Gladden was hitting .397 at Triple-A Phoenix in 1984 when he was promoted to the Giants, and the speedy outfielder maintained his torrid pace in San Francisco, batting .351 with 31 stolen bases in 86 games as the Giants center fielder. He earned spots on both the Topps and Baseball Digest all-rookie teams that year.
Traded to Minnesota before the 1987 season, Gladden was switched from centerfield to left, where he started regularly for the World Champion Twins. In the ’87 World Series, his grand slam off Bob Forsch broke open Game One. Gladden was a Twins regular through their second World Championship in 1991, and scored the winning run in Game Seven of the World Series when Gene Larkin singled in the tenth.
Despite the thrilling victory, Gladden felt the front office was less than enthusiastic when it came to offering him a new contract. In December, at the age of 35, he signed a free-agent deal with the Tigers. A slow start was followed by a month-long stint on the DL, and he slumped badly in the second half. Gladden rebounded with a career-high 13 homers in 1993, but spent the 1994 season with fellow expatriate Henry Cotto on Japan’s Yomiuri Giants.