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A Kick of the Hat
July 31, 2008
On a night to remember, the Minnesota Twins overcame a 4-0 deficit to defeat the American League Central Division-leading Chicago White Sox, 10-6, before 31,493 raving fans at the Metrodome. In the process, the Twins moved to within a half-game of the White Sox.
After a Justin Morneau home run off starter John Danks closed the gap to 4-3 in the fifth, a bizarre sequence of events in the home team seventh inning saw three Sox relievers attempt unsuccessfully to hold back a relentless Twins attack that began innocently enough when leadoff man Denard Span attempted to bunt and was hit by a Matt Thornton pitch. Span headed toward first base but was called back after third-base umpire Marty Foster ruled the pitch a strike.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire issued a protest that took the form of him exploding out of the dugout as if shot from a bazooka. The Minnesota then skipper delivered a withering salvo of words, grunts, and saliva directly into Foster’s face, insuring his ejection from the game. When it came, an enraged Gardy removed his hat and punted it toward the Metrodome ceiling. This ignited a firestorm in the crowd as hats and debris rained onto the playing surface. The field soon resembled a hockey rink after a hat trick. (Thankfully, no one tossed an octopus.) Fearing further mayhem, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen pulled his team from the field. Impassioned pleas (including the possibility of a forfeit) from Twins public address announcer Adam Abrams served to calm what was becoming an unruly mob, and the local phenomenon known as “Minnesota nice” took over, allowing the game to proceed.
Span walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Nick Punto flied out, but Joe Mauer singled in Span to tie the score at four. Morneau was safe on a fielder’s choice, and Delmon Young was hit by a pitch. With Octavio Dotel on the mound for Chicago, the count to Jason Kubel went to two balls, two strikes, and two men on base (deuces wild). Kubel hit the next Dotel pitch into the right field upper deck for a 7-4 Twins lead that was not relinquished.
After the game, Gardenhire said he felt “bad” about inciting a near-riot. “I got a little nuts out there,” he admitted. Later when asked about Chicago’s acquisition of future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr., the manager praised that team’s front office. “They’re aggressive,” he said, “and you tip your cap to them.”
Or in Gardy’s case, you kick your cap to them.
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