A Difficult Opening Day

December 28, 2008 - Very heavy snowfall had piled up in early 1965 and the prolonged deep cold temperatures in March delayed the melt. When winter loosened its icy grip on the state, spring came with a vengeance. Rains in early April on the still frozen ground caused the water to pour into streams until they climbed out of their banks. Ice dams in several locations caused even more flooding in the Minneapolis area and throughout different parts of the state.

Jim KaatThe Twins opened their 1965 season against the American League defending champion New York Yankees at Met Stadium on April 12. The sunny but cool 44 degree temps and the difficult traveling conditions due to street flooding limited the opening day crowd to a disappointing 15,388 fans. Getting to the ballpark was not an easy task either for the players or the fans as Jim Kaat recalls: “I was living in Burnsville and was driving to the Met when I the traffic came to a standstill. I got out of my car and asked the driver ahead of me what the problem was. He said the highway, 35W was flooded over and you couldn’t get across the river. I went back home and called Paul Giel at WCCO radio and asked if they had access to a helicopter, they said to meet the copter at the Burnsville High School. Rich Rollins, Dick Stigman, Bill Bethea (who was staying at my house before reporting to AAA Charlotte) and I were flown in 2 at a time to the parking lot at the Met”. Paul Giel who assisted Kaat and the Twins in the helicopter episode was a pitcher for the Twins in 1961 and was now working for WCCO radio.

Cesar TovarJim Kaat started the game for the hometown Twins and Jim Bouton started for the Bronx Bombers. Kaat and the Twins thought they had the game won but with two out in the bottom of the ninth, 3B Cesar Tovar who was playing in his first game as a Minnesota Twin and had replaced an injured Rich Rollins earlier in the game, dropped an easy pop-up for the eighth error of the game (Yankees had five and the Twins had three) and the tying run scored. Here is how Kaat remembers what happened. “I had the game won 4-3 when Cesar Tovar dropped a little pop up that would have ended the game and the tying run scored. He felt terrible and I told him to forget about it and knock in the winning run, which he did in the 11th inning. We became good friends because of that incident, he was new to the team and fearful I’d be irritated that he cost me a W”.

For those of you that want to see the box score for the Twins 11 inning 5-4 win over the Yankees just click here.

 

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