Nolan Ryan (Trading Card DB)

April 15, 1975: Ryan Express rolls past Twins in rowdy Minnesota opener

This article was written by Mike Worley

Nolan Ryan (Trading Card DB)Fans of the Minnesota Twins were growing restless as the 1975 baseball season started. The franchise had been successful during its first 10 years in Minnesota, both on the field and at the box office. The Twins won the American League pennant in 1965, placed second in the 10-team AL three times and third once before winning the AL West the first two years of divisional play in 1969 and 1970. They drew more than a million fans every year from 1961 through 1970, something the franchise achieved only once during 60 seasons in Washington.

The franchise slid into mediocrity from 1971 to ’74. The Twins had only one winning season during that time, 82-80 in 1974. Attendance never reached a million and decreased to an AL-low 662,401 in 1974, as of 2024 the franchise’s worst full-season attendance figure in Minnesota.1

Owner Calvin Griffith, one of the last baseball operators who made their living entirely from baseball and acted as his own general manager, incurred the wrath of Twins’ fans prior to the 1975 season by releasing the last original Twin, future Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew, and threatening to trade another future Hall of Famer, Tony Oliva.2 Local sportswriter Bill Hengen said Griffith’s firing of popular pitching and bullpen coach Buck Rodgers was “self-destruction of his self-image.”3

Griffith had difficulty adjusting to baseball’s new economic realities. He said, “mediocre players” were “parasites” abusing the new arbitration process.4 He also said, players “just don’t draw enough people into the ballpark to get the salaries they’re getting.”5 Griffith’s lease at Metropolitan Stadium was due to expire at the end of the 1975 season and there was speculation that he might sell or move the team.6

Majority owner Gene Autry’s California Angels were having struggles of their own, with only four winning seasons since they joined the AL as an expansion team in 1961. Since original general manager Fred Haney had been forced into retirement at the end of the 1968 season, and original manager Bill Rigney was fired in May of 1969, there had been several changes in on-field management and in the front office, with little to show in the way of success. Dick Williams, fresh off leading the Oakland A’s to World Series championships in 1972 and 1973, was hired in midseason 1974 to manage a turnaround.

Both teams exuded spring optimism in 1975. The Twins’ 17-13 mark in the exhibition schedule was a vast improvement over their 5-22 log in 1974, while the Angels finished 15-9.7 Griffith called the Twins “bona-fide contenders” for a pennant.8 Angels beat writer Hank Hollingworth, who noted that he had been around the clubhouse since their inception, sensed that “there is something refreshingly new within this 1975 Halo edition.” He credited Angels President Arthur E. “Red” Patterson, and declared that Williams, “definitely not the type to go overboard with a new, young club in the springtime, went so far as to make what some might consider an exceedingly rash statement” by predicting more wins than losses for the 1975 Angels.9

The Angels started the season at home by splitting a two-game series with the Kansas City Royals and a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox. The Twins opened on the road by taking two of three games from the Texas Rangers and getting swept in three games by the Royals. In the last five games of the road trip, the Twins made nine errors.

The weather for Minnesota’s opener was cool (48 degrees at game time) and partly cloudy but reasonably pleasant with little wind. The field was damp from recent rain and snow and spray-painted green. Griffith’s pregame remarks were met with a smattering of boos. He walked through the stands and doffed his hat to the ladies he encountered. Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson threw out the first pitch. Former local sportswriter and Twins broadcaster Halsey Hall attended his 64th opening day.10

A pair of right-handers started the game: 25-year old Dave Goltz for the Twins and 28-year-old Nolan Ryan for the Angels. Goltz, born in Pelican Rapids in northern Minnesota and an alumnus of Minnesota State University in Moorhead, was the Twins’ fifth-round selection in the June 1967 amateur draft. He was ineffective in 1973, his first full major-league season, started 1974 at Triple A, and was in the starting rotation by the end of the season, shutting out the Rangers on two hits in his last start.

Ryan was coming off a 22-16 season in 1974, leading the majors in innings pitched, while also having led in strikeouts and walks for the third consecutive year. Ryan had no-hit the Twins in his final start of 1974 with 8 walks and 15 strikeouts.

The Twins had a scoring opportunity in their half of the first. Three-time reigning AL batting king Rod Carew, playing with a pulled hamstring, led off with a walk and went to second on Ryan’s wild pickoff throw and to third on a single by Lyman Bostock (playing just his seventh big-league game). The first of four Angels double plays ended the threat.

Right fielder Joe Lahoud, who had a three-homer game for the Boston Red Sox at Metropolitan Stadium in 1969, doubled in a run in the second and homered in the fourth to give California a 2-0 lead. Lahoud said after the game, “I like the background in this park.”11 However, Lahoud batted only .235 in 138 career plate appearances at the Met.12

A baserunning blunder kept the Twins from scoring in the fourth. Oliva, recovering from knee surgery and already plunked by pitches on the legs twice in the season, walked with one out and took second on a single by Eric Soderholm. When Steve Braun singled to right, Oliva hobbled into third. Soderholm rounded second base too far and, seeing Oliva stopped at third, retreated to second and was tagged out. Braun took second on the throw and Danny Thompson walked, but catcher Glenn Borgmann fanned to end the threat.

Borgmann redeemed himself in the sixth inning. Ryan, who admitted after the game, “I didn’t have any idea where the ball was going,”13 hit Oliva with a pitch and walked Soderholm and Thompson to load the bases with one out. Borgmann doubled, clearing the bases and rousing the crowd to life as the Twins took a 3-2 lead.

But the lead was short-lived. Shortstop Orlando Ramirez singled on a ball down the third-base line that got past third baseman Soderholm. After Ramirez took second on a groundout, Mickey Rivers singled sharply to right. The ball skidded by Twins right fielder Bobby Darwin (who debuted in the majors as an Angels pitcher in 1962) and rolled toward the fence. Ramirez scored and the speedy Rivers, who said afterward that he didn’t need a sign from third-base coach Whitey Herzog, circled the bases, sliding under  Borgmann’s tag to give the Angels a 4-3 lead.14 Darwin was given an error on the play.

The crowd grew surly after the Twins lost the lead. A disgruntled fan, perhaps feeling Soderholm needed some additional fielding practice, tossed an orange in his direction. The police ejected a group of unruly fans. The Phil Roof Fan Club, seated in the right-field bleachers and named for the Twins’ bullpen catcher, traded barbs with Angels relief pitchers.15 Darwin was booed when he led off the Twins’ seventh inning and the fans booed the team when the game ended.16

It was still a one-run game as the Angels came to bat in the ninth, but Goltz exited after surrendering hits to the first two Angels batters. Bruce Bochte doubled in two runs off Bill Campbell, then stole third and came home on a wild throw by Borgmann, making the score 7-3. The Twins were retired in order in the ninth by left-hander Mickey Scott, in relief of Ryan, who worked a “strenuous” eight innings, throwing 148 pitches for his third win in three starts. Ryan’s streak of 10 successive complete games against the Twins was snapped.17

The Twins were despondent at the loss, their fifth in a row. Larry Hisle said the team needed to believe in themselves and play better.18 Darwin thought he had a play on Ramirez at the plate had he fielded Rivers’ hit cleanly. Bostock said he should have caught Lahoud’s double.19 Manager Frank Quilici said the Twins had squandered a chance to beat Ryan,20 who admitted that, besides his wildness, “I didn’t have any velocity.”21

Neither team was a factor in the AL West in 1975. The Twins finished fourth at 76-83 and the Angels were sixth and last at 72-89, both far behind the Oakland A’s, who won the division for the fifth year in a row. The Angels stole 220 bases as a team, the most since 1916, but hit only 55 home runs and Williams managed a losing team for a full season for the first time in his career.22

Goltz was 14-14 in 1975, signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Dodgers after the 1979 season, and finished his career with the Angels, ending with a 113-109 record. Ryan pitched his fourth no-hitter against Baltimore on June 1 and ended 1975 at 14-12. He pitched an incredible 18 more years in the majors and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Griffith sold the Twins in 1984 and his young roster that year formed the nucleus of World Series champions in 1987 and 1991.



This article was fact-checked by Bill Marston and copy-edited by Len Levin.


Author’s Note

The author attended this game with his grandfather and friends.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used and for pertinent information, including the box score and play-by-play. He also consulted the SABR Biography Project.



1 Washington drew 1,027,216 fans in 1946. Their second highest total was 850,758 in 1947.

2 Bob Fowler, “Twins Shocked and Sad Over Killer’s Departure,” The Sporting News, February 1, 1975: 31.

3 Bill Hengen, “Rodgers Latest Twin Alibi,” Minneapolis Star, October 3, 1974: 53.

4 Chris Polkowski, “Cal Castigates ‘Parasites,’” The Sporting News, March 1, 1975: 32.

5 Dick Gordon, “Griffith Will Join Bidding for Hunter,” Minneapolis Star, December 18, 1974: 77.

6 Bob Fowler, “Twin Farm System Best in Game, Says Calvin,” The Sporting News, December 14, 1974: 58.

7 “Spring Standings,” The Sporting News, April 26, 1975: 31.

8 “Bunts and Boots,” The Sporting News, March 29, 1975: 55.

9 Hank Hollingworth, “With Red, Angels No Longer Dead,” Long Beach (California) Press-Telegram, April 9, 1975: 35.

10 Joe Soucheray, “Beauty of Twins Opener Fades Later in Game,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 16, 1975: 23.

11 Sid Hartman, “Lahoud Likes Met Stadium,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 16, 1975: 24.

12 Lahoud did hit five home runs at the Met.

13 Hartman.

14 Sun-Telegram News Service, “Ryan, Angels Win Again, 5-3,”[sic] San Bernardino County (California) Sun, April 16, 1975: 35.

15 “Beauty of Twins Opener Fades Later in Game.”

16 Tom Briere, “Twins Get Moral Victory, Lose 7-3,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 16, 1975: 25.

17 Don Merry, “Angels Take Offense at ‘No Offense’ Rap,” Long Beach (California) Independent, April 16, 1975: 23.

18 Chan Keith, ‘Twin Blame Well Shared,” Minneapolis Star, April 16, 1975: 77.

19 “Twins Get Moral Victory, Lose 7-3.”

20 United Press International, “Can’t Beat Ryan Even When ‘Off,’” San Mateo (California) Daily Independent Journal, April 16, 1975: 34.

21 “Lahoud Likes Met Stadium.”

22 Ross Newhan, The California Angels (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), 144. Williams was fired in July 1976 with a record of 147-194 (.431) as the Angels’ manager.

Additional Stats

California Angels 7
Minnesota Twins 3

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN

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