The 1987 World Series brought together two teams from the Midwest, and for the third straight year, the Fall Classic went seven games.
The Minnesota Twins were far from a great team, but they were the best in an exceptionally balanced AL West. In a seven-team division where everyone won at least 75 games, the Twins’ 85-77 record was good enough to get them into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1970.
No one expected Minnesota to do much with the heavily favored 98-win Detroit Tigers, who had survived a dramatic AL East race with the Toronto Blue Jays. Detroit had the better team, but the Twins’ pitching staff had an ace in Frank Viola and a high-quality #2 in Bert Blyleven. And homefield was decided by rotation between East & West, not merit, and it was the West’s turn.
The Twins were well-suited for their home park in the Metrodome. The ball jumped out and they had four power hitters—Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky—who combined for 125 home runs.
Minnesota trailed Game 1 by a 5-4 count in the eighth, but Puckett doubled in the tying run and Minnesota broke the game open 8-5. The rest of the American League Championship Series went surprisingly easily, as Minnesota took Game 2 behind Blyleven and eventually wrapped it up in five games.
The St. Louis Cardinals, with the same speed-oriented lineup that came within two outs of the 1985 World Series title, had gotten back on top of the NL East and then won a seven-game National League Championship Series over the San Francisco Giants. St. Louis was as well-built for their spacious ballpark, with its artificial turf as Minnesota was for theirs. The Cardinals liked to run and Vince Coleman led the way with 109 steals.
The homefield rotation that also decided World Series’ schedules came up in Minnesota’s favor. The Twins hosted the first two games and their offense blasted out 18 runs in Games 1 & 2, and Viola and Blyleven staked them to a 2-0 series lead.
St. Louis got a great outing from John Tudor in Game 3, but still trailed 1-0 in the seventh. But a pair of singles and a sac bunt set up a two-RBI double from Coleman, who later came around to score and the Series was back on. The Cardinals’ crushed Viola in Game 4 with a six-run fourth-inning and then beat Blyleven 4-2 in Game 5.
But in a series with an NBA feel to it, with home teams controlling everything, Minnesota had the last two back in the Twin Cities. They trailed 5-2 in the fifth, but a Puckett base hit, a Gaetti double and a home run by DH Don Baylor put it back to even. Minnesota added another run that inning, and then in the sixth, Hrbek hit a grand slam to break it open. We were going to a Game 7 of the World Series for the third straight year.
Viola got the ball for the third time and though St. Louis touched him for a pair of early runs, the lefty settled in and the game was tied 2-2 after five. In the sixth, the Twins used three walks and an infield hit to get the lead run. Viola worked eight strong innings and would be named series MVP. Minnesota added an insurance run and they finally closed out a 4-2 win that brought the Twin Cities its first World Series championship