Recently, I’ve been in a bit of a funk, having reached the age where one looks forward to increasing likelihood of decrepitude and Fatal Death. Since I can be annoying when in a funk, the other person who lives here bought me Stew Thornley’s Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History On The Prairie, hoping it would alleviate the Mope.
If you don’t know who Stew Thornley is, AreYouEvenATwinsFan? He’s been the team’s official historian since forever, he’s written a bazillion books, he’s an official scorer for both the Twins and the Minnesota Timberwolves. (What, you may ask, does an NBA “official scorer” do? Not much, although presumably working at both sports venues allows Thornley access to the secret Target Batcave for a parking spot.)
Halfway through, Hardball History had a fun little sidebar about the 2000 season. You see, the Twins sold 1,000,760 tickets that year, which ain’t great, so they came up with an idea: why not play outside, just for the heck of it?
The team was in the midst of a decade-long quest for a new ballpark, and Chris Clouser, who had become the Twins’ chief executive officer, thought that a few outdoor games might promote the process.
The Twins proposed moving a September series against Texas to a twenty-five-thousand-seat temporary ballpark in Bloomington, across the street from where they had played at Met Stadium for twenty-one years. A variety of hurdles beyond construction of such a facility faced the team, including issues with the Metrodome lease and getting permission from the Metropolitan Sports Commission, Major League Baseball, the players’ association, and the Texas Rangers.
Though the idea appealed to many people, the outdoor games didn’t happen. The aborted venture remained the legacy of Clouser, who resigned from the Twins that December.
I remember this story! I specifically remember it because of how batsh*t bleeding insane it was. (My Twins memories aren’t as sepia-toned as Zach’s, although you should definitely read those, they’re good.)
I was not a Twins fan at the time; I’d just recently moved here. And I was trying to learn the lay of the land, so to speak. So, “Twins want to build interest in outdoor stadium by constructing 25,000-seat ballpark in Mall Of America overflow parking lot for three games” DEFINITELY caught my eye.
So, so many questions…
- How the hell can you quickly put up 25,000 seats?
- Even traveling carnival shows don’t put up that many seats.
- Some of the rides on those things are not safe. Kids better have tetanus shots before going on those rides.
- What would the Twins use? Folding metal bleachers?
- Can you put 25,000 people on those?
- Oh my Lord this sounds like one of those horrible stadium mishaps that ends up with people crushed to death.
- What are they gonna do for the game surface itself? Lay down green-painted carpet on it? (Why not, I guess? That’s what the Dome was, although I didn’t know this at the time.)
- Quickie request for 25,000-seat stadium to be put in a parking lot? I don’t know urban planning, but I think there are such things as Zoning Laws and all kinds of other rules and you really need to think out this stuff a little bit more in advance. You can’t just wing it.
- If it turned out to be a complete traffic disaster (best-case scenario) or people got crushed to death or whatever, that’s definitely a bad on the mayor of Bloomington who signed off on this and the Twins owner who wants public money for a new stadium.
- This idea is so nuts, I will buy tickets to these games.
Well, of course, it didn’t happen. For all the reasons above and many more. In looking for an article from 2000 about this, I found one from the AP in Deseret News.*
It wasn’t the mayor of Bloomington, or the Metropolitan Sports Commission, or some construction safety supervisor going “there’s no damn way” who killed the idea.
No. It was the Vikings.
The Vikings were worried that if the Twins got permission to escape their ironclad Dome lease for three days, it’d mess up the Vikings’ attempts to get out of their Dome lease.
(For a quick overview of the Twins’ Dome lease saga, and the judge who said “no, you can’t leave,” you can read that right here. That judge is a pretty fantastic guy.)
So... that’s the time the Twins almost (maybe, sort of, not really) played games in a parking lot. And, by the way, temperatures were 89, 75, and 59 for that September series.
While I’ve got you, and while I’m quoting Thornley, here’s a recent book by him I’d highly recommend: Historic Ballparks Of The Twin Cities. I’m reading it now, and enjoying it a lot.
Much of the material was covered in his comprehensive Baseball In Minnesota, but there is some new stuff here. And, unlike in some of his other books, Thornley doesn’t feel quite the need to recap recent history which most Twins fans will already be familiar with.
Many of you will know that the Saints once played in Lexington Park, on University Avenue... but did you know they briefly played in Comiskey Park, on Dale Street? And yes, that Comiskey. He bought a Western League team in Sioux City, moved it here, then moved it to Chicago and joined the upstart American League, renaming his team the White Stockings. (Another Western-then-American League team was the Kansas City Blues; they moved to D.C. and became the Senators.)
There’s much more interesting material along these lines in Historic Ballparks. Hit your library and check it out.
So, here’s your 2000 Twins story, your book suggestion, what else do you want? Weird science history? Fine, have at it! Now go away and enjoy your Gregorian New Year, you reprobates.
* – (If you’re wondering what Deseret is, it’s the name of a hugely popular mustard gas storage facility! Just kidding, it’s a very respected Utah newspaper. And yes, also the name of a former mustard gas storage facility, although it was not popular, and those facilities don’t usually publish AP stories about temp stadiums in Bloomington. “Deseret” is just a common Utah name.
At the time, the Twins’ AAA affiliate was in Salt Lake. So that’s why a Utah newspaper printed the AP story. No doubt I read something in 2000 from the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press, but I’d have to pay to access those old articles, or I'd have to look at library microfiche, and No.)