The most beloved sportsman in Minnesota this summer isn't Kevin Garnett or Daunte Culpepper or Torii Hunter. He's a 63-year-old security guard named Gary Baggott. Two weeks ago in Minneapolis, after Twins leftfielder Jacque Jones was called out at third base, Baggott abandoned his post in the Minnesota bullpen, bolted down the leftfield line at the Metrodome and—inflamed by injustice, incapable of inaction, indifferent to consequence—offered his eyeglasses to umpire Joe West.
The rent-a-cop was, of course, summarily ejected and forced to exit through the Twins' dugout. "Never seen that before," says Hunter, the Twins' All-Star centerfielder. "But that's Gary Baggott. He loves his Twins, and he takes care of his boys."
For the last eight months it has been like this: Minnesotans against the world. Or so it has seemed since last November, when Twins owner Carl Pohlad, an 87-year-old billionaire banker, and his loyal sidekick, commissioner Bud Selig, tried to contract the Twins out of existence. That's when a Minnesota judge named Harry Seymour Crump ordered the franchise to honor its stadium lease through the 2002 season. Now, 41 years after Robert Zimmerman left Minnesota (to become Bob Dylan), the state has two new antiestablishment heroes, and they only sound like a firm of Dickensian solicitors: Baggott & Crump, God bless you.
The Twins themselves are Tom Sawyer, thriving long after their own funeral. At the All-Star break the team was comfortably in first place in the American League Central and was making a name for itself, even if that name was often unpronounceable. "I hear everything from 'Minkowitz' to 'Maneschewitz,' " says Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins' Gold Glove first baseman, whose name is properly, but not often, pronounced Mint-KAY-vitch. "I just don't let it bother me. If I did, I'd be mad all the time."
And yet, Mientkiewicz knows it could be much, much worse: His mother's maiden name is Kechiemeister. For the record, says Mientkiewicz, his mother never seriously considered hyphenating, much to the relief of Twins equipment manager Jim Dunn, who was thus spared sewing KECHIEMEISTER-MIENTKIEWICZ on the back, under the armpits and across the chest of several uniforms. Thus the longest name in baseball history remains 13 letters, a record shared by 14 players, none of them Twins.
Though often mistaken for a kosher wine, Mientkiewicz nevertheless says, "The people here love the Twins." Which is why so many in Minnesota were coldcocked when Selig and Pohlad tried to smother the team with a pillow. Says infielder Denny Hocking, "This was the first American League franchise to draw three million fans in a season. We had the fifth-best record in the league last year."
"This franchise has no more business being lumped in with the Montreal Expos," says one club official, "than we do with the New York Yankees."
Though the Twins' payroll is just $40 million (fourth lowest in baseball), the team keeps winning, in the overadrenalized manner of someone fighting off Death. This week the Twins sent three All-Stars—Hunter, closer Eddie Guardado and catcher A.J. Pierzynski—to Milwaukee's Miller Park, the House that Taxpayers Built for Bud Selig. Hunter was quoted in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press as saying of Selig, on the eve of Minnesota's series this season in Milwaukee, "It'll be nice to shove it up his [rear]."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire held a team meeting before the first game of that series to remind players that their opponent was the Brewers and not the Brewers' former owner. And anyway, in the spring, after Selig was legally barred from euthanizing the Twins, the commissioner told Hocking that he'd love to see baseball "flourish" in Minnesota. Such logic has echoes of O.J. Simpson, who once said that if he had killed his wife, "it would have to have been because I loved her very much, right?"
Riiight. And so some Twins fans have demonized the commissioner. Literally. During the Twins' last home stand, in which the team hosted the Brewers, a fan held a devil-horned cardboard cutout of Selig's head on a stick. Others have worn OSAMA BUD SELIG shirts. Outside the Metrodome, as a nonprofit labor of dislike, 33-year-old Jason Gabbert sells, before every Twins home game, a line of T-shirts, hats and buttons that read SELIG IS NOT MY BUD. Though unlicensed, the salesman says he counts some police among his supporters. "They've even bought some shirts," Gabbert says.