Take a walk outside the concourses at Target Field and you can’t miss them. There are large statues coated in bronze honoring some of the greatest players, team officials and fan favorites in Minnesota Twins history. The current statues include Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Calvin Griffith, Carl and Eloise Pohlad, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek.
Another bronze statue was recently unveiled in anticipation of the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Target Field, leaving plenty of speculation. Who would it be?
Of all the possibilities, it ended up being the furry and kid-friendly mascot, “T.C. the Bear.” Some fans thought it was cute for kids who come to the ballpark, others were offended that it wasn’t somebody more deserving for their dedication to the franchise. It led us to come up with who might be next in line for a bronze statue in downtown Minneapolis if more are planned.
Tom Kelly is beloved by Minnesota Twins fans for his no-nonsense approach to baseball, and for taking the team from cellar dwellers to two championships. He was named the Twins manager in 1986 and won two World Series titles, in 1987 and 1991. The Minnesota sports scene hasn’t had a major world title, other than the Minnesota Lynx, since that 1991 World Series. He was voted the American League’s Manager of the Year in both 1987 and 1991. Kelly is now a fill-in TV broadcast analyst for Twins games.
Watch any Twins game on TV now and if you hear the term “pitch count,” you’ll hear an annoyed Bert Blyleven. The Hall-of-Fame pitcher takes an old-school approach to the game and was known for his curveball, which left hitters’ knees buckling. Blyleven won a World Series with the Twins in 1987, has a career record of 287-250 and has 3,701 career strikeouts. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2011 and has been in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame since 2002. He’s now a TV color commentator for Twins baseball throughout the season.
His nickname as a Major League pitcher was “Sweet Music,” and did he ever deliver that for the Minnesota Twins. Viola grew up in New York and brought that thick east coast accent to the Twins in 1982. The lefty went 17-10 for the Twins in 1987 on the way to helping them win a World Series. Viola was named the MVP of the 1987 World Series after winning Game 7. He won 24 games in 1988 and was traded to the New York Mets at the 1989 MLB trade deadline.
Known as “The Dazzle Man,” Dan Gladden was a fan favorite for the Minnesota Twins right away after being traded to the team in 1987. Batting leadoff, he helped the Twins win a World Series in his first year with the team because of his hard-nosed approach to baseball. Gladden was also on the 1991 World Series team, scoring the game-winning run in Game 7, one of the best games in Twins history. He played in the big leagues until 1994 and in 2000, became a member of the Twins radio broadcast team.
“Wally The Beer Man”
Everybody loves an ice cold beer at the ballpark, right? Nobody delivered it with more flare and passion than Wally “The Beer Man” McNeil. “Wally the Beer Man” spent 40 years as a vendor pouring cold beer for baseball fans, first at the Metrodome and then at Target Field. In 2010, McNeil was suspended indefinitely after Minneapolis Police hired an underage person with a false ID to go to a Twins game and attempt to purchase an adult beverage. McNeil,76 at the time, was one of the targets of the sting and fans flocked to his defense after, pleading for him to be allowed to keep his job. Some even came to a game just to see him in the stands and hear his famous pitch. He claimed he was set up and was eventually found not guilty in court, but decided to part ways with the Twins and work as a beer vendor with local establishment “Sneaky Pete’s.” Despite the tumultuous ending, “Wally the Beer Man” was a staple of Minnesota Twins games and could be deserving of a Target Field statue.
Let’s face it, if T.C. the Bear can get a statue at Target Field, there are plenty of other names of fan favorites should also be at least considered for some bronze in Minneapolis. So who are some of the other possibilities? Some names include Roy Smalley, Jim Kaat, Al Newman, Gary Gaetti and Bob Allison.