Gaetti inducted in Twins Hall of Fame
Former player becomes 18th honoree on his birthday
MINNEAPOLIS -- In fortuitous fashion, Gary Gaetti hit a home run for the Twins in his first Major League at-bat on Sept. 20, 1981.
Almost 26 years later, after 10 seasons playing third base for the Twins and 20 seasons in the Major Leagues, Gaetti became the 18th inductee into the Twins Hall of Fame on Sunday, which also happened to be his 59th birthday.
The induction ceremony was the final part of the 20th anniversary celebration honoring the 1987 World Series champion Twins, of which Gaetti was a member.
"I really couldn't imagine planning something like this and how it could be better," Gaetti said of the reunion and the ceremony. "Just the reunion is something. I don't know how I could separate both of those things, they're too intertwined. It's more fun to think of the team stuff than the personal stuff. It's been a great weekend."
The statistics speak for themselves. Gaetti, who was the MVP of American League Championship Series in 1987, ranks fifth on the Twins' all-time list in doubles (252) and RBIs (758). He ranks sixth in games (1,361), at-bats (4,989), hits (1,276), home runs (201) and total bases (2,181). His .977 fielding percentage in 1988 is the highest single-season percentage by any Twins third baseman.
But aside from the statistics, Twins fans and Gaetti's teammates, who sat along the first-baseline watching the ceremony, remember him for his intense attitude and desire to win.
"He had the guts and every night he wanted to go out there and kick the other team's butt. And I liked that," teammate Kent Hrbek said in his induction speech.
Hrbek, a member of the Twins Hall of Fame inaugural class of 2000, and Gaetti met in 1979 when they were both playing for the Twins' rookie ball team in Elizabethton. The two were called up in '81 and played together until Gaetti left after the 1990 season.
Hrbek said that since those days in Elizabethton, they had big dreams for what they would accomplish with the Twins.
"We always dreamed of winning the World Series," Hrbek said. "Well, G-Man, 20 years ago, with the other crazy clowns over there, we accomplished what we always dreamed about."
After an introduction by Twins radio announcer John Gordon and a highlight reel of his most memorable plays, Gaetti entered the Metrodome to a standing ovation from appreciative fans. One fan's banner hanging from the upper deck in left field read "G-Man -- King of the Hot Corner."
Gaetti, who is currently the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay's Triple-A affiliate in Durham, chuckled at many parts of Hrbek's speech -- including a story about how they met at a McDonald's. He then rose to give a speech of his own.
The two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner thanked the Twins organization for taking a chance by signing him, as well as thanking his family and his favorite manager, Tom Kelly, who was in attendance.
"I never thought, in 1979 when I got the call, that I would be standing here," Gaetti said. "I still can't believe my name is going to be up there."
To signify the induction, a banner displaying Gaetti's name and picture was unveiled in the right-field corner.
Gaetti also got the opportunity to throw out the first pitch -- but with an unusual twist. Gaetti fired the ball from his familiar spot at third base to his old first baseman, Hrbek -- which coincidentally was the play that ended the 1987 World Series. In World Series fashion, the long-time teammates ran across the field, arms raised, and met with a celebratory hug.
"I played baseball for one reason ... not for the statistics, not for the awards or plaques or anything," Gaetti said. "I want to receive this award for an intense love of the game, playing the right way and playing to win."
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.