Blast from the past: Twins looking at holding Old-Timers’ Game in 2020

The Twins had several former players in town last month to celebrate the retirement of Joe Mauer’s No. 7, creating an opportunity for team president Dave St. Peter to suggest another reunion next summer as the Twins’ prepare to celebrate their 60th season in Minnesota.

St. Peter began asking Twins alumni if they would be interested in playing in an Old-Timers’ Game at Target Field. “We got a tremendous response,” he said. “I think that needless to say the group from the 2000s is champing at the bit to get on the diamond.”

Former Twins All-Star closer Glen Perkins put it another way. “Everybody was like, ‘Hell, yeah. Let’s do that,'” Perkins said. “I think everybody that was there was in.”

That included everyone from Perkins, who retired after the 2017 season, to shortstop Roy Smalley, whose second stint with the Twins ended after winning the 1987 World Series. Smalley, who like Perkins now does work for Fox Sports North, said he would welcome the opportunity to put on a jersey again for what the Twins would call a Legends game.

The last time the Twins played an Old-Timers’ Game came during their first season at Target Field in 2010. Kent Hrbek provided the most memorable moment that day when the former Twins first baseman fell chasing an infield pop-up in foul territory and took a large chunk out of the playing surface at the then brand-new stadium.

“We did that as part of that 50th-season celebration, it was a magical day at the park,” St. Peter said. “I think (Legends Games) can be overdone. Maybe not waiting 10 years, maybe five years is smarter. Maybe we do it more often. They are pretty laborious from an executional perspective, but I will say that we have great interest in bringing it back next year. We haven’t finalized that, but I think it makes a lot of sense. I’m certain we have enough guys combining multiple eras of Twins baseball to form a couple of teams and to do it right.”

It seems as if Old-Timers’ Games used to be a far more common occurrence around the big-leagues. Now, it seems like the Yankees’ legendary game is the only one you consistently hear about. Smalley, who was traded from the Twins to the Yankees in 1982, said it was always a thrill to talk to guys like Mickey Mantle when they participated in Old-Timers’ Day at the old Yankee Stadium.

So what has happened to these games that served as a fun celebration of a franchise’s former players?

“I’m not really 100 percent certain why,” there aren’t as many, St. Peter said. “Maybe there might be some people that might question whether they sell tickets. I think they’re a wonderful celebration of the heritage of your franchise. For a while, there was a company, I think it was called Equitable (a life insurance company), and they called it the Equitable Old-Timers’ Game and they sponsored them in all these markets, including here. They had these guys kind of on tour that would play against a local group so, for instance, the Twins would be responsible for our guys and then they’d bring in a group of guys from around the league. That was back probably in the ’90s. We think it makes sense, we’re excited about it.”

The game could be tied into the Twins’ Hall of Fame weekend in 2020.

“You saw how many people came back for Joe’s (number retirement),” Perkins said. “I think even more people would come back, or want to comeback, for something like that.”

So does Perkins think that Mauer would take part as well? “Yeah, he would have to. He would,” Perkins said. “Everybody had so much fun at (the Mauer events), seeing everybody and getting everybody back together. It’s not like anybody is going to go out there and take it that seriously. I think the turnout would be incredible.”