Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
World Series Game 1
Any baseball fan should be able to close their eyes for a moment and think about the 1991 World Series; when they do it’s almost certain that an image of scary Jack Morris hurling something decidedly nasty in your direction at a high rate of speed should appear prominently. Jack Morris was a pretty damn good pitcher, and in Game 1 of the 1991 World Series, he was super damn good.
So was Chuck Knoblauch.
I’ve always had a “thing” for the 91 Series, for two significant reasons: The 91 Atlanta Braves and the 91 Minnesota Twins. Ha! Analyze that!!
I’m not kidding. 1991 was a special year; the Twins and Braves both went from worst to first – the first time ever that two teams that finished last in the year previous made it to the fall classic the next year. We saw several players state their case for Baseball Heroism, and we saw exciting postseason play the likes of which most of us wouldn’t see again for many, many years.
It should be no surprise that the first ‘complete set’ of Baseball Cards I ever purchased was a 1991 Upper Deck factory box for $10…I selected this box not for the price, but because it was 1991, a very amazing year in Baseball, as far as I’m concerned. If I were to ever write a book about Baseball, the 1991 season would most definitely be what I’d write about. I hadn’t ‘returned’ to Baseball yet, but during that year I followed the exploits of the Braves via Superstation TBS and paid more attention than usual to the season as a whole, up to and including this World Series.
Game 1 (as far as Game 1 goes) was literally “all that and a bag of chips.” Former Royal Charlie Leibrandt faces Jack Morris at the HHH Metrodome, the crowd over over 55,000 maniacal Twins fans is decidedly unruly and you can tell, even via the glow of cathode rays, that the Thunderdome is the center point of enough Baseball electricity to level any large U.S. city; you pick it…it’s GONE. If you were there for this game, this series, or at any time during this magical Twins era, you probably still bear the irreparable scars of total hearing loss from the audio experience that was the THUNDERDOME.
The Rally Towels are kind of crazy also.
1991 A.L. Rookie of the Year Chuck Knoblauch (seen here giving props to his alma mater during the starting lineup call on the field) would start to cap his banner season in the Majors with a historical performance on the field…If you need to know, Chuck still has these batting gloves. World Series rings are pretty darn special, but I’d wager a guess that this pair of gloves might be just as special to him as his rings…the gloves weren’t responsible for his performance during this game, but what he did wearing them warrants enough respect to enshrine them with the highest level of respect. If I were him and they were mine, they’d be with me in my casket, for sure.
Chuck was also a member of the 1990 CMC Set, more on that shortly!
Most people don’t know this, but Chuck was only the third of 3 second basemen in MLB history to have three-plus hits in their World Series debut (the other two were Phil Garner in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Billy Gilbert in 1905 with the New York Giants).Chuck gets on base in all 4 of his plate appearances, and steals the first 2 of his eventual 4 bases total in the Series. He was just as much of a stud on the basepaths…the way he took Jeff Blauser out of a potential double-play ball hit by the legendary Kirby Puckett without actually “taking him out” is one of the most formidable baserunning acts I’ve ever seen. Game 1 was just the start of his exploits in this World Series.
For a good, quick read on Chuck, his career, and the fickleness of the World Series (as it pertains to key player performances) check out this post by The Flagrant Fan. Chuck had a fantastic career; he’s hit a few walls and rode through some valleys over the years, but he really was (and still is) a true Baseball hero, as real as they get.
His RBI single in the 3rd inning put the Twins on the board for the first run scored in the game, but it was Greg Gagne’s remarkable 3-run homer in the 5th that made the difference in scoring for the Twins. Leibrandt’s pitching was excellent, but with 2 on and nobody out, you could almost smell trouble for the lefty…and Gagne’s million dollar smile after the game certified his thrill in dealing out the damage.
It was the first postseason home run ever allowed by Leibrandt.
Nearly as remarkable was Kent Hrbek’s amazing total upper deck solo blast in the 6th off of Jim Clancy, who replaced Leibrandt after Gagne’s tater. A little more pepper, and the ball may have been put into orbit.
As for Jack Morris…well, this isn’t Game 7, so sit tight! Morris was great, pitching better than his line might suggest (7 IP, 5H, 2ER, 4BB, 3K, 29 batters faced). His run support made the difference, allowing him to work with the situation…rather than claiming he “pitched to the score,” I would be hard pressed to believe anything other than the fact that he was as effective as they come, with only one rough inning out of seven.
As for the Braves, Ron Gant carried the team offensively (3-for-4, 2RBI) but was unable to carry them to the Winner’s Circle all by himself. Jeff Treadway and David Justice were the only other Braves to squeak out base hits.
As I did in my post of this classic game, as well as this one, I want to extremely recommend the most fantastic blog The Greatest 21 Days, which focuses on the ‘members’ of the 1990 CMC baseball card set. Yet another reason why 1991 is so special to me is my year-plus admiration for Steve78’s research and for the players he’s featured from this set. 1991 was a banner year for many of them. If they have been featured on The Greatest 21 Days, you have links to those stories as well so you can read Steve78’s awesome work for yourself!
285 David Justice - ”Six Series”
295 Brian R Hunter - ”Hit It Hard”
807 Chuck Knoblauch - ”Time Thinking”Follow Chuck on Twitter: @chuckknoblauch - he does an amazing job of interacting with his fans!
568 Scott Leius – not featured yet
The game was broadcast on CBS Sports by Jack Buck and Tim McCarver, with Jim Kaat and Pat O’Brien.
Minnesota leads the Series 1-0
Box Score and Play-by-play on Retrosheet
Buy the DVD
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!