Souhan: Twins, not Vikings, mastered Dome's quirks

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 1:13 AM
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Twins left fielder Dan Gladden collided with Braves catcher Greg Olson during a play at the plate in the 1991 World Series.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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If the Vikings wanted to honor the best of the Metrodome, they would invite Dan Gladden to throw out the last first pitch, and Kent Hrbek to throw out the last belch.

The Vikings will play host in the last game ever played in the Humptydome on Sunday. A visit by the Lions will end the useful portion of the Dome’s existence, and the kindest sentiments bestowed upon our state’s sports Tupperware suggest that it has been an eminently useful place.

For the price of three years of Joe Mauer’s contract, the Metrodome was built to contain Twins, Vikings, Wolves and Gophers seasons, to keep joggers and rollerbladers warm, to attract Final Fours and regionals and even a Super Bowl, and if you had a few bucks and wanted to play youth football or adult softball on the same turf trod by Kirby Puckett, you were in.

The Metrodome was a lot like the car you drove in college — not much to look at, not intended to last all that long, and filled with even more memories than beer cans.

Hosting the final game falls to the Vikings because every other team fled — the Wolves to Target Center, the Twins to Target Field, the Gophers football team to TCF Bank Stadium — but the Metrodome isn’t filled with many grand football memories.

The Gophers football program would rather forget most of what happened to it in the Metro­dome. In 31 years, the Vikings won six playoff games in the Dome, none in a conference championship game. Crowd noise caroming off the Teflon roof gave the local football squads an advantage that mattered little when it mattered the most.

In the game that will forever define the Vikings’ tenancy at the Dome, the Atlanta Falcons did not commit a false-start penalty or call a timeout because of crowd noise during their upset victory in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.

By design, the Metrodome should have been a football stadium that tolerated baseball. It is a rectangle with excellent football sight lines that required a baggie and vampire seats to pull off an amateurish impersonation of a ballpark.

To attempt nostalgia while saying goodbye to our gray-and-off-white eyesore requires an acknowledgment that it treated the Twins far better than it treated anyone else.

Noisy buildings are supposed to win games in basketball, where fans can lean onto the court during play, and in hockey and football, where ovations can spur a home team’s intensity and damage a visiting team’s communication.

Noisy buildings were not supposed to matter much in baseball, where there are no shot clocks or body blocks. Noisy buildings didn’t matter much in baseball until 1987, when the Twins won a World Series while reducing a fine St. Louis team to twitchers and moaners.

The Twins’ World Series victories in 1987 and 1991 became the two greatest team achievements in modern Minnesota sports history, and they were achieved while the home team went undefeated in the Dome.

While football teams spent about eight days a year dressing in the home locker room, the Twins lived in the dank corridors of the Dome, and their successes meant that the Dome also played host to Twins celebrations and inductions, remembrances and memorials.

The Metrodome was the place where Puckett became a folk hero. It was also the place where he was eulogized.

Gladden and Hrbek are the last living Twins from the everyday lineups of the 1987 and ’91 Twins. Both are fixtures in town, Gladden as the team’s radio broadcaster and Hrbek as a lifelong Minnesotan with an eponymous pub at Target Field.

The Vikings will treat Sunday as a remembrance of football, but the Twins created the best memories in the old bubble. Gladden should throw out the first pitch, and Hrbek should get to eat one last Dome Dog.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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