September 2, 2005: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Maybe because it was the first city I visited after my father passed away, or the great restaurants like Chef E’s Soul Food, Runyon’s, and Famous Dave’s BBQ. Maybe it was the cosmopolitan culture with Midwestern warmth, but after spending two days in Minneapolis I came to the conclusion that I have yet to visit a better city on the Ballpark Tour. I know these feelings might be different if I visited Minneapolis in February rather than September; Minneapolis winters are notorious for sub-zero temperatures and snowfall. These elements are tough on the residents of Minneapolis, so much so that most of Downtown is connected by a series of enclosed walkways called The SKYWAY. Despite the weather, the Twins made their home in the outdoor Metropolitan Stadium from 1961 to 1981. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome replaced Metropolitan Stadium as home of the Minnesota Twins in 1982. The Metrodome is the only stadium to have hosted the World Series (1987, 1991), the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (1985), the Super Bowl (1992), and the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament (1992, 2001), all under one roof. The Metrodome has been known to be the loudest ballpark in the Major Leagues. During the 1987 World Series, the Twins organization began giving out “Homer Hankies,” white towels for fans to wave during the game. The Metrodome was also known for its Teflon Roof, which remains the only air-supported structure in baseball. The ten-acre, 1/32nd-of-an-inch-thick roof is nearly identical in color to the white rawhide of a baseball. This gave the Twins a great home field advantage in the 1987 and 1991 World Series; they won all 8 games in the Metrodome.
Minneapolis is also the home of the Mall of America, the world’s largest indoor shopping center, home to hundreds of stores and restaurants. Camp Snoopy, an indoor amusement park, is the center attraction of the Mall of America. It was built on the site of the Twins’ former home, Metropolitan Stadium. To commemorate Metropolitan Stadium, a bronze home plate is located inside Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy is also host to a lone outfield seat mounted high above the Log Chute water ride, some 534 feet from home plate. This seat is in honor of Twins Hall of Fame great Harmon Killebrew’s team-record longest homer. The Mall of America draws visitors from all over the world. I guess if you’re a shopaholic, the Mall of America is on your Mall Tour. Nothing can blow the Ballpark Tour budget like shopping, so before arriving at the Mall of America, Mike and I promised ourselves not to purchase anything. We spent the day mall-walking before heading out to the ballpark.
I am always in favor of taking public transportation to the ballpark. Minneapolis offers numerous public transportation options, but I suggest taking the Light Rail. Taking public transportation helps me get a better feel for the hometown fans, and in most cases is faster. The Twins were opening a pivotal three-game series with the Cleveland Indians, who were staying at the same Hyatt Regency Hotel Mike and I were. The Twins sat five games back and trailed three teams in the Wild Card race. If the Twins hoped to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, sweeping the Indians was imperative. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire sent veteran Brad Radke to the mound against streaking C.C. Sabathia, who was coming off a perfect 5-0 August for the Tribe. Sabathia dominated the Twins, no-hitting them for 5.2 innings; Twins Shortstop Jason Bartlett broke up the no-no in the sixth. C.C. would finish the night striking out 10 while going 7.1 innings. The Indians offense was paced by Ben Broussard (2-4, HR, 3 RBI) and Grady Sizemore (2-5, HR, 2 RBI). Having not played on Thursday and fighting for their playoff lives, the Twins did not come to the ballpark with any emotion. I came away with the sense that they had quit on the season, allowing their lack of infield production and the loss of perennial Gold Glove Center Fielder Torii Hunter to wear them down. The 6-1 loss put the Twins 6 games behind the Wild Card lead, sending 16,119 in attendance home unhappy.
Although the Metrodome is not in the upper echelon of ballparks, it was the home of the greatest World Series I ever saw. In 1991 the Twins faced the Atlanta Braves, dubbed the “Worst to First” World Series; it produced five last-at-bat victories and two of the greatest World Series games ever played. Going into Game 6, the Braves held a 3-2 lead. My dad and I set the VCR to record what I hoped to be a World Series celebration. Over the next two nights, I learned what it was to be a baseball fan. I was a ten-year-old fourth-grader hanging on every pitch. Twins Hall of Fame Center Fielder Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back in Game 6, hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th off Braves reliever Charlie Liebrandt. It happened 25 years ago, but I can still hear the great Jack Buck’s call, “We’ll see you toooomorrow night!” as Puckett rounded first, pumping his fist in celebration. What followed Game 6 was possibly the greatest pitching performance in World Series history. Twins ace Jack Morris pitched 10 shutout innings to lead the Twins to another World Series victory. To this day, when I think about those moments, I am a kid again. This Ballpark Tour was a very good idea!