Metrodome: A quirky place to play baseball

Metrodome construction
This Oct. 2, 1981, file photo shows the inside of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome under construction in Minneapolis. As the Minnesota Twins prepare to move across town to sparkling Target Field for natural grass and open sky next spring, they play their final games in the dome this weekend.
Jim Mone/AP

The Minnesota Twins will play their last home game at the Metrodome this Sunday. Over the last 28 years, the dome has been the setting for some of the most memorable games in Twins history -- and the site of some strange plays.

The roof and the hard artificial turf have been behind some of the most memorable baseball bloopers at the Metrodome.

Outfielders have a devil of a time finding fly balls against the white Teflon-coated fiberglass ceiling. And at times, a routine bloop single has turned into an extra-base hit when a ball bounces off the hard turf and over an unsuspecting fielder's head.

In 1984, the roof played a part in a different kind of mishap, when the Oakland A's Dave Kingman literally hit a fly ball into Metrodome roof history. The ball went up in the air, but didn't come down.

As it turned out, the ball had gone through a drainage hole in the roof, and Kingman was given a ground-rule double.

Entering the dome
Hendrick Duay, 7, enters the pressure-filled doorway of the Metrodome before a Twins game last month.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Normally, the what-goes-up-must-come-down rule has applied at the dome -- even to balls hit high enough to touch the roof.

In 1992, Detroit Tiger Rob Deer hit two baseballs off the ceiling in consecutive at-bats. Both were caught by shortstop Greg Gagne.

That same year, Twins slugger Chili Davis hit a towering flyball -- a surefire home run. But the ball bounced off one of the massive speakers suspended from the ceiling, and was caught for an out.

The sound of wooden bats hitting leather baseballs is really the only thing organic inside this cathedral of Teflon, cement, blue plastic and fake green grass. Twins players take turns in the batting cage, spraying baseballs all over the outfield.

Watching the exercise is Jack Morris. Before Morris played for the Twins, he pitched for the Detroit Tigers. He says in the early days of the dome, before it was air conditioned, baseballs used to carry a lot farther than they do now.

Artificial turf
The artificial turf at the Metrodome has taken on several forms over the years, and has provided both predicability and mystery for fielders.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

"That's when it was nicknamed the Homerdome. Balls were flying so far into the upper deck that Superman couldn't hit that far," said Morris. "I remember coming in here thinking, Oh my goodness, if this is always the way it's going to be in Minnesota, I hope that I'm always hurt when we come here."

The Metrodome became home for Morris in 1991. And of course, later that year, he pitched a 10-inning gem in Game 7 of the World Series.

Morris says that night the crowd was so loud, players standing next to each other had to shout in order to hear themselves. But he says the noise helped him achieve a zen-like state.

"As crazy as it might sound, it was almost like peace for players, because you couldn't hear anything," Morris remembered. "It was just like the crowd was taken out of the equation, because it almost like peaceful with so much noise."

1991 World Series
In this Oct. 27, 1991 file photo, Minnesota Twins' Dan Gladden celebrates as he heads home on teammate's Gene Larkin's single in the 10th inning of Game 7 to win the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in Minneapolis.
Mark Duncan/AP

The noise and the ceiling were something of a home field advantage for the team. But Twins players have dropped their fair share, and probably even more flyballs than their opponents.

Perhaps the most notable Twins gaffe occurred in 2007, when Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers hit a high fly ball to center field and two Twins outfielders lost the ball in the ceililng. Fielder ended up with an inside-the-park home run.

"I don't even think the ball made it to the wall. So I guess that's an oddity - something you're not going to see every day," said Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who remembers the game well. "Someone like Prince Fielder hitting an inside the park homerun and it didn't even make it to the wall."

Cuddyer watched as the ball dropped behind his teammate and rolled into the outfield, as the 260-pound Fielder chugged around the bases.

Bob Garvey
Bob Garvey of Ann Arbor, Mich. waits to have his picture taken among a display of Twins players outisde the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Cuddyer says playing baseball in the dome can be awkward. He adds that it can be hard for fans to watch it, too.

"All the seats face the 50-yard line. As you know, we don't have a 50-yard line," Cuddyer said with a laugh. "That's another oddity."

The Twins have invited a who's who of past Twins players to help celebrate the final home game at the Metrodome. The first pitch will be thrown out by Skip Humphrey, son of the dome's namesake, the late Hubert H. Humphrey.

Next year the Twins will open Target Field with a two-game exhibition series against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 1.

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