With A.J. Pierzynski declaring that fans weren’t booing him when he was playing for the Braves this week at Target Field, we can probably safely cross the former Twins catcher off of any list of greatest sports villains in Minnesota history.
But … who is on the list? To make the cut, a villain needs to have played a key role in either a sustained era or particularly acute moment that Minnesota fans will never forgive.
With the help of Twitter followers, I was able to come up with a list of seven. You’ll see no entrants related to the Wild, who have only had a few temporary villains during various playoff series. The Wolves? More than anything, they’ve tended to be their own worst enemy.
Consider these guys the not-so-magnificent seven, in descending order:
7. Alex Rodriguez: He never specifically wronged the Twins (unless you count a 1.020 career OPS against Minnesota and some crushing postseason hits with the Yankees … so yeah, maybe he did). But more than anything A-Rod came to symbolize the Yankees’ deep pockets and their stranglehold over the Twins in the playoffs — while also upsetting our Midwest sensibilities with his personality.
6. Gregg Williams: As the Saints defensive coordinator during the 2009 season, he became a central figure in the “Bountygate” scandal — and a coach Vikings fans largely associate with the questionable hits that epitomized Minnesota’s overtime loss to New Orleans in that year’s NFC title game. Williams was suspended but resurfaced as the Rams’ coordinator — where last year he raised the ire of fans and coach Mike Zimmer after a late hit to the head of Teddy Bridgewater.
5. Phil Cuzzi: The MLB umpire badly missed a call on a hit by Joe Mauer that would have resulted in a double during the 2009 ALDS, and Twins fans have turned him into a villain ever since. It doesn’t matter that Mauer ended up singling to lead off the inning and that the Twins wound up with the bases loaded and no outs (before failing to score). Cuzzi’s call is all anyone remembers.
4. Brett Favre: Before he had the greatest season of his career with the Vikings in 2009, Favre was a classic long-term villain for virtually all of his 16 seasons with the Packers. He was brash and seemed to relish the animosity, which only enhanced the sentiments.
3. Al Secord: The old North Stars vs. Blackhawks rivalry was classic, and the Chicago player who epitomized the hatred among the Minnesota fan base was Al Secord. He was just as likely to wind up in the penalty box as he was to put a puck in the back of the net. When you spawn your own chant that everyone still knows, you belong on this list.
2. Drew Pearson: Vikings fans of a certain vintage still say the 1975 team was the best one of that era, and even if they don’t say that they say this: Pearson, playing for the Cowboys, pushed off when he scored a late touchdown to knock Minnesota out of the playoffs that year. My best friend of 30 years was born the day before that game, and he’s been mad about it seemingly ever since.