Twins to retire Jim Kaat's No. 36 on July 16

January 12th, 2022

As  prepares to take his place in Cooperstown among the greatest in baseball history, he'll also earn an enduring spot in the story of the Minnesota Twins when the club formally retires his uniform No. 36 during the 2022 season.

The Twins announced Wednesday that Kaat will be honored in a pregame ceremony at Target Field before the club's scheduled home game against the White Sox on Saturday, July 16.

Kaat, 83, joins Harmon Killebrew (No. 3, 1975), Rod Carew (No. 29, 1987), Tony Oliva (No. 6, 1991), Kent Hrbek (No. 14, 1995), Kirby Puckett (No. 34, 1997), Bert Blyleven (No. 28, 2011), Tom Kelly (No. 10, 2012) and Joe Mauer (No. 7, 2019) as the ninth Twins player or manager to have his number retired by the organization, and just the second pitcher, alongside Blyleven. The Twins, in conjunction with all of Major League Baseball, also retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in 1997.

News of the jersey retirement was presented to Kaat via a Zoom involving the living Twins players, and Kelly, who had their numbers previously retired. Carew made the initial announcement to Kaat.

“When I first saw Rod, Herbie, Bert, Tony, T.K. … Joe Mauer, I thought it was sort of a Hall of Fame congratulatory call,” said Kaat during a Wednesday afternoon Zoom. “And then when Rod began to talk about the retired numbers, I thought, ‘Man, this is really cool … to be able ... to organize all those guys at one time.’ It’s such select company. If you add Jackie Robinson’s number in there, we could -- without a shortstop -- we almost have a complete team.

“It’s such an honor. I mean what’s happened to me the last going on six weeks now has just been incredibly humbling, and I’m so thankful to the Twins. For a long time … those of us that were former players were kind of forgotten about. I think Dave St. Peter and now the job that Dustin [Morse] does has really brought us full circle to where we really feel like we’re part of the organization again, and it’s so enjoyable for me.”

Hrbek told Kaat his heart still pumps when walking into the stadium and seeing his number hanging on the wall.

“You are going to get that same feeling when you walk into Target Field and see 36 hanging up there,” Hrbek added.

"So happy, and [it's] so deserving,” Kelly said.

“Looking forward to celebrating with you here in Minnesota with your number retired,” Mauer said.

The Zeeland, Mich., native was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Dec. 5, and will join, among others, his former teammate and fellow Twins legend Oliva in the Class of 2022.

“For more than sixty years, Jim Kaat has been an important part of the fabric of the Minnesota Twins organization,” Twins executive chair Jim Pohlad said. “With ‘Kitty’s’ storied career on the field, as well as [with] his accolades in the broadcast booth and his contributions in the community in mind, the Twins family is proud to bestow our highest honor with the retirement of his jersey -- number 36. We are excited to celebrate his decades-long commitment to Twins Territory, as well as his much-deserved and long-awaited induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, this coming season.”

Kaat went 283-237 (a .544 win percentage) with a 3.45 ERA in 4,530 1/3 innings with 180 complete games, 31 shutouts, 17 saves, 1,083 walks, 2,461 strikeouts, a 1.26 WHIP and a .264 opponent batting average in 898 career games (625 starts) for the Senators/Twins (1959-73), the White Sox (1973-75), the Phillies, (76-79), the Yankees (1979-80) and the Cardinals (1980-83). Kaat made his Major League debut for the Washington Senators in 1959 and was a crucial part of the franchise’s starting rotation when it relocated to the Twin Cities in 1961. He won 10 or more games for the Twins in every season except for 1961, when he won nine, and is the club’s all-time leader in wins (189), games started (422) and innings pitched (2,959 1/3), while ranking second in complete games (133), shutouts (23) and strikeouts (1,824).

Kaat’s best campaign in Minnesota came in 1966, when he went 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA (304 2/3 IP, 93 ER), 55 walks and 205 strikeouts in 41 starts, and he earned the second of his three career All-Star nods (he was also an All-Star in 1962 and ’75). The southpaw led the Majors in starts that season and was among the top in the American League in wins, complete games (19), innings pitched, and batters faced (1,227). His win total that year was tied with the Giants' Juan Marichal for second-most in the Majors, trailing only the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax (27).

Those performances cemented Kaat as one of the best pitchers in Minnesota franchise history. He was selected as the left-handed pitcher on the Twins 25th Anniversary Team in 1986 and 40th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2000, was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame in 2001 and named one of the 50 Greatest Twins in 2010.

A hallmark of “Kitty’s” career was his athleticism and the longevity that came with it. He led all Major League pitchers with 595 starts from 1961-78 and appeared in at least 15 games in 23 of his 25 seasons, tied with four others all-time for the fourth-most such campaigns.

Kaat, whose Major League career spanned from 1959-83, is also one of 29 players in AL/NL history (1876-present) to appear in at least four decades. He won 16 Gold Glove Awards in his 25 seasons -- all consecutively from 1962-77 -- and is tied with Brooks Robinson for second most all-time, behind fellow pitcher Greg Maddux (18).

After his retirement from playing, Kaat found a home in the broadcast booth, winning seven Emmy Awards for his work. A natural storyteller and respected analyst, he has worked regular-season games for both the Yankees (1986, 1995-2006) and the Twins (1988-93, 2019-present), and over the years has taken part in national broadcast coverage of the AL Championship Series, World Series, College World Series, the Summer Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. In addition to his broadcast duties for Minnesota, he has been a fixture at TwinsFest, telling stories and creating lasting memories for Twins fans throughout the generations.

There was no initial special meaning to jersey No. 36 for Kaat, as it was basically just assigned to him. But now it will be a permanent part of the Twins’ rich history.

“Five of us were on that 1970 team, and now with Tony and [me] going into the Hall of Fame, that’s five Hall of Famers,” Kaat said. “All of us were original signees -- Harmon and I with the Washington Senators and then Rodney, Bert and Tony with the Minnesota Twins, and then later Kirby with the Minnesota Twins and Joe Mauer with the Twins.

“So, we were all originally signees. That speaks well to the scouting department and of course in modern times the kind of research they have to do to make the right draft pick.”