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Kelly retires as manager of Twins
By Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
October 12, 2001
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Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly says he's stepping down after 15 full seasons. Under Kelly's tenure, the Twins won two World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. This year, the Twins finished second in the American League Central, snapping an eight-year run of losing seasons. Kelly says the team's success puts them in a good position for next year and says it's a good time to step aside.
Tom Kelly, right, announces his retirement as Twins manager. Owner Carl Pohlad, right, listens. Listen to Kelly's announcement.
(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

Tom Kelly says he made the decision to end his tenure as the longest active coach or manager in professional sports about two weeks ago when the Twins were battling for second place with the Chicago White Sox. Kelly, 51, wouldn't elaborate fully on why he made his decision, saying some of his reasons were personal. But he did say the past season took a toll. He said he knew he was ready to retire before the Twins beat the Sox in the final game of the season, even though Twins owner Carl Pohlad and General Manager Terry Ryan tried to convince him to sign a new contract.

"When Mr. Pohlad asked me a month ago or so about doing another contract - and the man has been great to me - he offered me one, two or three years, whatever I wanted and I didn't even let him talk about that because I didn't want that to influence my decision," Kelly said.

During his full 15 years on the job, Kelly had 10 losing seasons, but Twins fans will most likely remember the two trips to the World Series. During his first full season as manager in 1987, Kelly guided the Minnesota Twins to their first World Series championship over the St. Louis Cardinals. Four years later, Kelly's Twins were back in the series again, beating the Atlanta Braves in seven games in one of the more memorable World Series match ups in recent history.

Throughout his press conference, Kelly downplayed his role in those victories and the impact he's had on his team. But some Twins players who played under Kelly disagree.
Former Twin Kirby Puckett listens as Tom Kelly announces his retirement. says Kelly's focus on baseball's fundamentals, proper hitting, fielding and baserunning, made him and his fellow players better.
(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

"Well, he made up the lineup card, we didn't. He's put us in the position to put ourselves and put ourselves in the order that he thought we could produce," said Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who played for Kelly when Kelly took over the Twins job in September of '86 until Puckett's retirement in the spring of 1996.

Puckett says Kelly's focus on baseball's fundamentals, proper hitting, fielding and baserunning, made him and his fellow players better. "He was so excited to see a guy tag up on a fly ball or break up a double play or just play up right," Puckett said. "He didn't ask for nothing that you couldn't give. He just tried to get the best out of every individual in their own way. He didn't put everybody in the same category because I'm different than Hrbek and Hrbek's different than Gaetti."

While Kelly's decision to retire came as no surprise to the Twins management, Kelly's players and coaches say they were shocked. Kelly says he didn't mention his decision to any of the players, for fear they would leak it to the press, or his coaches, many of whom he considers his best friends.

Third baseman Corey Koskie says many of the players didn't notice anything different about Kelly this year, compared to recent seasons. "There were no signs at all. He was talking about maybe he felt tired or whatever but that's the one thing where I never saw any of those signs," Koskie said.
Minnesota Public Radio baseball analyst Kevin Hennessy has followed Kelly throughout his 14 year career with the Twins. Listen to Hennessy, interviewed by All Things Considered host Lorna Benson.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad says it will be difficult next February when spring training starts without Kelly. He said Kelly was one of the most respected managers in baseball.

"Tom is an institution. He isn't just another manager. It's going to be tough without him. After all, when you say Twins, you say Tom Kelly," Pohlad said.

But Pohlad and Twins management now have to figure out who will best represent the Twins in the future. General Manager Terry Ryan says the team will look at people outside of the Twins system as well as bench coach Paul Molitor and third-base coach Ron Gardenhire. Ryan says the Twins strong pitching staff and young team will help attract a lot of candidates.

"We'll explore all possibilities. Obviously there are a lot of people who are interested. This job is a fairly enticing job right now. The cupboard is not bare and it looks like we've got some things in place," according to Ryan.

As for Kelly, he says he has no intentions of returning to any team as a manager. He says he'll continue to live in his home in Maplewood and looks forward to playing plenty of golf. The Twins say Kelly will remain with the ballclub in some capacity.