Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Minnesota -- 2014-15 Edition


Yet again, I'm nearly too late with this. Tomorrow night, the Knicks play the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (That's the octagonal building in the middle of the picture, with the Twins' Target Field in front of it, and the now-demolished Metrodome in the upper left-hand corner. The Target store company is headquartered in Minneapolis.)

The Nets will head out there later in the season.

Before You Go. It's Minnesota. It's mid-November. It's going to be cold. True, the game will be indoors, but you'll have to be outside at some point. You should consult the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press websites for their forecasts. They're predicting 21 degrees... for tomorrow afternoon. For gametime, 5 above zero. For Thursday daylight, at which point you might still be in Minnesota, 17. Brrrr. Bundle up.

Minnesota is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Timberwolves averaged only 14,564 fans per home game last season, 27th in the NBA, ahead of only Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. They averaged 75 percent of capacity, 26th, ahead of only those teams and Detroit. Already, there are rumors that the team will end up having to move. Getting tickets should not be an issue. (Indeed, they almost moved to New Orleans in 1994, but, due to the prospective new owners having financing issues, the NBA's franchise relocation committee unanimously turned them down, and Glen Taylor stepped in, and still owns the team today.)

In the lower level, seats run from $111 to $334 between the baskets and $65 to $111 behind them. In the upper level, they are $31 or $41 between the baskets and $19 behind them.

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). Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there. And, since I took to long to do this, that's now your only option. Again, I'm sorry.

But it’s kind of an expensive flight. Even if you order early, chances are you’ll have to pay at least $950 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 at least that is 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 $507 round-trip, although it can be dropped to $449 with advanced purchase. 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 on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time, 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 $692 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 and a half hours 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.

Once In the City. When the original NBA team, there, the Minneapolis Lakers, moved in 1960, it was decided that any new teams coming in would instead be named after the State: From 1961 onward, we have seen the Minnesota Twins in MLB, the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, the Minnesota North Stars and the Minnesota Wild in the NHL, the Minnesota Muskies in the ABA, the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA, the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA, the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA, and Minnesota United FC in the NASL (which they would like to promote into MLS, but, as yet, this hasn't happened).

The teams are called "Minnesota," because they didn't want to slight either Minneapolis or St. Paul. The baseball team 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 baseball 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 400,000 people, St. Paul just under 300,000, and the combined metropolitan area about 3.6 million, ranking 16th in the U.S. -- roughly the combined population of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island -- or that of Manhattan and Queens. Denver is the only metropolitan area with teams in all 4 sports that's smaller.

"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. In Minneapolis, 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.

Each city once had 2 daily papers, now each is down to 1: Minneapolis had the Star and the Tribune, merged in 1982; St. Paul the Pioneer and the Dispatch, merged into the Pioneer Press and Dispatch in 1985, with the Dispatch name dropped in 1990. Today, they are nicknamed the Strib and the Pi Press.

The sales tax in the State of Minnesota is 6.875 percent. It's 7.775 percent in Minneapolis' Hennepin County, and 7.625 percent in St. Paul's Ramsey County. Bus and Light Rail service is $2.25 per ride during rush hours, $1.75 otherwise.

Going In. The Target Center is at the northwest edge of downtown Minneapolis, in a neighborhood called the Warehouse District. It can be reached via the Warehouse-Hennepin Avenue station on the Metro Transit Hiawatha Line, Minneapolis’ light rail system.

It is bounded by 6th Street, 1st Avenue, 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, with that stretch of 2nd renamed Rod Carew Drive, even though Carew played for the Twins, not the Timberwolves. Speaking of the Twins, Interstate 394 separates their Target Field from the Target Center. Parking lots are all over downtown, and parking is between $10 and $15, depending on the event. However, if you’ve driven all this way, most likely you’ll be staying at a hotel and walking or taking public transit from there. The official address is 600 First Avenue North. The court is laid on northeast-to-southwest.

Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their arena 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.

The Target Center has Deli Stands, Grill Stands, Pizza Stands, Ice Cream Stands, the Loco Lobos Stand featuring Mexican food at Section 133, and, at Section 113, the State Fair Stand. The State Fair is a very big deal in Minnesota (whereas most New Yorkers don't go up to Syracuse for theirs, and most New Jerseyans couldn't be bothered to schlep up to the Meadowlands for theirs), and the Stand features Fresh Cut Fries, Baked Potatoes and Fried Cheese Curds.

Team History Displays. Unlike the Twins and the Vikings, the Timberwolves don't have much history -- not particularly successful, and not even particularly interesting. They've only won 1 Division Title, and the banner for that 2004 title does hang in the rafters. That 2003-04 season also marks the only time in their 1st 25 seasons that the T-Wolves have reached the Conference Finals.

The T-Wolves have only 1 retired number, and it's as a memorial, not for long and glorious service: Malik Sealy, the Bronx native who starred at St. John's and with the Indiana Pacers, played 1 season, 1999-2000, in Minnesota before being killed. He was driving home from a birthday celebration for teammate and best friend Kevin Garnett in downtown Minneapolis, when he was hit by a truck driven by a man who already had 1 drunk driving conviction. He served 3 years in prison, and is back in prison due to a 3rd DUI charge. Sealy was named after Malcolm X, who called himself Malik Shabazz in the closing days of his life, and was buried in the same cemetery, Ferncliff in Greenburgh, in Westchester County.

In spite of the way Garnett left -- essentially doing what LeBron James did in Cleveland, desperately hoping the team could get built up, not having it happen, playing out his contract and leaving for a "superteam," in his case the Boston Celtics -- I suspect that, once he retires as a player, the T-Wolves will retire his Number 21. If that is, they're still playing in Minneapolis by then. (They have no plans to move, but considering their attendance and the current state of the team, it's not hard to imagine them moving within the next 5 years.) But I find it difficult to imagine them retiring any other numbers anytime soon.

Indeed, of the 6 banners hanging at Target Center, only 2 are for the T-Wolves. The Lynx hang 3, for their 2011 WNBA Championship and their 2011 and 2012 Western Conference titles. The other honors the 7 members of the Minneapolis Lakers in the Basketball Hall of Fame: George Mikan, Jim Polland, Vern Mikkelsen, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovellette, Elgin Baylor and head coach John Kundla. But no mention is made of the Lakers' 5 NBA titles in Minneapolis: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. Nor is their 1948 National Basketball League title mentioned. (Vikings coach Bud Grant had also played on those Laker championship teams.)

Stuff. The Timberwolves and Lynx Pro Shop is open on the Skyway Level of the Target Center. Paraphernalia of both teams is available.

Without much history -- there's certainly no DVD package of the NBA Finals they won, because they haven't won one -- there's not much media about the T-Wolves. Sara Gilbert (not the Roseanne actress now a panelist on The Talk) wrote The Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the NBA's A History of Hoops series. Nate LeBoutillier's update will appear in January.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the T-Wolves' fans at 19th, citing the Minnesota weather and the decision to let Kevin Garnett go as reasons why not enough fans show up. (It could also be that Minnesota is a hockey State first, a football State second, and a baseball State third.)

Because of their Midwest/Heartland image, Timberwolves fans like a "family atmosphere." Therefore, while they don't especially like the Knicks or the Nets, they will not directly antagonize you. You'll probably be all right if you don't say 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 T-Wolves' mascot is Crunch the Wolf. They do not appear to have any traditional chants, fan quirks such as funny hats or masks, or a postgame victory song. Honestly, they're kind of boring.

After the Game. Minneapolis is one of the safest cities in the country, and Timberwolves fans aren't known for their antagonism. You should be completely safe leaving the Target Center.

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 Yorkers 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. 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.

* Target Field. The Twins moved into their first real ballpark -- the Met and the Metrodome both being multipurpose facilities -- in 2010. They made the Playoffs that 1st season, but have struggled since. Still, it's not an ice tray way out in the suburbs, or a ridiculous dome. 353 N. 5th Street at 3rd Avenue, separated from the Target Center by I-394. It does, however, have its own station on the Hiawatha Line.

* Site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the new Vikings stadium. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, and the NFL’s Vikings from 1982 to 2013, that infamous blizzard and roof collapse in 2010 brought the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes to the front burner, and 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, were just 6-4 in home Playoff games 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 2012, 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.

The damn thing has now been fully demolished -- in a piece of poetic justice, just as it was built and completed ahead of schedule and under budget, so did the demolition take place. The people of Minnesota seemed to be proud of its having been built on the cheap and on time, but it served its purpose, to keep the Twins and Vikings from moving for a generation, and now replacement stadiums are achieving the same purpose. Billy Martin, who hated the place, had the best word on it, though the awkward wording of it may have been inspired in part by his pal Yogi Berra: "It's a shame a great guy like HHH had to be named after it." (Billy's first managing job was with the Twins, at the Met in 1969.)

The Vikings will remain at TCF Bank Stadium through the 2015 season, before the new stadium opens in 2016. The new stadium 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 having played 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 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 -- making one of only 3 facilities to host an All-Star Game, a Finals and a Beatles concert in the same year. (The others were the Boston Garden and Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964.) 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, have 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. at 7th Street.

* Site of the 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: Lakers 5, 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.

Its capacity of 50,805 makes it the 2nd-smallest stadium in the Big Ten, ahead of only Northwestern’s Ryan Field/Dyche Stadium, but the Gophers’ lack of success over the last 40 years or so has been overcome: They have regularly filled 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, at 420 SE 23rd Avenue. Stadium Village stop on the light rail Green Line.

"Old Memorial" was a block away from where the new stadium now stands, on Walnut Street between University Avenue and Beacon Street. The Vikings played a home game there in 1969 due to the Twins making the Playoffs that season and having dibs on Metropolitan Stadium. The McNamara Alumni Center now stands on the site, and the arched entrance to Memorial has been preserved and stands inside.

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.

Legend has it that 4th Street is the "Positively 4th Street" used as the title of a song by former UM student Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, although, as is often the case with Dylan songs, there is no mention of the title in the songs. Whether the "friend" who's "got a lot of nerve" was a fellow UM student, I don't know. It's also been suggested that the 4th Street in question is the one in New York's Greenwich Village.

* 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. The Science Museum of Minnesota is at 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul, across from the Xcel Center.

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, pardon the choice of words, a running 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. In the 2012 election cycle, the moderate former Governor Tim Pawlenty and the completely batty Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ran, and neither got anywhere.

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's come closer than any other Minnesotan ever has), 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 would be named for him. 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 sitcom Coach, which aired on ABC from 1989 to 1996, 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 most scenes were light purple and gold. In one Season 1 episode, the Gophers are specifically mentioned as one of the Screaming Eagles' opponents, 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).

*

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 to reflect current reality, 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, it's gone, and the Target Center is a good arena. Whether the Timberwolves will give you a good show, or you'd prefer to see the Knicks or Nets roll over them, is up to you.

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