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An era in Twins baseball has come to an end.

After more than 15 seasons in the dugout, manager Tom Kelly has retired.

With his departure, he leaves behind a
legacy of great respect and two World Championships.

10/12/2001 4:00 pm ET

Tom Kelly steps down as Twins manager
Club announces he's remaining with Minnesota in undetermined role
By Mark Sheldon

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tom Kelly era for the Minnesota Twins has come to an end.

The man who has been the club's manager for more than a third of its existence has decided not to return for the 2002 season. Kelly made the announcement at a Friday afternoon press conference at the Metrodome.

"It's just been a fantastic ride for me," said Kelly, who spent 15-plus years as manager. "I feel right that it's a good time for me to step aside and let somebody else take over."

The 51-year-old Kelly said that he came to his decision two weeks ago. He informed Twins owner Carl Pohlad and general manager Terry Ryan about his plans. Both tried to talk him out of quitting.

"It's a sad day for this organization because we no longer have his guidance and leadership," Ryan said. "He's going out on his own terms and it gives him a chance to do some things with his personal life that he never had an opportunity to do."

Pohlad, the Twins' owner since 1984, didn't believe that the day would come when Kelly would step down.

"I was more surprised than anybody else," Pohlad said. "Baseball is a pressure game. Tom was a master of that and the results certainly show that he knew how to handle ballplayers."

The Twins announced that Kelly would accept a yet-to-be determined position within the organization. The now former manager said that his days of being the skipper are over for good.

"I'm not going to manage anymore," Kelly said. "If I was, I would have stayed here."

There were several factors that Kelly said helped him make the decision to retire. While he refused to disclose most of them, he did say that he had been feeling tired and worn out.

Kelly took over as Twins manager Sept. 12, 1986, replacing Ray Miller. He had a tenure that's longer than any active head coach or manager among the nation's four major professional sports leagues.

"Managers don't last that long," Kelly said. "I've been one of the lucky ones."

Minnesota's record under Kelly's leadership is 1,140-1,244. He led the Twins to their first World Championship over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987, his first full season on the job. A second World Series title followed in 1991 after a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

"It's just been a fantastic ride for me. I feel right that it's a good time for me to step aside and let somebody else take over."

-- Tom Kelly

During his storied career, the man known as 'TK' has had the chance to manage hundreds of players, including current and future Hall of Famers like Steve Carlton, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor. Then of course, he managed the most popular Twin of all, Kirby Puckett.

"How lucky am I to have seen every game Kirby Puckett has played?," Kelly pondered.

Before 2001, the 1992 season was the last winning year for Kelly and the Twins. Between 1993-2000, the club endured eight-straight losing campaigns.

During the losing seasons, Kelly showed tremendous patience working with and developing young players in the organization. His efforts appeared have to finally paid off when Minnesota posted an 85-77 record this past season and finished in second place six games behind the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central division.

"It's a true testament to Tom's ability to stay here with the troubles we've had," Ryan said. "He certainly had the opportunity to go elsewhere through the years, particularly recently, when we did cut the payroll back. He chose to stay here where was most comfortable to see it through."

Leaving now when the team seemed to be headed back in the right direction makes Kelly's decision an odd choice. But he says that the team will be all right without him manning the dugout.

"The game is about the players," Kelly said. "It's not about the manager. The ball club is now set and headed in the right direction. With a little tinkering, it will move along."

Kelly is leaving with the personal satisfaction that enthusiasm for Twins baseball has returned with the good play during his final season.

"I believe we generated interest in baseball for the Minnesota Twins fans," Kelly said. "I think for the last few years, we lost them some. I thought the people got really interested in the ballplayers again and the ballclub."

A successor to Kelly was not named Friday. Ryan now finds himself having to make his first managerial appointment since becoming general manager in 1994. He said that he would be looking within the organization and around baseball for a replacement.

While coaches Ron Gardenhire and Molitor are two potential candidates, Ryan declined to discuss the possibilities. Noting that there is no timetable, he said that Kelly would have input in the final decision.

"Now that's he's decided to retire, we'll try to find the best person for the job," Ryan said. "I will certainly consult and discuss with Tom the various things he has a better feel for as a manager. That's going to be invaluable for me."

A native of Minnesota, Kelly has more than a 30-year association with the Twins. A career minor league player, he spent part of one season playing with the Twins in 1975. After rising through the minor-league ranks as a coach and manager, Kelly became Minnesota's third-base coach in 1983 as a member of Billy Gardner's staff.

Mark Sheldon is the site reporter for and can be reached at

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