MINNEAPOLIS – When you see the love this horrific baseball bubble has received the past few weeks . . . well, all that does is remind you how anticlimactic the final seasons of New York’s old ballparks really was.
Because the Metrodome refuses to die.
“What we hope,” Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer said the other day, “is that we get a chance to keep this place as our home a few more days. Nothing against the new place, you understand . . . but we like keeping this place open.”
The part of Twins history attached to the Metrodome was supposed to be over by now, of course, finished, their baseball belongings beginning the long march across town to Target Field. For the longest time, the whole of Minnesota sports was concentrated here, the Vikings and the Twins and even the University of Minnesota football team.
The Golden Gophers were the first to leap, opening up a brand new on-campus home, TCF Bank Stadium, and it seemed the Twins would leave the place to the Vikings by now. They were seven games behind the Tigers with 24 games to play and they had lost two-time MVP Justin Morneau to a season-ending stress fracture. Then they were three back with four to go.
Then three runs down in the one-game play-in with the Tigers.
And a run down in extra innings.
And then late yesterday afternoon, they walked onto the synthetic turf with their season very much back in the balance, with the Yankees possessing a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series, with everyone understanding that this time,there can be no Houdini act for the Twins, no finagling out of the abyss.
“But people have said that before,” second baseman Nick Punto said. “And they were wrong before.”
It is fascinating how stubbornly the Twins refuse to part with this glorious and glorified dump. They have won two World Series here, both times winning Game 7 thanks in no small part to a home-field advantage created by acoustically painful crowd noise. This is where Kirby Puckett made his forever catch, where Jack Morris refused to budge against the Braves, where Frank Viola became known as “Sweet Music.”
So many old Twins came back last weekend for what they thought was going to be a simple postgame farewell last Sunday, the last game of the regular season. Instead, they were part of a raucous gathering watching the present edition of the Twins put the finishing touches on one of the most improbable 11th-hour comebacks in baseball history. Suddenly the old timers and the new guys and thousands of fans seemed ready to lay their bodies down in front of the moving trucks.
And it is all an interesting contrast to how meekly the Yankees and the Mets said goodbye to their homes. The Yankees didn’t even get to keep their good-byes on ice until the final day, because the MLB schedule maker made the last game at Yankee Stadium No. 155 on the schedule, and not 162. And a few days after saying good-bye to the ballpark the Yankees said good-bye to the 2008 baseball season.
The Mets suffered an even worse indignity, their lavish onfield farewell coming a few minutes after they officially had thrown away a postseason berth for the second straight year on the season’s final day. There was nothing at all resembling the last stand the Twins have put on for the Metrodome, by either team last year. When it was time to go, they went.
“There are a lot of great memories in here,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said last week. “And we’re hoping to add a few more before we’re done.” They might have finally run out of supply. But damned if they didn’t give it a hell of a run, right to the end.