Many St. Louis Cardinals fans may best remember Gary Gaetti from his almost-three seasons with the club late in his two decade-long MLB playing career. It was the first three of the Tony La Russa years, 1996-1998, during which Gaetti was proclaimed “the pride of Centralia, Illinois” by broadcaster Mike Shannon.
I, however, most vividly recall “The G-Man” from his 1980’s heyday with Minnesota. Third baseman Gaetti, along with Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky (also to become a Cardinal later in his career) and Kirby Puckett, formed the offensive core of the strong Twins clubs expertly managed by Tom Kelly.
Living in the Twin Cities area at the time, I can still remember the fan who often sat in the upper deck of the Metrodome, far above the baggie in right. He tirelessly held a sign proclaiming himself a member of the “Liza Minnelli Fan Club,” apparently in honor of the resemblance between the singer and the third sacker, set off by their prominent schnozzes.
Gaetti’s most famous time in the Cardinals spotlight unfortunately occurred while he still wore the Minnesota uniform. In front of an amazingly-amped up Metrodome crowd of over 55,000 each night, Gaetti’s Twins dispatched St. Louis in all four home games of the 1987 World Series. My ears are still ringing from the noise generated during what became Whitey Herzog’s great Cardinals clubs’ last hurrah.
The now-54-year-old Gaetti settled in Houston, from where he has remained in the game. He served as the Astros hitting coach from July 2004 through July 2006, including the 2004 NLCS, during which the Cards bested the ‘Stros in seven games.
More recently, Gaetti became the first manager of the Sugar Land (Tex.) Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League prior to last season. One of his recruits generated national attention, as 49-year-old Roger Clemens threw eight innings over two starts for the Skeeters in August. That led to a public peek-a-boo game with the Astros about a potential return to the majors by the Rocket that ultimately did not occur.
Monday night, a dedicated group of Houston-area SABR members passed on the NFL Texans game to listen to their special guest speaker, Gaetti. My long-time friend Bill McCurdy captured the details of the proceedings at his blog, The Pecan Park Eagle. (Bob Dorrill, President of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR in Houston, is pictured with The G-Man in the photo above.)