Friday, August 12, 2011
How to Be a Yankee Fan In Minnesota
By a weird twist, when my twin nieces were born, 4 summers ago, the Yankees were playing, you guessed it, the Twins. The Yankees won. Nevertheless, the girls have become Yankee Fans.
I’ll teach them the irony of it all, but, personally, I have nothing against the Minnesota ballclub. I used to, but then they got out of the (George Carlin word)ing Metrodome.
I know, I sometimes curse on this page, but these “How to Be a Yankee Fan In…” pages are meant to be family-friendly.
Before You Go. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune website is predicting good weather for the weekend, with the exception of thunderstorms on Friday night, thus putting the schedule in question. The St. Paul Pioneer Press Kansas City Star is saying Thursday night may also have thunderstorms. Therefore, ignore the legend of cold Minnesota winters that last from October to April (you’re not visiting in one of those months, anyway), and dress for warm afternoons, and bring an umbrella.
Getting There. It’s 1,199 road miles from Times Square in New York to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis (the spot where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in the opening sequence of her 1970-77 CBS sitcom), and 1,204 miles from Yankee Stadium to Target Field. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.
But it’s kind of an expensive flight. Even if you order early, chances are you’ll have to pay at least $1,200 round-trip, and change planes in Chicago – or even Dallas (which would piss off not just the New York Giants football fan that you might be, but also the Minnesota Vikings fans you may be flying to Minneapolis with). But when you do get there, the Number 55 bus takes you from the airport to downtown in under an hour, so that’s convenient.
Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 3 buses a day between Port Authority and Minneapolis, all with at least one transfer, in Chicago and possibly elsewhere as well. The total time is about 31 hours, and costs $333 round-trip. The Greyhound terminal is at 950 Hawthorne Avenue, at 9th Street North, just 3 blocks from Nicollet Mall, 2 from the Target Center arena, and from there just across the 7th Street overpass over Interstate 394 from Target Field.
Train? An even worse idea. Amtrak will make you leave Penn Station at 10:05 in the morning, change trains in Chicago at 8:45 AM and 2:15 PM, and then Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will arrive in St. Paul (NOT Minneapolis) at 10:31 PM. From there, 730 Transfer Road, you’d have to take the Number 16 or 50 bus to downtown Minneapolis. And it’s $632 round-trip.
If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana. Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wiscosin, where you will once again merge with I-94. From here, you will be concerned solely with I-94, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities, with Exit 233A being your exit for downtown Minneapolis.
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, and half an hour in Minnesota. That’s 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago and halfway across Wisconsin, and accounting for traffic in both New York and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not flying.
Tickets. The Twins’ success of the last 10 years and the building of Target Field have led to an average per-game attendance of 39,441, pretty much a sellout every night, in spite of their not having a very good season (mainly due to injuries). In other words, if you want in, you’re going to have to order early, or pay through the nose with StubHub or a scalper.
If you do somehow manage to get a ticket for face value, said value will be as follows: Diamond Box, $50; Field Box, $39, Skyline Deck, $34; Home Plate Terrace, $38; Skyline View, $19; Field View, $17; LF Bleachers, $26; RF Bleachers, $24; Home Run Porch Terrace, $27. In other words, despite the Twins’ history of frugal (or even blatantly cheap) ownership, it’ll be expensive.
Going In. Target Field is at the northwest edge of downtown Minneapolis, in a neighborhood called the Warehouse District. The Metro Transit Hiawatha Line, Minneapolis’ light rail system, has a Target Field Station. The fare is $2.25, currently the same as the New York Subway.
Target Field is bounded by 5th Street (left field), 3rd Avenue (right field), 7th Street (1st base) and the Hiawatha Line (3rd base). Parking lots are all over downtown, although if you’ve driven all this way, most likely you’ll be walking or taking public transit from your hotel. If you’re walking from downtown, you’ll most likely be arriving over the I-394 overpass and entering at the right field or home plate gates. If you’re arriving by light rail, the station is outside the left field gate.
The ballpark faces northeast, and in stark contrast to the Metrodome, the place is open at right field, has no stupid roof with stupid lighting, and has, yes, real grass. The double-decked left field bleachers will be reminiscent of the original home of the Twins, Metropolitan Stadium, and, from some angles, also bear a resemblance to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and Mile High Stadium in Denver. Looking at the 1st base/right field stands, you may see a resemblance to Camden yards in Baltimore. Target Field does seem to have a mixture of 1970s funkiness and 1990s convenience. Outfield distances are 339 to left, 377 to left-center, 411 to center, 365 to right center and 328 to right – favoring lefthanded hitters, although the ball doesn’t fly out the way it did at Metropolitan Stadium or the Metrodome.
Above center field is a sign saying “TARGET FIELD,” with the words separated by the Target store logo. Above that is the original team logo, with two ballplayers against an outline of the state. One is wearing an M logo on his sleeve, another an StP logo on his, and they’re reaching across a river to shake hands. This symbolizes the old minor-league teams in the American Association, the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints, who went out of business when the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961.
Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their ballpark to have lots of good food, in particularly that Midwest staple, the sausage, including German, Italian, Polish and Kosher varieties. And you would be right, as the influence of regional rivals Chicago and Milwaukee has taken hold. Something called Kramarczuk’s Food Network Creations is at Section 114 (lower level behind home plate), and Mexican and Asian specialties also dot the walkways.
At Section 133 (right-center-field bleachers), they have “State Fair Classics,” including Pork Chops on a Stick, Roasted Corn on the Cob, Corn Dogs, and Walleye Fingers – this is not something I would eat, but walleyes are very popular in Minnesota, a native fish. The start of walleye fishing season is so big, the Twins always request to be on the road that weekend so as not to hurt attendance. Being Midwestern, the Twins believe in beer and lots of it. Being American, the Twins believe in ice cream and lots of it.
Team History Displays. The Twins are celebrating their 50th Anniversary season in 2011. They have banners representing their titles on the exterior promenade of the ballpark: The 1965 American League Pennant, the 1969 and 1970 AL Western Division Championships, the 1987 and 1991 World Championships, and the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010 AL Central Division Championships. The Twins have never reached the Playoffs via the Wild Card.
No mention is made of the titles won as the “old Senators”: The 1924 World Championship and the 1925 and 1933 AL Pennants. Nor is any mention made of the Pennants won by the Minneapolis Millers (1896, 1910, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’32, ’35, ’55, ’58 and ’59) and the St. Paul Saints (1924 and ’48).
The Twins’ retired numbers are shown in stanchions on the facing of the upper deck in left field: 3, Harmon Killebrew, 3rd base and 1st base, 1961-74; 6, Tony Oliva, right field, 1962-76 and serving the club in several capacities since; 14, Kent Hrbek, 1st base, 1981-94; 28, Bert Blyleven, pitcher, 1970-76 and 1985-88; 29, Rod Carew, 2nd base and 1st base, 1967-78; and 34, Kirby Puckett, center field, 1984-95. Oddly, the numbers are listed in order of their retirement from right to left: 3, 29, 6, 14, 34, 28 and Jackie Robinson’s 42. Blyleven’s is newly-added, as is a black mourning band across Killebrew’s number stanchion, as he died earlier this season. This is, pardon the pun, twinned with a black 3 on the right sleeves of the Twins’ uniforms. Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, Hrbek and Kirby Puckett Jr., standing in for his father, threw out the ceremonial first balls for the first game at the new park on April 12, 2010.
The Twins have a team Hall of Fame, although I don’t know if it is on display anywhere in the park. Aside from the preceding, the members include: From the 1965-70 teams, founding owner Calvin Griffith, original team executive George Brophy, catcher Earl Battey, shortstop Zoilo Versalles, left fielder Bob Allison, and pitchers Jim Kaat and Jim Perry; from the 1987 & ’91 teams, owner Carl Pohlad, minor-league director Jim Rantz, manager Tom Kelly, shortstop Greg Gagne, 3rd baseman Gary Gaetti, and pitchers Frank Viola and Rick Aguilera; from the 2000s, pitcher Brad Radke; and spanning the eras, Hall of Fame broadcaster Herb Carneal and public address announcer Bob Casey.
No mention is made of Millers legends Joe Cantillon, Joe Hauser, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Ray Dandridge, Hoyt Wilhelm, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou and Carl Yastrzemski. (The Millers were a Red Sox farm team, then the Giants, then the Red Sox again.) Or of Saints legends Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. (The Saints were a Dodger farm team.)
Stuff. The Twins have Team Stores throughout the ballpark. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there.
Books about the Twins are not exactly well-known. The staff of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune put together Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History in 2010. Cool of the Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins is Jim Thielman’s look at Minnesota’s first major league Pennant winner.
There is, as yet, no Essential Games of the Minnesota Twins, or of either Metropolitan Stadium or the Metrodome; but the official 1987 and 1991 World Series highlight film packages are available.
During the Game. Because of their Midwest/Heartland image, Twins fans like a “family atmosphere.” Therefore, while don’t especially like the Yankees, they will not directly antagonize you. At least, they won’t initiate it. You’ll probably be all right if you don’t say anything unkind about Killebrew or Puckett, especially now that they’re both dead.
The Twins do not have a mascot. Nor do they appear to have a theme song, or a song to use after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th Inning Stretch, or a postgame victory song. They do, however, still sell the Homer Hankies made famous during their 1987 postseason run. Though they did not originate the idea: In 1977, the Cleveland Indians, desperate for attendance, held “Hate the Yankees Hanky Night.”
After the Game. An unfortunate part of the Twins’ legacy is the fact that, when Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, who would never have moved the team, died in 1955, his son Calvin Griffith wanted out of the increasingly-black D.C. He freely admitted that he moved the Twins to Minnesota because it was mostly white. So the Twins exist primarily because of racism – albeit that of just one man. Nevertheless, This racial homogeneity has kept Minneapolis comparatively safe – although the Twin Cities have since attracted more blacks, and had already produced some famous black people, including baseball legend Dave Winfield and music superstar Prince Rogers Nelson. At any rate, regardless of the races of the people you see on the streets, you should be safe.
If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I’m sorry to say that I can find no listings for where they tend to gather. Even those sites that show where expatriate NFL fans watch games in cities other than their own came up short.
Sidelights. Minnesota’s sports history is very uneven. Teams have been born, moved in, moved around, and even moved out. But there are some local sites worth checking out.
* Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, and still home of the NFL’s Vikings, although with that infamous blizzard and roof collapse late last season, the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes has intensified. The Twins won the 1987 and 1991 World Series here – going 8-0 in World Series games in the Dome, and 0-6 in Series games outside of it. The Vikings, on the other hand, are just 6-4 in home Playoff games since moving there – including an overtime defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 14-2 in the regular season. From October 1991 to April 1992, it hosted 3 major events: The World Series (Twins over Atlanta Braves), Super Bowl XXVI (Washington Redskins over Buffalo Bills), and the NCAA Final Four (Duke beating Michigan in the Final). 900 South 5th Street at Centennial (Kirby Puckett) Place. Metrodome station on Light Rail.
* Mall of America and sites of Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center. In contrast, the Vikings were far more successful at their first home, while the Twins were not (in each case, playing there from 1961 to 1981). The Vikings reached 4 Super Bowls while playing at The Met, while the Twins won Games 1, 2 and 6 of the 1965 World Series there, but lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shutout by Sandy Koufax. (So the Twins are 11-1 all-time in World Series home games, but 0-9 on the road.) The Vikings were far more formidable in their ice tray of a stadium, which had no protection from the sun. In fact, it had one deck along the 3rd base stands, and in the right field bleachers, two decks from 1st base to right field and in the left field bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. Somebody once set the Met looked like an Erector set that a kid was putting together, before his mother called him away to dinner and he never finished it. At 45,919 seats, it has a capacity that was just fine for baseball; but at 48,446, it was too small for the NFL.
Prior to the 1961 arrivals of the Twins and Vikings, the Met hosted the Minneapolis Millers from 1956 to 1960, and 5 NFL games over the same stretch, including 4 “home games” for the Green Bay Packers. (Viking fans may be sickened over that, but at least University of Minnesota fans can take heart in the University of Wisconsin never playing there.) The experiments worked: The Met, built equidistant from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints, struck out and was soon demolished.
The NHL’s Minnesota North Stars played at the adjoining Metropolitan Sports Center (or Met Center) from 1967 to 1993, before they were moved to become the Dallas Stars by owner Norm Green, earning him the local nickname Norm Greed. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981 and 1991, but never won the Cup until 1999 when they were in Dallas.
The Beatles played at Metropolitan Stadium on August 21, 1965. Elvis Presley sang at the Met Center on November 5, 1971 and October 17, 1976. 8000 Cedar Avenue South, at 80th Street. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, has been preserved. Accessible by light rail.
* Site of Nicollet Park. Home of the Millers from 1912 to 1955, it was one of the most historic minor-league parks, home to Ted Williams and Willie Mays before they reached the majors. With the Met nearing completion, its last game was Game 7 of the 1955 Junior World Series, in which the Millers beat the International League Champion Rochester Red Wings. A few early NFL games were played there in the 1920s. A bank is now on the site. Nicollet and Blaisdell Avenues, 30th and 31st Streets. Number 465 bus.
* Site of Lexington Park. Home of the Saints from 1897 to 1956, it wasn’t nearly as well regarded, although it did close with a Saints win over the arch-rival Millers. The site is now occupied by retail outlets. Lexington Parkway, University Avenue, Fuller & Dunlap Streets.
* Xcel Energy Center and site of the St. Paul Civic Center. Home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild since their debut in 2000, and site of the 2008 Republican Convention that nominated John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President. The place is a veritable home and hall of fame for hockey in Minnesota, the most hockey-mad State in the Union, including the State high school championships that were previously held at the Civic Center. That building was the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1977. The Fighting Saints had played their first few home games, in late 1972, at the St. Paul Auditorium.
Elvis sang at the Civic Center on October 2 and 3, 1974, and April 30, 1977. The Civic Center is also where Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox filmed the video for Bruce’s song “Dancing In the Dark.” 199 Kellogg Blvd. West.
* Target Center. Separated from Target Field by Interstate 394 and 2nd Avenue, this arena has been home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves since the team debuted shortly after its 1989 opening. The T-Wolves have only made the Western Conference Finals once, and are probably best known as the team Kevin Garnett and GM (and Minnesota native) Kevin McHale couldn’t get over the hump, before Garnett went to McHale’s former team, the Boston Celtics. The WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx also play here. 600 N. 1st Avenue at 6th Street.
* Site of Minneapolis Auditorium. Built in 1927, from 1947 to 1960 this was the home of the Minneapolis Lakers – and, as Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. The Lakers won the National Basketball League Championship in 1948, then moved into the NBA and won the Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In fact, until the Celtics overtook them in 1963, the Minneapolis Lakers were the most successful team in NBA history, led by their enormous (for the time) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasseson the court) 6-foot-10, 270-pound Number 99, George Mikan. The arrival of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season pretty much ended their run, although rookie Elgin Baylor did help them reach the Finals again in 1959. Ironically, the owner of the Lakers who moved them to Los Angeles was Bob Short – who later moved the “new” Washington Senators, the team established to replace the team that moved to become the Twins. Elvis sang at the Auditorium early in his career, on May 13, 1956. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center was built on the site. 1301 2nd Ave. South, at 12th Street. Within walking distance of Target Field, Target Center and the Metrodome.
* TCF Bank Stadium and site of Memorial Stadium. The new home of the University of Minnesota football team opened in 2009. It was designed to resemble a classic 1920s college football stadium, with a reddish-brown brick exterior and a horseshoe shape, much like the 56,000-seat Memorial Stadium, where the Golden Gophers played from 1924 to 1981, before the Metrodome was built. Although its capacity of 50,805 makes it the 2nd-smallest stadium in the Big Ten behind Northwestern’s Ryan Field/Dyche Stadium, the Gophers’ lack of success over the last 40 years or so means they have trouble filling it. The Vikings played a home game here in 2010 after the Metrodome roof collapse, but the capacity (much like that of the even smaller Metropolitan Stadium) makes it insufficient as a permanent new home for the Vikings. The Vikings played a home game at “Old Memorial” in 1969 due to the Twins making the Playoffs that season. The new stadium is at 2009 University Avenue SE, about a block up University Avenue from where Old Memorial stood until its 1992 demolition. The light rail system is expected to be extended to the stadium by the 2014 season.
* Museums. The Twin Cities are very artsy, and have their share of museums, including one of the five most-visited modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center, at 1750 Hennepin Avenue. Number 4, 6, 12 or 25 bus. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at 2400 3rd Avenue South.
Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don’t win, including Governor Harold Stassen (failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948 and then ran several more times, becoming a joke), Senator Eugene McCarthy (failed to get the Democratic nomination in 1968, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote), Vice President Walter Mondale (Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State BUT Minnesota), and now Governor Tim Pawlenty (who’s already bombed out of the GOP race) and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (who could, conceivably, get the GOP nomination, but is too crazy, stupid and dishonest to win the general election).
Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, and in 1948, while running for the U.S. Senate, he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention supporting a civil rights plank in the party platform, a movement which culminated in his guiding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Senate. He ran for the Democratic nomination in 1960 but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President in 1964; won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair; returned to the Senate in 1970, he ran again in 1972 but lost the nomination to George McGovern; and might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed. He would have been 100 years old this year. Not having been President, he has no Presidential Library, but there is the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, only a short walk from the Dome that led former Twins manager Billy Martin, as Yankee manager, to channel his old teammate Yogi Berra and say, “It’s a shame a great guy like HHH had to be named after it.” Hubert and his wife Muriel, who briefly succeeded him in the Senate, are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue.
St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd.
Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of books in the 1980s, about his trips to all 26 stadiums then in MLB, and all the Big Ten stadiums. He said, “How can you not like Minneapolis? No, Minneapolis is lovely. It’s the Metrodome that sucks!” Thankfully, the Twins now play at Target Field, and, from what I understand, Minneapolis and St. Paul are still terrific cities, including for sports. A Yankee Fan should definitely take in a Yankees-Twins game there.