The Twins are counting down the top Metrodome memories in this, their final season playing there. I have mine, too.
Sometime in the mid-’70s, the Twins began piping in John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” between innings. That’s about the closest Twins owner Calvin Griffith got to rockin’ Met Stadium. Otherwise, Ronnie Newman’s organ provided the musical interludes.
So when I made my first trip to the Metrodome in 1982, I wasn’t quite ready to hear “Sgt. Pepper” at a baseball game. Yet, I will always remember how my first view of Metrodome’s playing field was oddly in sync with the music.
I arrived during pregame batting practice. As I walked to my seat through the concourse, “A Day in the Life” blasted out, the Beatles’ vocals doing battle with the Dome’s rumbling and echoing acoustics.
‘I went into a dream’
I heard “Someone spoke and I went into a dream,” and then came the Beatles’ spiraling “ahhh” as I walked up the stairs that led to the field and my seat. And just as I looked at that garish, carpeted diamond below me, I heard the thunderous, discordant, crashing “bamm!” that ends the song.
And that was exactly my reaction at seeing the Metrodome playing field: just a big crash landing — made worse because I knew I would have to live with it.
That first game left other indelible impressions.
I looked at the roof and was incredulous. The ball is white; how could the ceiling be white, too? How were outfielders supposed to follow a white ball against a white background? I was convinced Major League Baseball would step in and do something because the integrity of the game was at stake. But they didn’t, and many pop-ups became lost-in-the-roof doubles.
One panoramic view of the Dome configuration revealed the obvious: This was a football stadium, plain and simple. What also soon became obvious was that watching a game of baseball in the shiny, new blue seats would be less than ideal.
I sat in section 135 that day, down left field line. Someone once said that driving through Iowa required a soft seat and a distant gaze. The hard seats in section 135 certainly required a distant gaze — and also a swiveled neck to see home plate. I soon discovered that the Dome’s 29 seat rows required the squatting and standing agility of a catcher as row-mates made their way to concession stands and restrooms.
The din of the Dome
I was also struck by the din of the place. The Metrodome was noisy, but the noise often wasn’t connected with baseball. More often it was a hot-dog or hardware-store commercial. And once the game started, it was as if cheering was only possible if a scoreboard nanny orchestrated it. Animated hands from the scoreboard clapped together with a caption beseeching fans to make Noise! Noise! Noise! Again I thought of the old Met, and how bat day crowds needed no such prompting to pound the second deck railings.
It was a long, discouraging day. And there was one final indelible imprint. I remember being sucked out the revolving door — a big whoosh pressuring my ear drums.
I did go back for a few more games that year, but the game-day experience didn’t improve. Security was overly protective of the new digs. It was not uncommon at the old Met to take off your shirt, kick up your feet up and take it all in. Nobody wants to go shirtless at an indoor event, of course, but I needed to do something to cool off because the lack of air-conditioning made the Dome feel like an old farmhouse attic on a summer day.
But modifying attire to cool down was allowed only to go so far. One night as I walked in the outfield concourse, I was admonished by an usher to “button up that shirt.” Getting comfortable could only go so far too. One friend one was chastised for putting his feet on an empty seat in front of him. “Get your feet off the furniture,” he was told.
A few improvements
As the seasons passed, I tried to make the best of it. The Dome improved, in as much as it could. The ceiling became grayish and fewer fly balls get lost in the roof. I found security and ushers to be polite folk who did their job in a friendly and accommodating way. Air conditioning was put in. The ground rule doubles that hopped like a kangaroo over the short fences were cut down when a “wall” was put in right field.
Venerable Twins announcer Herb Carneal referred to it as the “baggie,” trying his best, no doubt, to give it a Fenway Park “Green Monster”-like moniker. He tried to make the best of it, too.
So I continued attending games as the seasons progressed. While walking to an April game as icy winds and snow whipped my face, I was cognizant that at the Dome the game would at least be played. It was a horrible place to play baseball, but it was where the Twins did play baseball. That being the case, why shouldn’t the noise, the ceiling, the artificial carpet, the baggie, the Dome writ large, help them win?
And the baseball was played by major leaguers. That’s probably why I never embraced the St. Paul Saints the way other outdoor baseball fans did. It was certainly true that many times the Twins played a brand of baseball worthy of Midway stadium. But I routinely saw plays that only major-league ballplayers were capable of making. The difference between the kind of baseball played at the Metrodome and Midway was just too great to make me switch.
But what a price to pay for watching major-league baseball. And so when I get swooshed out of the Dome for the last time by the aggressive revolving doors, I won’t look back. I’ll look downtown toward the new park and count down the months.
Bamm!!!! The Beatles had the Metrodome right.
Richard Mensing lives in St. Paul.