The Tribe dropped another extended contest to Toronto by 7-4 in 12 innings Saturday, after losing their opener in 16 frames.

But take heart, Indians fans: The last team to start its season with two losses of 12+ innings wound up winning 97 games and easily capturing its division.

The 1969 Twins, coming off a 7th-place finish, opened against the freshly minted KC Royals. The upstarts won their franchise inaugural in the 13th, when Joe Keough (brother of Marty and uncle of Matt) singled home Joe Foy for the only game-ending RBI of his 6-year career.

  • A couple of future Yankee managers worked in that game: Billy Martin made his managerial debut for the Twins, en route to 97 wins, the first AL West division crown, and his first abrupt firing. And Lou Piniella led off for KC and got the first 4 hits of his career, a good start to his ROY campaign.
  • Charlie Manuel made his MLB debut, grounding out as a pinch-hitter.
  • Rod Carew, a modest .283 hitter over his first two seasons, had 2 hits en route to a .332 BA and the first of his seven batting titles.
  • Minnesota’s first run came on a HR by Graig Nettles, batting 5th and playing LF. Due to a logjam in the form of Harmon Killebrew, one of the greatest defensive third basemen in MLB history played mostly OF while with the Twins.
  • The win went to Moe Drabowsky, the only man from Poland ever to play more than 22 games in the majors. How stacked were the Orioles at that time? Drabowsky in 1967-68 averaged a 1.72 ERA/180 ERA+ in 78 IP, but was exposed in the expansion draft.
  • Oddly, less than 18,000 fans turned out for the Royals’ first game. Perhaps they were still a little gunshy after seeing the A’s leave town not two years before.

The next day, Piniella went just 1 for 7, but the hit was a game-winning RBI single in the 17th. The scoring chance was abetted by a productive groundout by KC hurler Tom Burgmeier, who had just come into the game to quell a threat in the top of the inning.

  • Burgmeier was a respectable hitter who went 14 for 66 before the DH rule; he also was used 39 times as a pinch-runner during his long career. You don’t hear much about him, because he rarely served as “closer.” But Burgmeier had one of the best late careers of any reliever, averaging a 2.50 ERA, 167 ERA+ and 78 IP from age 35 to 40. He never did lose his effectiveness, posting a 2.35 ERA in his final season; I guess he just decided he’d pitched enough. When he retired after ’84, he was 9th on the career list with 742 relief outings.

Another note to cheer Clevelanders: The last team to win a game in 2011 was the Tampa Bay Rays, and their season still wound up all right.

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