Bonikowski pitched a no-hitter at Greensboro last year. "I walked only one man," he said proudly. "The umpire admitted he missed the call. After the game I celebrated. I had an extra hot dog for supper. That's all we eat down there."
He started to take deep knee bends. "Hey, I'll tell you something," he said abruptly as he came up. "This is a funny game. There's a guy on our team who was playing professional baseball before I was born. Elmer Valo. That really makes me feel young."
On Friday, April 21, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and, indeed, the entire state of Minnesota, will welcome to Metropolitan Stadium the new major league baseball team called the Minnesota Twins, a glistening butterfly fresh from the cocoon of the old Washington Senators.
For 60 years the old Senators labored through the American League schedule, mostly clogging up the second division with inept players and impotent teams. There were a few bright years—a world championship in 1924, pennants in 1925 and 1933—and a few heroes—Walter Johnson, Joe Cronin, George Case, Cecil Travis—but mostly there was sixth place and seventh and eighth.
That legacy of defeat is gone now. There is no past, no Washington. There is only the present and the future. Minnesota farmers and businessmen await the first home run of Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew. Minnesota housewives and schoolboys are ready to ooh when Minnesota's Jim Lemon strikes out and aah when he hits one over the wall.
The players know this. "We have a good club," said Manager Cookie Lavagetto. "We hope they like us."
"I hope I have a good year for these people," said Harmon Killebrew.
" Minnesota is the big leagues," said Joe Bonikowski, the rookie.
"I never see snow before," said Camilo Pascual, the pitcher from Havana, Cuba. "Maybe I throw a snowball Opening Day, no?" Maybe Camilo doesn't throw a snowball Opening Day. Maybe he throws his good fast ball and his fine curves. Maybe he wins 20 games, and the people of Minneapolis-St. Paul adopt him.
"Maybe we can be another Milwaukee," said Herb Heft, the club's public relations man, remembering 1953.