Twin Cities radio personality and St. Paul columnist Joe Soucheray worked at the Star Tribune when the Metrodome opened. Here is his column from the first baseball game played there.
Running all out, clutching my hat to my head and pumping wildly with my free arm, I still couldn’t catch the Metrodome Bandwagon. It braked to a stop outside the Metrodome on Tuesday evening and unloaded 52,279 partygoers who can claim the distinction of being able to see a baseball game in Minneapolis while similar contests were snowed out in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia.
Through the revolving portals they rushed, into the cozy tent that features among its curiosities — new ones crop up with every visit — the tin jazz of Jim Tolck’s Little Big Band. Tolck’s wandering minstrels performed at the old Met. They perform in the Metrodome as well, showing up here and there in the stands between innings, their leader identified by a Greek fisherman’s cap. Occasionally they have been able to coax the audience into swaying.
But among the thousands of human mysteries that are beyond me is why we still have Jim Tolck’s Little Big Band when the Metrodome has been equipped with the most thunderingly efficient sound system of any stadium in the universe. Tolck is a fine fellow and he has brought music of a sort to the ball yards, past and present, but why not show off the new gear and perhaps limit the Little Big Band to a serenade or two in the outer concourses?
It’s merely a suggestion, offered in good faith. Another might be for Calvin Griffith to give the public addressman, Bob Casey, a long-term contract. Last night it was Casey who made an announcement after someone had thrown a cherry bomb onto the field in the eighth inning.
“That was not too smart,” Casey said, for it seemed to be a crowd that needed to be told as much, foggy and winded from too many months of back slapping.
I’m trying, I really am. A gentleman I admire and trust has warned me to broaden my perspective regarding the covered baseball and football facility lest I come off as generically sour.
“You do not want that, do you?” said the man I admire and trust.
“Why, no, I don’t,” I said, checking my palms for hair. “I’m happy about many things and plan to move along to them when the Dome opening exhausts itself.”
“Go get ’em,” said the man I admire and trust.
As I mentioned, I have been trying to catch the Metrodome Bandwagon, that careening and horn-honking contraption that seems to be powered by blasts of hot air. A good civic steam it is. You see it everywhere, even in the cafeteria of this newspaper, where yesterday noon, in honor of Opening Night, the food handlers wore baseball caps and hung bunting above the salad bar. There was a popcorn popper up there, too, but the tune it played suffered from a weak battery.
Deeper into downtown yesterday afternoon I encountered a solitary and elderly woman holding a Twins pennant, she too apparently looking for the Bandwagon. But I did not see much of anything or anyone, to tell the truth, as I had my head down, trying to keep warm.
Wait. A clamoring in the distance, I thought I heard, a tinkling of bells and a screech.
“Stop,” I shouted. “Wait for me.”
Even if the Metrodome Bandwagon should have suddenly stopped and allowed me to catch it — at a saloon to take aboard revelers, or at a crossing for pedestrians — I doubt that its pilots would let me climb on. Like a bully driver tantalizing a hitchhiker, the Bandwagon might have pulled away just as I drew near.
“I am happy about many things,” I have shouted within earshot of the Bandwagon. But they were blowing party horns and laughing uproariously and springing corks on champagne bottles. They could not hear me.
“I mourn for the Grand Old Game is all,” I have shouted as the Bandwagon steamed off down the urban streets. “It’s your concept I challenge. Hear my small voice. You don’t have room on that Bandwagon for a challenge to concept?”
I could throw Walt Whitman at them, I suppose, or the Constitution. Better, I could tell them about a telephone call that came for me yesterday afternoon in the hours before Pearl Bailey rang out the national anthem. She received the only sustained applause of last night’s festivities, not counting Gary Gaetti.
“Hello,” I said, “you are speaking with the man who challenges the concept of indoor baseball and believes that it will not work in Minnesota in the summertime. Not the domed stadium itself, mind you, for it is a tribute to laborers and architects everywhere. For that matter, it’s a tribute to the space program, considering that the roof is made of Teflon.”
“My name is George Chapple,” said the voice on the other end. “I’m 35 and employed at Gelco Leasing. I just wanted to say that there never will be a nice day for a ballgame again.”
“George,” I said, “I will steal that line.”
“Take it!” George said.
“George,” I said, “am I generically sour?”
“No,” George said. “Challenge the concept.”
There are at least two of us, myself and George Chapple, he out at Gelco Leasing. Are there hundreds more? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We are running as fast as we can, all of us, and we cannot catch the Bandwagon, or it will not stop, if there is a distinction.