Tom Kelly has spent most of his life working for the Minnesota Twins. In his younger days, he tried to carve out a career as an MLB player. But when that didn’t go as expected, he moved to the dugout and found far more success as a manager.
Along the way, he experienced the pinnacle of success on two occasions. And by the time he retired, Kelly had established a reputation as one of the most beloved sports figures in the state of Minnesota.
Unfortunately for the 70-year-old Twins legend, he recently suffered a parent’s worst nightmare.
Tom Kelly went from being an MLB player to a manager
A left-handed hitter and thrower, Tom Kelly spent most of his pro baseball career in the minor leagues as a versatile player who suited up as a first baseman and outfielder. In 1,145 minor-league games, Kelly hit .271 with 116 home runs and 515 RBI.
In 1975, Kelly finally achieved his dream of making it the majors. However, he didn’t make much of an impact when he did get on the field.
His 49-game stint with the Minnesota Twins included a paltry batting average of .181. Kelly struck out 22 times in 147 plate appearances.
After spending a few more years in the minors, he made the transition from the field to the dugout.
It didn’t take long for Kelly to ascend up the corporate ladder in his new career field.
In September 1986, he got named manager of the Twins. He held that position through the 2001 season.
And along the way, Kelly’s family rode along his path of success that included winning the ultimate prize in baseball…twice.
His family watched him earn championship trophies and even a bronze statue
Tom Kelly didn’t need long to transform Minnesota into a World Series champion.
In fact, the former Twins player accomplished that feat in his first full season as an MLB manager.
Despite posting a rather unimpressive 85-77 record, Minnesota blazed past the Detroit Tigers in five games to earn the American League pennant. It took some playoff heroics, but the Twins won the 1987 World Series by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in a hard-fought seven-game series.
Four years later, Kelly reached the top of the mountain again.
The Twins posted a 95-67 record (the best of the Kelly era) and defeated the Atlanta Braves in a seven-game series that ended on a 10th-inning single by Alejandro Pena that snapped a 0-0 tie.
Although Kelly only won 47.8% of the games he managed in 16 seasons, he joined rare company by winning two World Series rings in that role.
As a lifelong member of the Twins organization, he even earned a bronze statue outside of Target Field, the team’s home park.
“Personally, I’m someone who is indebted to TK for what he did for me as a manager after having a chance to coach for him and be around him the last couple of decades,” former Twins player/manager Paul Molitor said back in 2017, according to the Pioneer Press. “He’s had probably a big an influence in this organization – especially with the championships – as anybody that you can think of.”
The Minnesota Twins legend recently suffered a parent’s worst nightmare
A member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, Tom Kelly still works for the organization as a special assistant, according to the team’s official website.
Unfortunately for the 70-year-old, he recently suffered a parent’s worst nightmare.
On Monday, the Star Tribune reported that Kelly’s son, Tom Kelly Jr., died Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz. The 42-year-old was reportedly on a golf excursion with friends from the Minnesota area.
However, when his friends checked on him after he missed a tee time, they found Kelly Jr. in an unresponsive state in a hotel room.
“I missed this golf trip, but we had another scheduled for March,” said Nate Mauer, one of his close friends. “Tom was doing well. He has dozens of Minnesota friends and we’re in shock.”
Like his father, Kelly’s late son also played baseball.
A non-verified Twitter account affiliated with the University of St. Thomas baseball program first relayed the news of Kelly Jr.’s death on Sunday morning.
“The @UST_Baseball family is shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of former Tommie Baseball player Tom Kelly Jr. TK was a pitcher on the 2001 NCAA National Championship team. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time,” the message read, followed by a photo of Kelly Jr.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.