Sunday, October 7, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 7

October 7, 19871 – The Homer Hanky’s public debut on this date almost didn’t happen. The Star Tribune promotions department came up with the Homer Hanky idea to promote the Twins during the ALCS playoffs against the Detroit Tigers, while also increasing circulation of the paper. Terrie Robbins “proposed to produce an initial 200,000 hankies for the first days [of] the playoffs at a cost of $100,000. For that money she promised a big circulation boost and an eventual break-even. The circulation boost would come because after an initial give-away of 60,000 hankies, the only way to get a Homer Hanky was with a coupon in the paper.”2

Terrie had received prior permission from Twins, but they’d apparently assumed she’d never get permission from her managers. When she returned for a second meeting, the “Twins and Major League baseball [attempted] to kill the Homer Hanky. Twins officials were convinced they were going to be the ‘laughing stock of baseball.’ They even threatened that the white hankies were going to distract hitters and force the umpires to cancel the games and the playoff series. She says they angrily charged such a cancellation would be Terrie’s fault.

When Terrie’s volunteer army of employees started to hand out the hankies before the first game, Twins officials tried to stop her. Terrie credits [Star Tribune Publisher Roger Parkinson] with being ‘fearless’ by ordering her to go ahead. Terrie’s crew handed out the 60,000 hankies and that was that–until an early Gary Gaetti home run, [when the Metrodome was suddenly awash in white as the crowd began waving their Homer Hankies].”2

What happened next is the dream of every marketing/promotions department. The Star Tribune “had to take the coupons out of the paper so [their] success didn’t break [them]. Terrie started charging a buck a hankie. First, she put a limit of 10 per customer, then the limit went to five and finally to two. The paper had incredible difficulty keeping up with demand. The lines were blocks long and some people waited six hours for a new delivery. The hankies were delivered in unmarked vehicles and they were stored overnight in the same safe where [the paper] kept paychecks. An incredible 3.3 million hankies were distributed in 1987 and another 1.9 million were distributed in 1991, according to Terrie.”2

The “Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 8-5 in [this] opening game of the ALCS” playoffs.1


My 1987 Homer Hanky

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