The Bald Truth
Though I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the place, few will mourn the demise of baseball at the Metrodome.
In a recent Sports Illustrated poll, the Twins' soon-to-be-former home was the only ballpark that not a single player chose as his favorite. Billy Martin famously called it "a Chinese ping-pong palace" ... and feeling that didn't adequately capture his distate for the joint, "a bleeping Little League park."
Players hate the white ceiling that makes pop-ups disappear, the Hefty bag that swallows right-fielders whole, the bouncy artificial turf, the speakers that deflect outfield flys and the total lack of charm. Target Field, the new outdoor facility the Twins will move into for next season's opener, promises to feel more like a ballpark and less like a puffy airplane hangar.
Mike Ditka used to call it the "Rollerdome," and said it was more fit for livestock shows than sports. While the Vikings also want a new stadium, the Metrodome actually is a decent football theater. For baseball, though, most seats are angled so poorly it's hard to follow the game.
Having said all that, I'll mostly remember the Dome fondly - and not just because it was an easy place at which to work (a private staircase leads directly from the press box to the clubhouse).
As the Minneapolis AP hack from 1985-94, I witnessed two World Series (the Twins went 8-0 at home and 0-6 on the road), Dave Winfield's 3,000th hit and Scott Erickson's no-hitter.
I saw dozens of amazing plays and huge home runs by the likes of Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek. It was a hitter's park, but that didn't stop Frank Viola and Jack Morris from dominating on the mound; I was the Minnesota BBWAA chairman the year after Viola won the Cy Young and got to present him the award during a pregame ceremony.
I was there the time a severe windstorm tore a hole in the roof and was there many, many times when fans raised the roof cheering their heroes.
I've been in this business for three decades and I've never been in a louder arena than the Metrodome after Hrbek's Game 6 grand slam assured there would be a seventh game in the 1987 World Series. Of course, Puckett's amazing catch and subsequent homer in Game 6 of the '91 Series came close.
The Twins will miss having one of the best home-field advantages in all of sports. It was more than the noise factor, as significant as that was. It also was the quirkiness of the place. The Twins knew all the angles; their overwhelmed opponents ... not so much.
Fans will love the new ballpark, but I doubt they'll love having games rained - and snowed! - out. As long as they were committing zillions of dollars to Target Field anyway, why didn't the movers and shakers pony up the extra bucks necessary to give it a retractable roof?
Mostly, shame on skinflint Carl Pohlad, the team's late owner who also happened to be one of the richest men in the universe. Apparently, he must have thought he really could take it all with him.
For 28 years, the Metrodome truly has been a dump of a baseball facility. But the team would have left for Florida or some other sunny state long ago had the place not been built.
Maybe Minnesotans will remember that come next April, when they're sitting at the new ballpark and brushing the snow off of their parkas.
Here's the third paragraph of the cubs.com story after the Lovable Losers officially were eliminated from the wild-card race a couple days ago:
"It's now 102 years and counting for the Cubs."
Hear that, Cubbieland? Don't bother showing up next season, either!
THE BALDEST TRUTH
Chris Carpenter not only pitched five shutout innings for the Cardinals on Friday, he also hit a grand slam and a two-run double.
Kind of reminded me of one of Milton Bradley's better months.