Off-Topic Tuesday: Metrodome Memories

Posted: March 11, 2014 by Crackin' Wax in Off-Topic Tuesday
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tuesday

In an effort to use the blog as more of a… well… blog… I’ve decided that it’s just fine to talk about other things in my life aside from trading cards. Believe it or not, there’s more to me than my wife and baseball cards. I work. I play. I have other interests. I am also crammed full of opinions and ideas. Are any of them good? Do any of them need to be shared? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, if ever I do feel the need to prattle on about day-to-day silliness, I will do so on Tuesdays.

Not every Tuesday, mind you.

For this inaugural “Off-Topic Tuesday” post, I felt like sharing with you my thoughts on the now destroyed Metrodome. Some may question the validity of such a topic—the Metrodome was only a building, after all. What is now a pile of rubble, however, was once home to some memorable moments in my life.

Metrodome circa 1982 (News Tribune Attic)

I may never forget the very first time I stepped foot inside that dank monstrosity; a paradise for the most easily influenced young fans of their local baseball heroes. At the time, I was vaguely aware of who the Minnesota Twins were. I wasn’t even sure who was on the team in that summer of 1986, but I knew those men roaming the astroturf were larger than life. In comparison, and from my very young point of view, the Metrodome seemed impossibly enormous. Gazing up into its bright white roof, I had never imagined such a large structure. I was in awe. I was in heaven.

I don’t exactly remember the date, but I do know the Twins were hosting the Boston Red Sox in a weekend series. It was the first family trip that I can recall us ever taking. In doing a little research, I believe the dates were Saturday May 31 and Sunday June 1 in 1986. I distinctly remember nearly catching a Don Baylor home run during the Sunday game. The ball hit the tip of my glove as I reached out. I recall being taught who Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and Roger Clemens were. Although the Twins lost both games, I couldn’t have been more excited nor could I have been any happier.

As the years went on in my childhood, my family would make one more trip in 1987 for another set of games and I would earn game tickets with my other schoolmates by participating in flag patrol through 1989. It wasn’t until 2006 that I would make another venture into the dome.

My wife and I lived in Wisconsin from late 2000 through mid-2006, so my knowledge of anything Twins-related was limited to their scare of contraction from the league and having watched them lose the ALCS to the Anaheim Angels in 2002 on live television. I was unaware of their newfound dominance of the AL Central Division. I had never heard of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau or Johan Santana. In 2006, I revisited the Twins and the Metrodome, this time with my wife, as they hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Twins were in the midst of a ridiculously dominating winning streak when the Crew came to town, and I couldn’t wait to see how the new version of the Twins fared. We stepped inside to find our seats and I was taken aback by just how much smaller the stadium had seemed. It’s amazing how time and selective memory effect perception. What was once an impossibly enormous structure seemed much less surreal and much more manageable. Perhaps the memories formed when I was only 4 feet tall didn’t quite meet the expectations of my current 6 foot eye line. Other than that, not much else had changed—it even still smelled the same! After the Twins handed the Brewers an embarrassing defeat of 8-0, we were still even blown out of the building through the revolving doors just like I remembered!

In 2007, I finally got to see my first NFL football game. Having lived near La Crosse, Wisconsin when I was young, I saw plenty of NFL scrimmages when the Saints used to hold their training camps at the UW-L campus, but I had never actually seen a real game. If you don’t know me very well, you might be surprised to learn that I am actually a Green Bay Packers fan, not a Minnesota Vikings fan. With that in mind, I naturally chose the Packers meeting with the Vikes at the dome that year. Boy, did I ever pick the right game. When I bought the tickets that summer, I never would have guessed the game that my wife and I would be attending would be the game in which Brett Favre would break the all-time touchdown passing record. (Below is a video of that touchdown pass from our seats.)

Did you hear the visceral “YEAH!” just after the touchdown? Yeah. That was all me.

The funny thing about that game is how the tickets were sold. In order to even get those very in-demand tickets, which were $75 per seat up in the nosebleeds, you also had to buy tickets to a pre-season game at the dome. Very schemingly clever on their part. How else would they have sold out a Rams v Vikings exhibition game?

Brett Favre and protégé Aaron Rodgers

Brett Favre and protégé Aaron Rodgers

In 2009, my wife and I got to witness the greatest baseball game I have ever been part of. Described by MLB Network as the 16th greatest baseball game ever played, Game 163 on October 6 2009 was (pardon the heavy dose of cliché) a thrilling rollercoaster ride of back-and-forth that stretched into the 12th Inning. I have never in my life heard anything so loud. I have never in my life felt anything so electric. I honestly couldn’t believe I was watching such an epic game unfold right in front of me. It was almost as if they had won the World Series. Yes, we did also attend Game 162—the final scheduled regular season Twins home game at the Metrodome—and we also were at the much less memorable final postseason Twins home game at the dome, but no other moment that I experienced at that building could top Game 163.

There were other interesting and unforgettable moments I experienced there, too. I was able to meet quite a few players, coaches and Hall of Famers at TwinsFests and autograph parties. Getting my wife’s late-grandmother’s Rod Carew home run ball signed at the Metrodome plaza is something I will never forget. Having my wallet snatched out of my back pocket at the dome when I was a kid only to have it returned in the mail to my teacher two weeks later—with the money missing, of course—is also something I will never forget. Walking around on the astroturf when I was a kid during a fan appreciation weekend and being too timid and shy to meet my childhood hero, Kirby Puckett, is something I won’t soon forget.

The distinct aromas, the seat-shaking crowd roars, Bob Casey yelling “noooooooo smoking” and his fantastic plate introduction of “Kirrrrbyyyyy Puckett!” and the air pressure literally blowing you out of the revolving doors as you leave are memories that will forever be exclusive to the Metrodome—at least for me, that is. Kirby Puckett’s series extending home run, Kent Hrbek’s T-Rex Tag and Jack Morris’ 10-inning World Series thriller are memories also exclusive to the Metrodome, even if I wasn’t there in person. These are great identifiers of a building that is no more.

And I’m okay with that. It was a broken-down behind-the-times embodiment of a bygone era. Not only had it become an uncomfortable place to be a spectator or fan, it became dangerous, too. The scare of another collapsed roof might have been the final dagger in its teflon heart and the “need” for better accommodations for the Vikings and their fans was perhaps the final nail in its turf-lined coffin. Having the dome torn down does not make me sad. Instead, I am happy that it was there at all for me to have enjoyed some great moments with my family, my friends, and my wife.

Remains of The Metrodome circa 2014 (TwinCities.com)

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