This state has been home for the 68 years, eight months and 27 days -- or to put it another way, for life.
The last time I was this embarrassed to be a resident was on Nov. 3, 1998, when it came to pass that 773,713 Minnesotans had voted to elect Jesse Ventura of the Reform Party as governor.
On Monday, a large national spotlight was turned on the Twin Cities for the Home Run Derby, the preliminary to big-league baseball’s 85th All-Star Game.
This break in the schedule to match the American League vs. National League stars started in July 1933 and soon was being referred to as the Midsummer Classic. When using this in the future, an asterisk will be required: *except in Minnesota, where it’s called the Early-winter Classic.
It’s the middle of July … can’t we get a 48-hour respite from seeing our breath in this forsaken Frozen Wasteland, just a couple of days when the rest of the country isn’t laughing at us?
We greeted the nation with wind, rain and a temperature that barely reached 60 degrees, then headed downward. There were a few minutes in the early evening when it seemed as if we had a shot to offer up some July sleet.
One asset to a lively Home Run Derby is heat and humidity. Harmon Killebrew was the first slugger to make me fully aware of this, when he was near the end of his time with the Twins.
Killebrew was being asked about his most-memorable home runs, including a blast that was the first to land on top of the left-field roof in Tiger Stadium.
“It was a hot night and the air was as heavy as it gets,’’ Killebrew said. “I put good wood on it and the ball just stayed up there.’’
The second deck was added to Tiger Stadium in 1938 and it took 24 years – Aug. 3, 1962 – for Killebrew to become the first hitter to launch a baseball that bounced out of the park in left field. It was 90 percent getting into a fastball from future Hall of Famer (and arch-conservative U.S. Senator) Jim Bunning, and 10 percent a baseball riding on hot, thick air.
On Monday, there was no heat to assist the new generation of sluggers. The Twin Cities were challenging the record book for the coolest July 14 high in the 150 years that weather records have been maintained.
And then came the rain, arriving, leaving, circling back, until Minnesota had this novelty: a rain delay for the Home Run Derby.
And we think it’s advisable to risk another Super Bowl around here in February 2018? We’ll have four feet of the snow in the week before that game … four feet, I tell you.
The wind was blowing from the northwest, in from left and out to right, for most of the afternoon. This looked like an advantage for Justin Morneau, the lone left-handed hitter among the 10 in the field.
“Hopefully, it is a good day to hit,’’ Morneau said during Monday’s earlier news conference. “It’s a better park for right-handed hitters, but the wind is something I checked actually when I woke up this morning … hoping it was blowing out to right.’’
The competition was only a small part of the drama for Morneau. The main issue was the reception he would get from Twins fans in his return to Minnesota.
“I guess I’ll have to wait and see,’’ he said. “It’s hard to prepare for something like that.’’
There was a delay of nearly an hour before the derby participants were introduced. And when it came to Morneau, the Twins fans got to their feet and gave him a robust ovation.
Morneau was moved, taking it in with a smile, then with waves of his right arm and by touching his hat to his heart.
The MVP of 2006, Morneau never lost his reputation as a hard-nosed competitor, even as he went through the long comeback from the concussion suffered on July 7, 2010. This is the first season when he has been the Morneau of old, and the fact his full revival has taken place in Colorado does not lessen Minnesota’s happiness for him.
As for the weather … that’s another issue. How do we stand it? The nation wants to know.
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