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Ballpark Tours Final (?) Hot Stove League Banquet and Charity Auction Goes Out with A Bang

Ballpark tours hosted its 29th Hot Stove League Banquet and Charity Auction (benefitting youth baseball – Dunning Boosters) Friday evening, January 25, 2013 at Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.

The 2013 Banquet was a celebration of baseball, as well as a celebration of baseball Fan Michael “Sammy” Samuelson, currently in hospice care (at home) after a decades-long bout with serious health problems. Despite frigid temperatures, the event drew a packed house of more than 275 baseball starved fans to the Nicollet Island Pavilion and featured former major league hurler and 254-game winner Jack Morris; former Twins outfielder and current hitting coach Tom Brunansky; Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter; and long-time major league umpire Tim Tschida.

Silent and live auctions of baseball memorabilia and live baseball experiences raised approximately $6,000 for the support of Dunning Little League program, which serves youngster in Saint Paul’s Midway and Summit-University neighborhoods. In total, the annual event has raised more than $70,000 to support youth baseball.

Here are a few highlights, in the order they occurred:

Jack Morris
Morris led off the night and shared stories from his career that brought baseball “characters” from Yogi Berra to Denny McLain to Earl Weaver to life. The most popular of his recollections took the Twins’s fans in attendance back to Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Twins 1-0, 10-inning win, with Morris going the distance.) Morris related the moments, in the dugout after the top of the ninth, when manager Tom Kelly wanted to pull him from the game and Morris simply refused. He noted that Kelly just looked him in the eye, walked away and said “What the heck. Go get ‘em. It’s just a game.”

“He put his soul on the line for me,” Morris said of Kelly’s decision. “I owe him a great debt of thanks.”

Of his time with the Twins, Morris said, “Everyday was enjoyable. You couldn’t wait to get to the ball park … We had so much fun. We didn’t have any bad apples on that team.”

Samuelson Tribute
Next up was a big screen tribute to honoree Michael “Sammy” Samuelson, featuring a host of photos of Sammy with friends and fellow fans at baseball venues and events over the years. Two things were made pretty clear: 1) Take Me Out To The Ball Game was the perfect musical accompaniment for the tribute; and 2) despite considerable adversity, Sammy’s nickname should have been “Smilin’ Sammy” Samuelson. And, it was all made better by the fact that Sammy was in the house (which prompted multiple ovations).

Dave St. Peter
Twins President Dave St. Peter gave his usual candid look at the team, discussing recent moves and admitting “We’ve got a lot of work to do (for 2013) … We’re hoping for another signing in the next couple of weeks.” He also said the team had made tremendous progress restocking the farm system, which he now rated among “the top five” in baseball.

St. Peter also gave a candid, and crowd-pleasing, evaluation of the annual Ballpark Tours Banquet noting that it is the most “strange” and most “enjoyable” such event he attends.

St. Peter saved the best of his remarks for the celebration of Samuelson, noting that he sees “Sammy” as a great: fan – showman – heckler – seat jumper – friend – brother – husband – and MAN of integrity, courage and inspiration. St. Peter pretty much captured the spirit of the night when he concluded that “If there was a Hall of Fame for fans, Mike Samuelson would be in it.” A crowd member hollered, we should wave the 5 year waiting period for Sammy.

Tom Brunansky
Next up was former Twins outfielder and current hitting coach Tom Brunansky, who spoke fondly of his days as a player – and the loyalty of the fans. He also discussed the difficulties and dangers of “playing the baggie” in right field at the HHH Metrodome, including the time when he and Kirby Puckett were chasing down a ball to right-center and Puckett’s head banged (or clanged) off the metal supports that held the baggie. Leading a dazed Puckett to matter-of-factly urge, “You better handle this one, Bruno.” The crown also enjoyed Brunansky’s depiction of Kent Hrbek’s pregame “warm up” rituals (which were known to include caffeine, nicotine and the occasional wrestling match).

Citizen of the Year Awards
Next Tom Cody presented Ballpark Tours annual Citizen of the Year Awards (an engraved plague on wood from the old Metropolitan Stadium’s bleachers).

The first when to MLB Tim Tschida, making his fifth appearance at the BPT Banquet – presumably recognition for having the courage to return. Along with the plaque, Tschida was presented with a pair of dark glasses and the familiar white, red-tipped cane used by the blind. It wa noted it had nothing to do with his profession but anyone who found their way back to the head table at the banquet 5 times must have a eyesight problem.

A second Citizen of the Year Award went to Samuelson – for being a friend, a fan and an integral part of baseball in Minnesota. Sammy made it to the podium to thank crowd for their support and friendship, still smiling, as always.

Tim Tschida
Umpire Tim Tschida was up next, with a self-deprecating look at an umpire’s life. He drew considerable applause – from the crowd and former players with him at the head table – when he said he had mixed feelings about the National Anthem because “Every time I hear that song, I have a bad game.”

Tschida talked a bit about how the game has changed, becoming less personal – illustrating his observation with a tale of the time early in his career when he called the Twins office to do the usual umpires’ check-in and the phone was answered directly by owner Cal Griffith

Last Banquet?
Banquet organizer – and intrepid Ballpark Tours operator – Julian Loscalzo once again pledged this was the last Ballpark Tours Hot Stove League Banquet. It’s a threat we’ve all heard before – this was the fifth annual Final Banquet – but this time, Julian put “FINAL” in all capitals on the program and appeared to add some “teeth” to his assertion, spending some time at the podium reminiscing about the banquet run.

Here are a few highlights:
29 banquets in 30 years (since 1983)
Two “Ninth Annual” – no “Twelfth
13 Different “halls”
Four Hall of Famers
A 30-game winner and a felon – same guy
A flakey left-hander pitcher and a Spaceman – same guy
A hypnotist – statistician – and judge ... not the same guy
A handful of big league scouts
Major and minor league umpires both Major and minor league
Major and minor league team owners and executives
Negro League greats
Stars from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League
A host of authors, who have penned – or keyboarded – more than three dozen books, fiction and non-fiction, about our national past time
A parade of sportswriters, broadcasters and media personalities, including a record 14 consecutive appearances by the late Dave Moore as Emcee

Loscalzo also provided the prerequisite statistics – since baseball fans really to count everything. The 29 banquets have featured players who:
Appeared in 29,496 major league games
Earned 65 All Star selections … 3 MVP Awards … 2 Cy Young Awards … 2 Rookie of the Year Recognitions … 6 home run titles and 10 batting titles.
Collected 23,390 regular season base hits – including two members of the 3,000 hit club
Bashed 2,615 home runs – and include one member of the 500+ home run club.
Stole 1,471 bases – and included two players who topped 350 steals.
Notched 1,798 pitching victories and struck out 18,460 batters – and three of our speakers exceeded 280 career wins, while one topped 3,700 strikeouts.
Played in 269 post season games – including 200 World Series contests.

And, while it wasn’t revealed at the Banquet, here is the official Ballpark Tours Hot Stove League speakers All Star Team

Catcher – Early Battey
First Base – Harmon Killebrew
Second Base – Rod Carew
Third Base - Gary Gaetti
Shortstop - and yes he did spend time there – Paul Molitor
Left Field – Lester Lockett
Center Field – Lenny Green
RF – Tom Brunansky
DH – Tony Oliva
Right handed starter – Bert Blyleven
Left-handed starter – Jim Kaat
RH Reliever – Juan “Senor Smoke” Berenguer
LH Reliever – Bill “Spaceman” Lee
Umpire: Tim Tschida

Click here for a slide show from the banquet!


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