Notes: Saluting the Negro Leagues

Notes: Saluting the Negro Leagues

KANSAS CITY -- When the Twins arrived at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday morning, they found uniforms of a little different thread in their lockers.

Instead of their normal road grays, there hung replicas of the uniforms worn by the 1909 St. Paul Gophers, an early African-American baseball team in the Twins Cities.

Explanation? The Royals were holding their annual Salute the Negro Leagues Day. Both teams were wearing classic uniforms -- the Royals donned replicas of what the 1948 Kansas City Monarchs wore -- and about a dozen living Negro League players signed autographs before the game.

Most players liked the look of the navy jersey and pants, but almost all agreed that wearing them on a humid July afternoon probably wasn't the best idea.

"I like them," Torii Hunter said, "but they're dark blue and it's 100 degrees. I can imagine how hot I'm going to be out there wearing 'em."

Catcher Joe Mauer, meanwhile, joked that he would probably lose a few pounds while laying down the signs behind home plate.

"I'll have to drink a lot of water," he said. "It's cool, though, changing it up a little bit and remembering the Negro Leagues."

It could always be worse, though. The uniforms could have been wool, which is exactly the material worn by those Gophers 96 years ago.

"I'm sure these guys didn't have this material back in the day," Hunter said in reference to the replica's thick polyester material. "I think they had wool, so I commend those guys for playing in that."

Players will have the opportunity to keep their uniform in exchange for a $500 donation to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which is located in Kansas City. Several players said they would do just that.

"There was no way I could buy everybody's jersey," Hunter said. "But I'm buying my own and donating to the Negro Leagues Museum."

Forward thinking: Manager Ron Gardenhire discussed the second half of the season Sunday afternoon and quelled any banter about the Twins' eyes being fixed solely on the Wild Card.

"We don't even talk about [the Wild Card], we just go out and play," Gardenhire said. "You can't talk about those things. Our sights are set on catching the White Sox. That means we have to play good baseball. There are too many teams involved in the Wild Card."

After their 12-8 loss to the Royals on Saturday night, the Twins held a slim one-game lead over the Indians in the Wild Card chase, while another six teams were all within five games.

As for the All-Star break, well, everybody's happy about getting a few days off.

"It's the same as every year because you're about worn out," Gardenhire said. "This is a nice break. It's just a mental break because we've had to deal with so much stuff, but it's about the same every year. It's nice to refresh your body.

"I'm sure my coaching staff feels the same way. We're all a little gassed."

Rotation set: The Twins finalized their post-break starting rotation, which will begin with Kyle Lohse on the hill against the Angels.

Brad Radke, Johan Santanta and Joe Mays will follow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. And, while it has not yet been officially announced, Carlos Silva will likely start Monday, July 18 against the Orioles.

Briefly: Of the 76 regular-season games the Twins will play after the All-Star break, 37 will be against Central Division opponents.

Twins pitchers issued just 81 walks during the first 50 games this season, a little more than 1.6 per game. Over their last 35 games, however, the staff has issued 91 walks, an average of 2.6 per game.

On deck: After pitchers Santana and Joe Nathan represent the Twins at the 76th All-Star Game on Tuesday at Detroit, the team will begin a four-game series with the Angels at 7:10 p.m. CT Thursday at the Metrodome. Lohse (7-7, 4.42 ERA) will start for the Twins, while the Angels have yet to announce their starter.

Matt LaWell is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.