If you played Little League baseball, you might have known a
Danny Gladden. He was the kid who never wore a uniform that
didn't end up dirt-streaked and grass-stained. He was the first
one off the bench when little Jimmy zipped a 40-mph heater too
close to a teammate's chin. Somehow, he always ended up in the
In 11 big league seasons as an outfielder with the San Francisco
Giants, the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers, and one with
Japan's Yomiuri Giants, Gladden never lost his winning touch. He
helped the Twins to memorable World Series victories in 1987 and
'91 and the Yomiuri Giants to the Japan Series championship in
But it was Gladden's intense demeanor that defined his career.
He never backed down from an outfield fence or from a fight,
whether on the field or in his own dugout. In 1994, Gladden
started the first brawl in Japanese baseball in 14 years, and he
went toe-to-toe with no fewer than three teammates on three
teams during his time in the major leagues. "I was somebody who
played like it was his last game every day," Gladden says. "I
expected that type of effort out of my teammates, and sometimes
I didn't see it."
Since retiring as a player after the 1994 season, Gladden has
worked as an advance scout for the Colorado Rockies and,
currently, as a roving minor league instructor for San
Francisco. The job keeps him on the road as many as 25 days a
month from the beginning of March to the end of October, and
only rarely is Gladden able to spend time at home in Eden
Prairie, Minn., with his wife, Janice, and their two daughters,
Ashley, 14, and Whitney, 11.
To the 42-year-old Gladden's chagrin, the Giants wouldn't give
him time off in August to go to the annual Sturgis, S.Dak.,
motorcycle rally, a trip that has become a ritual for him since
he first attended the event in 1995. Gladden has shifted much of
his baseball-playing energy to another passion, building
motorcycles. "I like to tinker," he says. Seven years ago he
rebuilt a 1966 Harley Sportster, and since then he has dabbled
in creating custom bikes, including a chopper that received
third prize at a Minnesota bike show two years ago.
Can a coach teach a player to leave his heart on the field?
Gladden is trying to find that out with his minor league
students. He also wants them to learn to keep their cool--even
if he often didn't. During a recent game, he watched as one of
his charges aimed a retaliation pitch straight at an opposing
batter's temple. Says Gladden, "As soon as he came into the
dugout, I pinned him on the wall and said, 'You ever do that
again, I'll kick your ass.'"
--Jamal K. Greene
COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: DENTON HANNA
Gladden never backed down from an outfield fence or from
a fight--on the field or in his own dugout.