Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Fog of Memory

("The Catch" with Dan Gladden in pursuit in case Kirby missed. Kirby didn't miss.)

It's always interesting how memory can soften over the years. Or maybe we become more nostalgic and the annoying bits melt away leaving only the important touchstones.

In a day of bone-idle laziness and sloth, I was watching the Twins-Royals game--after the all the big horse races were done, of course--and noticed many signs professing love of a sort of the Metrodome. The Humpty-Dumpty Dome, The Hefty Bag...yes, THAT Metrodome. The oft-derided and heckled air-bag that has been a boon to the Twins thanks to the difficulties posed by it's ceiling.

When things are coming to an end, I suppose it's good to look back over the highlights and great moments. Knock wood and cross fingers...there will be a few more games for the Twins this season at The Dome, but if not, then their last game will be tomorrow, Sunday, 4 October. The Gophers moved to their new on-campus stadium this season (and it looks utterly fantastic) so the Vikings will be the sole occupants, henceforth, of the re-named Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. (The irony, of course, is that the Metrodome replaced Old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington which was razed and replaced by....The Mall of America.)Yeah, try saying that five times quickly...

At any rate, I do find it midly amusing that people will now "miss" The Dome. I'm pretty sure that what they will really be missing are the great memories of Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, and Danny "Gladrags" Gladden. They'll think back on Kent Hrbek pulling Ron Gant's leg off of 1st base in a World Series game against the Atlanta. Fans will discuss how "Puck" was introduced...(Kirrrrrbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Puuuuucketttttttttttt--sometimes it sounded more like 'dirty bucket') and the decibel level when The Dome was rocking during any of the home playoff games. The heroics of Jack Morris and his 10 inning marathon pitching victory in 1991's 7th game--they'll be thinking back on that. But they won't miss indoor, climate controlled, stale-air baseball on sunny summer afternoons. It will be chilly (and perhaps snowy, even) for Opening Day more often than not, and it will be cold to watch (especially if the Twins are losing) in September and October. But that's half the fun. Baseball is meant to be watched outside, as is football (sorry, Vikings.) Besides, Minnesotans are generally a pretty hearty lot.

The man in my life likes to say that the Twins will never win another World Series once they move to Target Field next year. He thinks The Dome was their secret (or not so secret) weapon. To those of his mindset, it's not hard to figure out why the Twins won all their home playoff games during their 1987 and 1991 campaigns--the bounce of the ball on astroturf, the field dimensions, and the tendency of the ball to become easily lost from view of the fielders in the white teflon ceiling and unfriendly lights. That's the technical answer to "Dome field advantage." But the rest of the answer is just as much part of the equation...fundamentals and fans. The Twins, regardless of what you wish to say about the spending habits of their front office, play fundamentally strong baseball--small ball. They are scrappy and they play every hit with the same intensity. And the fans, well, every team has a fan advantage at some point, but get 55,000 screaming Minnesotans into an enclosed space and the din is deafening, literally. Those two Fs will not change--though the noise will disperse differently--in the new stadium.

I've got happy memories from School Patrol sponsored trips to the Old Metropolitan Stadium to see the Twins back when they played in those hideous light blue uniforms. And I have mixed memories from the Metrodome--but the lesser ones are generally football, not baseball, related.

Regardless of the outcome of this season, the Twins faithful will be packing up all their fond memories from the Old Met and the Metrodome and schlepping them to Target Field for Opening Day, 2010. They'll reminisce about the old days--good and bad--but I don't think anyone will be pining for the stuffy confines of The Dome.

A rousing chorus of the Twins victory song, and a little thought for the joyous spirit that was Kirby Puckett as the 2009 season winds down...I hope he'll be one of the "friendly ghosts" that will inhabit the Twins new home.

We're gonna win Twins, we're gonna score!
We're gonna wins Twins, watch that baseball soar!
Knock out a home-run, shout a hip-hooray!
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!

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