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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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 69 4th Qtr 10:01
Phoenix 75
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
Marquette 59
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60
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