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GDT #37: Rays @ Twins

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The Saints open their new ballpark in a few days, so we'll look at a book about team history.

I have a jersey like this. It's AWESOME.
I have a jersey like this. It's AWESOME.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Game Time: 1:10 CDT (19:10 GMT)
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, High Around 80, Might Rain PoopLoads
TV: FSN. Radio: A Cuba Gooding Movie

Churches were pissed at Saints.

In 1895, the Saint Paul baseball team (alternately called Saints or Apostles; nicknames were more fluid then) was playing downtown, close to today's new Saints stadium. Churches loathed Sunday games. For one thing, crowd noise interfered with worship services. Mostly, though, churches were in the business of saving souls, and didn't feel baseball games served this purpose (some baseball fans, then and now, would disagree.)

This was a problem for owner Charles Comiskey. You couldn't play night games at the time, and most people worked during weekdays (many on Saturday as well.) Sunday games churned up big ticket sales. To placate churches, Comiskey built a new, inexpensive ballpark on University and Lexington. Comiskey had bigger aspirations than midway between the Twin Cities, shortly moving his team to Chicago -- where them Saints became ze White Sox, a founding American League franchise.

Local baseball history expert (and official scorer at Twins home games) Stew Thornley has a new book, "The St. Paul Saints: Baseball in the Capital City." Those familiar with Thornley's other works on Minnesota baseball should know what to expect; exceptional research presented in a professional, almost academic tone.

(For most everybody except David RF, "St. Paul Saints" is a moniker dating back to Comiskey's day. There have been several teams with that name, some independent, some affiliated with MLB. Simplifying a smidge, most older Saints teams were farm squads, usually playing at Lexington Park or Municipal/Midway Stadium until our Twins came to town. The new Saints, always independent, arrived at Midway in 1993.)

Anyone who hasn't read Thornley before, how you dig his writing will depend on your fascination with local baseball history. Unlike more general-interest nonfiction authors, Thornley doesn't spend much time trying to engulf you in the life of different eras he's describing. It's assumed you're already into this material or you wouldn't be reading.

This may be due to the limited amount of colorful detail available for researchers about historical minor-league ball. Papers covered games without much flourish. 1930's Saints manager Lou McKenna was described by The Sporting News as one who "sold baseball to St. Paul strictly on its merits as an entertaining, healthful outdoor pastime, shunning as poison the more obnoxious drums of ballyhoo."

Of course, "ballyhoo" makes the new Saints special. Thornley's book gets funkier, for me, when it introduces the Veecks, both father and son. Bill Veeck, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers, went full-bore fan-goading. He'd go on radio shows and say what a dump St. Paul was, just to drum up outraged ticket sales (no surprise, it worked.)

The familiar Mike Veeck stories are well-retold here. I especially liked how Thornley devotes space to the 1970s Portland Mavericks team, which brought independent-league baseball back from the dead (you can watch a short, entertaining documentary about them on Netflix.) The Mavericks certainly inspired Mike Veeck.

Thornley leaves out my favorite Mike Veeck moment. Dingbat shit-stirring legislators asked if a new Saints stadium would, like Target Field, use imported Kentucky bluegrass, since that was a topical fake controversy. Veeck replied how, as a child of the '60s, he fully believed in homegrown grass.

Thornley's book contains a lot of details; each reader will have their own favorites. Mine about the historic Saints are photos of Lexington Park and its players (Roy Campanella had a brief stint there) or sidebar boxes describing old characters/curiosities (like teams sometimes stalling with a lead, so games would be called on account of darkness.)

With the new Saints, it's interesting to know that Twins radio fixture Kris Atteberry and FSN hockey broadcaster Anthony LaPanta both started out with the team. Plus, here's a gem; longtime/current Saints community relations guru, Annie Huidekoper, applied for her job after hearing Sid Hartman say the Saints would go broke before their first month in business.

Anyhoo, Minnesota baseball history fans: check this out. Literally! Use your libraries! They're literally free of charge! You can't say "literally" more about libraries!

(Final note: both Lexington Park and Minneapolis's Miller Park are the sites of banks, now, and each has its own teensy commemorative baseball plaque. Just like the teensy plaque at Mall Of America about Met Stadium. Banks, malls, and ballfields are all churches of commerce in their way; it seems to fit.)

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Alex Colome (Jesus's cousin) pitches for Tampa Bay. He throws a fastball, slider/cutter, and change. Neither he nor Twins hurler Trevor May have any real history against their big-league opponents today, so both will probably give up, soft-tossing balls blindfolded. Here's Colome's stats (11 MLB games, 9 starts):

ERA WHIP K, BB/9 OPS v. L/R FIP ERA+ Cousin To Which Jesus?
3.40 1.275 6.6, 3.2 .690/.684 4.40 115 not THAT one, the Colome

May had a rough outing last Sunday. I liked how he criticized himself after over-walking Cleveland's Butera-batting catcher Roberto Perez. "I was trying to be fine there, with a guy who's kind of struggling lately. It's just unacceptable, and it happened twice." Way to not turd on a fellow young major-leaguer, May -- "struggling" is polite.

Lineups:

Everyone On The DL Always Lose To Detroit
Kevin Kiermaier, CF Brian Dozier, 2B
Steven Souza Jr., RF Tori Amos, RF
Not Eva Longoria, 3B Less Than Torii, 1B
James Loney, DH Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Logan Forsythe, 1B Kurt Suzuki, C
David DeJesus, LF Eduardo Escobar, SS
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS Eddie Rosario, LF
Tim "David" Beckham, 2B "For Reals" Hicks, CF
RENE RIVERA! Daniel Santana, DH