Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Twins Honoring Hrbek by Retiring His No. 14

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Twins Honoring Hrbek by Retiring His No. 14

Article excerpt

Maybe if he could have kept that big, soft body healthy, there would have been more baseball in Kent Hrbek. Maybe then No. 14 still would be playing for the Minnesota Twins.

He couldn't do it, though, couldn't maintain the bulky frame that seemed almost to defy rules of physics the way he made it move so deftly. So on Sunday, the number Hrbek wore for 13 seasons will be retired, almost one year to the day since it last was worn by the burly hometown hero who made it famous.

There never will be another No. 14 for the Twins, and there never will be another player like Hrbek, who joins Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew as the only Twins to have their numbers retired.

"Cooperstown is nowhere near my expectations, but I think that if they tell you they're not going to put your number on anybody's back anymore, it's just as special," Hrbek said recently, sitting in the Twins' dugout before a game.

"I idolized Rod Carew and Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew. I was those guys in the backyard a zillion times when I was a kid playing whiffle ball, and now my number's going to be hanging next to theirs. That's a pretty touching deal."

For all his success and fame and money, Hrbek never lost the simple, straightforward style that made him such a favorite in Minnesota.

For 13 seasons, Hrbek made his beer-league body do wonderful things, helping the Twins to two World Series championships with a blend of power and grace rarely found in baseball.

His grand slam against St. Louis in Game 6 of the '87 Series and his jubilant romp around the bases provided one of the most memorable moments ever for the Twins.

In team history, only Killebrew hit more homers and drove in more runs, and no first baseman fielded the position with more savvy or consistency.

It was a remarkable career for the kid who grew up about a mile away from old Met Stadium. Talking to one of his former teachers at Bloomington Kennedy High School recently, Hrbek was asked if he ever reflects on his storybook career.

"He just asked me the other day if I ever sit back and pinch myself and think about what went on the last 17 years," Hrbek said. "I think about it every day I look in the mirror. I thank everybody for helping me out, and I pat myself on the back a little bit, too."

In their first season without Hrbek since the first half of 1981, the Twins have used 10 different players at first base, the position at which Hrbek spent most of his 1,747 games.

He hit 293 home runs and 312 doubles, driving in 1,086 runs. He walked 838 times and had 6,192 official at-bats, 1,749 hits and 2,976 total bases. Each statistic ranks in the top five on Minnesota's all-time lists, and his career .282 batting average is ninth-best in team history.

Sunday's jersey retirement will culminate a three-day weekend of ceremonies honoring Hrbek. …

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