Julian Loscalzo and his gallant band of outdoor baseball guerrillas had tossed one more roadblock into the campaign for a new sports stadium in downtown Minneapolis. They had won a vote on the floor of the Legislature that would have to be overturned before the power structure could get approval for what would become the Metrodome.
“We knew that when Mike Lynn and the lobbyists went to work the next morning we would get stomped on,’’ Loscalzo said. “They already had cleared the land for the Metrodome, so we always were gnats on the windshield.’’
Feisty gnats, though … hard to kill.
This was the “Save the Met” crew, and it staged one of the most remarkable grass roots battles in Minnesota’s modern political history, before Lynn, the Vikings and Minneapolis business forces finally got their way at the end of the legislative session in May 1979.
“After we won the vote late that night, we sat down on the Capitol steps and cracked a few beers,’’ Loscalzo said. “We said, ‘OK, what are we going to do about watching baseball after we get rolled tomorrow?’ And someone said, ‘When the Met’s gone, we’re going to rent a bus and go watch outdoor games.’
“And we’ve been doing that for 33 years.’’
Met Stadium was abandoned in 1981 and the Metrodome opened as the home for the Twins, Vikings and Gophers in 1982. Save the Met put together a busload of fans and went to Beloit, Chicago and Milwaukee for a three-day baseball weekend.
To protect the organizers legally they formed Ballpark Tours, Inc. The most recent tour was billed at Bleacher Bums XXXIII, a week in August for games in Wrigley Field, Cleveland, Detroit, U.S. Cellular Field and Shaumburg, Ill.
The greatest excursion of all for these graying renegades comes Dec. 4-14. They are going to Cuba. They will see games in five cities and will visit Tony Oliva’s hometown.
From drinking Grain Belt on the steps of the Capitol to drinking Hatuey under the tree where Tony O. started swinging a homemade bat …
“We’ve had fun,’’ Loscalzo said, and the best is yet to come.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Moments to remember from “Save the Met’’ journeys:
• Encountering Morganna in her heyday as baseball’s Kissing Bandit and getting rewarded with some hugs in Kenosha, Wis.
• Running into the San Diego Chicken four years in a row. The mascot grew weary of the chant “Barbecue the Chicken.’’
• Going to Cooperstown for the inductions of four former Twins, starting with Harmon Killebrew in 1984.