MINNEAPOLIS -- Dick Bremer has had an awareness of the Minnesota Twins for quite literally the franchise's entire existence in Minneapolis, first as a fan when the team moved into Metropolitan Stadium in 1961 and, later, as the club's play-by-play television broadcaster.
That's why, when you ask Bremer for his most meaningful call as the voice of the Twins, his mind turns not to one individual play, but to an entire game.
That day, Sept. 27, 1987, holds a special significance to him as both a broadcaster and a fan because he had the full context of the team's recent history in mind to frame that 8-1 win over the Royals, which clinched at least a tie for the American League West championship and brought fandom in Twins Territory all the way back to fever pitch.
"I just remember the capacity crowd, I think it was 53,000 people, and they were locked in," Bremer said. "This area hadn't had a postseason team since 1970, in a different era, different ballpark -- everything was so far in the past. A lot of fans really had forgotten how exciting good baseball is, and that game really triggered -- I believe -- what was to follow through the ALCS and the World Series."
Not only had the Twins missed the playoffs since 1970, but they had also lost 102 games (then a team record) in 1982, and before the sale of the team from the Griffith family to the Pohlad family in 1984, the possibility that the franchise would leave Minnesota was also in the air after fan interest in the team had plummeted in the early '80s.
That made it all the more meaningful when the Twins entered that day in 1987 with a five-game lead over the Royals in the AL West, one final contest at home against Kansas City, and a six-game road trip looming to finish out the season. Doesn't sound so bad? Well, remember that those '87 Twins struggled an unbelievable amount on the road (they finished the season 29-52 away from the Metrodome), so there was some level of urgency to wrap up the clinch before heading out to Texas and Kansas City.
That urgency resulted in the Twins bumping future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven up a day to pitch on three days' rest, with Joe Niekro sliding back a day to make room.
Bremer remembers in his memoir, "Game Used," that the fans at the Metrodome erupted in a spontaneous roar after the exchange of the lineup cards -- even before any action on the field -- as a show of support for the team. That only escalated in the top of the first inning, when the Twins quenched a no-out, runners-on-the-corners rally with a rare double play that went from third baseman Gary Gaetti to second baseman Al Newman to catcher Tim Laudner.
And then, when the Twins exploded for three homers and five runs in the bottom of the first inning, the crowd ascended into pandemonium.
"It was the first game where the crowd carried the team, if you will," Bremer said. "That happened a lot of times after that in '87 and '91, but it was just a raucous crowd, very engaged in the game from the exchange of the lineup cards all the way through the crazy first inning, with the only ground ball 5-4-2 double play I've ever seen."
There were too many memorable moments in that game for Bremer to highlight just one -- the double play, back-to-back blasts from Kirby Puckett and Gary Gaetti, and the final out of Blyleven's complete game among them -- but one of his calls from that game did live on, by his own choice. His call of Kent Hrbek's two-run homer in that first inning ("Way back, and gone!") became part of his voicemail message for several years.
"All I'd said was, 'Way back, and gone,'" Bremer said. "And from there, I said, 'I really am gone. Leave your name and number after the beep, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.' So I used that for a couple of years after Hrbek hit the home run, the screamer, into the football press box."
That's all Blyleven needed. The crowd escalated with every strikeout, every ground ball, every fly that harmlessly settled into a fielder's glove -- until two hours, 12 minutes after first pitch, when the Twins officially secured a share of first place and the club announced that home attendance for the season had, improbably, eclipsed 2 million for the first time in club history, only four years removed from the paltry 858,939 of the 1983 campaign.
"By the time Bert [Blyleven] struck out Frank White looking for the final out, the crowd was as loud as it could possibly be," Bremer wrote in his book. "It wasn't just that you heard the fans cheering. You actually could feel the sound waves as they washed over you."
There are other calls that Bremer remembers fondly, including Jason Kubel's grand slam to complete the cycle on April 17, 2009 -- "A high blast to right field! Up, back and gone! A grand slam for Kubel, and the cycle is complete!" -- and Justin Morneau's three-homer game on July 6, 2007 -- "And the hockey player has a hat trick!" -- but that clincher in 1987 still lives on at the forefront of his memory.
"Because of my heritage, because I literally followed this team's fortunes since Day 1, to be a part of that game, and there had been such dark times for this franchise starting in 1970, players left, Hall of Fame players left, and this region was in danger of losing Major League Baseball, and thankfully, that didn't happen," Bremer said.