The Twins' much anticipated farewell to the Metrodome turned into a "see you later" Sunday when the team extended its season and stay in the franchise's quirky home.
It was the last regularly scheduled Twins game in the building some affectionately remember as the Thunderdome and others deride as the Metrodump. But the planned send-off was premature because the Twins' win pushed the team into a Tuesday tiebreaker against the Detroit Tigers, the AL Central's co-leader after 162 games.
"It's just not meant for this Dome to be closed yet," outfielder Denard Span said.
For 28 seasons, Twins fans had a hot-and-cold relationship with the stadium.
It was the ear-bruising, Dome-Sweet-Dome when its friendly environment helped the team win two World Series championships. But it was also the neck-busting, summer-stealing cavern that made purists long for the fresh air and real grass that their team escapes to next season when the newly built Target Field opens.
On Sunday, fans filled the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to the brim, just as they did for the 1987 and 1991 championship games. The crowd of 51,155 was the largest for a regular-season game in 16 years.
Fans shared memories, toasted champagne glasses, waved Homer Hankies, roared as the team took the field and snapped photos inside and out. The Twins went ahead with a post-game tribute involving former players.
"It was a fun run," said Sharon Baringer, a former usher and longtime season ticketholder. "I knew someday it was going to have to end."
Not counting the playoffs, just shy of 50 million people have come through the stadium's gates - 49,830,912 to be precise. Keith Daniels figures he accounts for more than 400 of that tally. Daniels' son bought him tickets behind the Twins' dugout Sunday, a payback gesture for a father who brought them to dozens of games and the two World Series. Daniels said he'll miss the Dome, especially the consistently comfortable temperature.
"It got a bad rap because it wasn't designed for baseball," Daniels said.
While the Metrodome was home for the Twins, they didn't have the run of the place. They shared it with pro football's Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers opened their new football stadium last month, and the Vikings are trying to get money for fresh digs, too.
Images from the 1982 inaugural season played on the scoreboard before the game. An announcer in the archive footage called it a "dazzling new setting in which to build a new tradition" that set a "new architectural standard for indoor ballparks."
It wasn't a universally shared view. Many seats were far from the action, and a lot required fans to contort their bodies or strain their necks to see home plate. Jack Ness, of North St. Paul, saw more than 500 games in the Dome - as many groaners as good ones.
"I've been here in seasons where I would have a whole section to myself and would go home with three balls in my pocket," Ness said. "Nobody else was around me to pick them up or go chase them down."
Through it all, Twins fans saw 1,213 wins and 1,028 losses.
Joyce Hurley tends to remember the jam-packed games that she brought her kids and grandkids to and a coziness that she doesn't think will follow the Twins to their new ballpark.
"You were kind of like in an envelope," said Hurley, who trained her camera at a Metrodome sign hours before the game. "You are all squeezed together and there wasn't an open sky above you."
The $517 million Target Field, located on the opposite end of downtown Minneapolis, will offer fans striking views of the city skyline, wider seats and more leg room. Tickets will be harder to come by though, since it has a 40,000-seat capacity compared with 55,300 in the Metrodome.
Baringer, for one, isn't looking forward to the move. Joining her baseball pals for a traditional last-game potluck - a spread featuring champagne, boiled shrimp, deviled eggs and tater-tot hotdish - Baringer doubted she'll pull off the same kind of attendance streak she amassed in the Dome. She said she missed only one game in the 13 years she had season tickets. Her daughter's wedding was the reason.
"She got married on the opener. I never let her forget that one. Thank God they're still married," Baringer said. She can't picture herself sitting outside in early April or October. The outside temperature was 52 degrees at game-time Sunday.
"I'm going to have to be a fair-weather fan," she said. "Definitely a fair-weather fan."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)