I was around in the late '60s and noticed that the Twins weren't generating any sort of hysteria. Our family had a neighbor who said he was "going to the game" one weekend. He meant that he was going to the Gophers football game. He didn't feel the need to specify.
The Twins were in the baseball playoffs versus Baltimore in 1969 and 1970. The years can blur together in one's mind. We lost in a pretty depressing manner both years. I remember that Minnesotans didn't embrace a lot of optimism in either year. Mainly I remember there was no mania of any kind.
The media in those days were much less inclined, compared to today, to be like cheerleaders, getting everyone fired up. The media were superficial compared to today. Fox Sports North of today acts like a last place team should be taken seriously. I would argue that those athletes deserve that. But in my youth, we tended to mock last place teams and low-tier athletes.
We also did not realize the risks being taken by professional players. We didn't realize the delicate nature of their bodies and careers. When they got sidelined we often just moved ahead and studied who their backups might be. We reserved our real respect for only the superstars. We heard nothing about "pitch counts" or "setup men" in big league baseball.
Baseball players were paid a decent professional wage - some of them might dispute any suggestion of generosity - but weren't paid the windfall sums we hear of today. Maybe because of that lack of investment, the team owners and managers were perhaps careless with these souls.
Why couldn't Twins score a run?
Dave Boswell could have been a Twins pitching star for many years. What happened? Well in 1969, as this budding pitcher was getting established, he was called upon to pitch in a playoff game. Those '69 and '70 playoff series were so frustrating, I don't even want to think about them. But for the record, the Twins lost to the Orioles 1-0 in an 11-inning game with the gallant Boswell on the mound.
The baseball gods definitely were not with us at that time, in total contrast to '87 and '91. Jack Morris would pitch a ten-inning game for the Twins in 1991. But Morris was toward the end of his career, so had he thrown out his arm, it might not seem so tragic. "Tragic" is what happened to Dave Boswell. We didn't hear much of it at the time, if anything, but Boswell suffered a career-ending arm injury while striking out Frank Robinson (on a slider) in the bottom of the tenth.
"It felt like my shoulder went right into my jawbone," Boswell was quoted saying. All for one stinking ballgame which we lost anyway.
Boswell was released by the Twins following the 1970 season. He played briefly for the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles in 1971. He then had to find his own way, victimized by a sport that can be cruel and unfeeling.
I would suggest that pitchers are better taken care of today, and sports medicine is much more advanced. Remember "Doc" Lentz who would just "freeze" a part of the body that got dinged? I remember "Doc" Lentz freezing a spot to try to convince an umpire that a player had been hit by pitch.
A pitching star for Billy
Boswell was 24 years old when the Twins won the American League West Division in the first year of the divisional format. Billy Martin was our heroic manager. The fans loved him. When he got the ax at the end of '69, it left residue that many fans never forgot. Billy would eventually become a pathetic figure, his body seeming to literally wither away. In '69 his eccentric traits hadn't come out yet.
The '69 season was Boswell's peak. He was a 20-game winner and seemed most definitely to be on the way up. Boswell signed with Minnesota for $15,000. No, I didn't leave out a zero there. He reached the big leagues for our '65 World Series appearance. In '66 his .706 winning percentage (12-5) led the A.L.
Yes, there was that off-field incident
Boswell is just as famous for an off-field incident as for anything he accomplished on the pitching mound. He got into a classic barroom brawl, technically outside of the bar. It's remindful of that incident in Mankato involving that Minnesota Gophers quarterback (Nelson). Why go to bars at night? You can ask that of our former high school principal in Morris MN.
Anyway, Martin eventually had to call a press conference to explain what happened to Boswell. Boswell had disappeared from the Twins' traveling party. Martin reported that Boswell had attacked him outside of the Lindell A.C. Bar in Detroit.
In Martin's story, he had learned that Boswell hit Bob Allison in the parking lot. Martin went out to break up the fight. Ah, those were the days before "conflict resolution." Martin said that Boswell came at him, arms flailing. Martin was known as a capable fighter.
This was the kind of fight that Hollywood might give us. Martin KO'd Boswell. Boswell would need 20 stitches. Martin needed seven stitches on his knuckle and had a bruised rib. Big Bob Allison had a black eye and needed some dental work.
The cause of the fight? Reportedly it was due to Boswell's refusal to run laps with the rest of the team. It wasn't easy to gloss all this over, but owner Calvin Griffith reported that "apologies had been exchanged," and that Boswell was fined an undisclosed amount.
The fight didn't appear to hurt Boswell once he resumed play - he went 8-3 over the remainder of the season with a 2.79 ERA in eleven starts. What killed him was that playoff game in which his arm was overworked. Career done. It isn't worth it. He might have ended up in the Hall of Fame. An unwillingness to run laps? Johnny Sain would tell his pitchers, notably Jim Perry, that running wasn't an important part of conditioning for pitchers.
Martin went on to a managing career that could only be described as "volatile." Alcohol was a menace for him. Those were different, less-civilized times. Today everyone gets managed tighter. Could you imagine hearing about Ron Gardenhire in a barroom brawl? In these days of ESPN, it would be too stupid and embarrassing.
Dave Boswell died of a heart attack at his Joppatowne MD home on June 11, 2002. Dave Boswell, RIP. You deserved better.