Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Be a New York Fan in Minnesota -- 2013 Edition

With the 15-and-15, "Oh, I wish it could be Interleague Play every day" schedule, the Mets will be going to Minnesota to play the Twins before the Yankees will.  The Mets arrive this Friday, while the Yankees don't get there until July 1.

In the photo above, you can see Target Field.  Behind that, the Target Center.  (The Target store company is headquartered in Minneapolis.) Behind that, downtown Minneapolis.  And, in the upper-left corner, the Metrodome.

By a weird twist, when my twin nieces were born, 6 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/New York Fan In…” pages are meant to be family-friendly.

Before You Go. It's a little soon to post the weather forecast, but, since the Twins do not play in the Metrodome anymore, consult the The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press websites for their forecasts.  Seeing as how this will be mid-April, the legend of cold Minnesota winters that last from October to early May may end up applying here, if you're a Met fan going there.  But if you're a Yankee Fan going in July, you'll be fine.

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 $1,100 round-trip.  And you'll have to 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 light rail 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, depending on the number of stops, is between 26 and 31 hours, and costs $340 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 3:40 PM, change trains in Chicago at 9:45 AM, and then the Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will leave at 2:15 PM and 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 $446 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, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, 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 New York, the Chicago suburbs and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Tickets. The Twins’ success of the last 10 years and the building of Target Field led to an average per-game attendance of 39,112 in 2011, pretty much a sellout every night, in spite of their not having a very good season (mainly due to injuries).  But last season, the novelty of the new park had worn off, and they averaged 34,275.  So getting tickets shouldn't be a big problem.

The Twins use "demand-based pricing." For the games against the Mets, as follows: Diamond Box, $44; Field Box, $35; Home Plate Terrace, $34; Skyline View, $16; Field View, $13; LF Bleachers, $22; RF Bleachers, $16.

For the games against the Yankees, the demand will naturally be greater, so the prices will be higher: Diamond Box, $69; Field Box, $52; Home Plate Terrace, $50; Skyline View, $24; Field View, $20; LF Bleachers, $34; RF Bleachers, $27. In other words, despite the Twins’ history of frugal (or even blatantly cheap) ownership, it’ll be expensive.

Going In.  The team's original ballpark was in the suburb of Bloomington, on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River, but roughly equidistant from the downtowns of both Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The team is called "Minnesota," because they didn't want to slight either city.  It is called the "Twins" because Minneapolis and St. Paul are the "Twin Cities."

Well, these Twins are not identical: They have different mindsets, and, manifesting in several ways that included both having Triple-A teams until the MLB team arrived, have been known to feud as much as San Francisco and Oakland, Dallas and Fort Worth, Baltimore and Washington, if not as much as Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Minneapolis has about 390,000 people, St. Paul 285,000, and the combined metropolitan area about 3.6 million, ranking 13th in the U.S. -- roughly the combined population of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island -- or that of Manhattan and Queens.

"Minneapolis" is a combination of the Dakota tribal word for water, and the Greek word for city.  It was founded in 1867 with the name St. Anthony Falls, and, of course, St. Paul, founded in 1854, is also named for an early Christian saint.  Hennepin Avenue separates the numbered Streets from North and South, and the Mississippi River is the "zero point" for the Avenues, many (but not all) of which also have numbers.

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 in rush hour, cheaper than the New York Subway; outside rush hours, it's $1.75.

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 staying at a hotel and walking or taking public transit from there. 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 gates are numbered in honor of the men whose numbers had already been retired when the ballpark opened: Center field, Gate 3, Harmon Killebrew; Left field, Gate 6, Tony Oliva; Home plate, Gate 14, Kent Hrbek; Right field corner, Gate 29, Rod Carew; and another in right field, Gate 34, Kirby Puckett.  Gate 29 has Target Plaza, with statues of those players, and also of former owners Calvin Griffith, and Carl and Eloise Pohlad, parents of current owner Jim Pohlad.  The Twins' team Hall of Fame display is also there.

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. If you are old enough to remember the Twins' original home, Metropolitan Stadium, the double-decked left field bleachers will be reminiscent of that stadium, but, from some angles, will also bear a resemblance to Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and the old Mile High Stadium in Denver (if you remember the baseball configurations of those stadiums). 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 (which was rarely replicated in the ballparks in use in that decade) and 1990s-to-the-present 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 of the yard the way it did at Metropolitan Stadium or the Metrodome.  In its brief history, the longest home run hit at Target is a 491-footer by Jim Thome in 2011.  Ben Oglivie of the Milwaukee Brewers hit the lnogest at the Metrodome, 481 feet, although I can't find a reference to a date.  The longest at The Met, as you  might guess, was by Harmon Killebrew, 525 feet in 1967.

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 particular that Midwest staple, the sausage, including German, Italian, Polish and Kosher varieties.  Fortunately, 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 – think a fish version of "chicken fingers." It's not something I would eat, but walleyes, a native fish, are very popular in Minnesota. The start of walleye fishing season, usually around May 10, is so big there, 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.  (In their early days, the Twins heavily identified with Hamm's Beer, which was headquartered in St. Paul.  Hamm's has since been bought out, although the brand is still sold in the Upper Midwest.) Being American, the Twins believe in ice cream and lots of it.

Team History Displays. The Twins are now in their 2nd half-century of play, so they certainly have some history.  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 Washington Senators": The 1924 World Championship and the 1925 and 1933 AL Pennants. Nor is any mention made of the American Association Pennants won by the Millers (1896, 1910, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’32, ’35, ’55, ’58 and ’59) and the 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 & 1st base, 1961-74; 6, Tony Oliva, right field, 1962-76 and serving the club in several capacities since; 10, Tom Kelly, 1st baseman 1975, manager 1986-2001; 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 -- plus Jackie Robinson's universally-retired 42. Oddly, the numbers are listed in order of their retirement from right to left, as opposed to left to right (or numerically), so that, from left to right, they read: 42, 10, 28, 34, 14, 6, 29, 3.  Killebrew (who died in 2011), 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.

As stated, the Twins' team Hall of Fame is outside the park at Gate 29, with the statues.  The the members include:

From the 1965-70 teams: Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, catcher Earl Battey, shortstop Zoilo Versalles, left fielder Bob Allison, and pitchers Camilo Pascual, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry.

From the 1987 & ’91 teams: Kelly, Blyleven, Hrbek, Puckett, shortstop Greg Gagne, 3rd baseman Gary Gaetti, and pitchers Frank Viola and Rick Aguilera.

From the 2000s: Pitchers Brad Radke and Eddie Guardado.

And spanning the eras: Founding owner Calvin Griffith, original team executive George Brophy, Hall of Fame broadcaster Herb Carneal, owner Carl Pohlad, minor-league director Jim Rantz, media relations director Tom Mee, 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 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.  Bill Gutman, Dave Weiner and Tony Seidl wrote From Worst to First! The Improbable 1991 Seasons of the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins.

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 they don’t especially like the Yankees, they will not directly antagonize you, and certainly won't take shots at Met fans. 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.  I would also advise against saying anything complimentary about the Green Bay Packers, the University of Wisconsin, the Dallas Stars (the hockey team that used to be the Minnesota North Stars) or Norm Green (the owner who moved them).

The Twins' mascot is TC Bear -- TC for Twin Cities, and it's probably a bear in honor of that once-familiar Minnesota mascot/TV pitchanimal, the Hamm's Beer Bear.  They don't have a song to use after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th Inning Stretch, or a postgame victory song, but they do have a theme song, "We're Gonna Win, Twins!"

They still sell the Homer Hankies made famous during their 1987 postseason run. They did not, however, originate the idea: In 1977, the Cleveland Indians, desperate for attendance, held “Hate the Yankees Hanky Night.”

The Twins have "The Race at Target Field." It's a takeoff on the Milwaukee Brewers' Sausage Race, with five Minnesota-inspired characters: Louie the Loon (a bird, not a crazy man), Wanda the Walleye (fish), Babe the Blue Ox (from the legend of Paul Bunyan), Skeeta the Mosquito (apparently they got him in a trade with the Houston Astros), and Bullseye the dog (mascot of Target, and apparently a descendant of former Bud Light pitchdog Spuds Mackenzie).

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. At a Lions Club dinner in 1978, 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. (Along with the fictional character of Synclaire James, played by Kim Coles on the New York-based show Living Single.) 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 listings for where they tend to gather are slim.  But I have one listing for a place that seems to cater to football Giants fans: O'Donovan's Irish Pub, at 700 1st Avenue North at 7th St.

Another restaurant that may be of interest to New York baseball fans is Charley's Grill, at 225 3rd Avenue South at 2nd Street.  It was popular among visiting players from other American Association cities when they came to play the Millers and the Saints.  Legend has it that, when the Yankees gathered for spring training in 1961, they were trying to figure out which restaurants in the new American League cities were good, and someone who'd recently played for the Denver Bears mentioned Charley's.  But Yogi Berra, who'd gone there when the Yanks' top farm team was the Kansas City Blues, said, "Nobody goes there anymore.  It's too crowded." Well, someone must still be going there, because it's still open.  (That Yogi said the line is almost certainly true, but the restaurant in question was almost certainly Ruggiero's, a place in his native St. Louis at which he and his neighbor Joe Garagiola waited tables.)

Sidelights.  Hennepin Avenue divides Minneapolis between north and south on their street signs.  There is no east and west on them.

Minnesota’s sports history is long, but 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 and new Vikings stadium. 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 in 2010, the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes has finally led to action.

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, the Metrodome 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).  It also hosted the Final Four in 2001 (Duke won that one, too, over Arizona).

In May of last year, faced with the serious possibility of the Vikings moving without getting a suitable stadium (Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Antonio had been rumored as locations, in descending order of likelihood), the Minnesota State legislature approved funding for a new stadium for the Vikings, to be built on the site of the Metrodome and on adjoining land.

This will allow construction to start this coming October, with the Vikings still playing at the Dome, and possibly in 2014, then moving into TCF Bank Stadium for 2015, before the new stadium opens in 2016.  It might also allow Minnesota United to get promoted to Major League Soccer.  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 to their performance at the Metrodome, 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 and nothing to block an Arctic blast of wind.

In fact, the Met 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 said the stadium 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 had 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 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 the southern suburb of Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints (at 1000 N. Snelling Avenue in the city of St. Paul, also roughly equidistant from the two downtowns), struck out, and was used as a practice field by the Vikings before being demolished in 1981.

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 -- near the airport, although legends of planes being an issue, as with Shea Stadium and Citi Field, seem to be absent. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, has been preserved. A 45-minute ride on the Number 55 light rail (MOA station).

* 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 I-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” (11,842, to be exact), now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. (The old Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden said his team and the Lakers should switch names, due to L.A.'s "West Coast jazz" scene and the Great Salt Lake: "Los Angeles Jazz" and "Utah Lakers" would both make more sense.)

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, and have still won more World Championships than all the other Minnesota major league teams combined: Twins 2, the rest a total of 0.  They were led by their enormous (for the time, 6-foot-10, 270-pound) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasses, not goggles, on the court) 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.

The Auditorium hosted the NCAA Final Four (although it wasn't yet called that) in 1951, won by Kentucky.  Elvis sang there 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.

* University of Minnesota.  TCF Bank 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, ahead of only 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.

The Gophers play their basketball games at Williams Arena, a classic old barn built in 1928, across Oak Street from the open west end of TCF Bank Stadium.  Across 4th Street from Williams is Mariucci Arena, home of the hockey team that has won National Championships in 1974, '76, '79, 2002 and '03.  Named for John Mariucci, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks' 1938 Stanley Cup winners who coached the Gophers, the arena was built in 1993, after the team previously played hockey at Williams.

* 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.  Number 17 bus, then walk 2 blocks east on 24th Street.

Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don’t win: Governor Harold Stassen failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948 and then ran several more times, becoming a joke; Senator Eugene McCarthy opposed Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic Primaries in 1968, but lost his momentum when Robert Kennedy got into the race and LBJ got out, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote; Vice President Walter Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State but Minnesota in his loss to Ronald Reagan; and in the 2012 cycle, the moderate former Governor Tim Pawlenty and the completely batty Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, which put a price on his head, a price it was unable to pay off.  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 as Majority Whip. He ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1960 but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected LBJ’s Vice President in 1964.  He won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair.  He returned to the Senate in 1970, and ran for President again in 1972 but lost the nomination to George McGovern.  He might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed, as cancer killed him in 1978 at age 66.  His wife Muriel briefly held his Senate seat.

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 Muriel are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue.  Number 6 bus.

The tallest building in Minnesota is the IDS Center, at 80 South 8th Street at Marquette Avenue, rising 792 feet high.  The tallest in the State outside Minneapolis is Wells Fargo Place, at 30 East 7th Street at Cedar Street in St. Paul, 472 feet.

Nicollet Mall is a pedestrians-only shopping center that stretches from 2nd to 13th Streets downtown.  At 7th Street, in front of Macy's, in roughly the same location that Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards threw her hat in the air in the opening to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a statue of "Mare" doing that.  It was the first in a series of statues commissioned by TV Land that now includes Jackie Gleason outside Port Authority, Henry Winkler in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in Raleigh, Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem, Massachusetts and Elvis in Honolulu.  However, the show had no location shots in Minneapolis.

The ABC sitcom Coach was set at Minnesota State University.  At the time, there was not a real college with that name.  But in 1999, Mankato State University was renamed Minnesota State University, Mankato; and in 2000, Moorhead State University became Minnesota State University, Moorhead.  The University of Minnesota was originally a model for the school on the show, but withdrew its support: Although some game action clearly shows the maroon and gold of the Golden Gophers, the uniforms shown in other scenes were light purple and gold, and in one Season 1 episode, the Gophers are specifically mentioned as an opponent, suggesting that Minnesota State might have been in the Big Ten.  Show creator Barry Kemp is a graduate of the University of Iowa -- like Wisconsin, a major rival of the Gophers -- and most of the exterior shots you see of the campus were filmed there.  In addition, the main character, Hayden Fox, was named after then-Iowa coach Hayden Fry.  No scenes were actually shot in Minnesota, not even Hayden's oft-snowy lake house.

St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd.  It's a half-hour ride from downtown on the Number 94 bus (named because most of its route is on I-94).

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Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of sports travel guides: Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks, about his 1985 trip to all 26 stadiums then in MLB; and Big Ten Country, about his 1988 trip to all the Big Ten campuses and stadiums.  (Penn State, Nebraska, and soon-to-be members Rutgers and Maryland were not yet in the league).

The Metrodome was the only stadium that featured in both books, although if either were updated, it would feature in neither.  In Big Ten Country, Wood said, “Now, don't get me wrong.  It's not that I don't like Minneapolis.  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.

1 comment:

Michael -juanita McFarland said...

1100 for a ticket to minneapolis? Where do yo think minneapolis is? Australia?