Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

...And Terwilliger Bunts Another One!

You know that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If you played that game with Wayne Terwilliger, I'm pretty sure you'd only need three or four degrees to reach every person who played, coached, or managed in baseball from 1880 until, say, 2080.

Twig, who is our good friend (I wrote recently about his Marine service), played 12 seasons for major and minor league teams, and has been a coach or manager for 50 years since.

Wayne Terwilliger
The man is still in a baseball uniform, in his 62nd season of professional ball. I believe nobody else who is currently active has been at it as long as Twig. It hasn't been 62 consecutive years--he ruined the streak when he "retired" for a year to manage the family tavern in Michigan. As the next season approached, he jumped at the chance to get back into the game.

The Minnesota Twins announced his retirement in 1994 and put on a celebration (in fact they were pushing him out). But instead of relaxing in the fishing boat presented to him by Kirby Puckett, Kent Herbek and other players, he turned up as first-base coach for the St. Paul Saints in '95. He retired from the Saints in 2002 to move to Texas, and promptly took the job of managing the Ft. Worth Cats. In 2005, after leading the team to the league championship and being named Manager of the Year, he retired again--as manager, that is. He was immediately hired back as a coach.

Twig was a teammate of Jackie Robinson, hit a single off Satchel Paige, was on the Dodger bench when Bobby Thomson hit "the shot heard 'round the world," coached four years with Ted Williams when Ted managed the Washington Senators (who became the Texas Rangers), won the World Series twice as a coach of the Minnesota Twins, taught Chuck Knoblauch to play second base so well that Chuck became American League Rookie of the Year... and so much more. As a young player, Twig's managers included Frankie Frisch "the Fordham Flash," whose feisty play made a big impact in the majors straight out of college beginning in 1919. As a manager and coach, he has influenced players who not only had an impact on the game but have themselves become coaches. Young players talk not just about his grasp of the fundamentals of infield play but of his enthusiasm and hustle.

I haven't even begun to tell you all the great stories about him, but you can find some of them here. It's the site I developed while Peter and I were helping him write his book, Terwilliger Bunts One.* We became friends while he coached for the Saints, and we persuaded Wayne and his wife, Lin, that his stories would made a wonderful book. He allowed us to help him write it, and it's a labor of love of which we are very proud.

Today Wayne Terwilliger turns 85. He says this is his final season in a baseball uniform--but would you take him at his word, after all those retirements and all those comebacks? I didn't think so.

Happy birthday, Twig! We hope the Cats win today and the after-game beer tastes terrific!

* "Terwilliger Bunts One" is a phrase from Annie Dillard's memoir An American Childhood, in which Annie's mother hears a play-by-play announcer exclaim those three words. She asks, "Is that even English?" For many years, the mother used the phrase as she tested a microphone or a typewriter or wanted a nonsense phrase for any purpose. Thanks to Google, we have learned that the story was included in an anthology and is used in teaching high school reading and writing classes.


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