Results tagged ‘ Metrodome ’

Outdoor Baseball Returns to Twin Cities

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Minnesota Twins opened a new ballpark on Monday, as Target Field played host to its first official regular-season game, and for the first time since 1981 a major league game took place outdoors in the Twin Cities. The day could not have been more perfect – from the weather, to initial reviews of the stadium, to the reactions of players and those in the stands. The new ballpark is a home run.

04-13-10-Horn_KillebrewCarew.jpgDeployed to bring home items to Cooperstown that represented the Twins’ move from the Metrodome, I was honored to be a part of the day, which was filled with so many familiar faces – all who were united in their reverence for a ballpark that has immediately joined the discussion of best ballparks anywhere in the country.

Hall of Fame Senior Vice President Bill Haase and I encountered several members of baseball’s royalty who were simply thrilled to be a part of the moment. Hall of Famer and Twins legend Rod Carew – along with his wife, Rhonda – and I talked about how the gaps would play for his sweet stroke, and how he might run all day around the bases. Former Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart offered me a contrarian view of the defensive effort that would be required of the new dimensions.

Harmon Killebrew, the “Killer,” and his wife, Nita, enjoyed the beautiful weather conditions and a new era for baseball in Minneapolis with several members of their family, as did fellow Hall of Famer and Twins great Dave Winfield, who along with his brother Steve, watched the game from just past the first base dugout.

As to the game itself, we at the Hall of Fame were fortunate to head home with the ball hit by Boston Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who laced a single to center off Carl Pavano to lead off the game for the first hit at Target Field. A special tip-of-the-cap to home plate umpire Jeff Nelson and crew chief Tim Tschida for pulling the ball out of play to make sure it ended up several hundred miles east of here, in its eternal home in Cooperstown.

04-13-10-Horn_Kubel.jpgThe ball came out of play with a three-inch scuff of fresh-cut grass, a substance not found on a baseball in a major league game in Minneapolis in nearly 30 years. It was the perfect treasure for representing a return to outdoor baseball in a city whose passion for the game has, perhaps, never been more intense.

Following the game, Jason Kubel of the Twins pledged the hardwood used to hit the first home run in the history of Target Field, an eighth-inning solo shot to right field off Boston’s Scott Atchison (like me, a TCU Horned Frog, who is one of the best stories of the early season, winning a spot on an Opening Day roster for the first time at age 34 after a previous brief stint with Seattle in 2004 and 2005).

Kubel was honored by our offer to have the bat preserved forever in Cooperstown, but he was convinced that there are a few more bombs left in the bat. So, we happily agreed to take the bat once it dies… and I’m guessing it is going to be remembered as a hero, with a few more big hits in it for Kubel. This would be his second artifact donation to the Hall of Fame, previously donating his helmet from his cycle in 2009.

Before departing Target Field, I made sure to scoop up some infield dirt to commemorate the day to add to our collection in Cooperstown. Mixed in are several cuts of fresh green grass, a perfect tribute to Minneapolis’ triumphant return to outdoor baseball.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Pagliarulo reminisces in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

He turns 50 years old in 10 days, but Mike Pagliarulo looks as if he could still turn on an inside fastball and deposit it in the right field seats at Yankee Stadium.

The one-time lefty swinging slugger, who spent 11 big league seasons patrolling the hot corner for the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, was at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday as the keynote speaker for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Clinic.

03-05-10-Francis_Pagliarulo.jpgAfter the morning session, “Pags,” as he was known, talked about his life in the National Pastime. In fact, it was game that ran in the family, as his father played a few years of minor league ball and his son played ball at Dartmouth University.

“There are things that tear families apart and there are things that bring them together. I’m just glad it was baseball (bringing things together) for us,” he said. “We really don’t talk about it too much, but we like playing.”

After the Massachusetts native and lifelong Red Sox fan was selected by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 1981 amateur draft, Pagliarulo made his big league debut with the Bronx Bombers in July 1984.

“One of the great things about growing up with the Yankees and being part of that organization was the way we felt about each other. It’s a tough organization, and they made it that way on purpose because they develop players to play in New York City,” he said. “You’re not playing in some other town where nobody really cares, but in New York the fans understand the game, they know the game, so you can’t mess up out there. You have to be ready and you have to be able to play. Whether you are good or bad, you have to be able to play. The Yankees did prepare us for that.”

So after hitting 28 home runs in 1986 and 32 in ’87, it was a surprise to Pagliarulo when he was traded to the Padres in July 1989.

“I didn’t want to be traded from New York. I didn’t care how I played, I just didn’t want to be traded,” he said. “So I went out to San Diego … that’s a different world out there. I had to yell at a couple of the fans sometimes, ‘Look, I’m stinking it up. Throw something at me, yell, do something, will you?’ A beautiful place, but I liked playing in New York.

03-05-10-Francis_PagsTickets.jpgEventually finding his way to Minnesota, Pags saw his only postseason action with the 1991 Twins. Not only did he hit a 10th-inning, pinch-hit homer off Toronto’s Mike Timlin to win Game Three of the ALCS, but was also played the entirely of the classic Game Seven of the World Series, in which Minnesota’s Jack Morris, who went 10 innings, outdueled Atlanta’s John Smoltz in a 1-0 triumph.

“What a great experience that postseason was for me. I’m glad I played well, but it was just great to be a part of that. One of the best experiences of my baseball career,” Pagliarulo said. “The great thing about Game Seven was that even though it was deafening in the Metrodome – I was standing up in the dugout and (shortstop) Greg Gagne was standing right next to me and I couldn’t hear a word he was saying – when you are on the field the thing that was different I thought was the awareness that the players have.”

Pagliarulo was a participant in last year’s inaugural Hall of Fame Classic, a seven-inning legends game played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. And he drove in the winning run with a double.

“Being on the field brought back a lot of memories for me. The performance end of it was a little tough. Maybe I’ll get a jog in once in awhile before the game this year,” Pagliarulo joked. “It was great to see the other players, and the players really loved it. Being on the field, the fans are out, the weather’s great, you are in Cooperstown, not much beats that. I think it’s a great thing for Cooperstown and I know the guys really want to do it too.”

This second annual Hall of Fame Classic, featuring seven Hall of Famers and 20 other former big leaguers, takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 20. For more information, click here.

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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