Brunansky recalls taking part in first HR Derby, '85 All-Star Game
Jul 9, 2014 at 12:00p ET
Tom Brunansky walked toward his locker after batting practice one day in 1985 to find a letter from Major League Baseball waiting for him. Normally this could cause some concern for a player -- a possible fine or suspension, perhaps -- but the Twins right fielder took it in stride.
"I knew at the time because that's about the time that they were going to announce the All-Stars," Brunansky recalls. "I hadn't gotten kicked out of a ballgame in a while. Those are normally the letters you get on your chair, so I had an idea that that's what that one was."
Indeed, the letter was there to inform Brunansky that he was selected to represent the American League in that All-Star Game -- which happened to be taking place at his home ballpark. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome hosted just one All-Star Game during the 28 seasons the Twins played there, and Brunansky was fortunate enough to be in it.
Leading up to the All-Star Game, Brunansky was batting just .265 but had 19 home runs and 56 RBI. Those power numbers led to Brunansky being chosen to take part in the Home Run Derby. The 1985 All-Star Game was the first time the derby was held, and the format was much different then than it is now.
Instead of individual batters competing against each other, the inaugural derby pitted Brunansky's American League against the National League, with each league using five batters. Some of the notable names from the event were Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk and Ryne Sandberg. Thanks in part to four home runs from Brunansky -- whose Derby pitcher was Twins manager Tom Kelly -- the AL edged the NL by a 17-16 final in the first-ever event.
"I think that was just kind of an idea of somebody within that said, 'Hey, we want to do something a little bit different. We want to spice up the fact that people are going to want to come in and watch batting practice, and we want to create a little activity for people and try to bring more people in,'" Brunansky said. "It wasn't a charged event. Everyone could come in, but they wanted to create an atmosphere of having excitement for the All-Star Game and they felt that coming in would keep people around through the batting practice and kind of make it something for them to see. The way they've turned out now, it's taken on a life of its own."
The Home Run Derby was held right after team workouts at the Metrodome, the day before the actual All-Star Game. The following day, Brunansky was the only Twins player represented on the American League roster as Minnesotans packed the Dome for the first All-Star Game in the state since 1965. Brunansky finished the game with just one at-bat as a reserve outfielder as he replaced Murray in the seventh inning. He grounded out to the shortstop in his only at-bat.
Perhaps because his time spent in the actual game was brief, the entire All-Star weekend was a whirlwind for Brunansky. As for the Home Run Derby, it was an experience unlike anything Brunansky had gone through before.
"Very nerve wracking. Though we take batting practice every day during the season, we hit home runs in batting practice, but once you take that cage and you back that cage away and put a catcher up there, it's something we're not used to," Brunansky said. "We're talking to the catcher and you've got your BP screen and TK was throwing. Everything was the same but not. It was tough to get back into that element."
Brunansky and the American League lost the All-Star Game 6-1 to the National League, but the event was a big hit in Minnesota. The attendance that night was 54,960, quite a bit higher than the 46,706 fans that turned out for the event in 1965 at Metropolitan Stadium.
When the All-Star Game comes to Target Field on Tuesday, there won't be quite that many in the stands, as the capacity of the downtown Minneapolis ballpark is just shy of 40,000. But there's no doubt that this year's festivities will be more grandiose than when Brunansky played in his first and only All-Star Game.
"It's going to be a wonderful, spectacular event," said Brunansky, who is in his second season as the Twins' hitting coach. "Not just the Home Run Derby but the whole process. It's going to be nice when they have the concerts going on out here. Everything they've done to embrace it downtown, moving across all the activities, all the signings, all the clinics, things that just go unnoticed, it's just going to be a wonderful event that all the people get to enjoy, not just the people in Minneapolis.
"Everyone in the state, they can come in and visit. It's going to be quite a spectacular event."
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