One of the best parts of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game — which will be played for 84th time at 7 p.m. today at Citi Field in New York — has always been the mandated inclusion of at least one player from every team on either the American or National League rosters.
It’s a rule that has its critics, of course, who argue that having to select at least one Kansas City Royal means another worthy candidate from a better team is left out.
That’s a fair point, I guess — hard to argue with on the surface. After all, imagine watching a star-dominated league like the NBA try to justify including a member of the Charlotte Bobcats in its All-Star game.
But baseball’s everybody-gets-included rule does help make its All-Star game relevant to fans, even casual ones, in all markets in a way that other All-Star games just aren’t. I can still remember staying glued to the TV set long past bedtime as a kid in the early-to-mid 1980s, waiting for the lone representative of some truly-awful Twins’ teams to finally get in the game — even if it was just a brief cameo in the field. It was perhaps the one time in a long and weary summer that anyone on a national level even acknowledged the Twins’ existence.
Even if those players were likely to be playing elsewhere — if at all — a season or two later.
Two Twins will play for the AL in tonight’s game — catcher Joe Mauer and reliever Glen Perkins. But Perkins was an injury replacement and you can argue the Twins have essentially returned to one-courtesy pick status.
So with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a position-by-position look back at perhaps the least-remembered Twins’ All-Stars over the years.
Catcher: I’d love to highlight Butch Wynegar, simply because he was one of my favorite Twins’ baseball cards as a kid.
But he was an All-Star pick for two-straight seasons in 1976 and ’77 — meaning he left a bit more of a lasting impact.
That means the pick here has to be Dave Engle, who hit .266 in 1984 and was the team’s lone selection when the All-Star game was played at a gloomy Candlestick Park.
I remember a shot of him just sitting in the dugout, biding his team in what was the lone All-Star appearance of his nine-season career.
First base: Ron Coomer, the team’s lone selection in 1999, hit .263 in 1999.
And though he is now a nice change-of-pace in the Twins’ broadcast booth, the fact that he was once named an All-Star really tells you all you need to know about the quality of the teams the Twins put on the field in the second half of the 1990s.
Second base: No good candidates here.
Rod Carew certainly earned his 12 all-star appearances in a Twins’ uniform.
And while Chuck Knoblauch may have made it a couple of times because the Twins had to have one pick, he certainly played at fairly high level in Minnesota, even if the lasting memory of him now is as the guy who forgot how to throw a baseball in New York.
Shortstop: Tough call because guys like Cristian Guzman (2001) and even current Fox Sports North commentator Roy Smalley (1977) once made All-Star appearances at this position.
But we’ll go with Leo Cardenas, who was named to the AL roster in 1971, but didn’t play in the game.
Third base: Rich Rollins started both All-Star games during the 1962 season (they played two) and batted .298 that year with 96 RBI.
He was certainly a worthy choice, but he isn’t remembered the way other Twins’ All-Star third basemen like Harmon Killebrew and even Gary Gaetti are now.
Outfield: We’ll go with three here.
Ken Landreaux certainly earned his status as the team’s lone representative in 1980, compiling a 31-game hitting streak that season, the longest in the AL since 1949.
And he went on to play on some very good teams with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But he isn’t exactly a household name among Twins’ fans.
Gary Ward, the team’s lone pick in 1983, was one of my favorite players as a kid. And he’d even make the All-Star game again after the Twins traded him away.
But any memories fans had of him in the Metrodome outfield faded after Kirby Puckett arrived on the scene.
And Matt Lawton, who was the Twins’ lone representative in 2000, may be best remembered for once failing a drug test, though he did hit .305 that season and was named the Twins’ player of the year.
He also went on to make the game one more time after leaving the team.
Pitcher: Let’s go with Doug Corbett, who played in the big leagues from 1980-87.
He was the lone Twins’ pick in 1981, a season in which he finished with an ERA of 2.57.
He was dealt to the California Angels, along with infielder Rob Wilfong, the following season for, among others, Tom Brunansky, the current Twins hitting coach and a member of the 1987 World Series championship team.
Brunansky would go on to be the Twins’ lone representative when the game was played at the Metrodome in 1985.
The All-Star game returns to Minnesota next season.
And it’s a good bet there will only be one Twin playing in that game.