Seven months later — Tax Day — we weren’t going to be denied witnessing history again. Cal Ripken Jr. was in town three hits shy of 3,000 for his career. For $5 we got into the embarrassingly empty Dome, sat lower level down the third base line and waited. The Iron Man started the game 0-1. A house party quickly sounded like a great alternative. But Ripken knocked out hits in his next three at-bats for the milestone. Ripken doffed his cap in the top of the seventh for the lucky few of us in attendance, as flashbulbs popped off 30,000 empty seats.
The fireworks came a little bit early
Anyone who’s watched a game at the Dome knows it’s loud. Really loud. Perhaps artificially enhanced loud, though the Vikings always denied that.
But one time, that noise almost backfired. The Vikings were playing host to Dallas, early November 1999. Down 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a third-and-goal at the 4. Jeff George dropped back and threw to Cris Carter, who had lined up in the left slot and run a quick slant.
But before Carter caught the ball, an explosion.
The Vikings liked to set off fireworks and an explosion after scores. Only this time the fellow pushing the button jumped the gun. Despite the distraction, Carter hauled in the pass to put the Vikings ahead for good in a 27-17 victory.
“Prophetic,” Carter said about the premature pyrotechnics. “I didn’t think much about ’em. I had a feeling Jeff was going to come to me. All my focus was on the football.”
The bottom line? The Vikings altered their postscore policy to make sure it never happened again. And Carter’s legendary powers of concentration were proven again.
Stunning Gophers losses weren’t uncommon
On Oct. 10, 2003, I witnessed something at the Metrodome that, in purely practical terms, seemed impossible.
The Gophers football team rushed for 424 yards and lost.
Yes, the Gophers produced a historic rushing performance against Michigan but limped out of the Dome with 38-35 loss thanks to a fourth-quarter meltdown. As I packed up to leave, I remember thinking, I’ll never see something like that happen again.
On Oct. 15, 2005, the Gophers rushed for 411 yards and lost again. This time, they squandered a 10-point lead in the final 3 minutes, 27 seconds of the fourth quarter to lose to Wisconsin 38-34 at the Metrodome.
Two games, two 400-yard rushing performances, two losses.
You don’t see that too often.
Champagne flowed for Twins and visitors, too
Covering Major League Baseball for ESPN SportsTicker left me with, to mangle Robin Leach’s line, champagne dreams.
Chicago clinched the American League Central Division in 2000 at the Metrodome. In an odd scene, the Twins’ Matt Lawton hit a 10th-inning homer to set off celebrations in both dugouts. An earlier Cleveland loss meant the White Sox were already division champs.
The sound of jubilant players escaped the visitor clubhouse walls. But it was the overpowering smell of champagne I most remember.
Fast forward to September 2003. The division-leading Twins beat Cleveland in an efficient 2 hours, 16 minutes. For the next half-hour, players and fans watched as the Metrodome’s video screens showed Chicago and Kansas City lose. The Twins clinched the division at home for the first time.
Inside the clubhouse, champagne flowed and sprayed and hung in the air like mist.
A short distance away, a bridge was down
That day we showed up early to watch batting practice. We crossed the Interstate 35 bridge late in the afternoon, and we made it. Others crossed later and didn’t, because that day was Aug. 1, 2007.
|Kansas City||1||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Toronto||1||Top 1st Inning|
|Tampa Bay - N. Karns||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - A. Warren|
|Washington - D. Fister||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - E. Stults|
|NY Mets - D. Gee||6:10 PM|
|Miami - J. Cosart|
|Milwaukee - J. Nelson||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Marquis|
|Pittsburgh - V. Worley||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - J. Hammel|
|Seattle - T. Walker||7:05 PM|
|Texas - Y. Gallardo|
|Detroit - D. Price||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - T. Milone|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - J. Lackey|
|Colorado - T. Matzek||8:40 PM|
|Arizona - C. Anderson|
|Houston - C. McHugh||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - J. Shields|
|San Francisco - T. Lincecum||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - B. Anderson|
|Tampa Bay||6:00 PM|
|NY Islanders||6:30 PM|