Today, we're going to continue our "By the Numbers" series. Our goal is to do one every week, but with the Vikings opening training camp, and the annual Favregeddon incident that blew up earlier this week, it took somewhat of a backseat. Until now! Numbers 6-10 have some of the more famous players ever to wear the colors of a Minnesota sports team, and there is one number that even we couldn't decide upon. So, being the mature, responsible adults that we are, we abdicated our responsibilities as editors and we'll let you decide, via poll, who gets the spot.
Let's get on with it!
6: Tony Oliva, Minnesota Twins. Oliva, a Cuban immigrant, was the 1964 Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting twice. A pure hitter with a sweet swing, he led the league three times, with a career best .337 in 1971. For all his skill with the bat, he could also hit for decent power and was adept with a glove, winning the Gold Glove award in 1966. Injuries robbed him of ability in his last few seasons, and many longtime Twins fans wonder what could've been had he stayed healthy. It's easy to speculate, but it's even easier to see what we did get, and that was a great hitter, a great Twin, and a great ambassador for the game of baseball.
7: Neal Broten, Minnesota North Stars/Minnesota Gophers, or Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. These are two great players, first of all. Where Broten might have an edge in longevity and championships, Mauer makes up for with a really funny MLB: The Show commercial. I kid, I kid. Mauer has helped the Twins to multiple division titles, and is considered one of the best hitters in baseball, a remarkable feat for a catcher. Their write-ups below:
Broten: Broten had a more complete career than Mauer has had to this point, which gives him an all-time edge. Broten is arguably one of the best American born hockey players ever; he won an NCAA title with the Gophers and was also the first ever Hobey Baker Award winner, the college hockey equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team "Miracle on Ice," and also won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils, scoring the cup-clinching goal. He is also the only hockey player in history to win an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup.
Mauer: Where Broten has career numbers and championships, you can argue that Mauer will eclipse him if his career continues on its current path. He has already won three Batting Titles, which happen to be three more than any other catcher in American League history. He's been voted to four All-Star games, and is recognized as the best all-around catcher in the game today. He's won two Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence and three Silver Slugger awards. In 2009, he was named the AL Most Valuable Player. He is among the league leaders in hitting again this season, and there are two people in baseball who experts think are capable of hitting the mythical .400: Albert Pujols, of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Mauer.
8: Bill Goldsworthy, Minnesota North Stars. This was a close call between Goldworthy and Gary Gaetti of the Twins. Gaetti won a World Series with the Twins, but Goldsworthy is an all time great for the North Stars and is a Hall of Famer. Goldsworthy was the face of an expansion franchise in 1967, and was their main offensive weapon for almost 10 seasons. In the North Stars' inaugural 1967-68 season, he led them to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring 15 points (eight goals) in the playoff run. In 1970, he teamed with great Dennis Hextall and began a string of six straight seasons with 30 or more goals. His best season was 1974, when he scored 48 goals. He was, and still is, one of the best to ever play professional hockey in Minnesota.
9: Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild. Another close call here between Koivu and Tommy Kramer. Kramer had the inside track, but his nomination was intercepted by Koivu just as he was about to score. (Intercepted, Kramer ... see what I did there?) Koivu became the face of the Wild franchise after the ugly departure of Marian Gaborik, and is one of Minnesota's most popular athletes. An adept stick handler, Koivu has averaged more than 50 points a season the last four years, and was named the first permanent captain of the Wild franchise.
10: Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings. This one was as easy for jersey No. 10 as No. 3 was for Harmon Killebrew. If there was a Mt. Rushmore of Minnesota sports icons, Tarkenton is in the conversation. He lead the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances, held every major passing record when he retired, and was one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League. He is a tragic hero to many Vikings fans, who tend to point to Super Bowl failure rather than a career with a lot of postseason success and prolific passing. He was also known as much for his scrambling ability as he was his passing prowess, and many a defensive lineman tried to run him down and punish him, to no avail. I'm partial here, because Tarkenton was one of my favorite players as a kid, but watching him scramble around, buy time, and then hit a wide open Sammy White or John Gilliam was magical.