When the new Vikings Museum opens to the public July 25, fans can plunk down the $20 admission fee, head over to team headquarters in Eagan and enjoy interactive displays, a 360-degree video theater, classic stories on Bud Grant, Jim Marshall, Fran Tarkenton, Bob Kump …
Wait. Who the heck is Bob Kump?
Bob Kump is none other than the guy who somehow made it out of Met Stadium with the crossbar from the north end zone goal post during the postgame mayhem of Dec. 26, 1976.
“The last NFC Championship game the Vikings ever won,” said Kump, who was 23 when the Vikings beat the Rams that day to reach the last of their four Super Bowls. “That crossbar sat in my garage here for over 40 years. Honest to God, I think I’ve jinxed the Vikings all these years with that thing in my garage. I felt guilty having it, but I didn’t want to throw it away or recycle it.”
Kump found the “perfect solution” when the Vikings decided to get creative with their vision for how to tell the franchise’s history through an expansive museum located on the first floor of the Twin Cities Orthopedics Sports Medicine Center, next door to the team’s TCO Performance Center.
“It became clear to us that the story of the Vikings is really a collection of stories about people,” said Erin Swartz, director of brand and creative and the person who spearheaded the museum project that began in 2014. “People gather and then there are these epic moments in our history that draw us all together.”
Swartz and her team have gathered thousands of artifacts and stories. Bob Kump is but one example of the stories that surfaced as Swartz and team archive coordinator Zach Tarrant kept digging.
“You just start going down a rabbit hole,” Swartz said. “You know you need items to tell a story about ‘X.’ You start looking around and pretty soon you meet a guy who tells you he knows a guy. And then that guy knows another guy, and before you know it, you got this web of people.”
People like Bob Kump.
“The game ends and everybody rushes the field,” Kump said. “I see the crossbar going by with 10 guys carrying it. So I grab on to it.”
Someone found out that security wasn’t going to approve of 11 gentlemen walking out the front gate carrying 19-plus feet of steel.
“So we head over to the chain-link fence they had at the Met,” Kump said. “It’s like 8 feet high. We go to throw it over the fence. As the other guys are throwing it over, I take off for the nearest gate, make it outside and get to the crossbar.”
Fortunately, Kump was parked close to the stadium. Long story short, he escaped with a piece of history, held on to it for more than 40 years and traded it back to the Vikings for a helmet signed by Stefon Diggs.
“When you’re almost 65, the helmet seems like it should belong to a kid,” Kump said. “So I’ll either give it to a kid or sell it. I’m just glad to see the crossbar go to the museum. … And I hope this lifts the jinx.”
The museum will be filled with stories and artifacts such as these. And the plan is to keep gathering and rotating displays to keep the museum fresh.
The entrance will be dominated by a “Frozen in Time” display that details the six players whose numbers are retired.
Each of the team’s Hall of Famers will have kiosks featuring an impression of their handprint on a football. Put your hand in the impression and it will activate a screen detailing that player’s career.
A “Leaders” section will feature each of the team’s head coaches. Each display will have a coach’s headset that will have audio from that coach.
The 360-degree theater will feature short films such as what it’s like to be on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium during a kickoff. In between showings, fans will be able to post their own memories on the screen by using #vikingsmemory.
“As we tried to figure out how to tell the story of all the different teams, it became clear that every generation has sort of a tentpole team,” Swartz said. “If you grew up in the ’80s, the ’87 team is your team. If you grew up in the ’90s, the ’98 team is your team. So you end up telling the stories of generations as you go along.”
The oldest item is the leather helmet worn by Grant’s father when he practiced with the Duluth Eskimos in the early 1920s. The biggest item is the 1980s-era helmet car, which is something every team had at the time.
“A guy called us up and said he had the helmet car and asked if we wanted it,” Swartz said. “We put it in the museum before we put the doors on. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have fit through the door.”
Someone gave the Vikings a 16-by-12 foot gate sign from Met Stadium. Another person had a turnstile from the Met sitting in a barn in Wisconsin.
“There was a lot of fun stuff from Met Stadium,” Swartz said. “As we all know, people left that place with their pockets full on that last day.”
John and Tom Aldritt donated the template that their father, John, used to create the horn logo on the original helmets back in 1961.
“Our dad owned Aldritt Sporting Goods Co., which our grandfather, Al, started,” Tom said. “Dad supplied the Vikings with their equipment the first 10 years.
‘‘Dad had a good relationship with the coach, Norm Van Brocklin. We believe Norm asked Dad to design a logo with the stipulation that it had to be a horn.”
Three designs were created. The Vikings picked one. More than two decades later, the sons were helping move their parents to Florida. They looked in a box, saw the template and found out their dad was the guy who designed the original horn logo.
The Vikings found out about another special crossbar during this whole process. This one came from Dec. 20, 1981, the last game at Met Stadium.
“They called the first time and said they wanted to buy my dad’s crossbar,” said Tonya Deyonge. “I told them I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it. Some things aren’t for sale.”
The Vikings called back and asked if they could borrow the crossbar to display in the museum. Deyonge said yes because she wants people to know more about her late father, Sherm Junker, and his Purple passion.
“Dad had season tickets from Day 1,” Deyonge said. “What a character. Never in a bad mood. Never saw him wear anything but something purple with Vikings on it.”
Before the final game at the Met, Sherm bought an old blue bus, slapped some Vikings colors on it and headed to the game with 26 buddies.
“He knew he was coming home with the crossbar, which is why he bought the bus,” Deyonge said. “The people who went with him, they all fought for that crossbar. I remember Dad coming home that day just as proud as proud could be.”
Sherm had a bar in St. Bonifacius. He hung the crossbar over the pool table until he passed away in 2010. Tanya took over the bar, renamed it ‘Sherm’s,’ but lost everything in a fire in 2012.
Everything but the crossbar.
“It’s all black now, but it survived,” she said. “The bar next to mine had new owners and wanted to know if they could borrow the crossbar and call their bar, ‘The Crossbar.’ I let them use it.”
And now it has moved on to a place Tanya thinks Sherm would get a kick out of if he were around to read about his little part in team history.
“My dad loved the Vikings,” she said. “And I loved my dad.”