DETROIT, OCT. 13 -- He is not Sparky Anderson. He does not speak in parables, constantly quote his wife or grandchildren, and won't tell you that every other kid who walks through the door is the fastest or strongest he has ever seen.

Neither is he Roger Craig. No one has credited him with saving a franchise or inventing a devastating new pitch or being the keenest, wiliest old boy since Casey Stengel.

He is Tom Kelly, organized, tightly wound and a man of few words, a vanilla malt in a hot dog-and-beer business.

Today, he is something else, too: the manager of the American League champion Minnesota Twins, a team that lost 91 games in 1986, but won 85 games and the AL West this season, then rolled past the heavily favored Detroit Tigers in the American League playoffs.

After eliminating Detroit, 9-5, Monday afternoon, the Twins flew back to Minneapolis for four days off before beginning the World Series Saturday.

There are many parts to their story, one being that much of their talent -- Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti -- was signed in the Calvin Griffith era. Another is last year's hiring of Andy MacPhail, 34, as general manager. A son of former American League president Lee MacPhail, he became the major leagues' youngest general manager.

His contributions have been enormous, making trades or deals that brought the Twins relievers Jeff Reardon and Juan Berenguer and outfielder Dan Gladden.

"We've been a piece or two short the last couple of years," Viola said. "The nucleus of the team was already here. It gave you a good feeling to see things finally getting done."

Kelly, 37, was the man who was supposed to make it all work. He replaced Ray Miller on Sept. 12, 1986 and, partly at the urging of the players, was rehired for 1987. "We weren't asked our opinion on it, but we gave it again and again," Gaetti said.

Yet, not a lot of people were certain what they were getting. A lot of people still aren't.

"I can't talk politics, I can't talk business, I'm not as smart as Sparky," Kelly said. "I'm just comfortable down on the field."

His players say he's funny and open in the clubhouse, that he is able to communicate without lecturing and that his juggling of a weak starting rotation is brilliant.

Maybe, but what the outside world sees is different. It sees a nervous redheaded stranger, who is graying, who forces words out one at a time and has gone from hating news conferences to tolerating them in the last month.

"He goes out and gives a speech somewhere, and I think people think he comes off as a jerk," Hrbek said. "I know they wonder why we like him the way he comes off at banquets and stuff. He gets up there and says, 'We'll work hard, we've got a good team, I think we can win it, thank you, goodbye.' He's not geared to speeches. He's geared toward managing."

Kelly: "I don't enjoy talking about myself. The players play the game. All I do as a manager is try to keep the ship afloat, keep it in the right direction."

How tightly wound is he? He started spring training at a trim 185 pounds and is finishing the season at 203, most of it around his middle. "When I get nervous, I eat," he said the other day in about as revealing a statement as he's likely to give.

Yet from a nervous, withdrawn man has come one of the freest, loosest teams in years. The Twins didn't simply beat the Tigers, they whipsawed them.

Noting only five players with postseason experience, a lot of people thought they might play like a young, frightened team. Instead, they played like an intelligent, resourceful one. They hit .347 with runners in scoring position, their bullpen had a 2.00 ERA and they had to come from behind in their first three victories.

They also were gutsy. They picked Darrell Evans off third base on a high-risk play that many teams wouldn't attempt. They tried to pick off Dave Bergman with a hidden-ball trick from the days of Curly Howard.

All this created by a manager who says his greatest asset is to "stay out of the players' way." From a guy who loves hunting and fishing, wears jeans and flannel shirts and begins his Metrodome workday by delivering the players' mail. From a guy who throws a round of batting practice just as he did when he was coach.

It was at a round of batting practice before Game 1 that he noticed Don Baylor "was swinging real well." A few hours later, he remembered that and sent Baylor up to get the game-winning hit.

"Don't let him fool you," Viola said. "He's funny, and he's smart. You could tell by the way he went about his business in spring training that he knew what he was doing. We like him, and we respect him."

The Twins had not felt so warmly toward Miller and in much of their praise of Kelly is thinly disguised criticism of Miller.

"Tom Kelly has treated us like human beings," Gaetti said. "He doesn't put himself up on the manager's pedestal. He talked to the players, and he kept us all involved in the action."

A native of Graceville, Minn., he's the first Minnesotan to manage the Twins, and he got the job in his 20th season of pro baseball. His father Joe played in the New York Giants organization, and since his early teen years it appeared Tom would have a career in baseball.

It began when the Seattle Pilots made him a fourth-round pick in the 1968 draft. An outfielder with an outstanding arm and slow bat, he got as high as Class AA Jacksonville, then was released in 1971.

The Twins signed him that year, and he played five years in their system, before making his major league debut May 11, 1975. His major league career was only 49 games because "of the curveball, screwball, change-up and fastball in the back," he said. He hit .181.

He was Tacoma's player-manager in 1977 -- he was 26 at the time -- and managed in Visalia and Orlando before joining the Twins' coaching staff in 1983. Three and a half years later, he was the Twins' manager.

A couple of dozen times this week, he has told reporters there is no secret to his style of managing.

"People get tired of hearing it," he said, "but we try to have fun. The game is really decided on the field. If the pitchers pitch well, your team is usually going to win. Other than that, there's not much you can do in a lot of cases. I don't look over their shoulders. I just let 'em go out and play."

Married, with two children, he lives in Parlin, N.J., in the offseason. His son Tom Jr. was the Twins' bat boy this summer.

One of the few times he has shown emotion this week was when someone asked about the excitement of a dream season. "I do think back and remember my times in the minor leagues," he said. "That makes you grab hold of reality and what's happening around you. These five ball games have all been nip and tuck, and they could have gone either way. Each game would have gone the other way with one pitch or one play."

Then he is asked about feeling comfortable in the spotlight that shines on a World Series manager.

"I'm happy when the game starts," he said. "My element is on the field and in my office."