MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s at Midway Stadium, across the river from where most baseball memories are made in this metro, where George Tsamis has managed the St. Paul Saints to more than 500 wins.
When the occasion calls for it, Tsamis will sometimes think back across that river, back across 20 years and remember the best summer of his life.
“I was lucky enough to play with guys like Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Kent Hrbek,” Tsamis recalled. “You look up to them. And then when you get to be teammates with them, it’s a pretty neat thing.”
Tsamis made his rookie debut for the Twins 20 years ago, in 1993, and made a lot of memories in the process.
“I remember the first time in the Metrodome,” he said. “You walk out of the dugout, and just to see it, it’s a great thing.”
“Bo Jackson hitting a homer off me one night,” he continued. “That was kind of neat. I didn’t mind that one. Still to me, the best player I ever played against or saw was Ken Griffey, Jr. I think that was the year where he hit home runs nine games in a row.”
Tsamis pitched in 41 games for the Twins that summer. He walked 27, struck out 30 and had a 6.19 ERA.
“You go out there and you do the best you can,” he said. “And you have some good games and you have some bad games. But I guess, in that case, there were a few more bad games.”
But there was one really good game for Tsamis. One he remembers better than all the rest. Sunday, May 26 was the 20th Anniversary of his only major league win.
“It was a long game, a cold rainy game,” he recalled.
The Twins were in Oakland, trying to stop an eight-game losing streak. “And it was a back and forth game all day.”
In the eighth inning, Rick Aguilera walked in two runs, turning a Twins lead into a 10-9 deficit.
Minnesota answered with three runs in the ninth, including a two-run single by Kirby Puckett to go back on top 12-10.
“And then you put this guy in,” Tsamis said. “I did give up a home run in the bottom of the last inning. But we held on for the win.
Amid the celebration, a young third base coach named Ron Gardenhire grabbed the lineup card and gave it to Tsamis as a momento.
“He was a fun guy,” said Gardenhire, now the Twins manager. “Typical lefthander that could throw some junk up there, screwballs, he wasn’t overpowering but he knew how to pitch a little bit. And it was fun. It was fun getting a chance to watch him pitch a little bit and he got a great opportunity.”
Does Tsamis remember what he did that night to celebrate?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I went back and laid in my room, because I was so drained.
Little did he know it then, but that would turn out to be the only time Tsamis would celebrate a victory. It also turned out to be his only major league season. He left the big leagues that fall with a career 1-2 record.
“I do wish I had a few more chances and I wish I could’ve lasted a little bit longer,” he said. “Because pitching in the big leagues is the greatest thing.
“It’s a great feeling. But nothing will ever top the day they tell you you’re going to the big leagues. And especially the way they did it, because they had me going. They called me into the office and told me they were moving me into the bullpen. And so I kind of wasn’t very happy about it because I felt I was a decent starter. It was a good one. (Then) they said, ‘by the way, you’re going to Milwaukee tomorrow.’ And I’ll never forget those words.
“I must’ve laid in bed that night said it to myself a hundred times. ‘I can’t believe I’m going to the big leagues.’ You don’t know what it’s like until you experience it.”
Most of us never will. But Tsamis can count himself among the lucky few. Even if he only got to count one win.
“There was one,” he smiled. “And, you know, it was cool.”
Tsamis pitched to eight Hall of Famers that season, a number that’ll surely rise in the years to come. Only Robin Yount and Roberto Alomar got hits on him.
Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, Andre Dawson, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson were a combined 0-for-9. Henderson grounded into a double play against Tsamis the day he got his only win.
On Sunday night, the Saints beat El Paso 3-2, giving Tsamis his 530th win as their manager.