Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Farewell to a Really Stupid Ballpark

First Inflated on October 2, 1981.
The roof promptly collapsed 48 days later in a Minnesota snowstorm.

Balls were lost against the Teflon roof, homers flew out in record numbers (before AC), foul balls hit speakers, and one high fly ball even stuck in the ceiling, never to be seen again.

Visiting managers from Billy Martin to Ozzie Guillen reviled the place, calling it the “Rollerdome” and threatening to have it blown up.

It was so bad, that back in 1984, the metropolitan sports commission coined a new motto, their own version of whistling past the graveyard—“We Like It Here!”

Yet it was also the loud, boisterous home of the only two world championships in the history of Minnesota professional sports.

It is also the place where we lived and died with our favorite team throughout our adult lives. (The Blond actually saw a Twins game at the old Met—an advantage over the Colonel for which I will forever be envious.)

And now it is closing to baseball. April, 2010 and the opening of Target Field will herald the return of outdoor baseball to Minnesota.
So this past weekend, the Colonel, the Blond, and the entire family (now numbering ten) headed downtown for one final farewell.Walking in to the pressurized, Teflon bubble, passing through the sterile, concrete concourse, we were reminded again what a lousy place this was to hold a ball game.
Designed for football, the stadium features seats that face the wrong direction, poor lines of sight, and banks of lights that drive even veteran outfielders to distraction.
But the Twins are in a pennant race once again, 3 games behind the Detroit Tigers, the team they are playing today. A win today would guarantee a series win, and moving at least one game closer in the standings.
While we enjoyed our family time in the stands, it didn’t look good for the Twins. Our starting pitcher, Carl Pavano, didn’t seem to have his best stuff. While he only fell behind by a run—the game was kept close by a solo blast by the incomparable Joe Mauer--our boys were not helping much by running out of two potential rallies, getting caught stealing twice to empty the bases.
The later it got in the game, the more it seemed that the hard-hitting Tigers would break out at any time. What we needed was a little good, old-fashioned “Dome Magic”.

It happened in the 8th. With one out already, Orlando Cabrera hit an easy, potentially rally-killing fly ball in the direction of Tiger’s left-fielder Don Kelly. Uh-oh. Another opportunity lost.

Suddenly, Kelly began to scramble about, looking confused. How many times had we seen this dance before, especially during afternoon games with the sun illuminating the already oppressive, white ceiling? Shouts of “Dome Ball!” burst spontaneously from experienced fans.

Sure enough, Kelly lost sight of the ball, recovered too late, and it bounced off his glove for a “Metrodome Double.”

That kind of event tends to take the wind out of a visiting pitcher’s sails. Three batters later, Michael Cuddyer would pound a three-run homer over the center field fence, bringing the tally to 6-2, a score that would hold for the last Twins victory we would see live at the Dome.

We are looking forward to Target Field. Indoor baseball is an evil abomination, and for almost two decades, the Metrodome has been the High Temple of that dark order.

But for today, we remember Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven. We remember the Homer Hankies in ’87. We remember the greatest World Series ever played—with Jack Morris’ 10 inning masterpiece to win it all in 1991.

And we remember dome-balls. More than a few times, we have seen the home-town stadium help snatch victory from the grasp of befuddled opponents, as our beloved small-town market Twins have stayed competetive year in and year out against teams whose payrolls are far higher, and ballparks much nicer.

So it seemed appropriate, that in our last trip to the dome, that stupid, white ceiling would have such an impact on the game.

Without it, the Twins might not have rallied. Without it, Cuddyer might not have come up to bat to hit the home run that dropped ten feet from where we were sitting.
And without it, our family might not have appeared in the stands on Sports Center, with Doogie doing one, final triumphant fist pump


Blogger Graceland King said...

I will miss you Walk-Away Sunday and Dome Dogs.

6:59 PM  

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