Closing of the Metrodome: A lot of great Twins memories
Note: This is the first in a 10-part series on the
closing of the Metrodome.
MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t a baseball stadium, but they
played baseball there anyway.
No, nothing about the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome screamed
baseball. The artificial turf didn’t fool anyone for real grass. The plexiglass
wall in left field and the baggie in right were certainly unorthodox. And then
there was that iconic Teflon roof, the same dingy white color as the baseball
that was hit and caught underneath it, that indicated that this building was
not designed for baseball. The locker rooms were small and cramped, and the
workout facilities were virtually nonexistent.
Yet for 28 years, the Minnesota Twins called the Dome their
home — and they made plenty of great memories under that roof during that
This was where the organization’s two World Series titles
were won in 1987 and 1991, and where many more division titles were later
claimed. It’s where a generation of Twins fans watched baseball. This is where
the late Kirby Puckett cemented his legacy and where two of the five no-hitters
in Twins history were thrown. Three different Hall of Famers — Dave Winfield,
Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. — collected their 3,000th hits in the Dome.
And of course, it was also where those ubiquitous white Homer Hankies were
waved by thousands of screaming fans who created a real Dome-field advantage.
In a matter of a few weeks, though, the Metrodome will be
torn down to make way for a new football stadium. The site of so many great
moments in Twins history will soon be gone.
“It was a lot of good memories for me,” said
former manager Tom Kelly, who led Minnesota to those two World Series titles.
“I’m going to miss it.”
Ask any Twins fan what his or her favorite memory from the
Metrodome was and you’ll hear a variety of answers. The same goes for those who
played for Minnesota at the Dome. While there were plenty of lows through the
years and a number of drawbacks to playing there, the Twins also experienced
the highest of highs in that building.
None were greater, of course, than the pair of World Series
championships that concluded at the Metrodome in 1987 and 1991. Before the
Twins ever began the 1987 World Series, though, another unforgettable moment
After beating Detroit on the road to claim the American
League for its first trip to the World Series since 1965, Minnesota flew home
to the Twin Cities. As the exhausted Twins looked forward to getting home and
resting, a pit stop at the Dome was first scheduled.
Kent Hrbek, a Minnesota native and the team’s first baseman,
recalls initially hearing a report that around 5,000 fans were waiting to greet
the team at the Metrodome. That number soon grew to 10,000. By the time the
Twins arrived at the Dome via a police escort, the building was almost entirely
full of 60,000 adoring fans.
“It pretty much tugged at your heart when you walked in
that door,” Hrbek said. “There were a lot of tears shed.”
Those tears were shed by players and fans alike as the Twins
were on their way to their first World Series in more than 20 years. The pure
emotion of that night still sticks with those who witnessed it first-hand.
“The night that we came back from Detroit and greeted
60,000 people at 10:30 on a Monday night still stands as one of my all-time
favorite moments,” said Tim Laudner, the catcher on that 1987 team.
“To be greeted by a crowd like that, to show their appreciation and
affection for 25-plus guys that gave the Minnesota Twins an opportunity to
participate in a World Series, that night was unbelievably special. … The
emotion that you saw on those players’ faces that night was truly
For some, that night was almost more memorable than the
World Series itself, which the Twins won in seven games by defeating the St.
Louis Cardinals. Each team won all of its home games, with Minnesota having
home-field advantage in the series. Few of the games were particularly close —
the Twins won Game 1 by a 10-1 final and forced a Game 7 with an 11-5 win at
the Dome — but the 4-2 victory that sealed the franchise’s first World Series
title was still a special one. Players such as Dan Gladden and Greg Gagne and
Kirby Puckett and Frank Viola and Hrbek and Laudner combined to finally bring
Minnesota its first baseball championship.
Four years later, many of those same names were on the Twins
team that once again were crowned the champions of baseball in what has stood
the test of time as one of the more entertaining World Series in the game’s
history. It was Puckett who provided the Game 6 heroics, robbing Atlanta’s Ron
Gant of an extra-base hit by leaping up in front of that infamous plexiglass
wall in left-center field.
Later in that game, Puckett delivered a walk-off winner in
the bottom of the 11th inning to send it to a Game 7. As Puckett’s solo homer
landed in a blue plastic seat in left field — a seat which is still painted
gold in honor of that moment — TV announcer Jack Buck recited his famous line
that will forever be associated with Puckett and that Game 6: “And we’ll see
you tomorrow night.”
The night Buck referenced turned into one of the all-time
great World Series games. Jack Morris dazzled on the mound for the Twins,
pitching a shutout as Minnesota pinch-hitter Gene Larkin drove in Dan Gladden
for the lone run of the game to give the Twins their second World Series title
in five years.
During both World Series, the Metrodome was rocking and
became one of the loudest stadiums in baseball. Opponents often dreaded playing
at the Dome, and some even wore ear plugs to combat the deafening roars of the
“People were intimidated when they came in to play us
in that building,” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who spent the
better part of two decades at the Dome. “Sometimes it was because of our
talent, and sometimes it was because of the fans, sometimes it was because of
the roof, the fast turf, the baggy in right field. It was an intimidating place
for visitors to come. … Whatever you think of the Metrodome, it served the
During an otherwise nondescript game on May 4, 1984, one of
the most quirky moments in Metrodome history took place when the Twins hosted
the Oakland Athletics. To this day, what happened in the fourth inning of that
game epitomizes the strange nature of playing baseball indoors.
Oakland designated hitter Dave Kingman came to bat with two
outs and the bases empty. As Viola delivered a pitch toward home plate, Kingman
hit a towering fly ball — and it never came down.
The ball found its way into a hole in the Teflon roof and
stayed up there. Everyone on the field was confused, including the umpires, who
awarded Kingman with a ground-rule double. Twins players had seen fly balls
graze the roof or hit off the bulky speakers that hung from it, but this was a
“When it finally did happen, everybody looked at each
other and said, ‘Well, we knew it was going to happen sooner or later,’ and it
finally did,” Hrbek said. “It was pretty wild.”
That same off-white roof would give trouble to many a
fielder throughout the Twins’ 28 years at the Dome. Depending on the time of
day and the amount of sunlight, a routine fly ball easily turned into an
outfielder’s worst nightmare as they scrambled to try to find the ball amid a
background of a similar color.
When a ball was lost in the roof and came crashing back down
to earth, it would often bounce high off the rock-hard Astroturf. What would
have been a fly ball out in most parks became what could only be coined as a
It was one of the distinct home-field advantages of playing
at the Metrodome as opponents had to familiarize themselves with locating
baseballs in the Teflon roof. Kelly couldn’t even begin to tally up the number
of fly balls lost in the roof during his years as a coach and later as a
“That’s probably impossible,” he said. “There
would probably be one a series you would see. … You had to be careful out
there. We just implored out guys not to try to take your eye off the ball.
Sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do.”
The Twins finally said goodbye to the Metrodome after the
2009 season, during which they won another American League Central title by
playing possibly the most memorable regular-season game in the Dome’s history.
Minnesota and Detroit battled for 12 innings before a sliding Carlos Gomez
scored the winning run in a one-game tiebreaker to determine the division
Not long after that game, the Twins played — and lost —
their last-ever game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, falling to the New
York Yankees to end the American League Division Series. After the game, the
home plate was dug up, closer Joe Nathan saved some dirt from the pitcher’s
mound, and the Twins said their final goodbyes to the odd yet lovable
In 2010, Minnesota move to Target Field, a beautiful outdoor
ballpark downtown Minneapolis that bears zero resemblance to the Metrodome. The
new stadium was long overdue, as the team couldn’t generate the type of revenue
at the outdated Dome that it now does at Target Field. That move from one park
to another was bittersweet in some ways, yet few — if any — complained about
leaving the Metrodome behind for a shiny new park.
Now in just a few short weeks, the Metrodome will be
demolished and gone forever. The Twins haven’t called it home for four years,
but the thought of losing their unique stadium forever won’t be an easy pill to
“My daughter won’t be able to drive by the place and
say, ‘There’s the Dome where grandpa played.’ It’s going to be a weird
deal,” Hrbek said. “My house I’m living in, my car I’m driving and
the clothes I’m wearing is because of getting to play baseball at the Dome.
“It’s pretty much everything to me. It’s going to be a
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