Meeting Gary Gaetti

The Chairman, Joe-Z and Gary pregame

Gary, Jake, and Joe Gaetti

Joe-Z and Gary discuss "Over the Top"

Chairman and Gary with Frankie "Sweet Music" Viola

Joe-Z and "Music"

Kent said he wanted to be on Gary's page too

Chairman and Cult member David Gatti

Gary with his wife Donna and daughter Gigi

Joe and Jake with their mother Debbie

Tony Oliva

Jay and Jeff Reardon

Joe and I signed a few balls in the autograph area.....

Joe-Z with Juan "Senior Smoke" Berenguer

Chris Berenguer

Tim Laudner

Joe and Jake having a few Grain Belts!!!

The "Wind Cave" Boys

Gary and his family are announced

Gary throws to Hrbek one last time

Picture before we hit the road home

.......Crazy, but that's how it goes. Ozzy Osbourne couldn't have said it any better.

"The Meeting" all started with a few friendly emails between myself and Cult member David Gatti (who is the biggest Gary Gaetti fan on the planet). We were going back and forth planning out travel arrangements for Gary's Twins Hall of Fame weekend. I was trying to round up "North Dakota" Cult members as well fighting within myself to make such a journey knowing that it'd be a busy weekend for the G-Man and that odds of meeting him were slim.

*Sidenote* David, as an eccentric CFO in the Pacific Northwest, has made a few pilgrimages to see the G-man and in doing so, has exchanged email addresses with our idol.

About a week before Gary's Twins Hall of Fame induction, David receives an email from Gary saying that he wants to meet up with The Cult and have a few "coldies". Gary said it was important to meet The Cult on this trip because he wasn't sure when he'd make it back to Minnesota. David forwarded me the email, which meant I had Gary's email address, and I couldn't believe it. I thought David my have been messing with me, but then I emailed Gary and got a reply the next day.....with his cell phone number. A smile came across the Chairman's face.

With the summer months being as they are, a lot of the North Dakota Cult guys couldn't make the trip because of work obligations and other things they'd already committed to. That being said, the journey would be made by myself and Cult member Joe Zidon. Heading Eastward, after meeting in Fargo, (accompanied by Beck and Beastie Boys cds) on a cold and rainy Saturday morning.....we had no idea of knowing what was about to take place.

We were cruising East of Fargo, through the Minnesota farmland, and at this point I still hadn't called Gary's cell (a) because I was nervous and (b) because I had been up kind of late the night before from softball and hadn't found "my important phone call voice" quite yet. Joe asked me when I was going to do it. There was a comfortable silence, and a smile, then I said "pull this sucker over" off-ramp was right in sight. We stopped at a gas station. I asked Joe if I could "do this one alone". He agreed and went in for some coffee. So here I am, the instigator of The Gary Gaetti Cult, 8 or so years down the line, thinking about the crazy times I've had with Cult members and our days in Grand Forks, and I'm about to call Gary Gaetti. So anyways, I call, things were cool, Gary tells me that today (Saturday) is definately the day to meet.....Sunday is the induction day and things will be crazy that morning and afternoon with the speech and his travel plans etc. Gary was set to be at the Metrodome a few hours before the game to sign autographs with the other '87 Twins (as the 1987 World Series Champions were having a reunion that weekend as well). He thought Joe-Z and myself should say hi to him in the autograph line to connect but he said that he'd have his cell phone with him in case that didn't work. I thanked him for taking the call and I said that we looked forward to meeting him.....even if it took just a minute. Joe gets back in the car, I tell him about the call, we started laughing hysterically, and then we took off for Minneapolis.

We get into town, and I called David Gatti to find out where we can meet up with he and his son Michael (who had flown in from Portland, OR). David says that he's at such and such gate inside the dome and that we have to hurry because Gary wants to meet us and the autograph session would be ending soon. Joe and I get inside and check out the line where Gary is signing autographs......the line was endless. We didn't want to wait in line as the game was about to start and there was no way we'd make it through in time. David brought us around to a roped off area where Gary was signing, got Gary's attention, and pointed at Joe and myself as to say "these are the guys". Gary immediately announces to the crowd that he has two important people to meet, he gets up from his seat, walks over and introduces himself to us with a big smile on his face. He then tells us to wait along the wall for five minutes as he had to finish up with the autograph line. Security announces that the session is over, and then Gary came over to us, we had a few laughs, took some pictures, and presented him with a Red Pepper (a Grand Forks "Cult" restaurant) t-shirt. He then said he had to head off to the 1987 Twins suite to meet his teammates, take pictures, sign stuff etc. He asked us to come down to the suite later on and urged us to do "whatever it takes to see him"....but to keep the phone on.

Being the polite guys that we are, we got a few beers and headed off to our seats (in the right field upper deck about 10 rows from the top)...thinking all the while that a dream had been fulfilled in meeting the G-Man.....and that maybe later on, say the 7th inning, we cruise down by the Twins suite to catch a final word with him. The second inning rolls around and Joe makes a beer-run. A couple minutes later, I decide to follow him to hit the men's room. I check my phone to see what time it was.....and I notice that I missed a call from Gary. I couldn't believe it. Then just as I was checking to see when he called, my phone started ringing again. Its Gary. I answer....he asked, laughing, what in the hell we were doing. He says that there are about 3 policemen and a mob of autograph seekers outside of the suite.....he tells me to "go up to the policemen and mention that you're the Chairman". Then come in the suite and find me. I thanked him and then quickly replied that we'd be there in five minutes.

God, now I've got to find Joe. I cruise over to the beer stands, food vendors, bathrooms etc. I can't find Joe anywhere and we're supposed to meet the G-Man in five. I look back through the tunnel, way up at our seats, and find that Joe took a different route to get back to the seats. As the whole upper deck is looking at me like I'm a crazy person, I finally make eye contact with Joe and point down the steps as if to say "get your ass down here, something huge is happening". He reads it, and starts flying down the steps. He meets me down in the tunnel and I tell him that Gary wants us to party with him and the '87 team in the Twins suite...and we've gotta meet him in five minutes. We both started howling like butchers and we sprinted through the halls of the Metrodome not knowing what in the hell to expect next.

We pull up to suite 140 and like Gary said, there's a mob of fans waiting outside....along with the policemen. We make our way through the crowd and I tell a policeman, at the door, that I was the Chairman and he said "right this way guys". As Joe and I were walking into the entrance area of the suite, and noticing many familiar faces from the '87 team, we made a glance at each other, had a laugh, and shook our heads wondering what kind of crazy circumstances in life had lead us to this point in time.

So we walk in, and instead of feeling uncomfortable and hearing the sound of crickets chirping, familiar faces Gary and his sons Jake and Joe are standing off to our left, smiles on their faces, waiting for us. We shake hands and introduce ourselves and Gary immediately asks us if we'd like to have a beer with him. We replied someting like "absolutely"....but on the inside we were thinking it was the greatest thing of all time. He handed us a couple cans of Grain Belt Premium and a smile hit our faces as Grain Belt is a workingman's beer that we frequently enjoy. It was also a good sign that our idol, that we've spent years following, didn't drink something like Zima.

Gary's family couldn't have been any nicer to Joe and myself. They actually treated us like we were part of the family, introducing us by our first names to everyone that was in the suite (players from the '87 team, Twins hall of famers, and the families of everyone). We looked around and noticed that it seemed to only be a players and families kind of event....there didn't seem to be any media present. It seemed like we met the whole '87 team and many of the player's sons, most of whom were about our age. They were all great guys....nobody treated us like we didn't belong (even though we didn't belong). If Gary was called by someone to talk or to sign something, he'd tell Joe and I that "he'd be right back" if he had to give us the courtesy. It was crazy. Having beers and joking with guys like Gary, Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek, Jeff Reardon, Juan Berenguer, Tim Laudner, and Tony Oliva at the Twins 20th anniversary reunion was beyond anything we had ever imagined. Gary, his boys and I had a good laugh recalling the 3 "Gary Gaetti" movies on the website...."Over the Top", "Rambo", and "The Octagon". We also talked with Gary and the possibility of a pheasant hunt in the future. We had a blast bs'ing with the sons of the players. Most of us guys were busy working regular jobs but we'd all found out that we'd played hockey growing up....and we had some laughs about that. We exchanged numbers with some of the guys and I hope that we can have a beer with them again soon. It was all too much to take in. Occasionally, Joe and I would look over at each other and start laughing because it was all so crazy.

The '87 Twins players and families and specifically Gary and his family couldn't have been any nicer people and for them to welcome a couple of hellraisers like Joe and Myself into their private party was the greatest thing we've ever been a part of. It'd be tough to ever, ever match the feeling we had that night. You always imagine meeting your childhood heroes and thinking that you'll be let down in some way or that the moment won't be perfect. This time it WAS perfect. Gary and his sons were a class act and we can't thank them enough.

Now after the greatest night of our lives and not to mention a late night of drinking, cigar-smoking, and complete demolition of downtown bars in Minneapolis with some guys from Ireland (they now think guys from North Dakota are cool), there was a Twins Hall of Fame induction that we had to get to. Needless to say, Sunday afternoon came early for the North Dakota Gary Gaetti Cult representatives. So anyway, we make it to the game, Kent Hrbek gave Gary a great introduction, and then Gary followed it up with a very humble speech to his fans. It was perfect....he talked about the great times he had with all of the '87 team guys and said that along his travels to other teams, he's never seen a community come together over a team like the Midwest did with the '87 Twins. It was awesome to see Gary enter the Twins "Ring of Fame" can see his picture and years of service under the lower-level suites with all the other Twins greats. Gary was set to throw out the games first pitch but had surprised everyone when we saw that he was going to make a classic throw from the Hot Corner to first be caught by his buddy Kent Hrbek. It was pretty cool. Hrbek caught the ball and then they celebrated like it was '87. The crowd went crazy. It was a great memory of that special October of 1987. The game wasn't bad either, Johan Santana struck out a Twins record 17 batters over 8 innings. The game didn't even was simply the greatest weekend of our lives and there was no real way to tell how we felt about it....all we could do was look at each other, shake our heads, and laugh out loud. After the game, we met up with David Gatti and his son Michael. We talked about the crazy weekend, took some pictures together, and said our goodbyes. We thanked David because he really made things come together and we never would've had that weekend without him. We're now good friends and we look forward to staying in contact with him.

We drove home later that Sunday afternoon, after a stop at White Castle for a few sliders, all the while thinking about the insanity that life can throw at you. I guess anything in life is possible. To start out with a web page about a bunch of guys from Grand Forks, ND calling themselves the Gary Gaetti Cult and then 8 years down the line be invited to share in the festivities of the '87 World Series Championship party is something that is still completely unthinkable to us. We just wished we could've shared the moment with all of our other friends that have been big Gaetti fans over the years.....but maybe that time will come too someday. Joe and I have seen a lot of crazy stuff happen, but as we like to say, it never got weird enough for us.

On the road again

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