Big Train and the Killer. Who else deserves to be honored?
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Minnesota Twins Mt. Rushmore
The Minnesota Twins franchise began in Washington as the Senators (sometimes known as Nationals) in 1901. The team moved to Minneapolis in 1961 and took on the name Twins. The team has played 144 seasons, with 54 of them in Minneapolis. There have been 14 first-place finishes, six pennants and three World Series titles. The Twins have just one 100-win season, which came in 1965, a year they lost the World Series in seven games to the Dodgers. The Twins hold the distinction of winning the first two AL West titles in 1969-70, and were also one of two teams in 1991 (along with the Braves) to turn a last-place team into a winner. The Twins defeated the Braves in an epic World Series, winning Game 7 1-0 in extra innings. While the past four seasons were disappointments, the produced six AL Central crowns over a nine-year span from 2002-10.
The Big Train would be in the discussion for MLB Mt. Rushmore. Certainly he would appear on the Pitchers Mt. Rushmore. His 417 wins, 3,509 strikeouts and 2.17 ERA are all franchise bests — by far. He completed 531 games and pitched 110 shutouts, a major league record not likely to be broken. Of the nine 25-win seasons in team history, Johnson owns seven of them. He owns 11 of the team’s 13 best ERA seasons — all better than 1.90. No way to argue this selection.
The Killer’s career spanned Washington and Minnesota and began as an 18-year-old in 1954. Killebrew hit 559 home runs and reached base via hit, walk or HBP 3,576 times. The versatile Hall of Famer made 11 All-Star teams, but was conspicuously not selected in 1962, a year he hit 48 home runs and finished third in MVP balloting. He started six of those All-Star Games, one in left, two at third and three at first. The owner of six home run titles was the 1969 AL MVP and finished in the top 4 five other times.
Carew played for the Twins for 12 seasons, and 12 times was selected to the All-Star team. He missed the 1970 game due to injury, but started the other 11, getting two triples in the 1978 game, his last in a Minnesota uniform. The Hall of Famer was named Rookie of the Year and MVP as a Twin and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times. He won seven batting titles and was hitting .366 in 1970 when a knee injury shortened his season to just 204 plate appearances. His .334 batting average ranks first in franchise history and his 2,085 hits, fifth. Of his 19 stolen bases in 1969, seven of them were steals of home.
Before his career was cut short due to complications from glaucoma, Puckett was a favorite in Minnesota as he anchored the lineup on two World Series champs. The 10-time All-Star finished in the top seven in MVP voting seven times and was runner-up in 1992. He totaled 2,304 hits for the Twins and another 30 in 24 postseason games, including five home runs.
Sam Rice, a Hall of Famer, ranks first in runs and hits and second in games and total bases, but doesn’t carry the same excitement as the other members of the Hall.
Jim Kaat, whose career began in Washington, is second on the wins list with 190 and won 12 Gold Gloves while pitching for the Twins. He finished as high as fifth in MVP voting in 1966 with 25 wins.
One of the first stars in Minnesota, Tony Oliva was named Rookie of the Year, made eight All-Star teams, won three batting titles and was twice MVP runner-up. But he amassed just 1,917 hits and 220 home runs.
Along with Puckett, a stalwart of the 1987 and 1991 champions, Kent Hrbek had his No. 14 retired by the Twins in 1995.
Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, began his career with the Twins and rejoined the team later. Now a broadcaster for the team, he won 149 games in a Minnesota uniform.
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: