The search for the lost tapes of Cesar Tovar’s grand Sunday

A pair of automobiles made the quick drive on a makeshift path by way of the weeds, and to an previous constructing in Coon Rapids that seemed to be unused for a long time. The entrance steps have been blocked with brush and what handed for a small touchdown that appeared harmful.

Meachael Schoenrock, an overseer of the WCCO radio transmission facility, pushed by way of. Tom Gavaras and I adopted on this heat August morning.

Once inside, Schoenrock took a half-dozen steps right into a scene of overflowing packing containers that might have introduced joyful tears to a crazed hoarder. And then she stopped and mentioned:

“You have to return outdoors. … I simply heard one thing. … There’s one thing in right here.”

Gavaras and I retreated. Schoenrock emitted just a few “hellos,” stomped a foot a pair of occasions, after which mentioned: “OK, it is up in the attic. Critters can get in up there.”

Raccoons? “Probably,” she mentioned, after which we continued into the constructing, and the unlikely location for a broadcasting treasure trove.

***

My years of pouting over the absence of Cesar Tovar in the Twins Hall of Fame got here to an finish this previous Jan. 20, when it was introduced the No. 1 utility participant in franchise historical past had been voted into the 2022 class, together with Dan Gladden and Ron Gardenhire.

Andrew Halverson, the Twins’ director of broadcasting, instantly began brainstorming on correctly pay tribute to those people on the Twins’ radio and tv shops.

“As quickly as we all know you are going in, we begin wanting for concepts to make the day distinctive for the honoree,” Halverson mentioned. “We have been going to be busier than standard in that space this summer time, with Tony [Oliva] and Jim Kaat going into Cooperstown, and Jim additionally having his quantity retired with us.

“From the begin, we knew that the sport the place Cesar performed all 9 positions — September 22, 1968 — needed to be half of our focus.”

That marked simply the second time in MLB historical past anybody had performed all 9 positions in the identical sport, after Bert Campaneris had completed it three seasons earlier for the Kansas City Athletics.

“We solely had 50 video games on tv that [1968] season, and that Sunday wasn’t one of them,” Halverson mentioned. “Even if it had been, there’s actually no entry to full regular-season video games on TV again then. The finest you are able to do is get one of the native stations to do a giant favor and discover a movie clip in its archives.”

Halverson referred to as WCCO-AM to search out out if there have been any copies for full broadcasts from means again then. The reply was what he anticipated:

“Nothing like that right here. Try the Pavek broadcasting museum.”

The Pavek employees did its finest to assist — it had the seven video games of the ’87 and ’91 World Series — however not archives intensive sufficient to incorporate Tovar’s wondrous 2-hour, 18-minute show of versatility at Met Stadium.

Then got here this:

Almost at the identical time Tovar was being introduced as a Hall of Famer, Gavaras had reached out to Twins President Dave St. Peter to inform him a few assortment of 25 years of full WCCO-AM reel-to-reel tapes to which Tom had entry.

“Dave first talked about the ‘tapes’ to me as a risk for Tovar and I mentioned, ‘What tapes?’ Halverson mentioned. “He gave me Gavaras’ title, I contacted Tom, he advised me about the reel-to-reels and was certain the Tovar sport can be there.

“The drawback was ‘winter.’ We needed to wait for sufficient snow to soften to get again to that constructing.”

***

Schoenrock led the means, adopted by Gavaras after which me. We went by way of a pair of rooms with piles of no matter, with different stuff leaning towards partitions, after which Schoenrock mentioned: “This is it.”

It was a stairwell courting to the Nineteen Thirties, darkish and slender, and there was a door to what can be the basement.

Not precisely a door. A considerable board overlaying the opening, held in place by a pole pushed towards a step.

“That’s a pogo stick,” Schoenrock mentioned. “There have been pogo sticks throughout this place. Somebody should’ve gotten a deal on them 50 years in the past.”

She deftly eliminated the pogo stick and carried the door out of the means. And there they have been, in a nook of the first room of the basement, all the broadcast reels for WCCO-AM radio from 1966 to 1991 — a number of full days on every reel.

Gavaras labored for years at WCCO. He has one other full-time job now, and his pastime is discovering nice moments on these reel-to-reels — in addition to different previous radio exhibits. They might be listened to at his web site: radiotapes.com.

“We had 18 engineers at one time at WCCO,” Gavaras mentioned. “Whoever put the reel-to-reels in these packing containers and right here on these stands … that they had them completely described, and so as by date.”

Gavaras had discovered the tape of the Twins’ 2-1 victory over Oakland, the sport the place Tovar began by pitching the first inning and putting out Reggie Jackson. Later, Cesar singled, stole second and scored on Bob Allison’s triple.

Gavaras and the Twins had made an 8-minute spotlight tape of Cesar’s grand afternoon that will likely be used on broadcasts this weekend, with Tovar and Gladden — maybe the Twins’ two most well-known leadoff hitters — being inducted collectively on Sunday.

Listen to a montage of Tovar enjoying all 9 positions.

Merle Harmon was lacking from the radio staff that day to meet his duties on the New York Jets’ broadcast, so it is Herb Carneal, with Halsey Hall providing a uncommon contact of play-by-play.

As for what was prowling in the attic of this outbuilding at the transmission facility in Coon Rapids, that will likely be for Schoenrock and Gavaras work out on future visits.

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