Book Review: Minnesota Twins by Dennis Brackin and Patrick Reusse

Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History by Dennis Brackin and Patrick Reusse (MVP Books, 2010), 192 pages

TwinsHistoryAfter some dark days, fans of the Minnesota Twins are finally seeing their loyalty rewarded.  They’ve got a beautiful new open-air ballpark to get acquainted with this season and their team should be well worth watching.  Their payroll is set to nudge $100m and they will be in the thick of a competitive battle in the AL Central once again.  It looks like good times are ahead and that makes it a decent moment to reflect on how the organization has got to this point.

‘Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History’ is the latest ‘coffee table’ style offering from MVP Books in their ever-growing series of books focusing on the history of a specific franchise. And it’s the best one yet.  The book is scheduled to be published at the beginning of March.

The authors Dennis Brackin and Patrick Reusse are from the Minnesota Star Tribune newspaper and their knowledge of, and passion for, the Twins really shines through.  They have a concise writing style that still provides plenty of colour and a dash of humour in places.  The Star Tribune link also means that the book benefits from the deep resources of their photo library.  The expert use of photos is a defining feature of the MVP Books series and the Minnesota Twins instalment is no exception.  They even manage to include an atmospheric photo of the much-maligned Metrodome, taken from outside during a night game with the bright lights of the city tower blocks set against the glowing stadium. 

‘Minnesota Twins’ does take a detour from the approach used in the other MVP Books.  Rather than covering the history of the franchise in short themed sections (profiling great players position by position, stadiums, uniforms etc), it follows a conventional chronological order. 

Each decade is taken in turn starting with a chapter on the pre-history of the franchise (the 1950s) up to the end of the 2009 season.  This approach allows the writers to go into considerable detail about each decade and it’s immediately noticeable that there are a lot more words in the Minnesota Twins book than in the other team titles from MVP Books. 

That’s not a criticism of the other Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers books that we’ve already reviewed.  They work extremely well as large glossy hardbacks that you can flick through and dip into while enjoying a cup of tea, and that’s what they are designed to be.  This Twins book is intended to be something a bit more substantial and it certainly is, although not at the expense of its ‘flick-through-ability’.

Each substantial decade chapter closes with a Year-by-Year table that picks out the statistical record and key moment from each year.  The main text is also broken up by a number of different features, most notably the ‘Top 50 Twins’ side panels throughout the book that profile the best players to have worn a Twins uniform.  The most memorable players (Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett etc) get a full two-page spread as do other key figures and moments from the Twins’ history, not least their World Series triumphs in 1987 and 1991.  The book also includes box scores from momentous games, such as Johan Santana’s 17 strikeout game against the Texas Rangers in 2007.

Like most organizations, the Twins have been through their share of ups and downs since they made their Major League debut in 1961 and these are charted throughout the book.  Their fans will not need reminding as they take their seats in Target Field for the first time this season that just ten years ago the very existence of the organization was firmly in doubt.  The team struggled on and off the field in the 1990s after their 1991 World Series win and the then owner Carl Pohlad reportedly offered up the franchise as a sacrificial lamb over the 2001-02 offseason in MLB’s proposal to reduce the number of teams from 30 to 28 (the Montreal Expos were the other team facing the chop).  This plan was halted by Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump in 2002 when he ruled that the Twins had to honour their Metrodome lease and the rest is history. 

Pohlad’s contraction ideas were largely borne from his frustration at repeatedly failing to obtain as much public funding as he desired for a new Twins ballpark.  The contraction threat focused local political minds and the construction of Target Field will ensure Major League baseball stays in Minnesota for the foreseeable future, although Pohlad didn’t live to see the Twins’ new home: he died in January 2009.

Those details will be fairly well known as they happened recently, but it’s very interesting to read about the similarly difficult and drawn out process of Minnesota getting a Major League team in the first place.  Both Minneapolis and St Paul built stadiums during the 1950s with the hope of luring a team to the area and the New York Giants seemed to be on the verge of making Minnesotan dreams come true until their owner Horace Stoneham joined up with Branch Rickey and took off to the west coast instead.  The disappointment finally ended as 1960 came to a close and the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, a name chosen to show that the team represented both of the two big cities in the state.

The Twins are not one of the big-name franchises and that means their history is not as well-known as many others.  ‘Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History’ fills this gap while also being an attractive and enjoyable book to browse.  Naturally it will mainly appeal to Twins fans, and I’m sure they will love it, but anyone who wants one good Twins-based book to add to their library should also give this one a look.

Have you read “Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History”? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Can you recommend any other similar books? If so, let us know.

One thought on “Book Review: Minnesota Twins by Dennis Brackin and Patrick Reusse

  1. Pingback: BaseballGB » Book Review. Philadelphia Phillies: Past and Present by Rich Westcott

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