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Reusse: Minnesota sports scene poised for a modern-day Golden Era

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • August 24, 2014 - 8:58 AM

The news that the 46-member selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame now has an opportunity to add a Mick Tingelhoff plaque to the walls of Canton was heartening to us old-timers who lived through Minnesota’s infancy as a major league sports ­location.

Tingelhoff was brought forth as the sole nominee of the veterans subcommittee. That means the Vikings’ ironman center gets an up-or-down vote from the full group on the Saturday before the 2015 Super Bowl. The betting is on Mick to get the needed 80 percent.

I was stuck in traffic when I heard the Tingelhoff announcement. Sitting there, contemplating, I decided that the 1960s, the first decade as real big leaguers, was clearly the golden age of sports in Minnesota.

We had heroes in Harmon Killebrew and Tony O. and many other Twins, and there was success. We had heroes with the Vikings, initially with Fran Tarkenton and Boom Boom Brown and such warriors as Tingelhoff and Jim Marshall, and finally success in 1969 … Joe Kapp’s 40-for-60 outfit that remains the most revered team in franchise history.

Throw in Rose Bowl teams at the start of the decade, and Lou Hudson and Archie Clark with Gophers basketball, and the arrival of The Bird and Goldy and the North Stars in 1967 — yup, we’ve never topped the ’60s for sports, around here, not even with those two Twins World Series victories in five seasons.

That was the view on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, I stopped at wonderful Target Field for a clubhouse visit before the matinee game vs. Cleveland. An hour later, I drove down Sixth Street and saw the world’s third-largest crane ready to move hefty construction materials at the new Vikings stadium.

Early Friday morning, I snatched the Star Tribune off the door stoop, perused the cover and went to the sports section.

There was large space devoted to Maya Moore, the newly minted MVP of the WNBA, and her Lynx teammates winning a playoff opener. There were details of the blockbuster three-team trade that the Timberwolves were set to complete with Cleveland and Philadelphia.

There were reports of rookie Kennys Vargas’ big day and Phil Hughes’ stout pitching in the Twins’ upset victory over Cleveland and its ace, Cory Kluber.

There was news of the Gophers getting a commitment from a Georgia high school receiver who was said to be a target of Florida. There was information first reported in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal that the university is taking bids for an academic and dining center to serve athletes — the precursor to football and basketball practice facilities.

I gave myself a “hmmm’’ and reached a new verdict: The Golden Age of Sports in Minnesota was not the 1960s. The Golden Age of Sports in Minnesota starts in 2016.

Timberwolves basketball boss Flip Saunders is providing a jump start with the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins and more for the discontented star, Kevin Love. By October 2016, in a remodeled Target Center, there’s a big chance a ticket buyer would rather have Wiggins as a full-service player than Love.

Next door, it’s never been more popular to bash the Twins, yet in this fourth season of hideous defeat there are hints of a better future with Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and now Vargas. And these were the B prospects … not A, not Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, delayed by injury but in the lineup by Opening Day 2016, probably with J.O. Berrios on the mound.

The Vikings will be in the new dome that August, and if Teddy Bridgewater is the quarterback that crusty old Norv Turner envisions, the Purple could be slaughtering more than migrating birds when that billion-dollar edifice opens.

In St. Paul, the Wild is ready to feast on the great advantage of being a desired destination for NHL standouts …. particularly the henpecked ones married to Minnesota girls.

On campus, Jerry Kill has the feel of the right Gophers coach in the right place (the B division West) finally to do some damage in the Big Ten, and Pitino the Younger is the recruiter to visit the Sweet Sixteen sooner rather than later, if he sticks it out here.

Downtown, Moore is only 25, so the Lynx still will remain a success for several more summers, and there’s another item to make a 2016 launch of the Golden Age of Minnesota sports complete:

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine. Rory McIlroy vs. Rickie Fowler. Let’s do it.

 

preusse@startribune.com

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.

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