Retired Numbers: Minnesota Twins

(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)

The Minnesota Twins have seven retired numbers. With one exception, the Twins have a sparkling record of not giving away the numbers of their legends.

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Harmon Killebrew, 3

Killebrew made the big leagues at age 18, but he wasn’t a regular until 1959 when he was 23. That year, he hit 42 home runs and drove in 105 runs. He would tack on seven more seasons of 40 or more homers for the Twins after they moved to Minnesota from Washington DC. By the time he retired at age 39 in 1975, he had hit 573 homers.

Killebrew’s low batting average of .256 was a key point in keeping him out of the Hall of Fame until his fourth year on the ballot. Voters in the 1980s didn’t fully appreciate on-base percentage, and Killer’s OBP was a fantastic .376 thanks to 1,559 career walks (the 15th-highest total in history).

Killebrew played the 1975 season with the Kansas City Royals and then retired. The Twins retired his number 3 in early 1975 while he was still an active player. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.

Tony Oliva, 6

Oliva was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, leading the American League in hits five times, runs once, doubles four times, and batting average three times. But a series of knee injuries, combined with a late start to his career, left him with only 11 full seasons on his resume, which was ultimately not enough.

Oliva spent his entire 15-year career with the Twins, retiring in 1976 with a career batting line of .304/.353/.476. He became a coach for the team immediately after retiring, and he would coach off and on until 1991. He is the only person to be in uniform for all three Twins World Series teams.

Oliva spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, getting as high as 47.3 percent, but he was never elected. His number 6 was retired by the Twins in 1991.

Tom Kelly, 10

Kelly took over as the Twins manager in late 1986, going 12-11 for a team that finished 71-91. The 1987 Twins then immediately won the World Series. Four years later, Kelly’s team repeated its magic, winning the 1991 World Series after finishing 74-88 in 1990.

Kelly managed the Twins for 15 full seasons, winning those two World Series titles and finishing with a 1140-1244 record. He resigned after the 2001 season, and the Twins retired his number 10 in 2012.

Kent Hrbek, 14

Hrbek was a Minnesota native who made his way to the big leagues after just 253 minor league games, none above Single-A, despite being drafted in the 17th round in 1979. He then went on to hit 293 home runs in 14 seasons with his hometown Twins, the second-highest total in franchise history. He retired after the strike of 1994 at the age of 34.

Hrbek received five votes (1.0 percent) in his one and only year on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2000. The Twins retired his number 14 in 1995.

Here is the highlight of Hrbek’s career and the reason he is still hated in Atlanta:

Bert Blyleven, 28

Blyleven is the Twins’ one misstep in the Retired Number Bandit department. He pitched for  Minnesota the first six and a half years of his career, then came back when he was 34 and pitched four more years for the team.

Blyleven’s overall stats with the Twins are impressive: in 11 seasons, he had 149 wins, 141 complete games, 2,035 strikeouts, and a 3.28 ERA. It took 14 tried, but he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011 with 79.7 percent of the vote. Upon his election, the Twins retired his number 28.

During the nine years between Blyleven’s Twins stints, his number was worn by Jim Shellenback, Mac Scarce, Mike Marshall, and Albert Williams; after his departure and before his number was retired, it was worn by Greg Colbrunn, Chris Latham, Marcus Jensen, Jack Cressend, and Jesse Crain.

Rod Carew, 29

Carew has his number retired by both the Twins and the Angels, but he definitely played his best baseball in Minnesota. In 12 seasons with the Twins, he batted .334/.393/.448 with 2,085 hits and 271 stolen bases. He led the American League in batting average seven times, including an astounding .388 in 1977.

Carew was the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year and the 1977 Most Valuable Player. The Twins traded him to the Angels after the 1978 season.

Carew was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991, his first year on the ballot. The Twins retired his number 29 in 1987.

Kirby Puckett, 34

Puckett did not make his major league debut until he was 24, and he played his last game at the age of 35. In the 12 intervening seasons, he racked up 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, six Gold Gloves, and a .318/.360/.477 batting line. He was a key element of two World Series championship teams and a Minnesota legend.

During spring training in 1996, Puckett woke up one morning blind in his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma, and when a series of surgeries failed to restore his vision, he retired from baseball on July 12, 1996.

The Twins retired Puckett’s number in 1997, and in 2001 he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

On March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a massive stroke. He died the next day, eight days before his 46th birthday.

Unclear Status: Paul Molitor, 4

Twins manager Molitor last wore number 4 as a player in 1998. He then wore it as a Twins coach in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2014 before becoming manager in 2015. In the 13 seasons that he has not worn the number, it has been worn only once, by Augie Ojeda in 2004.

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