Twins Daily: Twins flashback: Gladden puts on a show in 1988 Home Opener

Twins Daily with a great flashback to the opener after the 1987 World Series title.
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Over 53,000 fans packed Metrodome on a Friday night to welcome, for the first time in Minnesota’s history, their very own World Series champions. Left fielder Dan Gladden put on a career game, helping the Twins to get their first win of the season, beating the Blue Jays 6-3.

Twins 6, Toronto 3 Box Score
Blyleven: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Home Runs: Gladden (2), Gaetti (1)
Multi-hit games: Gladden (4-for-5, 2 HR, 2B), Brunansky (2-for-4), Lombardozzi (2-for-3, 2B, 3B)
Top 3 WPA: Gladden .295, Gaetti .169, Lombardozzi .129

Fans were still going through ‘Twins Fever’ on that Friday night, as never before had they had world champs to cheer on. It was the home opener of the ring-ceremony series against the Blue Jays and no one wanted to miss that. Not even a frustrating 0-2 start of the season after a series in New York against the Yankees could ruin the party at Metrodome for Twins fans.

The previous year, Dan Gladden didn’t have the most impressive debut regular season in a Twins uniform, but he was one of the great contributors to the Twins’ World Series run. He smashed a grand slam in game one, putting the game out of the Cardinals’ reach. So, he was definitely on his way to becoming a fan favorite. Also, on the previous game, he had his third career four-hit game, in the 5-3 loss against the Yankees, showing early signs of what would become his career year.

After a quick 1-2-3 top of the first from Bert Blyleven, Gladden wasted no time and hit a leadoff home run deep to left on the third pitch he saw, making it 1-0 Twins. Blue Jays starter Dave Stieb couldn’t find his stuff and after allowing two runners to reach base in the bottom of the second, it was time to face Gladden again and things didn’t go his way. The Twins outfielder hit a ground ball to the gap and scored Tom Brunansky, doubling the Twins lead.

Toronto went on to tie the game in the sixth, only to see Gary Gaetti break the tie in the same inning with a leadoff home run in the bottom. Minnesota put on a couple more runs in the seventh. Stieb was taken off the game after giving up a leadoff triple to Steve Lombardozzi. Reliever Mark Eichhorn's first batter faced was no one but Gladden himself, who doubled to bring in another run.

Toronto made another pitching change after two quick outs, which, however, didn’t stop Gladden from advancing to third on a bunt. With reliever David Wells on the mound and Kent Hrbek batting, Gladden did the unthinkable: before Wells’ third pitch, he moved up and stole home for the very first time in his career, making it 5-2 Twins.

"We worked on it in spring training, and it was the perfect situation," Gladden told Star Tribune staff writer Dennis Brackin after the game. "Two outs, left-handed hitter, left-handed pitcher."
To top it all off, there was still time for Gladden to come back and homer off the same Wells in the eighth, scoring the Twins’ final run of the night. That was only the first time in his career that he had a multi-HR game, including postseasons. It was also the only game of his career in which he had at least four hits, four runs batted in and multiple homers.

You can check highlights of that game, as well as a detailed overview of the 1988 season, on this video:

Minnesota was off to a bad start, going 4-11 in their first 15 games, but eventually things picked up and they went on to have their best record in 18 years, finishing the year with a 91-71 record, the third best in the majors. They didn’t make the playoffs, as Oakland won the AL West with a 104-58 record, on their way to a World Series appearance.

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