Tuesday April 13, 2010
Met Stadium Memories
In honor of the opening of Target Field and the return of outdoor baseball to Minnesota yesterday, here are some of my earliest, slap-dash, Cesar Tovar-like memories of Minnesota's last Major League outdoor stadium, Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn.
- ...signs of all the Major League teams on poles in the voluminous parking lot as a means of finding your car again. “I believe we parked in the Orioles lot,” etc. In the first game I went to, probably age 4 or 5, we parked in the Cleveland Indians lot. That image, for whatever reason, sticks with me, and still feels magical, no matter how politically incorrect. I was also disappointed that we never got to park in the Twins lot because it was on the other (south or east) side of the stadium. We always came from the north. Like good Scandinavians.
- ...going to a game with my grandfather, my father's father, a gentlemanly ship's architect from Denmark, and sitting about 30 rows back from homeplate. This was before they put up the netting to catch foul balls whizzing back and we got our share, including one that bounced off Bedstefar's armrest. My father, brother and I immediately complained that he hadn't caught the ball—he who may never have been to a baseball game in his life—and for much of the rest of the game I mimicked how I would've trapped it, with my lightning quick reflexes, against the armrest. Forgive us, Bedstefar. I wish I could say we knew not what we were doing.
- ...going to a game with my grandmother, my mother's mother, who for 30 years worked at Black & Decker in Finksburg, Maryland, and watching her team, the Baltimore Orioles, pummel my Twins. Don Buford led off the game with a homerun (off Jim Kaat?), and the Orioles won 8-0. Well, it made Grammie happy anyway.
- ...Tony Oliva hitting a ball out of Met Stadium. Records will show this never happened—records will show that the longest homerun hit at Met Stadium was by Harmon Killebrew, 500+ feet, into the upper deck in left field—but I remember it clearly. Watching that white ball rise and rise and finally leave the park altogether. Maybe I was watching a bird.
- ...sitting in the right field bleachers when Tony Oliva tossed a batting practice/fielding practice ball into the stands. For the rest of batting practice/fielding practice, all of the kids shouted “Tony! Tony! Tony!” when the ball came his way. It felt so greedy and declasse, yet resulted from an act of kindness. I couldn't wrap my mind around this seeming contradiction. Plus I wanted a ball myself.
- ... my father catching a foul ball off the A's Sal Bando along the third base/left field side. He was waiting for my brother to come out of the bathroom, the ball sailed over his head, and he played it on a hop off the wall, “like Roberto Clemente,” he said, after returning triumphant to our seats.
- ...Bat Day. With real bats. And finding hundreds of them below the third base/left field bleachers.
- ...Camera Day. Hanging on the warning track and seeing the players up close. It's where this picture comes from. Do they do this anymore?
- ...arriving late to the first game of a doubleheader—and missing seeing Harmon Killebrew hit a grand slam in the 5th inning. Dad!
- ...leaving early during a tie game between the Twins and A's (my father was a classic “beat the traffic” guy), and, on the ride home, hearing George Mitterwald hit a homerun to win it. Dad!
- ...attending “Vida Blue Day” in 1971. I was for seeing the rookie phenomenon but against having a “day” for an opposing player. I was also critical of the buttons they gave you at the gate if you wore blue clothing. Or did you get in for half-price if you wore blue clothing? Either way, this is what was stamped on the buttons: “Roses are red/My clothes were blue/When I was there/To see Vida Blue.” Even at the age of 8, I knew “blue/Blue” was a pretty lousy rhyme.
- ...getting a cold headache from a Frosty Malt on a hot summer day.
- ...Harmon Killebrew hitting two homeruns. Always.