Collecting various items from an early age, Clyde Doepner became known as Clyde the Collector.
He began collecting Minnesota Twins baseball memorabilia in 1981 when the Twins moved into the Metrodome. When the Twins hired Doepner as the team curator four years ago, he became known as Clyde the Curator.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, Minnesota Twins Team Curator Doepner spoke about his passion for collecting with the Cambridge-Isanti Rotary Club at WinterGreens in Isanti.
“I’ve always been a collector, from my earliest memories,” he said. “I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, but I’m addicted to collecting.”
He played baseball as a kid, and when an arm injury made that impossible, he thought, ‘if I can’t play it, I’m going to collect it.’
Doepner’s story with the Twins began because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. During his first year teaching in 1966, he received a baseball season pass from Twins owner Cal Griffith.
That very weekend, 21 and single, Doepner went to a baseball game and found Griffith to thank him.
“I looked him up and said ‘thanks,’” Doepner said. “He was a little befuddled. He said ‘I’ve been giving those passes away for four months and you’re the first guy that ever said thank you.’”
Griffith took him down the hall and Doepner found himself in Griffith’s seats.
“He said, ‘when you go to a game, you don’t sit out there with those thankless son of a guns in the cheap seats, you can sit in here with my family.’”
Back when the Twins moved out of the Metropolitan Stadium into the Metrodome, they were going to get rid of everything. For 37 nights straight, Doepner had the opportunity to weed through whatever they were going to throw away.
“It was a gold mine,” he said. One time he went through a file cabinet and found letters from presidents of the United States about throwing the first pitch of the game when the Twins were still the Washington Nationals.
“They threw everything, and I was just in the right spot at the right time, all because I said thank you,” Doepner said.
From there, everything fell into place. Doepner has been working with the Minnesota Twins in some capacity for 25 years, working as the team curator for the past four years. He’s the only full-time curator in Major League Baseball.
Sometimes Doepner’s job involves collecting items from a game when a record was made. For instance, Joe Mauer set a record for most games played by a catcher. At the end of that game, Doepner collected umpire cards and Mauer’s mask, chest protector and shin guards from that game.
When Joe Nathan set the all-time record for saves last year with his 255th save, Doepner said he found Nathan after interviews, and Nathan said, ‘well, what do you want?’ And Doepner collected his hat, jersey, shoes and gloves.
“It’s getting things that commemorate a significant event in Twins history,” he said. Another part of his job is setting up the displays in Target Field. Some of them rotate, while others are permanent, such as the display about the first game ever played at Target Field.
Doepner said he collected over 7,000 items from Twins history before he was team curator. He doesn’t differentiate his personal collection from items he’s collected as curator, however.
“Everything is on display for the benefit of the fans,” he said. “It really doesn’t make any difference who owns it–if I own it or the Twins own it. It’s all about the fans getting to see it. That’s really what we look forward to.”
Since becoming team curator for the Minnesota Twins, Doepner said he’s added several thousand more items to the collection.
“If someone asks me what the money value is, I won’t give them an answer. It’s about enhancing the game day experience for somebody to come in to see,” he said. “Every day is a little bit different. I love having the fans react to what we do.”