Around again: Old Met's last home plate

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2010 - 9:47 PM

After nearly 29 years, the winner of a piece of Twins history reclaimed it from a friend. Now he says he may put it up for sale.

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Now: Bill Schnobrich has reclaimed the artifact from the old Met Stadium.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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Be it ever some humble, there's no base like home -- especially when you're talking about the last home plate used at the old Metropolitan Stadium. A Bible teacher from Southern California reclaimed that long-forgotten piece of Minnesota baseball memorabilia this week.

Nearly 30 years ago, 18-year-old part-time peanut vendor Bill Schnobrich ditched classes at Normandale Community College to attend the Twins last pre-Metrodome game at the old Met. After watching the 5-2 loss to Kansas City, Schnobrich was standing on the first-base dugout as team officials raffled off first, second and third base.

"I was telling my buddy how terrible it would be if some lady from North Dakota attending her first game won home plate," recalled Schnobrich, now 47.

When he looked down at his ticket stub, he realized that he'd won home plate.

"Someone told me to hold it over my head, and that's the picture everyone used," he said.

The rubber plate, signed on its wooden backside by the grounds crew, was used for a grand total of one game -- on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 1981. U.L. Washington of the Royals was the last player to score when he stepped on the plate for the fifth run in the top of the fourth inning.

The regular Met Stadium home plate had been stolen after the penultimate game that Tuesday night, and its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Schnobrich's treasure spent 20 years at his parents' house in Bloomington, about a 15-minute drive from the ballpark where the Mall of America now sprawls. He sold peanuts and pop for his first job at the old Met. "The place was a home away from home for us," he said.

When his folks died, an old pal, Mike Vermeulen, held on to it. Mike's brother, Bobby, attended that last game with Schnobrich. Along with his wife, Blanca, and kids -- 12-year-old Selby and 9-year-old Felix -- Schnobrich returned this week from their home in Sylmar, Calif., for an annual summer trip to Minnesota. They fished up near Lake Mille Lacs and took in Tuesday night's victory over the Tigers at Target Field.

Schnobrich figured it was as good a time as any to regain his booty; so he met up with Mike Vermeulen.

"He was bummed to part with it and said he wouldn't mind keeping it," he said.

The plate will now go to Mound and the basement of Schnobrich's brother, Rick, who has a collection of Minnesota sports souvenirs.

Schnobrich is willing to sell it and would prefer it going to the Twins -- so it could be displayed at Target Field -- instead of to a private buyer. "I have no idea what it's worth," he conceded.

Clyde Doepner, the curator of Twins memorabilia at Target Field, said he has the pitching rubber from the last game at the Met and the wooden base to which Schnobrich's plate was mounted. He guesses it's worth $300 to $500.

"It's like beauty; it's in the eye of the beholder," Doepner said. "It's really hard to put a price on because I don't know if people would fight for it if it were in a flat-out open auction."

"It's certainly a one-of-a-kind item, and we'd love to have it and I'd love to see it," Doepner said. "One of my goals in life is to be fair; so we'll see what we can arrange."

News researcher John Wareham contributed to this report. Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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