Baseball, Travel

A Childhood Memory

It’s interesting what can provoke a memory.  Today’s American League Central Division playoff game between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers will be the final regular season major league game played in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  The Twins will be moving to a new, outdoor stadium next season, although any playoff games this year would obviously still be at the Metrodome.

What about that provokes a memory?  For me, it’s the recognition that the FIRST major league baseball game I ever attended wasn’t in the Metrodome, but rather its predecessor, Metropolitan Stadium.  I’m now 47 years old, and have outlived two stadiums in the same town.  This makes me ponder whether I’m really aging that quickly, or are major league baseball stadiums becoming more disposable by the at-bat.

On August 29, 1969, my father and I interrupted a fishing trip to Waterville, Minnesota (yep, that’s really the name) with friends to drive to Minneapolis and see a game.  I never kept a journal as a kid, but the beauty of the internet is that it can give you information that otherwise would have vanished long ago if you can just recall a few facts from that particular event.

For me, I recall the Twins playing the Red Sox, and Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski) was in the lineup.

Harmon Killebrew hit a home run for the Twins.

But the clincher was the vivid memory of Americo Peter Petrocelli, better known as Rico, hitting a dinger in the top of the second inning to put the Red Sox on top.  A little time on the baseball-reference.com site looking at game reports where Rico hit home runs against the Twins let me corroborate the other memories, and I found my first major league game.  That in itself is amazing.

I didn’t have a favorite team at that time (I was seven), but his one day opened my eyes to an alternate reality…baseball was something bigger than playing catch in my backyard.  My dad admired Yaz, so for the moment I became a Red Sox fan.  This led to my first disappointment as a baseball fan, as Billy Martin’s Twins answered Petrocelli’s blast with four runs in the third on their way to a 10-4 victory.

Fortunately, my allegiance changed to the Baltimore Orioles later that summer.  I don’t remember why other than they were really good, and I liked Boog Powell.  Maybe I saw them on the game of the week.  But those same Orioles swept the Twins in the playoffs to win the American League pennant, and after beating the Mets in the first game of the World Series, I was thrilled.  My Orioles were the champs.  Of course, I learned over the next four games that the World Series wasn’t a single game event, and the Mets really were a miracle that year.  Perhaps it was a miracle I stayed an Orioles fan through my college years before settling in Illinois and adopting the Cubs.  Apparently my disappointment in my first game was preparation for life as a Cubs fan.

I can still visit the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium.  The park was leveled to make way for the Mall of America, but they retained one seat that sits at the exact location (including elevation) it occupied in the stadium to commemorate a 520 foot home run hit by hall-of-famer Harmon Killebrew on June 3, 1967.

As for the Metrodome, I’m happy the Twins are moving, even if it give me another reason to face my mortality.  I only attended one game there, but it just didn’t feel like a baseball stadium to me.  If the new stadium is anything like the newer ballparks in places like Baltimore, Pittsburgh or St. Louis, it will be a huge improvement.  I’m anxious to see a game there.

But it won’t top my memories….

Photo:  Property of Minnesota Twins website, borrowed under fair use statute as topic of this writing.

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