Patrick Reusse
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A couple of vehicles made the short drive on a makeshift path through the weeds, and to an old building in Coon Rapids that looked to be unused for decades. The front steps were blocked with brush and what passed for a small landing that looked dangerous.

Meachael Schoenrock, an overseer of the WCCO radio transmission facility, pushed through. Tom Gavaras and I followed on this warm August morning.

Once inside, Schoenrock took a half-dozen steps into a scene of overflowing boxes that would have brought joyful tears to a crazed hoarder. And then she stopped and said:

"You have to go back outside. … I just heard something. … There's something in here.''

Gavaras and I retreated. Schoenrock emitted a few "hellos,'' stomped a foot a couple of times, and then said: "OK, it's up in the attic. Critters can get in up there.''

Raccoons? "Probably,'' she said, and then we continued into the building, and the unlikely location for a broadcasting treasure trove.

The search for the radio broadcast of Cesar Tovar’s 1968 game where he played all nine positions, led to this WCCO radio transmission facility in Coon Rapids.
The search for the radio broadcast of Cesar Tovar’s 1968 game where he played all nine positions, led to this WCCO radio transmission facility in Coon Rapids.

Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune

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My years of pouting over the absence of Cesar Tovar in the Twins Hall of Fame came to an end this past Jan. 20, when it was announced the No. 1 utility player in franchise history had been voted into the 2022 class, along with Dan Gladden and Ron Gardenhire.

Andrew Halverson, the Twins' director of broadcasting, immediately started brainstorming on how to properly pay tribute to these individuals on the Twins' radio and television outlets.

"As soon as we know you're going in, we start looking for ideas to make the day unique for the honoree,'' Halverson said. "We were going to be busier than usual in that area this summer, with Tony [Oliva] and Jim Kaat going into Cooperstown, and Jim also having his number retired with us.

"From the start, we knew that the game where Cesar played all nine positions — Sept. 22, 1968 — had to be part of our focus."

The Twins team scorebook from the Sept. 22, 1968 game vs. the Oakland A’s when Tovar made history.
The Twins team scorebook from the Sept. 22, 1968 game vs. the Oakland A’s when Tovar made history.

Minnesota Twins

That marked just the second time in MLB history anyone had played all nine positions in the same game, after Bert Campaneris had done it three seasons earlier for the Kansas City Athletics.

"We only had 50 games on television that [1968] season, and that Sunday wasn't one of them," Halverson said. "Even if it had been, there's really no access to full regular-season games on TV back then. The best you can do is get one of the local stations to do a big favor and find a film clip in its archives.''

Halverson called WCCO-AM to find out if there were any copies for full broadcasts from way back then. The answer was what he expected:

"Nothing like that here. Try the Pavek broadcasting museum.''

The Pavek staff did its best to help — it had the seven games of the '87 and '91 World Series — but not archives extensive enough to include Tovar's wondrous 2-hour, 18-minute display of versatility at Met Stadium.

Then came this:

Almost at the same time Tovar was being announced as a Hall of Famer, Gavaras had reached out to Twins President Dave St. Peter to tell him about a collection of 25 years of full WCCO-AM reel-to-reel tapes to which Tom had access.

"Dave first mentioned the 'tapes' to me as a possibility for Tovar and I said, 'What tapes?' " Halverson said. "He gave me Gavaras' name, I contacted Tom, he told me about the reel-to-reels and was sure the Tovar game would be there.

"The problem was 'winter.' We had to wait for enough snow to melt to get back to that building.''

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Schoenrock led the way, followed by Gavaras and then me. We went through a couple of rooms with piles of whatever, with other stuff leaning against walls, and then Schoenrock said: "This is it.''

It was a stairwell dating to the 1930s, dark and narrow, and there was a door to what would be the basement.

Not exactly a door. A substantial board covering the opening, held in place by a pole pushed against a step.

"That's a pogo stick,'' Schoenrock said. "There were pogo sticks all over this place. Somebody must've gotten a deal on them 50 years ago.''

She deftly removed the pogo stick and carried the door out of the way. And there they were, in a corner of the first room of the basement, all the broadcast reels for WCCO-AM radio from 1966 to 1991 — several full days on each reel.

Meachael Schoenrock (left) and Tom Gavaras (right) stand amid a treasure trove of WCCO-AM reel-to-reel tapes.
Meachael Schoenrock (left) and Tom Gavaras (right) stand amid a treasure trove of WCCO-AM reel-to-reel tapes.

Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune

Gavaras worked for years at WCCO. He has another full-time job now, and his pastime is finding great moments on these reel-to-reels — as well as other old radio shows. They can be listened to at his website: radiotapes.com.

"We had 18 engineers at one time at WCCO,'' Gavaras said. "Whoever put the reel-to-reels in these boxes and here on these stands … they had them perfectly described, and in order by date.''

Gavaras had found the tape of the Twins' 2-1 victory over Oakland, the game where Tovar started by pitching the first inning and striking out Reggie Jackson. Later, Cesar singled, stole second and scored on Bob Allison's triple.

Gavaras and the Twins had made an 8-minute highlight tape of Cesar's grand afternoon that will be used on broadcasts this weekend, with Tovar and Gladden — perhaps the Twins' two most famous leadoff hitters — being inducted together on Sunday.

Listen to a montage of Tovar playing all nine positions.

Merle Harmon was missing from the radio team that day to fulfill his duties on the New York Jets' broadcast, so it's Herb Carneal, with Halsey Hall offering a rare touch of play-by-play.

As for what was prowling in the attic of this outbuilding at the transmission facility in Coon Rapids, that will be for Schoenrock and Gavaras to figure out on future visits.