kelly and Coco wrapped up their high school careers by once again propelling Rochester-Mayo to the state basketball title. A few months later the WNBA tipped off its inaugural season and in doing so, gave young girls a chance to dream the dream that previously had been reserved for their male counterparts, the dream of playing professional basketball.

Coco and Kelly still had college to think about and in 1997 the idea of two nationally recruited basketball blue chippers staying home and playing for the LadyCoco Miller Gophers was about as likely as a kid from say, North Dakota scoring a goal to win the National Championship for the Gopher Hockey team. So, the Millers did the sensible thing and took their show on the road to the University of Georgia in the prestigious Southeastern Conference. Coco explains, "We definitely looked at Minnesota. It would have been nice to stay home because Minnesota has great support for basketball. Georgia provided better opportunities for us at the time." One of the opportunities Georgia provided the sisters was a Final Four appearance in 1999. The decision to attend Georgia had an added benefit according to Kelly, "The SEC was a very tough conference and that helped prepare us for this league."

"This league" would be the WNBA, where in April of 2001, Kelly and Coco were drafted in the first round. Kelly went to the Charlotte Sting as the sixth pick while Coco ended up with the Mystics in Washington, D.C. as the ninth overall pick. The dream had been realized. Coco and Kelly Miller were professional basketball players. Then came the hard part. Rookies have a lot to deal with in their first season. The elevated level of play, the lifestyle change, the travel, and the expectations are all part of the adjustment. Kelly and Coco had the added challenge of having to live apart from each other for the first time in their lives

Kelly Miller
Then there came the basketball side of things. That too, has been different. Coco and Kelly have been starters throughout their careers. It is hard for most rookies to log much playing time in any professional sport. That is especially the case in the WNBA where the relatively short, compact season makes every game a must win, leaves little time for practice and even less time for experimenting with rookies.

These "go-to" girls had to go to the end of the bench. Coco and Kelly have taken their apprenticeship in stride and their rookie season yielded personal stats that were as alike as the sisters themselves. They averaged between seven and nine minutes and around 2 points per game, hardly the gaudy numbers they have become accustomed to, but they are not at all discouraged. Kelly: "I just took last season as a learning experience. The competition is great and I love that." Coco: "It was tough. I would have liked more playing time but I learned a lot last year. It made me a better player."

Better players are something the WNBA has plenty of, a fact not lost on the Miller sisters. Kelly: "In the professional game the players are bigger and every player on the floor is good." Some of the women they are now playing with, and against, are players they considered heroes not too long ago. Mystic forward Chamique Holdsclaw, one of the leagues marquee players, has even offered guidance. Coco: "Last year Chamique took time to show me some things, little things. Playing with someone of her caliber definitely raises the level of my game." Kelly counts having to check Houston's Sheryl Swoopes as a highlight of her first season.

As far as their respective teams, Coco and the Mystics struggled to a 10-22 mark while in Charlotte, Kelly continued to win in 2001. Losing was yet another new experience for Coco: "It was difficult because I wanted to help the team but really wasn't given much of a chance to get in there and contribute." Kelly and the Sting managed to buzz all the way to the WNBA finals.

As for Coco and Kelly's parents, Marv and Kathy Miller, watching the girls play is no longer as simple as looking out the window at the driveway. They became accustomed to driving all over Minnesota and the country to watch their daughters play in AAU tournaments. They traveled to many of their college games as well, a task made easier when their daughters were on the same team. Kelly: "They try to get to as many as possible, but they have to catch most of them on ESPN." Fortunately, Charlotte and Washington are only six hours apart.

Having won a state title as high school sophomores, and reaching the NCAA Final Four as college sophomores, the Miller sisters are understandably optimistic about their sophomore season in the WNBA. They spent most of the off-season working out back home in Rochester and sharing a common goal for the 2002 season, more playing time.

Coco and Kelly Miller enjoyed and endured significant changes both on and off-the-court in 2001. Rookies no more, they can now begin to settle into careers in their chosen profession. Secure in the knowledge that no matter what lies ahead, at the ripe old age of 23, they have made what was once a truly impossible dream come true. Kelly: "Growing up we thought that after college we might be done because there was no professional league in the U.S. at the time. It was a dream of ours to play professionally so we are just having a great time right now." You go girls.

(back to top)