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Still hustling: Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden carries work ethic from his playing days

On Sunday, the team that he helped win two World Series titles and now calls games for will induct Gladden into the Twins Hall of Fame.

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The Minnesota Twins' Dan Gladden was mobbed at home plate after scoring the only run in Game 7, capping a stunning win against the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series.
Jeff Wheeler / Star Tribune / TNS file photo
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Dan Gladden greeted a visitor at the top of the driveway overlooking his 64-acre property with an observation.

"Those are tennis shoes," he said. "They're going to get dirty."

Gladden instructed me previously to bring boots because he planned to put me to work during a visit to his home for an interview.

Not quite sure whether he was kidding, I threw a pair of boots in the back seat just in case.

He wasn't kidding.

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"If you go anywhere near that place," Gladden's close friend and former Twins teammate Al Newman warned, "there's a pretty good chance you're going to have shovel in your hand."

Not a shovel on this day, but plastic cups filled with frozen water that we placed at the base of pine trees he planted throughout the grounds in spots that can't be reached by sprinklers.

"The drought is killing me," Gladden said, driving his Bobcat UTV past fields of corn, hops and alfalfa. "I've got a project for you."

And off we went.

The man who scored the winning run in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series can be found here most days, his own slice of utopia.

His property, about 30 miles west of Target Field, is a testament to Gladden's love of bow hunting, nature and manual labor that requires heavy equipment. Country music blasts from a speaker as he tinkers in a man-cave garage that doubles as a wood shop and machinery showcase.

A side room houses trophies from his hunting expeditions, including bear, deer, porcupine, skunk and possum. He calls this spot his sanctuary. He taped a picture of actor Don Johnson to the door.

"My idol," he says.

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He spends mornings at Gladden Farms before commuting to Target Field to call Twins games as a radio analyst, a job he's held for more than two decades since hanging up his spikes.

On Sunday, the team that he helped win two World Series titles and now calls games for will induct Gladden into the Twins Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a guy who was undrafted out of college, went team to team asking for a tryout, and ultimately signed for $550 to play outfield for the San Francisco Giants, even though he had never played outfield and didn't even own an outfielder's glove. Chili Davis loaned him one.

The ‘Wrench’

Gladden earned a legion of admirers as the Twins' leadoff hitter and left fielder because of his fiery personality and all-out style. Those traits were on full display in the final inning of World Series Game 7 in 1991 as Gladden turned a broken bat blooper into a double, then four batters later scored from third on Gene Larkin's fly-ball single for the game's only run.

Gladden said he had double in mind as soon as the ball left his bat because he saw the trajectory and knew the ball would bounce high off the Metrodome turf. It was his final at-bat in a Twins uniform.

"I figured it's the 10th inning," he said. "Let's go for it."

That phrase defined Gladden as a ballplayer. Go for it. He idolized Evel Knievel as a kid growing up riding dirt bikes in California, and he brought a daredevil mindset to the field.

Dan Gladden, Minnesota Twins color commentator and member of the 1987 and 1991 World Series champion Twins, signs a Bobblehead of himself during the Twins Winter Caravan stop at the Ramada Inn Tuesday in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Dan Gladden, Minnesota Twins color commentator and member of the 1987 and 1991 World Series champion Twins, signs a Bobblehead of himself during the Twins Winter Caravan stop at the Ramada Inn Tuesday in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

"I wasn't that good," he says, "so I had to play hard every day."

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His radio broadcast partner, Cory Provus, says one thing will ignite Gladden's ire when he's analyzing a game more than any other — a player who doesn't hustle.

"You need no talent to hustle. Zero," Gladden says.

When fans approach the radio booth seeking Gladden's autograph, they almost always offer the same compliment: I loved the way you played.

"Every time I hear someone say that," Provus says, "it puts a smile on my face because he had to earn everything."

Gladden's hard-charging persona made him a colorful character in Twins lore. Kent Hrbek gave him the nickname "Wrench" because he always looked grimy like a mechanic at the end of a work shift. Gladden kept plastic wrenches that fans sent him inside his locker.

"What made him such a great teammate?" Hrbek says, repeating the question. "He liked beating the other team."

Gladden expected everyone inside the clubhouse to be a great teammate as well and if not, well, put up your dukes.

His tussle with teammate Steve Lombardozzi in 1988 is the stuff of legend. Lombardozzi left the dugout in a huff after manager Tom Kelly used a pinch hitter for him in a game against Boston. His reaction angered Gladden, who says he told Lombardozzi to stay in the dugout and cheer for the team, not storm off to the clubhouse.

Lombardozzi showed up at Gladden's home the next day. Gladden was playing dress-up with his two young daughters.

"I had my hair in braids and press-on earrings," he recalls with a smile.

Gladden went outside to talk to Lombardozzi. A fight ensued.

Lombardozzi arrived at the ballpark the next day with a black eye. Gladden had a broken finger.

"I got two hits that night and stole two bases," he says.

Asked to pick Gladden's best quality as a player, Newman says, "He was a grinder. And he didn't take any crap."

Barns and beer

Two seats from the old Metrodome stand guard outside Gladden's garage. They are seats No. 3 and No. 2 taken from a row, which put side by side form Gladden's uniform number, 32.

A tour of the room he calls his sanctuary provides a theory that Gladden keeps his taxidermist in business. There are bears he hunted in Bemidji (one a cinnamon bear), deer from his own property and a porcupine he bagged in South Dakota.

"It was tough carrying that guy," he says.

The detached garage includes a walk-in cooler to store deer before he invites over the butcher who lives down the road.

Gladden built a barn in the backyard four years ago. The barn is suited more for celebrations than housing animals and farm equipment.

The walls were constructed using reclaimed wood from old barns in Brainerd. Wagon wheel chandeliers, heated floors and large picture windows encased in a stone wall give the room a look elegant enough for a wedding reception brochure.

The crown jewel is located behind one of the two bars: Gladden's inventory of memorabilia from his baseball career dating to Little League. There are photos and cleats and jerseys and all kinds of other keepsakes. Bats that hold special meaning are kept in tubes. The bat he used to hit a grand slam in Game 1 of the 1987 World Series has its own glass case.

But where is the bat?

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Dan Gladden in 1991 had to return to the Metrodome to recover this treasure, his bat from Game 7 of the World Series, where he legged out a double and eventually scored the winning run.
Courtesy / Dan Gladden / Star Tribune / TNS file photo

"Which one?" he says. "The broken bat?"

Yes, that one. The bat that Gladden retrieved from a trash can inside the Metrodome at 5 a.m. after celebrating the World Series walkoff with teammates into the wee hours. Thankfully, a security guard at the loading dock let him back inside to grab that beautiful piece of busted lumber.

"I think it's at my other house," Gladden says.

His mom lives here at the farm, and there is always enough work to keep Gladden busy when he stays over.

He fires up the Bobcat for a tour of the property. He stops first at rows of hanging vines covered in hops that he harvests for Unmapped Brewing in Minnetonka.

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Gladden pulls small cones off a vine for a demonstration.

"Take one and rub it next to your ear," he says, noting that it sounds like tissue paper. "That means it's getting close."

He grows five different species of hops. Last year, Unmapped Brewing created an IPA from his harvest called "Broken Bat" to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his famous double.

Gladden had a pond excavated and stocked with fish on the backside of his property, near the walnut trees. He has an ongoing battle with squirrels who like to steal walnuts and stack them.

Deer stands are positioned in different sections of the wooded area. Gladden has a home-field advantage in knowing which perch to use based on movement patterns.

"You ever go up to the north woods?" he asks as he navigates his UTV through thick weeds. "I feel when I'm out here it's almost like I'm up north and I don't have to go that far."

He spent five years with the Twins and decided to return after retiring from baseball because this feels like home. He finds enjoyment in his second career as a radio analyst, especially when he gets to discuss strategy in the late innings of a close game. And he loves the refuge of his farm, with deer to hunt, hops to harvest and always some kind of work to be done.

Bring boots if he invites you for a visit.

©2022 StarTribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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