Known early in his career as a fierce-hitting, slick-fielding third baseman for the Minnesota Twins and later in his career as a flapless-helmet wearing hero for the Chicago Cubs, Gary Gaetti spent 20 productive seasons in the major leagues, clobbering 360 career home runs and earning four American League Gold Glove awards.
A native of Centralia, Illinois, Gaetti attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. Despite his small school status, Gaetti smacked the baseball all over the state including the longest home run in the school’s history which traveled an estimated 505 feet.
Gaetti parlayed his pure power into a first-round draft selection with the Minnesota Twins in 1979. After a couple seasons in the minor leagues, Gaetti wasted no time getting acclimated to big league pitching as he drilled a two-run tater in his first major league at-bat against Texas Rangers knuckleballer Charlie Hough on September 20, 1981.
Gaetti clubbed another 25 homers in 1982, finishing fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. He nabbed his first Gold Glove award in 1986 when he also reached career-highs in home runs (34), doubles (34), RBI (108), stolen bases (15), runs scored (91), hits (171) and batting average (.287).
The following year, Gaetti appeared in the postseason for the first time and hit home runs in each of his first two at-bats, becoming the first man to ever do so. He ended up hitting a cool .300 in the 1987 ALCS, helping the Twins reach the World Series for the first time. They eventually won the championship in a seven-game thriller against St. Louis.
After leaving the Twins, Gaetti had a couple solid seasons with the California Angels before resurrecting his career with the Royals. He smacked 35 dingers in 1995 for Kansas City and 23 in 1996 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Gaetti’s last hurrah on the diamond came with the Cubs at the end of the 1998 season when he helped them to a National League wildcard berth by hitting .320 with eight home runs in 37 games.
Since retiring, Gaetti has worked as a hitting coach for the Houston Astros and the Triple- A Durham Bulls. He was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2007 and currently works for Baseball USA in Houston.