As a fan, collector and official curator for the Twins, Clyde Doepner has dealt with some of the most significant mementos in team history.
But he has rarely worked as hard as he did to get this one: the first baseball pitched in the first-ever Twins game at Metropolitan Stadium. For Doepner, it was a nearly lifelong project.
It was April 21, 1961. The Twins — the old Washington Senators — against the new Washington Senators. Camilo Pascual’s first pitch was fouled into the stands. Doepner, then 17, was there as a fan.
A fellow named Harold Egge tracked the ball down, and Doepner tracked Egge down. “I said, ‘I’m a fan, I’m a collector, I love baseball stuff. What are you going to do with the ball?’ ” Doepner said. “And he said, I’m going to keep it.’ ”
Not to be discouraged, Doepner revisited the issue with Egge through the years. He would call him. He visited his home a couple times. Each time the result was the same: Egge kept the ball.
“As time went by I finally let it go,” Doepner said.
Fast-forward to 2010. Doepner was giving a tour of Target Field when a fellow said he had something that should be on display.
“What?” Doepner asked.
“The first baseball pitched at Met Stadium,” said the fellow, Steve Michael.
“I said, ‘Harold Egge,’ ” Doepner said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘How do you know my uncle’s name?’ Well, I told him the story.’’
Turns out Harold had passed away, and his widow, Eleanor Egge, had given Michael the ball. They decided to donate the ball to the Twins.
So Doepner and the Twins got the ball, nearly a half-century after the fact. Eleanor, then 95, threw out the first pitch at a game. Five years later, she did it again.
“He kept it because it was his memory,” Doepner said of Harold Egge. “And those two did the same thing. They felt other fans would appreciate this and want to see it.”