World Series memories are still drawing fans to the ballpark for the Minnesota Twins. But it's the '65 Series, not their world championship three years ago, that attracted one man to see the Twins after 25 years.
Roger Rude, a retired Air Force sergeant now living in Charleston, S.C., finally took up the Twins on their offer of a free game Tuesday night.Rude, 53, received the invitation on Thanksgiving Day 1965 while he was stationed in Vietnam. Then-Twins owner Calvin Griffith sent letters to all Minnesota natives serving in the war, inviting them to a free game on the house when they were in town.
The letter, of course, was vintage Calvinism: "All of us back home are backing you and your fellow G.I.'s 100 percent, in spite of what may may have heard about the placard-carrying misfits who manage to get into the news here."
Rude decided last weekend it was time to cash in his marker.
Asked why he would see a last-place team play a meaningless make-up game in October, Rude simply replied, "Because . . . the Twins are my team."
The Stillwater High School graduate retired from the Air Force earlier this year and although he has returned to Minnesota a few times before, he has never had the opportunity to see the team play.
But the lengthy separation only intensified his loyalty to the ballclub. He said the Twins' invitation and team autographs were very special to him while he was stationed near Dung Hue, a tiny hamlet about eight kilometers south of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam.
And Rude kept the momentoes throughout his 26-year military career. "They just made my heart feel good," he said. "They brought a little bit of home over there for me."
Rude said he now is looking for a home in Minnesota or eastern Wisconsin and is already checking out prices on Twins' season tickets next year - regardless of their woeful won-loss record.