It was a beautiful evening one night when I was in the Twin Cities recently. So I decided to go inside and watch a baseball game.
The Minnesota Twins were hosting the Chicago White Sox at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis (see map). Since replacing the old Metropolitan Stadium in 1982, the Metrodome has been derided and cherished by Minnesota fans - and sometimes in the same breath.
Because it was such a beautiful early May evening in Minneapolis, it was really tough to go inside to see a game. But I hadn't been to a Twins game for about three years and I was downtown so I decided to go.
I didn't take my camera with me on this trip, so I didn't get any pictures. I'm using generic public domain pictures I found on the Internet. So, no - no scoreboard pictures this time. But that's OK. The Metrodome's scoreboard isn't anything fancy or huge.
(As an aside, I just bought Cindy a little point and shoot Panasonic DMC-TZ3 digital camera for her to use on her trip to Europe. It's a little pocket-sized that takes some remarkable pictures. In some ways, it's a better camera than our larger Panasonic digital camera. It will be perfect to take with me for things like this.)
Outside the Metrodome, the walk ways boil with people who are, seemingly, dawdling as long as possible to keep from having to leave the beautiful weather to go inside to see a game. They had musicians, beer vendors, a Famous Dave's barbecue stand, a guy selling corn on the cob and a number of guys scalping tickets to the game. It must be legal in Minneapolis - there were cops standing right there next to the scalpers.
I passed the scalpers and went to the ticket booth on the NW side of the dome. I tried to get a seat on an aisle down in the box seat area, but none were to be had. I finally settled on a seat on the aisle in the Diamond View section, 36 rows up from the field. You can tell the Twins have been pretty successful on the field over the past couple of years. The price of the ticket was $42 dollars. Ouch!
I had a lot of time before the game started, so I walked over to the legendary Hubert's Bar and Restaurant next to the Metrodome to have a beer. (I'll have a post regarding Hubert's in the near future.) After finishing the beer, I took off with a horde of people who were migrating toward the dome to watch the game.
After I got inside, I did a quick lap around the Metrodome concourse. And like many stadiums built in the 70's and 80's, the concourse is too narrow. There were many bottlenecks that built up until I got around to the right field seating area where no one was sitting that evening. For some stupid reason, they put these tables for bank and team promotions right across from the concession stands. The lines to the concession stand were long and backing up against the tables. It was pretty stupid.
One of the more interesting things I found during my walkabout around the concourse of the Metrodome was a large bobble head doll of Twins star Joe Mauer. The thing had to be about 24 inches tall and retailed for $475. That was something I wish I had my camera for.
Along the way, I stopped to get a cold Budweiser and a hot dog. It was a horrible hot dog. One of the worst I've ever had at a major league ball park. (The all-time worst was the one I got at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.) The bun was dried out and even if you could steam them, it still would have still sucked. I ended up pulling bits of the bun off, using it as a holder for the hot dog more than anything. But the hot dog was also overly salty and for someone who doesn't salt food at all, it was way too much.
During my travels, I was looking at a vendor map of the concourse. Something caught my eye - Beers of the World! It was near Section 140 along the left field stands, so I walked over there to check it out. When I got there, I encountered a guy selling the usual "world" beers - Heineken, Corona, Guinness, Newcastle - out of a small glass front cooler. It wasn't much. Very overrated. And very expensive.
Actually, the best deal on beer I found was a concession stand a hop, skip and a small jump from my seat. They had the usual Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Light in 16 oz. glasses for $6 a glass. But they also had the premium Summit Extra Pale Ale - one of my favorite beers - available in the same 16 oz. glasses for $6 bucks!! Holy crap! I'd hit the jackpot!
My seat was right up against the back wall of the lower level of the Metrodome. It was actually a couple seats off the aisle so people moving up and down the aisle were never a nuisance. It was down a step, up 10 steps and then about a 30 foot walk to the men's room. And, of course, next to the men's room was the concession stand selling the $6 dollar Summit Extra Pale Ale's. It was such a great location, I purposely saved my ticket so I can get the same seat (if it's available) when I go back in the future.
And being that I was right on the aisle at the top of lower level, I had beer guys going by if I wanted to get a 12 oz. plastic bottle of domestic beer for $5.75. I wasn't all that interested, especially with the 16 oz. Summit Extra Pale Ales being dispensed a ten second walk away. That was until I saw that Wally the Beerman was selling beer that night at the game.
Wally the Beerman is an institution at Twin City area sporting events. He's been selling beer at Twins and Vikings games for 36 years. He also sells beer at Timberwolves basketball games and at Minnesota Wild hockey games. He's a personable guy who makes everyone he talks to feel like he's their best friend.
When I saw him, I exclaimed, "Wally! You're still here!"
He said, "Yep, they're going to bury me in a beer box just beyond the fence in center field."
We shot the shit - him not knowing who the hell I was, but probably thinking, "Well, I've probably served this guy a few beers over the years." And he has. Wally has over-served me at Twins games for a long time.
While we were talking, I got a Budweiser from him. And he was constantly getting interrupted by people wanting to get their picture taken with him or to get one of his 2007 baseball cards. Yes, that's right - you heard me. Wally has his own baseball cards. They have his picture and autograph on the front and his "vital statistics" on the back, including information as how to schedule Wally to work private events. He gave one to me and this is it on the right.
Between the Summit Extra Pale Ale's and Wally serving me beer, I was getting a little looped. Wally saved one last beer for me at the end of the 7th inning. As he handed me the beer, he said, "I saved the last one for ya. You always treat me well when you come here."
(Once again, I'm sure he really didn't know who I was, especially since it was three years since I was last in the Metrodome. But I did tip him heavily and most beer vendors look out for their better customers.)
The last beer was the clincher for me. I'd had enough. Wally over-served me once again.
I left in the 8th inning of the game with the Sox leading 6-1. They eventually won 6-3. However, the one big highlight of the night for the Twins was Torii Hunter's great catch (click here to see). It may have been the best catch I've ever seen live at a major league ball game in all the years I've been going to games.
I understand a new ballpark will be built in downtown Minneapolis in time for the 2010 season. I don't particularly like domes, especially on nights when it's so beautiful out. But the Metrodome has allowed many games to be played in the early spring when it would have been too cold or too rainy - or even too snowy - to play. Functional, yet drab, the Metrodome will only be missed during inclement weather.