Sunday, September 20, 2009

Farewell to the Metrodome

We bade goodbye to the Metrodome this weekend. The Detroit Tigers series will be our last in this storied venue. The dome is three decades old and spans the life of our marriage. Indeed, we were still newlyweds for the very first exhibition game when Pete Rose got its very first hit. We were seated high in right field with a great view down the foul line.
What a curious place this was, no visible means of support. We spent more time that night trying to figure out how the roof stayed up than watching the Reds.

(Above) Michael Cuddyer laces a homerun to left centerfield. He was the hero this weekend, and gave the Twins the leverage they needed to take two games out of three.

( Photo left) Ryan Kubel added another run on his "dome hit," when a confused Tiger rookie was unable to catch what should have been a routine fly, after he lost it in the lights and the tricky roof, which is the same color as a baseball. "Quirky" is the word favored by kinder pundits when describing the Metrodome.

Engineers were not too sure how to keep the roof up either, apparently. One winter day it simply came down, you may remember, making the front page of about every daily newspaper in the nation, looking like a sad, pooped Pillsbury Doughboy.

We stuck it out and eventually got air-conditioned. Got better seats too, close to Kent Hrbek, so we could laugh at him when he pantomimed the irony of the announcement: "NO SMOKING IN THE METRODOME. NO SMOKING!" Drinking, Yes. Smoking, No, Kent would mock before every game. That was long before the Minnesota Clean Air Act and not allowing smoking still seemed a bit odd.
The audience always clapped appreciatively when Bob Casey announced it. But they really roared when he called out "Kirrrrrrrbeeeeee Puckett" with his distinctive flourish.
We never did attend any tractor pulls, but Stan did attend the Rolling Stones Concert, seated high above the pounding, roaring din, lights strobing and dense smoke billowing up from the glowing red pit; disoriented, we felt as we were looking deep into Hell. During one number, immense anchored canvas puppets throbbed three stories tall while Mick Jagger sang "Jumpin' Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas." And when the bawdy female puppet didn't jump fast enough, Mick ran over and jerked on her rope and the huge blowup doll bobbed in nasty gyrations and the crowd screamed out for more.

Once in a while somebody would score corporate tickets and we'd sit in a little clean booth and watch a ball game. Nice and comfy. Some "suites" boast sliding windows so you can get the "feel" of the game. Another time we sat behind home plate and listened to Sid Hartman coughing and chatting a couple seats over. In 30 years, we never caught a home run or a foul ball and never got Circled by Bert or appeared on the Kiss Cam. We got a free Bobblehead once, but you can't recognize the player.

The best times, of course, were when we watched Game Seven of the World Series in 1987 and then again in 1991. Nobody cared that this was the worst venue in the world to watch baseball. We stayed seated for the duration and were grateful for every minute and the noise was ridiculous and so was the joy in the street. Nobody torched anything and there was no violence, but thousands of emboldened Minnesotans high-fived it down the center of Park Avenue and nearby streets, violating numerous traffic laws. Kathleen still treasures her homer hankies.

But it is a lousy joint, through and through. We attended a few football games there, especially when brother Steve's law firm got tickets behind the Viking bench. We could see spitting and scratching and everything. But the comforts of home with a big screen and good munchies are hard to beat. We quit one boring Vikings game early, climbing down from the cheap seats after just a quarter. Not sure who was ahead by then. Didn't care. It was a beautiful fall day outside, we remember that.

The late Steve Cannon once read a letter from Stan on WCCO Radio. Cannon had been vigorously promoting the sale of Twins tickets and that year the slogan bragged that the Twins would "Keep you on the edge of your seat."

"Dear Mr. Cannon," Stan wrote: "Given the dimensions of a Metrodome seat and its proximity to the next row, it is physically impossible to sit on the edge of it."

Sidekick Morgan Mundane advised Stan to lose some weight, but still lost the argument. Cannon no doubt watched games from relative comfort in the Press Box, where you could actually sit on the edge of a seat. But even that exclusive retreat suffered the occasional sling from a disgruntled reporter.

The sight lines are horrible, as everyone knows. The place simply wasn't designed for baseball. Virtually all seats are "obstructed view" as you rise repeatedly to excuse the full bladders brushing by.

So Farewell to the Metrodome. Call it the Homer Dome, the Hump, Humpty-Dumpty Dome, whatever, we're not going to miss you.

We'll just keep the memories.

Here's Mina and Joe with the trademark Domedogs. We're sure the Domedog will be reincarnated under a new name at Target Field. After all, at $24.00 a pound, it is arguably the most desired cut of beef in the Twin Cities.


Anonymous said...

Stan, I too have memories ... viewing one game in each of the 1987 and 1991 World Series. I did get one baseball, a foul off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle -- the realization of a childhood dream after decades of wishing, hoping ... (My teenage daughter has a half-dozen major league balls, accumulated by batting her eyes at ball boys after games. That's not fair and doesn't count.) Saturday's game was perhaps my last at the Dome as well, and though the Twins won, it ended on a sour note. I was sitting directly in back of the Hormel Hot Dog Row of Fame. Unlike the Dome, I was deflated. However, I did lean forward to get my mug on the Jumbotron when they showed the happy folks with free 'dogs. On second thought, if I DID get a free hot dog, the day may still have ended on a sour note.

Thanks for the memories, Hump.

-- The Ranger

Anonymous said...

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley...a name you said no one uses.

Lorlee said...

My brother Stephen got married in 1987 shortly after the series. Their friends, unbeknownst to them, had a version of the homer hankie printed with their names and the date and surrepticiously put in the pews. So as they turned around and the priest introduced "Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Bartos" -- we all waved our homer hankies.