The lifelong Twins first baseman is known as a home run hitter. He certainly earned the reputation, putting up higher lifetime totals than sluggers Roger Maris, Bobby Bonilla, Ted Kluszewski, and Dante Bichette. He is also known as an avid outdoorsman, notably setting out for a duck blind on the morning of Game 7 of the 1987 World Series.
Hrbek is generally loved by Twins fans, as evidenced by a statue outside the team’s stadium and a restaurant bearing his name within. Braves fans are less kind with a handful of them still clinging to the memory of Hrbek ending an inning Game 2 of the 1991 World Series by pulling Ron Gant off first base and tagging him out. Hrbek’s defense has a place in the record books beyond a controversial out in a tight game. The previous year he took part in a pair of triple plays in a single game against the Red Sox.
None of the above likely would have come to pass if Hrbek had not opted to remain in small market Minneapolis during contract negotiations in 1989. Having established his power hitting credentials, Hrbek received offers from both the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Hrbek wrapped up his career in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He went out leaving a legacy that literally changed the look of baseball. Hrbek hated the stirrups that were a mandatory part of MLB uniforms. Frustrated at losing his so often, he repeatedly advocated for the players’ association to include a provision in the new labor agreement making the footwear optional. The change was made and Hrbek retired, stating “I want to do nothing until I’m tired of doing nothing and then I’ll do something.”
After removing the scourge of stirrup socks from baseball, Hrbek retired and promptly set about his dream of doing nothing. After a decade of yard work he starred in his own hunting and fishing show, Kent Hrbek Outdoors, which lasted for 7 years. Today, Hrbek continues to pitch HVAC systems in local television ads and provides handshakes and a smile when called upon by the Twins’ PR team. He’s living his dream of being the most retired guy in baseball.
Adding the ’93 Finest to the Collection
What’s going on with the picture on the front of this card? Hrbek has clearly just swung the bat but is looking towards the ground. Did he swing and miss? Hit a grounder back to the mound? Is he just bored while posing in his home run swing?
Regardless, Hrbek had clearly earned a berth in the inaugural Topps Finest set with a decade of challenging Kirby Puckett for most popular Minnesota resident. The decision to include him was further augmented by a pair of World Series championships in the preceding few years. This particular card is still popular among Hrbek collectors and PSA’s set registry considers it by far to be his key card. Like other cards in the set, a handful come up for sale several times per year. I picked up my copy last December from a popular online marketplace graded PSA 8 NM-MT.
Hrbek Links of Interest
- A more in depth look into the uniform stirrup controversy can be found at Two Little-Known Tales of MLB Hosiery History (uni-watch.com)
- IMDB’s guide to Kent Hrbek Outdoors Kent Hrbek Outdoors – Episodes – IMDb