The 1987 World Series put the Minnesota Twins on the national map for the first time since their 1970 Western Division Title. The Twins met the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in what was called both the "Riverboat Series" (after the fact that both cities were connected by the Mississippi River) and the "Cinderella Series" (both clubs were considered underdogs in their respective leagues). The Twins went on to win the series, four games to three.
Baseball's pundits were split over which team was the favorite. The Cardinals were a faster team, led by Vince Coleman and his 109 steals, and had the superior pitching. But they were also hampered by injuries to first baseman Jack Clark, their best player, and switch-hitting third baseman Terry Pendelton, who played but could not hit right handed nor play the field.
This was the first Series played indoors, in the Metrodome, the multi-use domed arena that was home to the Twins and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. The American League had home field advantage, and it was divided up with the first two games in the Twin Cities, the next three games in St. Louis, and the final two back in Minnesota.
Game One of the World Series took place on Saturday, October 17. Despite the Cardinals scoring first, leading 1-0 through three innings, the Twins blew the game apart with a seven-run fourth inning. They won a 10-1 victory, capped by Dan Gladden's fourth-inning grand slam. Pitcher Frank Viola, the team's ace, threw eight solid innings, giving up one run on five hits, while striking out five.
Game Two was on Sunday, and again the Twins flexed their offensive muscles, winning 8-4. For the second day in a row, the Twins opened the game up in the fourth inning, with six runs scored. Bert Blyleven threw seven innings, giving up a pair of runs while striking out eight.
With a 2-0 Series lead, the Twins felt confident going into Game Three in St. Louis on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Behind rookie pitcher Les Straker, the Twins led 1-0 going into the seventh inning, the young pitcher giving up only four hits and two walks against four strikeouts. But manager Tom Kelly elected to bring in the normally reliable middle-reliever Juan Berenguer in the seventh. He proceeded to give up three runs on three hits and a double. The 3-1 score stood, and the Cardinals had their first victory.
Behind their ace, Frank Viola, the Twins felt they had a decided advantage in Game Four. But it was the Cardinals' turn to have an explosive fourth inning, as Tom Lawless, who had hit .080 during the season (in only 25 at bats), blasted a three-run homer off Viola. Viola was pulled after three and a third innings. The Cardinals' 7-2 victory evened the series.
Game Five was a close contest, but again the home team won out, and the Twins lost 4-2. Despite throwing five shutout innings, Twins starter Bert Blyleven was tagged for three runs in the sixth, the Cardinals stole five bases, and their pitchers kept the Twins' bats cool.
With their two best pitchers taking two straight losses, the Twins' backs were against the wall as they came home. Relying on rookie Les Straker again, and with the crowds pushing the decibels to jet plane levels, the Twins' big bats came through yet again, overcoming a 5-2 deficit in a four-run fifth. In the sixth, they widened the gap when Kent Hrbek blasted a grand slam. The Twins won Game Six with an 11-5 victory, and forced Game Seven.
With Frank Viola back on the mound, and in the deafening roar of the Metrodome, the Twins won the seventh and decisive game in a close 4-2 victory. Viola pitched eight solid innings, giving up but two runs on six hits, with seven strikeouts. He was named World Series' most valuable player (MVP). Kirby Puckett hit .357 with five runs, ten hits and three RBI, and played in all seven games.
For the first time since moving to Minnesota in 1961, the Twins won the World Series. It was also the first World Championship for the franchise in sixty-three years, dating back to when the Washington Senators won it in 1924.
Grow, Doug. We're Gonna Win, Twins! Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Thornley, Stew. Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2006.
Down three games to two, the Twins' backs were against the wall in Game Six of the 1987 World Series. In the sixth inning, Kent Hrbek hit a grand slam to give the Twins an 11-5 victory, forcing the decisive Game Seven.