May 12, 1981: Clutch homers by Hatcher and Smalley lead Twins to win over Red Sox

This article was written by Brian Frank

Roy Smalley was off to a solid start to the 1981 season for the struggling Minnesota Twins. John Bierig of the Minneapolis Star wrote that he’d been “the only bright spot in a dismal season” for the ballclub.1 Smalley, fresh off signing a four-year contract extension in the offseason, was hitting .294 with 6 home runs, 19 walks, and 19 runs batted in when he injured his right shoulder in a game against Baltimore on May 6. Since his injury, he’d been relegated to pinch-hitting duties; his shoulder injury prevented him from making the throws necessary to play shortstop. After he had precautionary x-rays, the Minneapolis Tribune reported that Smalley was not expected to play in the opening game of a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox.2

Smalley’s teammate, center fielder Mickey Hatcher, was also not in good health. Hatcher, acquired from the Dodgers in an offseason trade, was hitting .276 but was battling a virus that caused him to have a sore throat, congestion, and an upset stomach. He reported vomiting “several times” the day the Twins were to open their series against the Red Sox.3

Surprisingly, despite their ailments, both Smalley and Hatcher were in the lineup for the series opener against Boston, Hatcher in center field and Smalley as the designated hitter.

The Twins had been struggling with a 10-17 record and were 12 games back in the American League West. They’d lost five of their last six games. However, right before that rough stretch, they’d gone into Fenway Park and swept a four-game series from Boston. Meanwhile, the Red Sox had won five in a row to climb back to a .500 record at 13-13 and were 3½ games out of first place in the American League East.

Minnesota sent right-hander Roger Erickson to the mound to face Boston lefty John Tudor. Both pitchers were off to rough starts. Erickson was 1-3 with a 4.08 earned-run average in five starts, while Tudor was 1-1 with a 4.84 ERA in three starts.

Only a smattering of fans were on hand for the night game. The announced crowd was 3,572. The low attendance was due in large part to the fact that many fans stayed home to watch the National Hockey League’s Minnesota North Stars play the New York Islanders in their first Stanley Cup Finals game in franchise history.

Boston threatened to score in the second inning when Tony Perez and Carney Lansford singled with one out. But a nice play by first baseman Ron Jackson helped keep the game scoreless. Jackson made a diving stop on Rick Miller’s hard groundball and flipped to Erickson covering at first for the second out. Erickson then struck out Glenn Hoffman to end the inning.

Hatcher, still struggling with his illness, raced into the clubhouse to vomit after hitting a double in the fourth inning. He was able to remain in the game.

Both pitchers entered the middle innings with shutouts intact, before Boston broke through against Erickson in the sixth. Jerry Remy led off with a single and went to third when Dwight Evans singled. Carl Yastrzemski, who was in a horrendous slump, hitting just .175 entering the game, singled to bring Remy home and send Evans to third. Jim Rice followed with a sacrifice fly and the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead.

Tudor entered the seventh inning having allowed only three hits and three walks. He’d used a lively fastball to shut down Twins hitters. “I didn’t really know where it was going,” Tudor said after the game.4 Minnesota finally broke through against the lefty with a big blast in the seventh. Smalley led the inning off with a single. After Tudor retired the next two batters, Ron Jackson lined a ball over the left-field fence to tie the game.

Erickson gave up a single to Remy and a walk to Yastrzemski to put two men on with one out in the eighth. Minnesota manager Johnny Goryl brought Doug Corbett in from the Twins’ bullpen. Corbett struck out Rice and got Perez to fly out to end the inning and keep the game knotted at 2-2.

Tudor gave way to Bob Stanley to start the bottom of the eighth. Stanley breezed through his first inning of work, retiring the side in order. But in the ninth, after Smalley flied out, Pete Mackanin and Hosken Powell, hitting for Dave Engle, both singled. After getting Ron Jackson to ground into a force at third base, Stanley walked Sal Butera to load the bases with two down. St. Paul native Tom Burgmeier came out of the Red Sox bullpen and needed only one pitch to get Rob Wilfong to fly out and end the inning without any runs crossing the plate.

Boston regained the lead in the top of the 10th. Remy and Evans singled with one down, and Yastrzemski cashed in his second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

Things weren’t looking good for the Twins in their half of the 10th. Burgmeier remained in the game for Boston and retired Gary Ward on a groundout and John Castino on a pop foul to start the inning and put the Twins’ backs to the wall.

Ailing Mickey Hatcher stepped in against Burgmeier with the Twins down to their final out. He took Burgmeier’s first delivery for a strike, and then drilled the next pitch deep to left field. Hatcher later said of the pitch: “It wasn’t that far in on me. It was a slider that started out over the plate, then broke down over it and kinda hung.”5 Hatcher sent the ball sailing into the left-field seats to tie the game 3-3.

As on-deck hitter Roy Smalley watched the ball go out, he thought Burgmeier “might not be quite so invincible as he had been. I thought, ‘Maybe I’ve got a chance,’” he told reporters.6 Having had only a couple of pinch-hit at-bats the last few games while he rehabilitated his shoulder, Smalley was feeling much more comfortable at the plate after being the designated hitter for an entire game. “It helps to be in a game where you know you’re going to get four at-bats,” he said, “and where if you make an out you know you’re going to get another at-bat.” He added, “I kind of straightened out during the game.”7

Smalley followed up Hatcher’s home run by hitting one of his own, this one to left-center for a walk-off win. “I just figured I would go after him,” Smalley said. “The pitch was outside and at the knees, but I got a good piece of it.”8

The unlikely duo of Hatcher and Smalley had combined for back-to-back home runs and led the Twins to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory. Hatcher battled through his sickness to finish the game 2-for-5 with a double and his clutch game-tying home run in the 10th. Smalley, playing with a sore shoulder, had gone 2-for-3 with two walks and the game-winning homer.

The Red Sox were in disbelief after letting a game slip away after they seemed to have it in their grasp. “I can’t believe it,” Boston manager Ralph Houk said. “This was a bad game to lose.”9

Meanwhile, the Twins were ecstatic at the dramatic turn of events, especially after their recent struggles. “It sure is a good feeling,” said Goryl. “We ain’t won too many like this.”10 The win was just the Twins’ second in their last seven games. “I hope this picks us up,” Smalley said. “I hope it gives us a little emotion about winning. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with us.”11



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and



1 Joel Bierig, “Goryl Wonders Just How to Make These Pieces Fit,” Minneapolis Star, May 11, 1981: 10C.

2 “Tonight/Twins vs Boston,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 12, 1981: 5C.

3 Gary Libman, “Hatcher, Smalley Homers Trip Sox in 10th,” Minneapolis Tribune, May 13, 1981: 1C.

4 Peter Gammons, “Twins Homers Trip Sox in 10, 4-3,” Boston Globe, May 13, 1981: 72.

5 Gammons.

6 Libman.

7 Libman.

8 Associated Press, “Twins’ Homers Tip Boston,” St. Cloud (Minnesota) Daily Times, May 13, 1981: 4D.

9 Gammons.

10 Associated Press, “Twins’ Homers Tip Boston.”

11 Libman: 2C. The Twins lost their next eight in a row, leading to the firing of manager Johnny Goryl.

Additional Stats

Minnesota Twins 4
Boston Red Sox 3
16 innings

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN


Box Score + PBP:

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