Kent Allen Hrbek (Template:Pron-en; born May 21, 1960 in Minneapolis, Minnesota), nicknamed "Herbie", is a former American Major League Baseball player. He played fourteen seasons for the Minnesota Twins at first base, and batted left-handed. He hit the first home run in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on April 3, 1982 in an exhibition game against the Phillies. Fans knew Hrbek as an outstanding defensive player, perennial slugger, and charismatic hometown favorite. He attended Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Career[edit | edit source]
Hrbek had his Major League debut on August 24, 1981 at Yankee Stadium and hit a game-winning home run off New York reliever George Frazier in the 12th inning. It was Hrbek's only home run of the 1981 season. 1982 was his official rookie year and he played well for manager Billy Gardner and was immediately selected as an All-Star. After batting .301 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs, Hrbek finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year vote, behind Cal Ripken, Jr. For most of his career, "Herbie" batted cleanup (fourth), immediately after Kirby Puckett.
Some of his most memorable moments were during the 1987 season. He hit a career best 34 home runs to help the Twins win the AL West. When he was annosyed after not being picked by Manager John McNamara as an All-star reserve (even though several other first-basemaen were having outstanding years), he said he would never again accept selection to the All-Star Game squad (his onkly All-Star selection was in his official rookie year of 1982. He was also instrumental in capturing the World Series Championship, as he hit a grand slam in Game 6. He also is known around Minnesota for waking up very early on the morning of game 7 of the 1987 World Series to go on a duck hunt before playing in the game.
In 1991 he again helped the Twins to win the World Series, after the Twins had finished the previous season in last place; the Braves also had the same turn around from the previous season, coining the phrase "Worst to First World Series". Fans may remember him best for a confrontation with Ron Gant in Game 2, when Hrbek wrapped his arms around Gant's thigh to lift him off the bag as he was returning to first base. The commentators at the time remarked that Hrbek's "235 pound frame" helped him lift the lighter (Ron) Gant who weighs only 192 pounds." The umpire, Drew Coble, called Gant out, citing forward progress would have caused Gant to step off the bag. The move was later nicknamed the "T-Rex Tag," after Hrbek jokingly speculated on a post-baseball career in professional wrestling using the name Tyrannosaurus rex. When the Series moved to Atlanta, Braves fans jeered him excessively, and Hrbek received much hate mail, including a death threat.
Hrbek's offense turned stale after his home run in Game 1. In Game 7, with the score still tied 0-0 in the 8th inning, Hrbek executed a very uncommon 3-2-3 bases-loaded double play with catcher Brian Harper that saved the Twins against the Braves' biggest threat of the game. The Twins eventually won the game 1-0, with Gene Larkin hitting a bases-loaded single to center field that scored Dan Gladden in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Hrbek was one of seven Twins to be part of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series teams. The other six were Randy Bush, Greg Gagne, Kirby Puckett, Al Newman, Gene Larkin, who made the winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 series, and Dan Gladden, who was the runner Larkin scored with that hit. Both teams were managed by Tom Kelly.
The Minnesota Twins established their own "Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame", and in 2000, Hrbek was one of six former Twins inducted into the initial class. The 2000 class also included: MLB Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett along with outfielder, DH, Hall of Fame candidate, and current Twins' coach, Tony Oliva and former owner Calvin Griffith.
Retirement[edit | edit source]
Frequently injured (though seldom seriously), Hrbek retired after the players strike in 1994, citing his nagging injury problems and desire to spend more time with his wife and daughter. Despite operating in the same lineup as Kirby Puckett for all but two years of his career, and his long and close association with Puckett, Hrbek's numbers never approached those of the center fielder, and it is generally agreed that his career, while long and productive, was not Baseball Hall of Fame material. In 2000, his first year of eligibility, Hrbek garnered only 5 votes, nowhere near the 5% minimum threshold for continued eligibility, and is thus ineligible for the Hall of Fame unless voted in by the Veterans Committee. His first year of Veterans' Committee eligibility is 2015.
Kent Hrbek's number 14 was retired by the Twins in 1995, becoming only the fourth (at the time) (Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Tony Oliva) in franchise history. Hrbek was also inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also one of few players then (which is even rarer today) who played out his entire career with only one team.
Currently, Kent Hrbek can be seen hosting an outdoor sports program on FOX 9 called Kent Hrbek Outdoors. Hrbek is also a perennial pitchman for Twin Cities-area HVAC company Carrier Heating and Air Conditioning. He now has a series of baseball fields named after him in his hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota, where he still resides. Since Kent Hrbek’s father died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1982, he has worked to increase awareness of the disease. Hrbek hosts an annual charity golf tournament in Minnesota to raise money for ALS research, and makes many public appearances on behalf of the cause.
Career statistics[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Kent Hrbek by Deegan, Paul J.; Carpenter, Jerry; DiMeglio, Steve ISBN 0-939179-32-6
- Minnesota Twins 2008 Yearbook
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Kent Hrbek's MN Twins page
- The poem "Hrbek at the Bat"
- Official Site of the "Kent Hrbek Outdoors" TV Show
|Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
Cal Ripken Jr.