I’ve known Dick Bremer for 28 years. At least, I thought I knew him.
Then I read “Game Used: My Life in Stitches with the Minnesota Twins,” and realized I had missed so much.
In a saner and safer world, Bremer would be preparing to announce the Twins game at Oakland on Thursday on Opening Day. Instead, he’ll be home in St. Michael, trying to distract himself from our new reality. The book is a welcome distraction.
Bremer and author Jim Bruton divide the book into nine innings and 108 “stitches.” A Major League baseball features that many stitches, and Bremer uses this device to tell 108 mini-stories, providing an effortless read.
While some of the content provides an insider’s view of Twins history since 1983, when Bremer first got a chance to call play-by-play for the team’s television broadcasts, the best nuggets are the most personal.
He details his close relationships with Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva, as well as mistakes he has made (or witnessed) on air.
Once on a Winter Caravan with Puckett, he realized they were ahead of schedule and stopped to see his parents. His mother was star-struck, and her friend created a needlepoint hand towel that read: “Kirby Puckett peed here.”
That’s not the only risqué phrase in the book, either. After all, he’s worked with, and traded over-the-top pranks with, Bert Blyleven.
While Bremer and I typically pass time in clubhouses talking baseball, I didn’t know that he was adopted, that his family moved from Minnesota to Missouri and back, that his career path was uncertain and jagged, and that he at times wondered if he was going to remain employed, much less fulfill his career dream.
Bremer’s personal history is also the history of Twins broadcasting in its various guises.
Growing up in the tiny Minnesota town of Dumont, Bremer grew up a Twins fan and learned to tape together splintered town-ball bats to use in sandlot games.
Never an accomplished player, he was cut before the first official baseball practice his freshman year at St. Cloud State, and then he dedicated himself to making it to a big-league press box.
“Doing a book was a fun challenge,” he said from his home Tuesday. “I’ve made my career out of thinking something, saying it on the air and then being done with it. This was a different challenge, because I would write something down, read it, and change it, and read it, and change it. It was an ongoing process to get through a sentence, and I’m not used to that.”
The book is a reminder of how baseball announcers, unlike any others, become part of the family. Their voices are the voices of our summers.
“Some of the fact-checking I did brought back memories, but I never imagined that writing this book would turn out as personal as it became,” he said. “I go back to being adopted at a very young age, and my early experiences with the Twins from a fan’s perspective, and then that growing into nearly 40 years as a broadcaster.
“I flashed back on how much this team has meant to me and so many people ever since the Twins came to town in 1961.”
Bremer populates the book with stories about Roy Smalley, Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne, and the tale of how early in the 1991 season he booked his wedding for October only to have the Twins surge into one of the greatest World Series ever played. He watched a couple of the games at a Mexican restaurant in Cancun on his honeymoon, trying to drink enough margaritas that the owner would let him keep the prime table in front of what might have been the only television in town broadcasting the game in English.
Today, Bremer is like everyone in baseball: saddened and hopeful.
“This season will not be as long as other seasons,” he said. “But whenever we get to this year’s Opening Day, I’ll still feel the same excitement. We will have missed weeks if not months of a six-month opera. We’ll do whatever we can to experience all of that joy in a shorter period of time.”
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