For a year, 'the sports capital of the United States'

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 8:44 AM

The Metrodome basked in the glory of some of sports’ biggest events in 1991 and ’92.

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The Metrodome was aglow with special lighting for Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 17, 1992, one of the few Super Bowls ever to be held in a northern state.

Photo: File by RICHARD SENNOTT • rsennott@startribune.com,

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During a 12-month period that began with the Minnesota North Stars playing in the Stanley Cup Final in May 1991, the Twin Cities was, in the words of New York Times columnist George Vecsey, “the sports capital of the United States.”

In one incredible, whirlwind 11-month period, Minnesota was host to the NHL Final, the U.S. Open golf tournament, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four.

The final three of those events were held in the Metrodome, which will be dismantled to make way for a new stadium. The Dome still can claim the distinction of being the only sports facility in America to have been host to a Super Bowl (1992), World Series (1987, 1991), MLB All-Star Game (1985) and the Final Four (1992, 2001).

“I knew in my gut this plastic place would become a thing of affection,” Don Poss, who headed the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission during the building of the Dome, told the Star Tribune in a 1991 interview.

The American sporting public, like many if not most Minnesotans, grudgingly gained respect for the Metrodome during that frenzied 11-month period. If it wasn’t the perfect facility for some of the events it hosted — baseball purists still maintained the game was meant to be played outdoors, and the cavernous covered stadium was too big to be a great basketball arena — the Dome garnered well-deserved praise its versatility.

And Minnesotans gained national prominence for being such gracious hosts to America’s sports fans.

Vecsey, in the last lines of his column after Duke’s victory over Michigan in the 1992 Final Four that ended the Dome’s memorable run as host arena, wrote: “Then, this morning, state marshals will round up the out-of-towners and escort us to the airport. They do not want us to disturb the fragile ecological balance of politeness and industriousness and civic-mindedness in Minneapolis. It’s been fun, but it’s over.”

Here’s a recap of the three major events that the Dome hosted between October 1991 and April 1992:

1991 World Series

Baseball fans appeared to have only tepid interest in the matchup between the Atlanta Braves and the Twins, lamenting the absence of teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers. By the time the Series ended, it was regarded as one of the greatest in history.

Atlanta, which like the Twins had become the first team to go from last place in a division the year before to the World Series, went up 3-2 after five games, which included three consecutive one-run victories by the Braves.

The best was yet to come.

The Twins staved off elimination in Game 6 in a game that will forever be remembered for Kirby Puckett’s exploits. In what is regarded as the greatest game ever played by a Twin, Puckett leapt against the fence in the third inning to rob Ron Gant of at least an extra-base hit and the Braves of at least one run. Puckett added an RBI triple, a sacrifice fly, a single, a stolen base and scored a run. Then he topped it off with an 11th-inning leadoff homer, promoting the memorable line by announcer Jack Buck: “And we’ll see you — tomorrow night.”

No less amazing was Game 7, which belonged to Jack Morris. The St. Paul native pitched 10 shutout innings, keeping the Twins alive until Gene Larkin’s fly-ball single scored Dan Gladden in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent was moved to proclaim the seven games “probably the greatest World Series ever.”

1992 Super Bowl

The NFL’s annual championship gala was considerably less dramatic than the ’91 Series. The Washington Redskins trounced Buffalo 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI in a game that was not as close as the final score.

The Redskins, featuring an offensive line dubbed “The Hoggs,” jumped to a 24-0 lead early in the third quarter. Washington quarterback Mark Rypien was the Super Bowl MVP, completing 18 of 33 passes or 292 yards and two touchdowns.

Remember these trivia answers: Harry Connick Jr. sang the national anthem. The halftime show was titled “Winter Magic” and featured dancers and former Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill skating on sheets of Teflon. The singer was Gloria Estefan, and people still are trying to figure out her link to a winter motif halftime show.

1992 Final Four

The Final Four was a natural draw for Minnesotans, featuring a pair of Big Ten teams — Indiana and Michigan’s fabled Fab Five, an all-freshman starting lineup. The foursome was completed by Duke and Cincinnati, making it one of the top Final Fours in matching traditional college basketball powers.

The four teams have a running total of 35 Final Four appearances and 12 national titles (five for Indiana, four for Duke, two for Cincinnati and one for Michigan).

Duke emerged from the field to claim its second consecutive national title, beating Michigan 71-51 in the title game. Guard Bobby Hurley was selected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

History will judge the greatest game of the 1992 tournament as Duke’s 104-103 East Regional final victory over Kentucky in which, with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Grant Hill threw a length-of-the-court pass to Christian Laettner, who had the presence of mind to dribble once, turn and sink the winner. Laettner went on to become the Timberwolves’ No. 1 draft pick, enjoying moderate success with the Minnesota franchise.

The game attracted 50,379, at the time the third-highest figure for a championship game behind two Final Four played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

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Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 0 1st Qtr 0:44
Arizona 0
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 87 4th Qtr 3:36
Minnesota 87
New Orleans 99 4th Qtr 3:47
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 4 3rd Prd 18:12
Boston 2
Carolina 0 3rd Prd 18:56
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 3rd Prd 19:21
Chicago 2
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
FIU 69 FINAL
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
ULM 50 FINAL
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
USC 75 FINAL
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
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Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
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Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
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Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
IUPUI 62
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
NC A&T 43 FINAL
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
NJIT 50 FINAL
Lafayette 66
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Charlotte 86
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Purdue 70
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South Dakota 86
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Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
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Western Ky 84
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(13) Duke 89
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Bradley 47
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SE Missouri St 73
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(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
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Minnesota 67
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Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
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Cal State Fullerton 49
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Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
UNLV 71 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 74
UCLA 50 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 86
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(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
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(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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