'Awe-inspiring' Metrodome? It was when it opened

  • Updated: April 2, 2010 - 6:51 AM

The initial reaction to the Metrodome was an overwhelmingly positive one, perhaps in part because the Twins played there for the first time just as a blizzard hit the Twin Cities.

Dave Crane, 58, held the foul ball he caught in 1982 at the first exhibition game at the Metrodome, on April 3, 1982. The ball was autographed by Ivan DeJesus, the player that hit the ball.

It's certain to be festive Friday when the Twins play their first game at Target Field, an exhibition against the St. Louis Cardinals. Players and fans alike are going to rave about the new ballpark, with its upgraded concessions, giant scoreboard, grass field and skyline views of downtown. ¶ Guess what? Fans and players alike raved about the Metrodome on the night of April 3, 1982, when the Twins defeated the Phillies 5-0 in their first exhibition game behind a pair of Kent Hrbek home runs. Newspaper accounts of the evening say that even skeptics were won over by the spacious indoor facility with its rows and rows of shiny blue seats.

It didn't hurt, either, that on the night of the Dome's first exhibition a blizzard was just winding down, with light snow still falling, blown by gusty winds. Fans, it seemed, were pretty happy to be coming in from the outside to watch their first indoor baseball game. Partly because of the weather, the game attracted only 25,292 fans.

Dave Crane, a computer technician, had the distinction of catching the first foul ball at the Dome, cradling his beer in one hand while making a one-hand stab from the second tier. Crane told a reporter moments after his historic catch that he wasn't an early supporter of the indoor stadium.

"I didn't like the idea of coming down to Minneapolis and I was worried about the parking situation," he said. "But it's a beautiful stadium and it's more awe-inspiring than I imagined. It's really exciting when you get inside."

That first night Crane was hardly alone in his admiration of the Dome.

"This place makes you want to play some baseball," Twins pitcher Darrell Jackson said.

"I'm feeling real good today about all of this," third baseman Gary Gaetti said.

"I don't care what you say," shortstop Roy Smalley said to a columnist whose views on indoor baseball were already well known. "This place is the big leagues. I feel like I'm in the Guthrie Theater, like I have to give a performance."

In the weeks and months to come, the Dome's warts began to show: the turf hits, the lost fly balls against the gray ceiling and balls bouncing off speakers.

Crane is 58 now, still living in the Twin Cities. He has his historic foul ball in a glass case at his Eagan home, autographed by the hitter, Philadelphia infielder Ivan DeJesus, thanks to the diligence of his wife, Nancy, who waited DeJesus out after the game to get his signature.

Dave Crane's happy memories of the Dome extend beyond that first night, such as attending the 1987 World Series. But over time, his views on the Dome changed.

"I began to miss the outdoor game a lot," he said this week. "I've gone to other ballparks, like San Diego, and it's just a different feel when you get outside. ... There's just something cool about looking at real grass and having that outdoor experience."

Crane has tickets for a game during the Twins' second Target Field series against Kansas City. "I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "It's going to be great to get back to what it was like going to games at the old Met."

DENNIS BRACKIN

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