Gladden, Tovar inducted into Twins Hall of Fame

August 21st, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's a story that Dan Gladden likes to tell about the most memorable play in the history of the Minnesota Twins, and it's one that makes it fitting that they enjoyed this weekend together.

He and Ron Gardenhire are standing mere feet away from each other at third base at the Metrodome. It's Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, of course, and an electric postseason crowd goes wild when Gene Larkin smacks the first pitch deep to left field during the 10th inning. They raise their arms into the air, knowing what everyone else in the dome has recognized -- the Twins are going to win the World Series.

They look at each other and start screaming at each other, trying to figure out what they're going to do. They can't hear each other. Eventually, the ball lands and Gladden scampers home -- but Gardenhire runs the wrong way, not toward the celebration at home plate like everyone else in a Twins uniform (a scene later immortalized on a Wheaties box), but making a beeline towards the stands, where he claims he was trying to say hello to Commissioner Fay Vincent.

That was the beginning of Gardenhire's legacy as he carved out a 24-year coaching career in Minnesota that put him into the Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday. For Gladden, that moment wrapped up his two most significant on-field contributions in a Twins uniform -- the two World Series championships in 1987 and '91 -- but it only began his impact on the Minnesota Twins, with that championship legacy and a 22-year radio broadcasting career also helping him earn that honor.

"To the fans: Since the day I first put on a Twins uniform, the one thing that has remained constant is you, the fans," Gladden said during an emotional speech. "It has been an honor to play for you, to meet you, and in so many instances, to get to know you over the years. ... I am honored to be joining the Twins Hall of Fame. I thank you. My family thanks you."

As fitting as it is that Gladden and Gardenhire were inducted to the club Hall of Fame together, it's also just as apt that the third man who was honored posthumously as part of the weekend's ceremonies -- utility man Cesar Tovar -- was the same kind of player that defined Gladden's tenure in Minnesota, with the speed, grit and hustle out of the leadoff spot that helped to define the late 1960s era of Twins baseball.

While Gladden was around to give his own acceptance speech on Sunday, Tovar died in 1994 and was represented at the ceremony formally inducting the pair as the 36th and 37th members of the Twins Hall of Fame by his family, including his son, Cesar Jr., who gave a speech on his behalf.

"It was just a sense of relief and gratitude that he just could be finally recognized for his contributions to the Twins organization," said Nancy Jones, Tovar's daughter. "It’s just immense happiness. The weekend’s been great. Like Dan said, meeting his family and the similarities between players, it just made the weekend even better knowing that they were similar types of ballplayers."

Though many present-day fans of the Twins weren't around to see Tovar's impact on those early Minnesota teams, a video tribute to the lanky Venezuelan's sparkplug all-around ability that highlighted his seventh-pace finish in 1967 AL MVP Award voting, his 186 steals that rank fourth all-time in Twins history and, in the biggest show of his versatility, the time he played all nine positions in a game on Sept. 22, 1968, becoming the second player in AL/NL history to do so.

Tovar's induction to the Twins Hall of Fame has been a long time coming -- spurred on in recent years by Minnesota sports media dean Patrick Reusse -- and the 145-pound utility man was also appreciated by several teammates in attendance from those days like Tony Oliva and Rod Carew, as well as the other Twins Hall of Famer being inducted on Sunday.

"One thing I’ve taken away is [that] I got to meet the Tovar family -- and I was a fan, too, growing up, because we always got, for some reason, Minnesota Twins baseball cards ... and I remember having a lot of his cards," Gladden said. "And then watching some of the highlights, kind of special. He was like me in that he choked up and I choked up when I was a young player, too."

In five seasons as a player with the Twins from 1987-91, Gladden slashed .268/.318/.382 with 38 homers, 117 doubles and 116 stolen bases. But his most impactful contributions came in the postseason, where he remains the organization's all-time postseason leader in runs scored (17), steals (7) and games played (24), while ranking second in hits (29) and RBIs (15).

Gladden's impact on the organization has gone far beyond that in the 22 seasons he has spent in the radio booth, though, including 20 as a full-time analyst, a career spanning years alongside play-by-play men John Gordon and Cory Provus that ranks Gladden as the fifth-longest-tenured radio or television broadcaster in Twins history.

In that time, he has created memories with faces and legends from all eras and levels of the Twins' organization, as evidenced by the numerous video tributes from old teammates and fellow broadcasters from around the game -- and in the number of tears shed and acknowledgements he gave as part of a lengthy speech that featured, among other things, a cameo by onetime umpire Joe West and a lengthy stats-based takedown in jest of former teammate Randy Bush.

"I'm honored that, first of all, that the Twins' organization has elected me, but also to be going in with Gardy at the same time," Gladden said. "And of course, that Cesar Tovar is going to be represented as well."