One man’s Twins museum at crossroads due to Metrodome’s pending demolition
MINNEAPOLIS — The things Ray Crump has seen in his 77 years on this earth could fill a museum. And, as it turns out, they do.
Dome Souvenirs Plus is less than a Kirby Puckett home run away from the soon-to-be-demolished Metrodome, the former home of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. In the shadows of the Dome rests Crump’s personal collection of baseball memorabilia he gathered during his years as an employee for the Washington Senators and then the Twins when the team moved to Minnesota in 1961.
Since 1986, Crump has housed his keepsakes in a museum within his merchandise store across the street from the Metrodome. But with the stadium soon to be torn down in place of a new Vikings stadium, Dome Souvenirs Plus — and, along with it, Crump’s museum — may need to find a new home. Business has slowed since the Twins left the Dome for Target Field in 2010. With the Vikings scheduled to spend the next two years at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, business will be slow for the Crump family.
But even if the store changes locations — the family is considering a move to the suburbs — Ray Crump’s museum will likely be preserved.
"It obviously would be smaller, but it’s part of my dad’s legacy," said his son, Ray Crump, Jr. "He grew up with it. A lot of the stuff is pretty interesting."
The stuff is interesting because, well, Crump has led an interesting life. By the time he was just 13 years old, he was hanging around the Washington Senators’ visiting clubhouse as a self-proclaimed "gopher," running various errands for big league ballplayers in exchange for tips. Crump parlayed that into other gigs within the Senators organization, from a ball boy to a bat boy to the visiting clubhouse manager.
When owner Calvin Griffith moved the franchise to Minnesota in 1961, he brought Crump with him and made him a clubhouse manager. He stuck with the team until Griffith sold it in 1984 and collected plenty of baseball items over several decades. Crump also documented his baseball life in a book titled "Beneath the Grandstands," which he dedicated to Griffith.
Nothing in the museum was purchased, a fact Crump is proud of. It was all personally obtained by him during his time with the Senators and the Twins. In the museum — which used to draw Twins fans before games at the Dome through 2009 — visitors can find bats, baseballs, hats, gloves and a smattering of other items used in games. There’s a display of how a baseball glove is made, and another on the production of baseball bats.
One portion of the museum is dedicated to Puckett, perhaps the most popular Twin of all time. There’s also plenty of mementos from Minnesota’s three trips to the World Series in 1965, 1987 and 1991, as well as a collection of bats from All-Star Games.
As visitors walk around to the other side of the modest museum, they’re instantly bombarded by Crump’s personal Wall of Fame. The wood-paneled wall is filled with row after row after row of a smiling Crump alongside some of the biggest celebrities and entertainers of the past 50 years: Jimmy Buffett, Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, and, yes, the Beatles.
"The kids went to ballgames but the mother would be bored to death coming into the store," Crump said. "She didn’t care anything about the baseball museum. So then I had these pictures on the wall in my home and I went down and I put them in there, so now they (appeal) to both people — people who like baseball, people coming in there and (seeing) the pictures."
Crump’s encounter with the Beatles came about when the Fab Four played their only concert in Minnesota at Metropolitan Stadium in 1965.
Instead of hanging out in a hotel surrounded by ravenous fans, the Beatles spent their time before the show in one of the Met’s clubhouses.
Keeping them company was none other than Crump, who posed for photos with each member as they shot the breeze for nearly eight hours.
"They used a jacuzzi for the first time, apparently, according to my dad," said Crump, Jr. "It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t have had that. My dad’s the kind of guy that you can’t discount everything he says, but you also can’t believe everything, either."
Photos of Crump with Willie Nelson, Jay Leno, Hulk Hogan, Liberace and Bill Cosby all grace the walls of the museum. Many of Crump’s other photos with famous people — he estimates he has around 900 — happened because he simply wrote them a letter explaining that he was a fan and asking if he could perhaps meet them at a show or come backstage.
"For whatever reason, they would let him," said his son.
It allowed the Virginia native Crump to rub elbows with the biggest names in entertainment. Most of the encounters took place in Nashville or Las Vegas, but he would also run into celebrities at the now defunct Carlton Celebrity Room in Bloomington, Minn.
This fascination for Crump dates back to the 1950s, when he spent time with a young Mickey Mantle at a movie theater in 1953. It was then that Crump convinced Mantle to give him a bat from the 1953 All-Star Game, which is currently on sale on the store’s website (www.domeplus.com) for a cool $100,000.
The first entertainer Crump ever met was Arthur Godfrey, who gave Crump the number to a room backstage at one of his shows in New York. His passion for meeting and befriending entertainers took off from there.
"Some people have a hobby of golf. Some people have a hobby fishing. Some people have a hobby traveling," Crump said. "My hobby was meeting entertainers."
Crump doesn’t get the opportunity to meet many entertainers these days, and his Twins memorabilia collection hasn’t grown much in recent years, especially since he’s no longer affiliated with the club. Yet, even in 2013, when the Twins played across town at Target Field, the store and museum would still attract visitors. The initial intent of the museum was to give customers something else to do while they waited for the gates to open at the Metrodome.
Now, that same museum provides a snapshot of Minnesota baseball history — and of Crump’s 77 years and counting.
"Every picture on the wall has a story behind it," Crump said. "I’ve had an interesting life."
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