It was a funny and touching moment for Gardenhire, who picked up career win No. 1,000 behind a solid effort from right-hander Kyle Gibson, who tossed five-plus strong innings in his season debut to help lead the Twins to a 7-3 win over the Indians.
"It means a lot," an emotional Gardenhire said in the visiting manager's office with his wife, Carol, sitting nearby on the couch. "Everyone was pumped up and excited. We were sorry it didn't happen last year. So to get it done now, we can move forward and concentrate on this baseball team and make it right. It's good stuff."
Gardenhire was also tricked by his players upon entering the clubhouse, as assistant general manager Rob Antony presented him with a bottle of Dom Perignon before Brian Dozier called a toast. But it was just a ploy to distract Gardenhire from seeing that he was about to be doused by a case of beer from behind.
So it was a fun scene in the locker room after the game, and players were happy to be a part of the celebration, which will continue on Wednesday, when Gardenhire will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Twins' game against the A's at Target Field.
"It's pretty special, not only for Gardy, but for all of us and the Twins organization to have a manager like that who is so special," Dozier said. "It's such an elite group now. Not many can say that. It's pretty cool."
No. 1,000 was a long time coming for Gardenhire, who seemed assured of picking it up late last season before the Twins lost 10 of 11 to end the year and leave him just two wins shy.
"Gardy's been doing this for a long time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I guess I wish it would've come in the next series. He's been good at what he does for a long time."
Gardenhire became the 60th manager to reach the milestone, and just the 10th manager in baseball history to reach it while managing with just one team. Gardenhire, who is in his 13th year as the Twins' manager, led Minnesota to six division titles along the way to 1,000 wins.
"It's nice," said Joe Mauer, who made his Twins debut exactly 10 years ago Saturday. "We probably should've had it some point last year, but we knew we were going to get it. So it was nice to get it today. It's a lot of wins, and we've had some great teams over the years, and he's been right at the helm leading us all the way."
Gibson helped get him to the milestone on Saturday, as the right-hander gave up just one run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts to pick up his third career win. Gibson said he walked up to Gardenhire before his start and told him he was going to try to get the win for him.
"I went up to him before the game, and just said, 'Let's get it today.'" Gibson said. "So it's exciting to be the guy out there to get the 'W.' But that's Gardy's 'W' for sure."
Gibson was handed a three-run cushion in the first inning, with the Twins starting off strong offensively against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco.
Dozier led off the game with his first homer of the year, his fourth career leadoff blast. It was only fitting that Dozier led off the game with a homer in Gardenhire's 1,000th win, as Jacque Jones did the same in Gardenhire's first win back in 2002.
"It popped through my mind as soon as he hit it," Gardenhire said. "I started laughing and said, 'Here we go boys.' So it was a good way to start it."
Jason Kubel and Josmil Pinto both chipped in with RBI singles in the first to score Josh Willingham, who doubled with one out, and Trevor Plouffe, who walked.
The Twins added two more runs in the third, when Plouffe doubled home Chris Colabello with a deep drive to right field after Colabello was plunked by a pitch. Plouffe then advanced to third on a passed ball from Yan Gomes before scoring on another passed ball just three pitches later.
The Indians scored their lone run against Gibson in the third, as Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a double and came around to score on a wild pitch.
Relievers Brian Duensing and Jared Burton combined to hold Cleveland scoreless for the next three innings after Gibson's exit.
The Twins added two insurance runs in the ninth against reliever Vinnie Pestano, with Mauer scoring from third on a wild pitch with two outs before Kubel added an RBI single to right.
With a six-run lead, closer Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for Minnesota and gave up two runs, but they were able to hold on to get Gardenhire his milestone victory.
"The win was huge," Gardenhire said. "A lot of excitement toward the end. Yes, it was nerve wracking, but who better to have on the mound than Glen Perkins? He was really excited about the whole thing. So a good win for us, and hopefully we can get another 92 this year and be in the playoffs."