Posts tagged ‘Metrodome’

BASEBALL FOR GENERATIONS

I first learned my love for the game from my dad. We played catch from when I was old enough to give a ball any form of forward momentum. Mom, too, could bring it when she was available to engage me in a game of catch or a round of batting practice. Even my lovely grandma Hilda took a swing or two with a bat. Aunts Shirley and Inky played semi-pro softball so they showed me some good techniques when they visited from St. Paul. Many other aunts and uncles joined in as we visited them or they visited us.

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Dad in front of his brothers (My uncles) Elwood, Willie, Gus, Henry and Ken

Get all the cousins together and you never saw such a festivity of baseball. We played in back yards, front yards and back alleys. We chased balls under apple trees and down the curbs of the streets before the ball would go down the storm drain. We teased each other about our feeble swings or waving at the air with helpless effort. We would drop our bats and gloves right in the middle of the yard when we were called over to the grill for hot dogs and hamburgers, only to return and play some more. This was true of both sides of the family – whether it was the Johnson/Grundstrom side or the Ruud/Strand gang. And by the way, boys and girls played as one. Who knew, also, that decades later I would join my wife’s cousins in the identical games of fun in their own yards and fields.

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The Johnson cousins, all grown up –  front: Chris, Jean, Charlie, Jim   back; Leslie, Aunt Inky, Cher, Becky, Aunt Shirley, Lois

 

Then we grew up and had our own kids. I first taught Heidi and Steven through simple ‘roll the ball across the floor’ to encourage good hand-eye coordination, just like a good daddy of the 1980s should do. Then it was underhand tossing out in the yard, and finally full games of catch or some batting drills in front of the garage door. Then it was out into the street where I would throw balls as high into the air so they would learn to catch those fly balls . . . and later hearing from the neighbors how fun it was to watch that Johnson family get out and enjoy themselves so much.
There’s the joy of taking the whole family to the game. Down to the Metrodome we’d go, maybe once a year, and we’d experience the grandeur of the game. 2002 presented a nice thrill, when I was selected in a lottery to get tickets to the playoffs against the Angels. I managed to squeeze in a game with each kid at those playoffs … I will remember that for a long time. And again, later on in the first season of the Twins at Target stadium, Sue and I got to take in a game with Heidi and her husband Jon – and it was Jon’s first major league ball game ever – truly memorable when Thome hit a home run to win the game in the bottom of the tenth.

 

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   A young Steven ready to play

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Jon, Heidi and Sue at Target Field

My sister’s kids, too, found their uncle Charlie (Me) always good for some time outside with a bat and ball …. And now as their own kids issue forth, I suspect I will not hesitate to show those babies of this not so old century a thing or two about the glories of baseball, too.

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My kids and their cousins – kids of my two sisters.  Steven in front, In the back is Karen, Paul, Dan, Adam, Joel and Heidi

Baseball – a family game in so many ways.

TWINS FAN all the way. There is no other.

I am a TWINS fan.  I pay attention to the other sports to some degree, but ultimately, emotionally, and in all totality, I am a TWINS fan.  That means I watch football when the Vikings are good.  That means I can maybe tell you the name of the professional hockey and basketball teams in Minnesota.  I am not a sports fan who follows every waking moment of every active sport – I am a TWINS fan.

When the radio blares the play by play broadcast of the Twins or I hear the theme song of the Twins for the first time of the spring, my spirit brightens up like someone upped the voltage in my soul.  My focus goes to the game, the sounds, the feelings – and that focus stays on duty all season long, regardless of the level of success of my team of all teams.

There is just something about baseball that speaks to me.  The reasons may include the summer weather, the laid back nature of baseball, the fact that it is a game for the ordinary guy – you don’t have to be tall (like basketball) you don’t have to be oversized (like football) and you don’t have to have sharp dangerous implements on your feet (hockey.)  It is therefore MY kind of game.

They came to Minnesota when I was 7 ½ – a perfect time for a young lad to attach himself to professional sport – and baseball it was for this guy.  My grandfather was from Michigan, so he was a Detroit Tigers fan – and because of that, my very first Twins game was against the Tigers that summer of 1961.  I don’t recall who else was with us – Dad for sure, maybe a couple other uncles, but that’s it.  I remember nothing of the game – but it was hot as we walked a long way up the ramps at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.  I assume we could only afford the tickets for the third deck there, so we were as far away from the players as possible.  As I think about it, I must have seen some top notch players that day.  There were the Twins, of course – Killebrew, Allison, Battey – and more.  I suppose also that I saw famous Tigers players such as Al Kaline and Norm Cash.   That was my first game – my baptism into baseball – and even though I remember so very little of that day, I was hooked – terminally, critically, lifetime-long hooked.

Since that first game on a sunny afternoon, I have seen a good many games.  I know I saw a few in my elementary school years – two games in particular come at me from my memory – we saw a night game against the Boston Red Sox, where I got my first autographs – Rico Petrocelli and Mike Andrews of the Red Sox.

The other game was as a reward for those of us who were school patrols.  The school sent us down to a game – and ours was on June 9, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics – in which a major league baseball record was set.  The Twins hit five home runs in a row – off the bats of Oliva, Killebrew, Mincher, Rollins and Versalles.  We were in the left field seats – and I recall the Rollins home run coming straight at us, landing only a few rows in front of us.  That was one exciting game.

In high school, we got to a game a year – usually when we drove down to the Twin Cities to visit Uncle Paul and Aunt Marlys.  No particular game comes to mind during those years, except the one that was rained out, finding us driving away from the ballpark after the second inning – one of the more disappointing days of my life even yet today.

In college, there were more opportunities to go to games … Paul and Marlys were still around, but I also would go down and visit my college girlfriend – and she was kind enough to tolerate going to ball games now and again.  It was during these years that we saw the last of MickeyMantle and HarmonKillebrew –

Wilma and I got married in 1982 – the worst year of the Twins ever.  I don’t recall if we ever attended a game in those first years of our marriage, but I still kept the radio warm with the voice of Herb Carneal and gang.  Back then, only select games were televised, so when they were on, by golly, I was there.

1987 – The World Series and the Twins against the Cardinals.  I should have known things were going to go well earlier that summer when a great omen appeared.  Mom and dad were down for a visit, and as we sat out in the back yard in the evening air, I had the TV on so we could hear the game.  I happened to go into the house just as they announced their ‘home run inning”.  It the Twins hit a home run that inning, winner would get a Twins jacket …and much to my family’s delight, they called my Dad’s name… and sure enough, there went a home run.  Dad got the jacket in the mail a week or so later, and when he died in 1991, I got the jacket …and still have it today.  Wilma is very patient with me about the jacket …it is old and getting threadbare here and there, but it is still my Dad’s jacket, and it is a TWINS jacket.

Wilma’s in-laws lived in the Chicago area, so we got to go to the old Comiskey park to see the Twins play the White Sox – that game was rained out—and we drove back to the house by driving through puddles hubcap deep in the underpasses of Chicago.  Fortunately, the Twins were back in town almost right away, so our rain checks were still good – and don’t you know, we got to see the Twins win via a grand slam by catcher Tim Laudner … this was also 1987, by the way.

A precious moment – in the World Series of that year, our daughter Pebbles was a whole 2 years old … and every time Kirby Puckett did something great (which was often) – she would bounce up and down and shout KIR PUCKEE!  KIR PUCKEE!

Over the years, I have infused my kids with the Twins – and maybe not so much BamBam, but Pebbles for sure.  Wilma and I haven’t gone to many games in the Metrodome, making going to those games all that much more special.  I even had the chance to take each kid to a playoff game in 2001 against the Angels… and good old sister and bro in law Impi and Toivo took me to a playoff game against the Yankees a few years ago.

I have seen many great players over the years – even more than I’ve mentioned, including Mantle, ReggieJackson, GeorgeBrett, Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, Rod Carew … .  I’ve seen the Angels often, the A’s, the Royals, the Mariners, the Rangers for sure … I don’t recall how many others …. But I’d sure like to add to the list.

I’ve been to the new Target field twice – once with Pebbles and her hubby and once with some good friends from church, and am looking to go again soon.

On an aside, we visited Wilma’s sister in San Francisco once – and saw the Braves play the Giants in old Candlestick park, but that has nothing to do with the Twins…. Suffice it to say that we saw Barry Bonds hit two home runs.

I want to go to at least one live game every year … just one.  I’d like to do more, but that’s just not as practical as I’d like – it is a 2 hour drive and then all the fun of parking and stuff like that.   I don’t necessarily need to souvenir – but hey, I will get a brat with all the works, and I’ll want to sit as closely as I can to the infield, but I will be glad to get into the ballpark.

Like I said, I’m a TWINS fan.  I don’t follow the National League much.  I don’t have a secondary favorite team.  I am a TWINS fan forever and a day.