At the end of the 2013 season, Ron Gardenhire didn’t know whether he’d ever get a chance to earn his 1,000th career win. He and the Minnesota Twins had just finished up their third season of 96 or more losses, and Gardenhire’s future hung in the balance.
Yet despite the losing, Minnesota showed a sign of faith in Gardenhire to lead a turnaround in Minnesota and brought him back for two more seasons. For the longtime Twins skipper, the milestone finally came as Minnesota beat Cleveland 7-3 on Saturday to give Gardenhire the 1,000th win of his 13-year tenure.
"Congrats to Ron Gardenhire on his 1,000th win. Proud to have Gardy managing our club. Can’t wait for Gardy Gnome Day," tweeted Twins vice president Dave St. Peter.
Gardenhire’s managerial career in Minnesota began in 2002 when he took over for Kelly — who won 1,140 games in 16 seasons, all with the Twins, at the helm. That 2002 season was the first of six American League Central titles for Gardenhire as Minnesota won 94 games. One year later, the Twins had a 90-win season and repeated as division champs. With a 92-70 record in 2004, Gardenhire and Minnesota made it three consecutive AL Central crowns.
Before taking over as the manager, Gardenhire was Minnesota’s third-base and first-base coach since 1990 and was on Kelly’s staff when the Twins won their second World Series in 1991. Gardenhire previously served as a minor-league manager at Class-A Kenosha and Double-A Orlando from 1988-90. He won a combined 245 games in his three seasons in the minors.
Life as a manager has served Gardenhire far better than life as a player. His first win as a manager came in his first game in charge when Minnesota beat Kansas City 8-6 on Opening Day in 2002. He reached win No. 100 the following season and eclipsed the 500-win mark with a win over the Chicago White Sox on July 6, 2007.
Saturday’s win over the Indians was the 115th time Gardenhire has defeated the division foes. His 130 wins over the Royals are the most of any opponent. The most victories against any team not in the AL Central is Texas (59).