First native Minnesota Twins player

September 13, 2009 – Paul Robert Giel was born on September 29, 1932 in Winona, Minnesota. Giel attended the University of Minnesota where he was a star in both baseball and football. For the Gopher baseball team, he was a three-time all-American pitcher and still holds the school record with 243 strikeouts in his three seasons. Football however; may have been Giel’s best sport. As a single-wing tailback, he also played quarterback on offense, punted, returned kicks, and played in the defensive backfield. Giel was selected as the Big Ten’s MVP in 1952 and again in 1953. Giel was selected twice as a football All-American and after his senior year in 1953 the Minnesota Gophers captain finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Notre Dame QB Johnny Lattner. Giel was also selected as the UPI player of the year and AP back of the year as a senior. Many years later, Paul Giel was elected as a member of the National Football Foundation Football College Hall of Fame.

The Canadian Football League offered Giel $75,000 over three years, and the Chicago Bears held his National Football League rights. Seven or eight baseball teams, including all three in New York, the Giants, the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers all wanted him. Giel signed with the Giants for a $60,000 bonus, their highest ever at the time. Paul had a “live” fastball, a good slider and an ordinary curveball and needed minor league seasoning, but the rules at the time required such so-called bonus babies to spend at least their first two years in the major leagues. In his major league debut on July 10, 1954 at the Polo Grounds against the Pirates, Giel pitched the ninth inning with the Giants trailing 10-7 and he struck out all three batters that he faced. He played sparingly, appearing in only 40 games in his first two seasons. Giel served as an Army officer in 1956 and 1957 before returning to baseball and the Giants in 1958 that by this time had moved to San Francisco. The Giants waived Giel in 1959 and he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he pitched for 2 seasons before being sold to Minnesota in February of 1961.

Paul Giel became the first Minnesota native to appear in a Twins uniform when he came in to pitch in relief on April 15, 1961 against the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial stadium. The Twins were losing to the Orioles 6-0 when Giel was called to the mound in the top of the 5th inning. Paul pitched 3 innings that day giving up 3 hits (one was a two run home run to future HOF manager Dick Williams), 2 runs, both earned, issued a walk while striking out two Orioles.

Paul only pitched in 12 games for the Minnesota Twins before he was traded in a very unusual deal to the Kansas City Royals on June 1, 1961 in what is considered the Twins first ever trade. Giel’s career numbers with the Twins were not all that impressive, he only pitched 19.1 innings giving up 24 hits, 21 earned runs for an ERA of 9.78 while walking 17 and striking out 14. The unusual deal started on June 1, 1961 when the Minnesota Twins traded Paul Giel, Reno Bertoia, and a player to be named later to the Kansas City Athletics for outfielder Bill Tuttle and a player to be named later. He is where things get a little strange, on June 10, the Twins sent cash to Kansas City instead of a player to be named later, nothing special here yet, correct? Well, Kansas City still owed Minnesota a player to be named later and guess who that turned out to be, yup, it was Paul Giel. So in the end Giel was traded to the A’s but they shipped him back to the Twins as their player to be named later. In a manner of speaking, Giel was traded for himself after pitching in only one game for the A’s. Paul Giel never appeared in another major league game after being traded back to Minnesota.

After retiring from pro baseball, Giel served stints as a business manager for the Minnesota Vikings and sports director at WCCO radio. In 1972 Paul Giel became Athletic Director at the University of Minnesota. Giel served as the AD during some turbulent times at the U of M and in 1988 he was let go by the University of Minnesota after nearly three years of controversy that included rape allegations against basketball players visiting Madison, Wis., in 1986. Eventually the players were acquitted and many felt at that time and still feel today that Paul Giel was made the scapegoat and lost his job through no fault of his own. After he left the Gophers AD’s position, Giel spent 12 years as the U of M’s vice president of public affairs and chief fund raiser for the Minneapolis Heart Institution Foundation. Paul Giel was plagued by heart issues late in life and died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on May 22, 2002. It is fitting that a person of this caliber is credited as being the first Minnesota native to play for the Minnesota Twins.

New York Times obituary