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Al Worthington

Al Worthington's ties to Minnesota reached back to 1950. He played semi-pro ball that summer in Fulda, Minnesota, where he met his wife.

He moved up the baseball ladder and shuttled between the New York Giants and their AAA farm club, the Minneapolis Millers, in 1953, '54 and '55. He also pitched for the Millers in 1960.

Al Worthington
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The 1965 Twins had many strong-willed men on the roster, but no one was more unwavering in his ethics than Worthington.

He once opted to pitch in the minor leagues rather than ignore the fact the Chicago White Sox were cheating by stealing the signs of the opposing catcher.

That honesty actually cost him some big-league work, but he was rewarded when he pulled on a Twins' uniform.

Worthington was one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball after he joined the team midway through the 1964 season.

His Twins career was marked by many high points, and a notable one came in late July of 1965. The Twins' starters began to wobble for a stretch in which Worthington pitched six times in seven days, earning three wins and three saves -- and allowed no earned runs.

Better with age

Worthington had never appeared in more than 55 games a season before 1965, and that workload occurred in 1957 when he was 28 and transitioning from a starter into a relief pitcher. But when he worked 65 games in 1965, he was 36.

From that season until he was 40, Worthington averaged 57 games a year.

Pitchers adapt with age, and Worthington had his own unique approach. It was his habit to throw sidearm early in the season, when he didn't feel he had his good stuff, and then he began to use more of an overhand delivery as the season progressed.

In 1966, when he was 37, he even began to throw a knuckleball more often in games, although he had worked with that pitch in some games, and on the sidelines, for years.

Really: better with age

And here's a story that would never happen today: It was August of 1967, and Twins' owner Calvin Griffith was quoted that if relief pitchers Worthington and Ron Kline "were having seasons as good as each had last year, we'd be leading the league by 10 games."

Not only would no owner call out a couple of players today with such a bold statement, no one would do what Worthington did shortly after that.

At age 38, he pitched 8 2/3 innings of two-hit relief in a 20-inning marathon game against Washington on Aug. 9. He had not pitched that long in the major leagues since at least 1959.

Worthington began his career as a starter, but never started a big-league game after 1959.

"Getting by a lot of batters without using too many pitches helped," he said.

"It was the longest I pitched since at least 1964," he said. "I started a few games for San Diego in 1964, before I came to the Twins," he said. "I might have gone that far there. If not, it goes back to 1962, when I was at Indianapolis."

Both San Diego and Indy were minor league cities at the time.

Five days after that outing, Worthington came back to save a game, and in his 23 innings the rest of the season he allowed just four earned runs as his ERA fell by half a run.

Pitching coach

Worthington sold life insurance after retiring as a player in 1969, but returned to the Twins as their pitching coach in 1972 under manager Bill Rigney.

Rigney, an infielder in his playing days, and Worthington had been teammates on the Giants in 1953. Rigney became manager of the Giants in 1956, and Worthington played for him for four seasons.

As a Giant, Worthington was a teammate of future Twins' third base coach Wayne Terwilliger, and Winona, Minnesota native Paul Giel, who had a brief career with the Twins.


Where are the 1965 Minnesota Twins?

 


Al Worthington was born during 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama.