Metropolitan Stadium. If you are over 40, you remember those funky colored exterior panels and the erector set frame. But it was our ballpark and a good one at that.
Last week I talked about our group that relived the Twins 1977 season. The effort conjured up globs of memories.
May 1, 1977, New Ulm's Sportsman's Grill is closed; most things are on Sundays. Cathy and Greg Roiger have the day off, and they have tickets to the Twins game. It's their sixth anniversary and the first game for Derek, who's five, and Maggie, two.
Greg: "Maggie wasn't quite sure what was going on, but Derek was excited. He had his glove along. We arrived early. We spent some time wandering the parking lot before making our way into the park. Pretty good seats, second deck, not quite right behind home."
Early on, the game looks like a dud. The Tigers hit three homeruns and go up 5 to 0. It's 5 to 2 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Twins string together a couple hits, and with two outs, pinch hitter "Mongo" Kusick comes up. "He hit one of the hardest balls I had ever seen. A mammoth shot high in the air to centerfield. Everybody thought it was out. When it came down out of the clouds, it hit the warning track and bounced over for a ground rule double. Tie game!"
"When I quit cheering I looked at Derek. He was sitting in his seat taking it all in. He looked up and said 'What a day for Bruce Jenner!'" echoing a famous commercial of the day. Smalley singles in another run, and the Roigers have a winner.
June 2, 1977, Doc and Donna Brinkman are taking 13-year old Dean to see the Twins play the Yankees.
Dean: "We're leavin' for The Met in the afternoon. I can't wait. Rod Carew vs. Reggie Jackson! Dad shelled out $16.50 total for the tickets. Geez, that's a lot. Think how many baseball cards that would buy!"
"The drive to Bloomington takes forever! We listen to 'CCO most of the way but I get them to change to WDGY for a while. My ticket is Box 28, Seat 6, near the Yankees dugout. I say a 'Thank You' prayer that it's a nice night."
"I'll never forget walking through the concourse and looking thru the walkway that opens up to the field. There's the baseball palace and the sound of batting practice. The Yanks are hitting. Only major leaguers make that bat-cracking sound! I'm soaking in all their mannerisms (might need to use 'em during wiffle ball)."
"One thing I love about the Met is having night settle in on the game with the sun landing on the left field bleachers and those gi-normous light standards kicking on looking like stage lighting. Gotta have a Frosty Malt and those little wooden spoons that you bite in half when you're done. I'm also on a mission to spend some lawn mowing money to get a Yankees helmet."
"The game has a lot of scoring and Carew put on his usual hitting clinic. Man, he looks so cool, smooth, relaxed. Reggie, he puts enough on each swing to send it on the next flight out of Bloomington. When the game's done, I hate leaving this place. I'm gonna kick some butt in wiffle ball tomorrow!"
On July 7, 1977, Terry Helget, eight-year old Stark kid, has a day he'll call "one of the best of my life." Mandy and Carol are taking the family to the Met.
Terry: 8 a.m. Of all the days to be sick, not today! I have swimming lessons in an hour. We're supposed to go to my first Twins game ever tonight. Gonna have to gut this one out.
9 a.m. Swimming lessons at the outdoor pool in New Ulm. It's cold. I hate swimming lessons. I envy the kids who aren't scared to stick their faces in the water diving after the rings. I'm still pulling the rings to shallow water with my foot. Lucky for me this is my third year in Beginners One. I'm taller than my classmates and can bully my way around during ring toss drills.
10 a.m. Swimming lessons are over. Time for the best acting job of my life. Mom asks me how it went today. I say, "Fine."
11 a.m. Pulling lambsquarters out in the bean field. I wish Dad would pay us a penny for every lambsquarter. I'd be rich and could buy more baseball cards. I hate walking beans.
12 p.m. Dinner time. I eat as much as I can so as not to show Mom I am sick.
1 p.m. I feel a little better. I had to pay my sister a quarter so she wouldn't tell on me. She's so stupid. If I can't go, she can't either.
3:30 p.m. We hit the road. Dad said it will take two hours to get to the Cities. That's a long ride. All five of us (Mom, Dad, sister Kelly, brother Darrin, and me) are loaded into our 1974 Ford Galaxy. Darrin has to sit on the hump in the back seat because he's the youngest. Nobody will trade with him either.
5:10 p.m. We are in the Cities! We're on a big highway that has four lanes. Dad calls it 494. That must mean it has four lanes.
5:12 p.m. There's Embers. I've seen their commercials. "Mom, can we eat there after the game?" "We'll see." That's promising.
5:20 p.m. There it is! I know that's Met Stadium because of the orange, red, and yellow colored panels on the outside. I've seen it on TV.
5:35 p.m. Dad had to pay a couple of dollars to park. I can't believe how big this parking lot is.
5:45 p.m. We're walking up the concourses to the upper deck. What a glorious sight! The field is magnificent! I can't believe how green the grass is. California is taking batting practice. They sure hit the ball a long way. Everything is more colorful in person than on TV! I thought I was going to puke on the ride up here, but now being sick is the last thing on my mind. Wow, this is great! Our seats are in the first row of the upper deck overlooking first base. We'll be able to see Rod Carew up close. Larry Hisle will look like an ant out in left field.
6:10 p.m. Batting practice is over and we're walking around looking at the souvenirs. I'd like a Twins helmet, but they cost $2. "Dad, can I get a helmet?" "Just be glad you're here." Ok then.
6:50 p.m. Starting lineups are announced. I know a few of the Angels players who I have baseball cards of. Frank Tanana is pitching tonight; I have two Frank Tananas.
6:52 p.m. What? Rod Carew is not starting! Craig Kusick is OK (I have three of his cards), but not tonight!
7:05 p.m. First pitch. Boy, what a nice night.
8 p.m. I have to admit, I'm not paying that close attention to the game. I'm too busy looking around at the big scoreboard in right-center, the bleacher seats across the way, the grassy knoll down the left field line. What a great place! I hope they never tear this place down.
8:30 p.m. My stomach is starting to get queasy. "Mom, do you have any aspirin?" "Don't you feel well?" "No." "I've been wondering when you would tell me." She knew the whole time! "Thanks Mom."
10:30 p.m. The Twins win 8 to 6, and we get to stop at Embers. I don't eat much, still not feeling well.
11:15 p.m. We finish eating and head to the car. "Darrin, you still have to sit on the hump." I fall asleep immediately. What a day!