Here’s what I love about baseball, or, maybe more accurately, here’s what I love about Baseball Reference.
The Twins designated Luke Hughes for assignment yesterday to make room for Jason Marquis to somehow drag us all kicking and screaming through five torturous innings in New York, which got me thinking about Hughes’ first plate appearance, in 2010, in which he hit a home run. So I pulled up the list, via B-Ref’s Game Finder, of Twins and Senators to have hit a home run in their first career game. Which led me to Hal Haydel, who had one of the most fun and interesting debuts in big-league history.
It was September 7, 1970 — Labor Day — and the second game of a doubleheader in Minneapolis between the first-place Twins and hapless second-year-expansion Brewers. The Twins had won the first one, 7-6, all seven of their runs driven in on two homers by Garrabrant “Brant” Alyea, who would add two more RBI in the nightcap.
The great Luis Tiant was to start game two, in the 16h and second-to-last start of his one-season Twins career. Tiant lasted just one inning, though, and left with a pulled right shoulder muscle.
Hal Haydel (called “Al Haydel” in this contemporary article) was a minor-league journeyman starting pitcher, 26 years old, who had just been called up from Triple-A Evansville for his first taste of the big leagues. He got the call to start inning number two, with the game tied 1-1, and got three Brewers you’ve never heard of in order (flyout to center, popout to second, groundout to Haydel).
Due up third the next inning, Haydel hit just like a pitcher; his minor-league line of 600 or so plate appearances, he was a .151 hitters with an on-base percentage of under .200. Here, though, in his first Major League plate appearance, he took an two-out, bases-empty Al Downing pitch to left for a double, then scored the go-ahead run on leadoff hitter Cesar Tovar’s single.
Haydel gave the run right back in the next half-inning, serving up a home run to the Brewers’ [best/only decent] hitter, Tommy Harper (it was Harper’s 27th of 31 eventual homers; he never hit more than 18 in any of his fourteen other seasons). But he settled down nicely (including a strikeout of someone named Bob Burda), and the Twins gave him one back in the bottom of the third, on an Alyea walk and a Leo Cardenas triple. Now up 3-2, Haydel had a 1-2-3 fourth, and Haydel’s turn at bat came up again second in the bottom of the inning. This time he homered off of Downing, a solo shot that made it 4-2 Twins.
Haydel would give up one more run, on a sixth-inning sac fly, to make it 4-3, but the Twins would score four more in the bottom of the seventh to put the game away. Closer Ron Perranoski, who had locked down the save with 1.2 innings in game one, came back in with three shutout innings (1 H, 0 BB, 2 K) in game two to shut it down and pick up save number 29.
So, the line for Haydel’s debut:
W, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 0 BB, 2 K; 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, K
That has to be a good feeling after most of nine years in the minors.
Haydel made three more appearances in 1970’s final month, giving up one run in four innings, and picking up the Twins’ penultimate, 97th win when he relieved Bert Blyleven in a 4-2 game in the 9th (picking up two strikeouts in a perfect inning) and the Twins came back to score four runs to walk off in the bottom of the inning. He didn’t get any more plate appearances.
Haydel started 1971 back down in AAA, but was called up in late June and used fairly often as a reliever by the Twins (who fell to 86 losses and fifth place in the West), putting up a 4.28 ERA (84 ERA+) in 40 innings, all in relief. He went 1-for-3 at the plate, with a single and a strikeout. So he ended with a 4.04 ERA in 49 big-league innings, but a .500/.500/1.167 hitting line (in six career PA).
1972 was a disaster for Haydel back in the minors, where he put up a 7.14 ERA in 92 innings for AAA Tacoma. He did find his power stroke again, though, hitting .225/.244/.525 with three doubles and three homers in just 41 PA.
So, not much of a career for Mr. Haydel, but it was a career in the Major Leagues, and it was one hell of a Labor Day 1970.