Sunday, April 5, 2009

Opening Day 2009

Happy Opening Day 2009!

A wonderful story from the Fergus Falls Daily Journal:

Despite the typical, beginning-of-April weather, Minnesota Twins fans are chomping at the bit in anticipation of the start of the regular season Monday at the Metrodome against the Seattle Mariners.
But one local businessman has the kind of opening-day memories that many of us can only dream of. Dave Goltz, of Midwest Insurance in Fergus Falls, played 12 years in the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher, his first nine with the Twins.
During that time he was the opening-day starter on a number of occasions, including one chilly day in April at the old Metropolitan Stadium.
“I got two opening day starts during my years with the Twins, though it might have been three,” Goltz said. “I remember one of the starts it was 31 degrees, I almost froze to death. Fingers were so numb you couldn’t grip the ball. I’m not looking forward to these open-air stadiums in Minnesota at the start of the season or at the end.”
Goltz, a native of Pelican Rapids, was drafted by the Twins in 1967, becoming the first Minnesota native drafted to make it to the big club. From 1972-1979 he was a fixture in the starting rotation, earning double-digit wins for six straight seasons and routinely pitching over 240 innings every season.
And then there was 1977.
That was a break-out season for Goltz, pitching over 300 innings (an unheard of amount today) and winning a career-high 20 games. He also received votes for the Cy Young Award.
“In 1977 we were a tremendous hitting ball club,” Goltz said. “We scored alot of runs. It was fun to pitch. If you got into trouble you hung in there because there was still a good chance you’d get the win; these guys were going to pound the ball.”
Goltz faced some tremendous hitters that season, guys with names like Jim Rice and World Series hero Reggie Jackson. Throughout his career, however, Goltz appeared to have Mr. October’s number.
“Reggie Jackson never fared real well off of me,” Goltz said, laughing. “I don’t know why. I guess I never felt really pressured by him when he was at bat.”
The same could not be said for another Yankee slugger, Chris Chambliss.
“The guy who used to kill me was Chambliss,” he said. “He used to come to the plate smiling if I was pitching. For some reason I just couldn’t get him out. There were a lot of big-time hitters back then but in 1977 I was throwing pretty good, so I didn’t have trouble with a lot of guys. It was fun.”
Goltz also said he enjoyed playing for Twins manager Gene Mauk, though Mauk could be intimidating.
“Mauk was very intense,” he explained. “He was a manager that was managing three or four innings ahead of everyone else. He knew what was going to happen, he just had that sense about him. He was the type of manager that could get more out of a player than most could. He was very good for what we had on the club.”
Goltz signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1979 season, a move made by his agent and one the veteran right-hander wasn’t happy with, though he won a world title with the club in 1981.
“LA was not where i wanted to go,” he said. “It was a deal my agent made. I didn’t think I was going to end up there. It was a last-minute deal between three southern California teams and Milwaukee. I wanted to go to Milwaukee. The Dodgers already had five bona fide starters, so I figured they were out of the running.”
“The Angels had a good rotation as well, so I figured it would come down to the San Diego and Milwaukee. Then LA came back at blew everybody away. Why, I have no idea.”
Now a couple of decades removed from his final game in the bigs, Goltz said it’s his years with the Twins that he’s fondest of, and the friendships he still maintains with his teammates.
“Guys like Rod Carew were great, i was thrilled to be able to play with them,” Goltz said. “In 1977 Carew flirted with 400 for most of the year and ended up at .388. I played with Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, names that as a kid you’re just awed by, and now I’m playing with them. And I’m still good friends with all of them.”
After Killebrew left the Twins, Goltz had a chance to pitch against the hall-of-fame slugger, now wearing a different uniform.
“I got to face Killebrew after he was traded to the Kansas City Royals,” Goltz said. “I got him to pop up in the infield, and I felt pretty good about that. He still swung a pretty good stick then. He was a hard out.”
And now, with the opening pitch of the 2009 baseball season just a day away, Goltz can’t help but be proud of his days as a Minnesota Twin.
“As a kid I used to listen to opening day with the Twins, and then to be there, to be that opening-day pitcher, you stepped into the shoes of a lot of great pitchers,” he said. “Bert Blyleven, Jim Perry, some big names up there. It was a wonderful feeling, and one I’ll never forget.”

Below, Dave Goltz.

Last year for the Metrodome. Good and bad news, we won the 1987 and 1991 World Series in that old and ugly stadium!To keep up with the new stadium check out this blog.The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. Its been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But, baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.

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