There have been 27 baseball seasons contested since the Twins won their first World Series and, apparently, Al Michaels still has the power to hurt our feelings. This week, Michaels claimed there was artificial sound piped into the Metrodome to increase the decibels in support of the Twins in the 1987 Series.
I’m in Fort Myers and had little sense that this was a big deal. My assumption was Michaels wanted to say something interesting during an interview, so when the topic came up of the Atlanta Falcons using artificial sound, he related it to the 1987 World Series and a feeling that thunderous noise in Minneapolis wasn’t 100 percent fan-induced.
I figured that was worth a four-second smile and everyone would go to the next sports topic.
Then, I started getting Tweets and e-mails on Michaels’ comments and saw that it was getting attention on startribune.com. And, I was flipping around on satellite radio and ran across a show on the MLB Network where the hosts were taking Michaels’ claim as fact – and using it as their theme for the day.
ABC was televising the World Series in ’87, with Michaels offering play-by-play and Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer analysis.
Michaels showed his thin skin by getting in a run-in with the Star Tribune’s Bob Lundegaard. “Lundy’’ was able to listen to ABC’s raw feed and included in a story that Michaels was complaining in off-the-air conversation about his hotel room in Minneapolis and the Twins-Cardinals series in general.
The next night, Michaels used some of that dead time to bark insults at Lundegaard, including slurs such as “scumbag’’ and “jerk.’’
A fair share of Minnesotans watching enmasse on television started complaining early in the Series that Michaels, McCarver and Palmer were siding with the Cardinals with their commentary.
I’m sure, if we had checked with Missourians, they would have detected favoritism toward the Twins in the very same telecasts. That’s the way it works with fan bases with teams playing for championships.
I was writing columns for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1987. At some point in the Series, the complaints over Michaels and Co. became so popular with the locals that I wrote a pregame column on the subject.
The point was we were showing our Midwest hick-dom to the world with this whining over bias in the telecast. I suggested we should be having the time of our lives with this October drama, and why waste energy analyzing sentences from Michaels in a search for a bias favoring the Cardinals?
Basically, my argument was that what Al Michaels had to say didn’t really matter that much, so ignore him and watch the baseball.
The column appeared in print, and that night, I was standing 15 feet from the cage during batting practice. Michaels approached and expressed his unhappiness with the column, and the idea that Twins fans should place no importance in what he had to say.
One part of Al’s monologue that I found humorous was when he said “I’ve had respect for you as a writer in the past’’ – humorous because I know dang well Al had to ask someone in the batting cage cluster who I was, and that someone said, “Roo-see, he’s the fat guy over there.’’
Anyway, nearly three decades later, Al has Minnesotans all worked up again, and for a reason just as unimportant as to what he had to say in his play-by-play during the ’87 Series.
Of course, Minnesotans did love Michaels earier, in 1980, when he bellowed at the end of Team Herbie’s unlikely victory over the Russian hockey team: “Do you believe in miracles!’’
I’ve always felt a more accurate cry at the end of the Lake Placid upset would have been: “Do you believe in hot goalies!’’
I’m probably in the minority there.