MINNESOTA TWINS COLLECTORS
From not knowing if they would
have a team to support to cheering on a team that would come within three wins of advancing to the World Series, Minnesota
Twins fans have experienced the whole gamut of emotions this year.
When over 55,000 of them jammed into the Metrodome
for the Twins playoff games, they showed the rest of the world that baseball is alive and well in Minnesota a fact that even
Bud Selig has acknowledged.
Not surprisingly, amongst this group of fans, there exists a passionate group of Twins
card and memorabilia collectors.
"I grew up watching the Twins all of the Minnesota legends from Bert Blyleven to
Dan Gladden, Kirby Puckett, and Kent Hrbek," says Taylor Simons, a season ticket-holder and Twins collector. "I could name
every player from the 1987 and 1991 World Series teams back when I was in grade school."
Over the past 14 years, Simons
has amassed a large collection of Twins memorabilia that includes game-used jerseys, bats, gloves, balls, and batting helmets.
"I'm just a collector who loves to get his hands on new things every day," says Simons. "My goal is to collect as
much Twins stuff as I can."
Like Simons, Tim Stransky also grew up watching the Twins. The Shoreline, Washington resident
lived in Minnesota until 1979. Despite his current proximity to Seattle, his allegiance to the Twins has remained strong.
"I love the fact that they're a homegrown team. Twenty-two of the 25 men on their roster (in 2002) have never played
for another major league team," says Stransky, who owns a collection of more than 12,000 pieces of Twins memorabilia.
collect basically anything that has a Twins logo on it . . . Almost every piece I have in my collection, I can tell you
when, where, and how I got it."
Jim Wiehe, another former Minnesota-area resident who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska,
has also remained loyal to the Twins. For over 16 years, he has been adding to his collection of Twins cards and memorabilia.
"The first major Twins item I bought was Harmon Killebrew's rookie card," says Wiehe. "Harmon was my boyhood favorite."
His collection has since evolved to include magazines, newspapers, bottles, yearbooks and even a sack of Kirby Puckett
"There is no real focus to my collection . . . just the joy of finding interesting items."
contrast, Gary Benson, a lifelong Minnesota resident, has chosen to focus his collection on Twins' Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew
and Kirby Puckett.
"I had been a Barry Bonds collector since 1991 . . . When his cards finally became hot and went
up, I decided to use them to begin a Twins collection, focusing on Killebrew and Puckett," says Benson, who collects primarily
game-used cards, serial-numbered cards, rookie cards, and autographs. "I would have to say that my favorite item is the 2001
Topps Tribute "Franchise Figures" dual jersey card of Killebrew and Puckett."
The Twins' playoff run has also spawned
a new wave of collectors, says Ryan O'Donnell, manager of Hobby Heroes, a Minnesota-based hobby shop.
"With the success
of the Twins, memorabilia and related sales increased dramatically all over Minnesota," says O'Donnell. "I would say there
have been a lot of new (Twins) collectors this year."
This excitement is in stark contrast to the mood of fans twelve
months ago when Bud Selig announced plans to contract the team.
"I had a real tough time last winter dealing with
the whole contraction possibility. On one hand, I understand the business side of baseball, but the whole rotten deal between
"Contraction Carl" (Carl Pohlad, Twins owner) and Bud disgusted me and left me extraordinarily anxious throughout the winter,"
says Wiehe. "When they began playing this summer, the anxiety eased a little. The joy of watching these young guys made me
believe everything was going to turn out right."
Benson also had difficulty with the idea of contraction.
was scary. But the Twins' success in the playoffs has given me the adrenaline to push forward."
This adrenaline seems
to be contagious, because Twins collectors are as committed to their collections as ever. More importantly, they're optimistic
about the future of the favorite franchise.
"I think baseball will stay in Minnesota for a long, long time," says
Simons. "The fans here are great."
Wiehe also sees a bright future for baseball in Minnesota, but his optimism is
a little more guarded.
"I'm an incurable cock-eyed optimist by nature," says Wiehe. "Honestly, I know there are plenty
of extraordinarily loyal fans to support it, but I don't trust Pohlad one bit. He's in it only as a business venture."
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