The Minnesota Twins’ death of 1999 was sweet for Joe Nathan. Not only did he win the American League Cy Young Award that year, but he did so with a Vikings team that was vying for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 21 years.
“When the death of your father was almost exactly one year after your sister and brother were buried, it was a big deal,” said Nathan on The Alex Reimer Show. “Not only was it a good team that we got, but also the younger brother, he was a lieutenant in the Army and I was fighting overseas at the time and I got a little help, so we got along really well and it was kind of a good thing to have that in our lives.”
In 2004, the season after his brother’s death, Nathan won his first-ever postseason save, pitching the Twins to a pennant. But on the morning of their first-ever World Series in 2005, the Twins learned that Nathan’s younger brother, Ronald, had died in Iraq.
“He was just 28,” Nathan said of his brother. “That was the thing that crushed me the most: my parents got married the year before that he got killed.”
So, when Nathan got the call at 3:15 in the morning, he was already deep into a recovery process for the first time in his life.
“I was in the military and got hurt during a major deployment for a few months,” Nathan said. “A few months later, after getting hurt, the New York Yankees sent me to the minors and I got sent to the Colorado Rockies, so I had just been out of the military in July. And I had a set amount of pitches to go back and start in the minors, and I couldn’t go back up to Minnesota in September. It was the same as in the World Series.”
The only difference between then and now, Nathan said, was that if he had known he would be pitching in his first World Series in five years, he would have scheduled the rehab to start this spring.
“It was a very emotional time in my life,” Nathan said. “It was a tough time, but once we got in the World Series, I was already dealing with the fact that my brother had died. So I think by the time it got to Game 1 and it was real, I was already emotionally invested.”