Patrick Reusse
See more of the story

There was a show from a few decades back on the TV that was in front of Tom Kelly, although it was not one of the 264 episodes of "Murder, She Wrote," the Angela Lansbury series of which the former Twins manager was a known fan.

Those Twins would be starting their 63rd season in a few minutes in Kansas City, and Kelly switched over to the BSN telecast.

There were two lounge chairs and Sharon, Kelly's noble bride, motioned for the visitor to occupy the empty one.

"That's the seat of honor," Kelly said. "That's where one of the boys will sit if they come over to watch a game."

Several of the "boys" are longtime neighbors in the long block in Maplewood that ends with a cul-de-sac. They are close friends and golf partners, and they help one another with projects around their homes.

"We moved in across the street 30 years ago and Tom and Sharon were already here," Don Winger said. "Tom and I had snow blowers and we started clearing the neighbors' driveways.

"Eight or nine years ago, Tom was having a little health issue and I said, 'We're in our 60s now. We should stop doing this.' Then it snowed and we were both out there at 6-something in the morning, snow blowing driveways.

"It has been a unique connection, for sure. I've never met another World Series-winning manager, but I can't imagine one could be a more blue-collar, helpful neighbor than Tom Kelly."

Kelly's health issue reached a new level recently. Cancer was found in his right hip and he underwent hip replacement surgery on Jan. 2.

There was also a spot on a lung. He has been taking a daily pill (at noon and don't touch it with a hand) that sends its cancer-killing power directly to that spot.

"They say it 'migrates' … right Sharon, it migrates?" Kelly said. "The doctors and even nurses were very excited when they discovered I was in the '5-to-10 percent' that didn't need chemo first before taking these pills.

"I don't know how I got into that 5-to-10 percent, but it was a good break."

Maybe it was due to kind works — such as snow blowing neighbors' driveways?

"The neighbors are doing that for us now," Kelly said. "They say it's payback."

Kelly retired as the Twins manager in 2001, after 15 seasons (plus 23 games in 1986). He did special assignments and worked spring training for another 15 years.

The baseball regime changed and Kelly chose to give up the trips to Fort Myers, Fla., in 2017. He has maintained a relationship with the Twins that primarily involves personal appearances.

He's moving a little slow for those right now. There was a walker to the right of his chair. He can move around without it, but there's a rise into the kitchen from the small TV den, so don't take any chances.

On the left arm of the chair, he had a computer. He was logged into TwinSpires, the horse wagering website, monitoring potential investments. He prefers the harness races for his smallish wagers.

As the game was starting, Kelly said: "That guy is still out there battling. He knows how to pitch."

It was a reference to Zack Greinke, the Royals starter, now 39, once sensational, now crafty.

A few minutes later, Pablo López was making his first start for the Twins. He came here in a trade for AL batting champion Luis Arraez.

"I wasn't sure about giving up Arraez," Kelly said. "He gave this team a hitter who gave 'em really good at-bats."

López dealt a few pitches. "Changeup," Kelly said. "Woof."

Pause. "Bushie and I were talking," he said, meaning his former player Randy Bush, who worked in the front office for the Chicago Cubs for years, making him worthy of an opinion on a National Leaguer.

Kelly: "I asked him about López. He said, 'I saw him pitch a couple of times. I really like him. Big, strong, excellent mix of pitches.' "

Another new Twin for 2023, Christian Vázquez, came to the plate in the second inning.

"Years ago, our minor leaguers were playing a couple of games against the Red Sox teams on the back fields," Kelly said. "Vázquez was catching one of the games. And Suchie [former Twins pitching coach Dick Such] was there, watching Boston's pitchers.

"I said to him, 'I kind of like this catcher. Good receiver, stays on top of the game.'

"The Twins signed Vázquez in December and Suchie called here and said, 'You finally got your guy … Vázquez.' "

Kelly did the classic TK, small laugh of irony and said: "It had to be 12 years ago but Suchie remembered."

The breeze was now being shot. Kelly mentioned an incident involving pitcher Frank Tanana, and I immediately brought up the Twin who would hit him:

Craig Kusick, aka Mongo.

"Sad deal … Craig and his wife died very close together a few years ago," I said.

Kelly was a teammate with Kusick in the minors.

"We were going from Tacoma to Tucson, with a layover of a few hours in Vegas," he said. "We all headed downtown to gamble.

"Everybody was back on the plane and here came Kusick: Sports coat, tie around his neck, but no shirt. And he's saying, 'It can happen. I lost my shirt.' "

Byron Buxton hit a ball in the gap, raced for a triple, and the Twins were able to break a scoreless tie.

"I miss watching him in center," Kelly said. "The guy they picked up, [Michael A.] Taylor, is good out there, but Buxton closing the gap … never seen anything like it."

There was more of this. And then I called on Friday to check if TK still was a loyal "Murder, She Wrote" watcher.

"Not unless we have to," Kelly said. "Used to be 4 o'clock tradition for Sharon and me, something to watch together. Then, Jessica started going to other countries, Ireland, England, all over.

"We liked it a lot better when she stuck to Cabot Cove."

Find a neighborhood that works and stay there. That's Tom Kelly's theory.