For almost 30 years, the towering pole displaying the Stars and Stripes outside Richfield's American Legion was a monument visible up and down Portland Avenue. Ninety feet tall and weighing in at a couple of tons, it had been rescued from old Metropolitan Stadium after it closed in 1981.
Later this fall, it will fly the U.S. flag at a new home: the Minnesota Twins' new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.
For the Twins, the nearly 50-year-old flagpole will provide a highly visible link to the team's past as the tallest of a trio of poles on Target Plaza, the main entrance to the stadium.
But giving up the giant flagpole was not an easy decision for the Minneapolis/Richfield American Legion Post 435, the largest post in Minnesota. Commander Craig Deneen said the post's 2,200 members had mixed feelings.
"It was a point of pride for us," he said. "There was a lot of opposition to [giving it up]. ... It was kind of a landmark in that part of Richfield."
In the end, the appeal of reestablishing the baseball tie -- along with some carrots the Twins offered in the form of a new flagpole and $10,000 for the post's baseball team -- won members over. "It's kind of a win-win situation all the way around," Deneen said.
Deneen said that after Met Stadium closed, someone at the post heard that the flagpole was available. He said the post paid $150 for the 100-foot steel pole, which was cut off at its base at the old stadium.
The huge pole was moved from Bloomington to Richfield at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning by two slow-moving trucks.
Once a 10-foot-deep base was prepared for the pole, it stood at a height of 90 feet. A 15-by-24-foot spotlighted flag flew on it day and night until last month, when the pole was cut in two and hauled off to Minneapolis to be cleaned and painted black, as it was at Met Stadium.
"It reaches very deeply back into Twins history," said Kevin Smith, the team's director of communications. "What a great way to bring our history forward."
But the pole won't be quite as lofty as it was at the old stadium. Smith said it will be cut down to a height of 45 feet.
The American Legion's replacement pole is 80 feet tall. It's flying a 5-foot-long flag now, but a bigger flag is on order, Deneen said. The old supersize flag will be flown on special occasions.
Deneen said he has been told that a plaque at the base of the relocated ballpark pole will explain its history.
"We kind of have our imprint on it," Deneen said. "We were the stewards of it for 30 years."
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380