Goodbye to the 'Dome

After 27 seasons, the Twins will leave the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this fall.

Like when the New York Mets escaped antiquated Shea Stadium last year, I don’t think too many will be shedding tears.

I won’t.

On Monday night, I made my last trip to see the Twins in the ‘Dome, a 4-1 win over the hated White Sox in what turned out to be the last game for Jim Thome and Jose Contreras in a Chicago uniform.

But the game itself meant little to me.

The stadium at 5th and Chicago wasn’t a warm place – the age of retro ballparks was still about a decade off. With a turf that made baseballs bounce like Superballs and a right-field ‘fence’ better suited for wrapping sandwiches, it seemed more like something from a video game, bastardization for the purists.

My first trip to the ‘Dome was in the spring of 1986 when I helped move the contents of a dental office from Brooklyn, N.Y. to St. Paul - the start of a decade-long on-again, off-again love affair with the Cities.

Sitting in the upper deck of the outfield, I watched a stout fire hydrant of a center fielder somehow catch balls he had no business getting. I also remember the three drunk college kids from NoDak sitting behind us calling out repeatedly for ‘Fong’ – former Twins second baseman Rob Wilfong, then with the California Angels.

In 1987, following nine weeks of summer courses at Queens College to ***ahem*** make up for lost time (let’s go with that, OK?) I took a vacation by driving to take in a four-game set with Seattle.

Aug. 14 – Bert Blyleven scatters six hits over eight innings, Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner homer in a 6-2 win.

Aug. 15 – Twins score eight in the first off Lee Guetterman and Mike Brown, take an 11-0 lead after two en route to a 14-4 rout.

Aug. 16 – Gary Gaetti has two hits and two RBIs for the third straight game to back Frank Viola’s five-hit effort over eight innings of a 5-1 win.

Aug. 17 – Gaetti adds two more hits, Minnesota scores three in the first off Mark Langston, and cruises to a 4-2 triumph.

I will say this for the ‘Dome: It’s loud, and after years of battering my ears with thrash, speed, cheese and just plain ol’ bad metal, loud is not necessarily bad.

But that’s about the only positive thing it had going on.

Now, that’s not to say it was the worst baseball stadium I have ever been in. As bad as Shea was, that wasn’t it either. That honor now, and for all times, will belong to ‘Stade Olympique’ en Montreal.

Monolith comes to mind. And that blue tarp covering the hole in the roof only added to the fishbowl effect.

The ‘Dome had its own peculiarities, though. When I first saw it from Interstate 94, the first image that went through my mind was fast food.

Wendy’s used to have a burger called the Big Classic, but instead of being served in a wrapper, it came in a Styrofoam-like box. Looked a helluva lot like the ballpark to me.

Outdoor aesthetics aside, there was the baggie in right field.

Outfield walls should be just that – a wall. Bricks. Mortar. Plywood, at least. This looked like Mr. Fantastic was put in place and told to do his thing.

And the havoc that baggie used to create. Was it a homer? No? WTF? Also, God help a rookie outfielder track down fly balls against that ceiling, worse if those hankies were being waved.

No feature was more reviled, though, than that turf.

Watching that series against the Mariners, I had a bird’s-eye view of bats swung like pinball flippers, and the ball – not sure if this is possible from a physics standpoint – actually appear to gain speed off that infield hop on the Astroturf, sometimes getting past outfielders to turn a single into a triple.

Prior to paying my last respects, I saw my last game in the ‘Dome in July 2006. Johan Santana against CC Sabathia, then the staff ace in Cleveland and now with the Mets and Yankees, respectively.

Sabathia pitched a 13-hitter – yep, went the distance – struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. Santana, who also fanned seven and failed to issue a walk, but gave up five hits over seven in the 6-2 win.

Now, it’s all about the countdown and Target Field, starry nights and grass-stained uniforms.

Not to mention those early April home games at night when the temperature hovers around freezing.

See ya there in 2010.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I couldn't agree more. I have seen a few games there this year including Scott Baker's gem a few days or so ago, when the Twins had a walk off hit in the bottom of the 9th, similar to last night, and I am looking forward to seeing them outdoors. Unfortunately, the Vikings will still stink up the place for a few years to come. It is not ready to be imploded. Nice reference to our drive from New York.