December 31, 2013

The ‘homerdome’ is going, going, gone

The state of Minnesota and the sporting world said goodbye to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on Sunday, the often ridiculed dome with the air-supported roof hosting an NFL game (the Minnesota Vikings actually won) for the last time before it is demolished to make way for a new home for the Vikings.

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

The Metrodome opened in 1982, costing all of $55 million to build, compared to more than $1 billion for the recently completed stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

The dome replaced Metropolitan Stadium (but not on the same site), and was home to the Minnesota Twins through 2009. The Twins moved into Target Field for the 2010 season.

I think the Metrodome largely was viewed as a suitable venue for football, a place where the football team and fans could escape the winter weather outside. 
The consensus for baseball, though, is that it was a disaster, featuring poor sight lines; strange, bouncy turf; an odd arrangement in right field (home to the “baggie”); and a dome ceiling that just happened to be the same color as a baseball, which became a nightmare for any visiting team hoping to turn routine pop-ups into quick outs. That didn’t always happen. 
Baseballs also sometimes hit the dome ceiling or a dangling speaker, causing even more problems.

A ball hit off the “baggie” was an extra-base hit; over it a home run.

And that strange, bouncy turf meant players usually had to run and jump to snare one-bounce singles hit to the outfield, or the Twins occasionally used it to their advantage, with batters driving balls into the turf in front of home plate so that the batter could get to first while the infielder waited for the ball to fall to earth.

But as strange as it was for baseball, the Metrodome, or Homer Dome, or House of Horrors, still was the setting for some incredible baseball games.

One of the last games played there happened to be a one-game playoff — game No. 163 of the 2009 season — between the Twins and Detroit Tigers to determine who would win the division and advance to the real playoffs. Sports Illustrated voted it the best regular-season game of the decade.

Carlos Gomez scored the winning run against the Tigers in 2009.

The Twins eventually would prevail in 12 innings, beating the Tigers 6-5. The Tigers, meanwhile, would become the first team in Major League Baseball history to lose the division with a three-game lead with four games to play. Both teams finished the year tied at 86-76.

The dome also hosted game six and game seven of the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Atlanta Braves, a series that has been called one of the best in the history of baseball, if not the best. ESPN selected it as the greatest of all time.

Game six will forever be remembered as the one that ended in extra-innings after Kirby Puckett homered off Charlie Leibrandt to force game seven.

And game seven will go down in the history books as one of the best game sevens in World Series history, if not — once again — the best game seven.

That game featured a herculean effort from Twins pitcher Jack Morris, who threw 126 pitches over 10 innings to shutout the Braves and win the game, 1-0, and the series, 4-3.

And they say Morris doesn’t belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Please.

Here’s how it all went down:

–Rolf Boone

Photo credit: Metrodome, via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Baggie, via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Carlos Gomez, via Wikipedia

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.