An upstart champion, a dramatic pennant race and the derailment of a potential dynasty were all a part of an exciting 1987 baseball season that included the following highlights…
*How the Minnesota Twins used a potent lineup and a top-heavy pitching staff, led by Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven, to navigate their way to a division title and ultimately to October glory.
*The sizzling AL East race put on by the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. Seven head-to-head games in the final week and a half. An epic collapse and one of the most consequential trade deadline deals in baseball history were all a part of this race.
*What happened to the New York Mets, who were supposed to be ready to build a dynastic run off their 1986 World Series title. No one accounted for the pesky St. Louis Cardinals rising up and beating out the Mets in another exciting division race, replete with a dramatic home run.
*How the San Francisco Giants won their first division title since 1971, thanks to some bold in-season trades and then catching fire after the All-Star break.
*How the ALCS, that was supposed to be a cakewalk for Detroit, got turned on its head with a Minnesota runaway.
*The outstanding seven-game NLCS battle between St. Louis and San Francisco, with Cardinal pitching finally taking over at the decisive moment.
*And a World Series that was all about location. The home team wins each game in the Minnesota-St. Louis matchup and sets off a celebration in the Twin Cities.
The articles below—one on each of the six teams noted above and then a game-by-game narrative of each postseason series, tell the story of the 1987 baseball season through the eyes of its best teams. Start reading today and wake up the echoes in all their glorious detail.
The Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals were teams built for their homefield. The Twins had power, well-suited to the hitter-friendly atmosphere at the Metrodome. The Cardinals, playing in what was then an artificial turf-covered Busch Stadium with deep dimensions, were constructed on speed. It’s appropriate that when these contrasting teams met in the 1987 World Series it was all about homefield, as home teams won all seven games.
That made the calendar as important as anything else. Prior to 2003, homefield in the World Series was determined on a rotation system and it was the American League’s turn. That left the 85-win Twins hosting the 95-win Cardinals to open and close the Series.
Another advantage Minnesota had was that their top two starters, Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven, were better than anyone St. Louis could answer with. Over the course of a long season, the Cardinals’ depth throughout the roster made them a better team. In a short series, it’s tough to beat a team who has the two best starters on either side.
You can read more about the paths the Twins and Cardinals took to their division titles, as well as a narrative of their LCS triumphs, at the links below. This article will focus exclusively on the games of the 1987 World Series.
One of those starters, Frank Viola took the mound for the Saturday night opener on October 17. Joe Magrane was pitching for St. Louis and was handed an early run. In the top of the second, Jim Lindeman led off with a double and scored on consecutive productive outs from Willie McGee and Tony Pena.
It was still 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth when the Twins’ offense unloaded on Magrane. Gary Gaetti, the third baseman fresh off an MVP performance in the ALCS started with a single. Don Baylor, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek all singled and Steve Lombardozzi drew a walk. Minnesota had two runs in, the bases loaded and none out. St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog had seen enough of Magrane and called on Bob Forsch. Tim Laudner greeted Forsch with an RBI single and then Dan Gladden delivered the coup de grace with a grand slam. It was 7-1 and the Metrodome crowd was blowing the roof off.
Viola coasted home, allowing just five hits in eight innings. The Minnesota offense piled on, with Lombardozzi hitting a two-run shot in the fifth and Gladden driving in another run in the seventh. The final was 10-1.
The Twins had a future Hall of Famer in Bert Blyleven ready to go for Game 2. The Cardinals turned to Danny Cox, who had just pitched a Game 7 shutout in the NLCS. This night wouldn’t go quite as well for Cox.
Gaetti started the scoring with a solo shot in the second and the bottom of the fourth again proved to be the undoing for St. Louis. With one out, Kirby Puckett and Hrbek each singled and Gaetti walked. Randy Bush ripped a two-run double and it was 3-0 with runners on second and third. Brunansky was intentionally walked and it looked the move would pay off with Lombardozzi’s fly out to right was too short to bring in a run. But with two outs, Laudner and Gladden both singled and the lead stretched to 6-zip. Cox was pulled, Lee Tunnell come in and Greg Gagne promptly blooped a double to make it 7-0.
The rout was on again. The Cardinals got a run in fifth, but Laudner homered in the sixth. Blyleven pitched seven strong innings and even though St. Louis scored in the seventh and twice more in the eighth, they were never in the game. The final was 8-4, Minnesota had all the momentum and they were halfway home.
But while the Twins were halfway home, the Cardinals were going home and that was all the difference needed in this World Series. They also had John Tudor, a good veteran lefty who had pitched a win-or-go-home shutout in Game 6 of the NLCS, on the mound.
Minnesota’s rotation quality fell of sharply at this spot, but Lee Straker proved to be outstanding on this night The game was scoreless for five innings and it was the Twins who broke through in the sixth. With one out, Gagne and Puckett were walked and Brunansky picked up an RBI with a two-out single.
In the top of the seventh with the score still 1-0, Twins’ manager Tom Kelly opted to pinch hit for Straker with two outs and no one on base. Kelly turned to his setup man, Juan Berengeur, hoping he could get the ball to their fine closer, Jeff Reardon. It didn’t pan out for Kelly.
The bottom of the seventh started with singles by Jose Oquendo and Pena. They were bunted up Terry Pendleton and driven in when Vince Coleman doubled. Coleman stole third and scored on a single from Ozzie Smith. Berengeur was out, but the damage was done. Herzog went to his own closer, Todd Worrell, to close the last two innings of a 3-1 win.
Viola was back out there for Minnesota on three days’ rest for Wednesday night’s Game 4. Greg Mathews, a steady lefthander for Herzog all year long, pitched for St. Louis.
The Twins missed a chance on the second when they put a man on third with one out before Mathews struck out Hrbek and escaped. The Twins still got a run one inning later with a home run from Gagne. The Cardinals quickly tied it in the bottom of the inning, when Ozzie Smith got a two-out walk, and came around on singles from Tom Herr and Lindeman.
Mathews had to leave the game when he aggravated a quad injury and Forsch came on. It didn’t matter though, because the fourth-inning nightmare was now about to afflict Viola and Minnesota.
Again, a big rally from St. Louis started with Pena and Oquendo, who walked and singled. Tom Lawless, a heretofore faceless utility infielder took Viola deep. After walking Coleman, Viola was pulled with just one out. Dan Schatzeder came on, to no positive effect. Coleman stole second. Kelly decided to intentionally walk Herr and face Lindeman.
This made sense—the intentional walk was used much more frequently than it is today and Lindeman was getting at-bats in this Series because of an injury to the excellent St. Louis power hitter Jack Clark. Lindemann blew up the strategy with a double, McGee followed with a single and the score was 7-1 by the time the inning came to an end.
Minnesota got a run in the fifth and loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. It was their last chance to get back in the game and Herzog brought in Ken Dayley from the pen. He struck out Gaetti, got Brunansky to pop out and then put it on cruise control, locking up the 7-2 win that evened the Series.
Blyleven and Cox met in a Game 2 rematch on Thursday night. After two scoreless innings, the Cards threatened in the third, again with Oquendo and Pena being the instigators. They both singled and Cox bunted them up to second and third. Kelly pulled the infield in, a risky move this early in the game. But the risk paid off. Coleman hit a ground ball to short and Oqunedo was cut down at the plate. Blyleven got out of the inning.
Oqunedo was again thrown out at home in the fifth. With runners on first and third and Cox at the plate, Herzog called for a suicide squeeze. Cox missed the bunt and Oqunedo, off with the pitch, was left in no man’s land. The game stayed scoreless into the sixth.
St. Louis again rallied in the sixth and this time they broke through, thanks to the speed they were built around. Coleman beat out an infield hit and Ozzie legged out a bunt. With one out, Herzog called for a double steal and both runners were safe. After an intentional walk, Curt Ford delivered a two-run single and a Gagne error brought in another run.
Blyleven gave way to Keith Atherton in the seventh, who walked Coleman and balked him to second. Coleman swiped third and then scored on an infield hit, as St. Louis speed now had them comfortably ahead 4-zip.
The Twins started to make it uncomfortable in the eighth. Gladden singled and Gagne bunted his way aboard. After Puckett flied out, Herzog removed Cox and brought in the lefthanded Dayley to face the lefthanded Hrbek. This move worked, with a flyout to center the result, but Gaetti ripped a triple that cut the lead to 4-2. Dayley got Brunansky to end the inning.
Worrell came on in the ninth and walked two batters, giving veteran power-hitter Don Baylor a chance. He popped out to Herr. The Cardinals had completed their sweep of the middle sequence of the Series and were going back to the Twin Cities with a 3-2 lead.
Saturday’s Game 6 started in the afternoon, the last time a World Series game has been played outside of prime-time. Being the Metrodome still meant no one saw the sunlight and the last time a Series game was played outdoors in the daytime was 1984. Tudor would get a chance to clinch a championship for St. Louis, while Minnesota had to rely on Straker.
Herr homered with two outs in the first to give the Cardinals a quick 1-0 lead. But Gladden answered with a triple to start the home half of the first, Puckett tied with a single, moved up on a groundout by Gaetti and scored on an opposite field single from Baylor.
St. Louis quickly tied it back up when Pendleton drew a one-out walk, moved up on a groundout and scored on an Oquendo single. Tudor pitched around a two-base error in the second inning when he picked off Hrbek and kept it tied 2-2 .
Straker continued to struggle in the fourth, giving up a leadoff double to Driessen. McGee singled to center and while Puckett’s strong throw home held Driessen at third, it allowed McGee to take second. The result was that an infield hit from Pendleton and a sac fly from Oquendo produced two runs and a 4-2 Cardinal lead. In the fifth, Ozzie walked, moved up on successive productive outs and scored on another base hit from McGee.
It was 5-2 and the Twins were in trouble. They got it turned around in the fifth. Tudor, who had come apart in epic fashion in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, now began to struggle here. Puckett got it going with a one-out single and Gaetti doubled. Baylor got the Metrodome crowd roaring with a three-run blast to tie it 5-5. After a single from Brunansky, Tudor was out. Reliever Ricky Horton got a groundball out, but Brunansky moved up and then scored on a two-out hit from Lombardozzi.
One inning later, Gagne led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Forsch came on for Horton face the righthanded power. He walked Puckett and after a passed ball, an intentional walk loaded the bases. Forsch then got Gaetti and Brunansky to pop out. Hrbek was up and Herzog continued to empty the bullpen, calling on Dayley to replicate the matchup that had worked for St. Louis in Game 5. It didn’t work this time—Hrbek unloaded with a grand slam to break the game wide open.
Minnesota added a run in the eighth and Berengeur was brilliant, throwing three innings of shutout relief. The 11-5 win set up a Sunday night Game 7—the third straight year the World Series was going the distance.
Viola got his third start of this Fall Classic, with Magrane on the mound for St. Louis. While Magrane was a respectable pitcher, this was clearly the situation the Twins would have taken had it been offered nine days earlier.
The Cardinals still took the early lead, getting singles from Lindeman, McGee and Pena to open the second inning to go up 1-0. With two outs, Steve Lake added another single for a 2-zip lead.
But Viola got settled in and Minnesota immediately started chipping back. Baylor was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the second, Brunansky singled and then Laudner singled. Coleman made a big play when he threw out Baylor at the plate, but Lombardozzi came up with a clutch two-out hit to make sure the Twins got a least one run.
Gagne beat out an infield hit with one out in the fifth and Herzog decided to go with Cox. Puckett responded with a double to right-center that tied the game 2-2. One inning later, Minnesota took the lead. Brunansky and Hrbek each worked walks to start the bottom of the sixth. Herzog correctly went to his closer at this key crunch point of the season. Worrell issued another walk, but struck out Gladden. He was set to get out of the inning until Gagne beat out an infield hit to bring in the go-ahead run.
With the tension building, Viola was locked in. He went eight innings and allowed just six hits. In the bottom of the eighth, after a one-out single from Laudner, Gladden ripped a two-out double. Reardon had a bit of breathing room at 4-2 when he came on for the ninth.
Reardon got the first two batters and McGee came to the plate. He hit a groundball to Gaetti who threw to first. Hrbek gloved the final out and the party could start in the Twin Cities.
Viola was named Series MVP for his two wins, both of which he was dominant in. His bad fourth inning in Game 4 meant the overall series ERA was a pedestrian 3.72, but Viola was still a worthy choice.
Other notable performances for the Twins came from Gladden, who went 9-for-31 and drove in seven runs. Puckett was steady, with ten hits in 28 at-bats. Lombardozzi was 7-for-17 and had the key two-out RBI hit in Game 7 that got his team on the board. Laudner had seven hits of his own in 22 at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring four more.
On the St. Louis side, McGee had gone 10-for-27 and was the best Cardinal hitter. Dayley had been clutch in relief until the fatal grand slam to Hrbek. For the third time in six years, St. Louis had played a Game 7 in the World Series and for the second time in three years, they lost it.
It was truly Minnesota’s year. They won the pennant in a year where homefield advantage fell their way and with the top of their pitching rotation, they were uniquely built to better in the short-term than over the long haul. Nor were they finished—four years later, when the homefield rotation had again come full circle for the Twins to have the home edge in both the ALCS and World Series, they won it all again.
The 1987 World Series brought together two teams from the Midwest, and for the third straight year, the Fall Classic went seven games.
The Minnesota Twins were far from a great team, but they were the best in an exceptionally balanced AL West. In a seven-team division where everyone won at least 75 games, the Twins’ 85-77 record was good enough to get them into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1970.
No one expected Minnesota to do much with the heavily favored 98-win Detroit Tigers, who had survived a dramatic AL East race with the Toronto Blue Jays. Detroit had the better team, but the Twins’ pitching staff had an ace in Frank Viola and a high-quality #2 in Bert Blyleven. And homefield was decided by rotation between East & West, not merit, and it was the West’s turn.
The Twins were well-suited for their home park in the Metrodome. The ball jumped out and they had four power hitters—Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Kirby Puckett and Tom Brunansky—who combined for 125 home runs.
Minnesota trailed Game 1 by a 5-4 count in the eighth, but Puckett doubled in the tying run and Minnesota broke the game open 8-5. The rest of the American League Championship Series went surprisingly easily, as Minnesota took Game 2 behind Blyleven and eventually wrapped it up in five games.
The St. Louis Cardinals, with the same speed-oriented lineup that came within two outs of the 1985 World Series title, had gotten back on top of the NL East and then won a seven-game National League Championship Series over the San Francisco Giants. St. Louis was as well-built for their spacious ballpark, with its artificial turf as Minnesota was for theirs. The Cardinals liked to run and Vince Coleman led the way with 109 steals.
The homefield rotation that also decided World Series’ schedules came up in Minnesota’s favor. The Twins hosted the first two games and their offense blasted out 18 runs in Games 1 & 2, and Viola and Blyleven staked them to a 2-0 series lead.
St. Louis got a great outing from John Tudor in Game 3, but still trailed 1-0 in the seventh. But a pair of singles and a sac bunt set up a two-RBI double from Coleman, who later came around to score and the Series was back on. The Cardinals’ crushed Viola in Game 4 with a six-run fourth-inning and then beat Blyleven 4-2 in Game 5.
But in a series with an NBA feel to it, with home teams controlling everything, Minnesota had the last two back in the Twin Cities. They trailed 5-2 in the fifth, but a Puckett base hit, a Gaetti double and a home run by DH Don Baylor put it back to even. Minnesota added another run that inning, and then in the sixth, Hrbek hit a grand slam to break it open. We were going to a Game 7 of the World Series for the third straight year.
Viola got the ball for the third time and though St. Louis touched him for a pair of early runs, the lefty settled in and the game was tied 2-2 after five. In the sixth, the Twins used three walks and an infield hit to get the lead run. Viola worked eight strong innings and would be named series MVP. Minnesota added an insurance run and they finally closed out a 4-2 win that brought the Twin Cities its first World Series championship
Bob Knight, Wayne Gretzky and Magic Johnson had already made their mark on the respective histories of college basketball, the NHL and the NBA. All three were looking for redemption in varying degrees, and in the year of 1987 sports, all three got back on top.
None of the three won a championship in more dramatic fashion than Knight. After coaching the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1984, Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers had seen some hard times—missing the NCAA Tournament in 1985 and losing in the first round in 1986. Knight’s infamous, albeit vastly overplayed chair-throw incident took place in ’85.
It was appropriate that the year Knight returned to the top of the college basketball world took place in the same year the movie Hoosiers came out. Like the movie, the real-life version of the story ended up with a last-second shot winning the national championship, as Keith Smart’s jumper near the baseline gave Indiana a 74-73 win over Syracuse and their head coach his third national title.
The 1987 NCAA Tournament also provided a Cinderella, and one with lasting implications for college basketball. Providence made the Final Four. It was the first breakthrough for a young head coach named Rick Pitino. And his best player was Billy Donovan. We’re still hearing plenty from both Pitino and Donovan on the sidelines today. Read more about 1987 Indiana basketball Read more about Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan & 1987 Providence
Magic Johnson already had three championship rings and twice had been named MVP of the Finals. But the 1986 season ended badly for his Los Angeles Lakers, and there was talk that they might be supplanted by the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference.
Instead, Magic upped his game to become a top scorer, without losing his tremendous passing ability and he won his first league MVP award. The Lakers won the NBA title, and their battle with the Boston Celtics in the Finals was a historic benchmark—it was the last time Magic and Boston’s Larry Bird ever competed for a championship.
And on the hockey side, Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers had seen their dynasty interrupted in 1986, after winning consecutive Stanley Cups in 1984-85. Gretzky won another MVP award of his own—making him 8-for-8 in his career, and Edmonton erased the upset loss of 1986 by capturing a third Stanley Cup in four years. Read more about the 1987 NBA Finals Read more about the 1987 Edmonton Oilers
Baseball and college football each provided good regular seasons and interesting finishes. The baseball season was highlighted by a dramatic AL East race, with the Milwaukee Brewers providing any number of streaks, both individual and team, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers ran a great race to the final day of the season.
And baseball’s postseason was marked by a team making full use of the rotation system MLB then used to set homefield advantage for both the League Championship Series and World Series. The Minnesota Twins won their division on the one year in four that they were set to have homefield throughout, and the Twins used it win a surprise World Series.
College football saw the first advent of the four-team playoff that begins in 2014, albeit entirely unintended. But Miami-Florida State and Nebraska-Oklahoma ended up as a de facto national semifinals, with the winners playing for the national title and the losers meeting in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami won the national championship and Florida State ended up #2. Read more about the 1987 World Series Read more about 1987 college football Read more about the 1987 AL East race
The NFL toyed with fans with the second strike in six years. Four weeks of play were missed, but unlike the 1982 strike, the league used replacement players to cover for three of the weeks. The games counted in the standings and were retained even after the regular players returned.
What this strike year had in common with 1982, was that once again it was the Washington Redskins who held together and won the Super Bowl. The Strike-Year ‘Skins still had the magic and their 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos sealed a title, with Doug Williams becoming the first African-American quarterback to start and win the Super Bowl. Read more about the 1987 Washington Redskins
It was just over two years ago that the Minnesota Twins unveiled their new ballpark. After spending 27 years playing in the awful indoor facility that was the Metrodome, the Twins moved outdoors and into Target Field. I had the good fortune to not simply see this ballpark for the first time on Friday night, but to get a free tour thanks to a family connection. TheSportsNotebook goes on a brief walkthrough not simply the Twins’ park, but the team’s heritage and its culture…
The city of Minneapolis made personal history for me on Friday night. There have been several places where I’ve been to two different parks—Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati come to mind. But never have I have been to three different parks for one team. I was at the Old Met in 1977, the place the Twins used to share with the Vikings back in the glory days of the NFL franchise when cold weather gave Bud Grant’s Vikes the late-season edge they needed to win four NFC titles in eight years. It’s surely noteworthy that since moving to the Metrodome in 1982 the Vikes haven’t been back since. Their fortunes are the mirror image of the Twins.
While the baseball franchise won consecutive division titles in 1969 and 1970 under the leadership of feisty manager Billy Martin and won a pennant back in 1965, the 1970s were mostly hard times, with the lone source of excitement being Hall of Fame first baseman Rod Carew’s run at .400 back in ’77. That was the year I made it out to the Old Met and saw the Twins lose, ironically to the Orioles—I say ironically because it was Baltimore who swept them out of the ALCS in 1969-70. I was also in the Dome in 1982 to watch Oakland and Rickey Henderson, who was on his way to a single-season stolen base record of 119. Rickey didn’t do anything when I was there. But the Twins, though it took a few years to get started, began doing plenty of their own.
What the Metrodome took from the Vikings in homefield advantage it gave to the Twins, and by 1987 the baseball team had a breakthrough year. The 87-75 record seems modest, but the AL West (the division the franchise resided prior to the creation of a Central Division in 1994) was balanced top-to-bottom and all seven teams won at least 75 games. Despite being an underdog in the ALCS to the Detroit Tigers, the homefield edge of the raucous Dome with its waving white handkerchiefs and the way balls flew out of the park helped the Twins grab the first two games and then they finished off the favored Tigers in five. The homefield advantage was even more pronounced in the World Series, as Minnesota won a seven-game series over St. Louis by taking all four games under the Dome.
Major league baseball awarded homefield advantage at this time on a rotation system, so four years later it had again cycled around to the AL West to have the edge in both the LCS and World Series—it took the 1994 creation of the Central Division and the accompanying three-division alignment to expand the postseason. In 1991 the Twins followed the same model—get momentum in the ALCS with two quick wins, this time over Toronto, and finish the job on the road. Then they win on an all-home-team World Series.
The 1991 Series against Atlanta is on the short list of the greatest ever played. In Game 6, Kirby Puckett, arguably the franchise’s greatest player (only Harmon Killebrew is a credible alternative) first made a spectacular catch in centerfield, then hit a game-winning home run in extra innings. One night later Jack Morris pitched one of the World Series’ most epic games, tossing 10 shutout innings and Minnesota finally won 1-0. As our group of Wisconsin residents toured the stadium and saw the World Series trophies, the guide launched a pre-emptive shot in the sports rivalry that exists between the two states, calling them Minnesota’s answer to the Super Bowl trophies that exist on the other side of the border. The two championships are part of a long track record of success—the Twins would win divisions again in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2009 in the Metrodome and their ’02 division title is one that deserves a further look.
Major league baseball was talking about contraction as a red-hot labor dispute built up through the summer. Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to reduce the number of teams by two. The Montreal Expos—now the Washington Nationals—were one team that was logically on the chopping block. Less logical was the Twins as the American League team put on death row. Owner Carl Pohlad apparently wanted out of the business about as much as Michael Corleone wanted out of the mafia in Godfather III and used his connection with Selig to push contraction. But just when Pohlad thought he was out, a vibrant protest from both Minnesotans and nationwide pulled him back in.
It’s not that contraction per se was a bad idea. But why was Minnesota singled out? This was a team with a consistent record of supporting its team so long as the product was viable. No one was suggesting this was St. Louis or Boston when it came to being a baseball town and no one compared Twins’ fans to Cubs’ fans when it came to blind loyalty. But if you were going to have a league with 28 teams in it, it was incomprehensible that the Twin Cities should not be one.
Particularly when the city of Oakland was so haphazard about supporting a team that was clearly a contender. The A’s were in the midst of a 2002 season that would ultimately be enshrined in the movie Moneyball, as general manager Billy Beane received correct praise for producing a winning team on a limited budget. But compare Oakland to Minnesota. The Twins’ budget wasn’t exactly overflowing, yet they won the division titles mentioned, and they beat Oakland in the very year Moneyball was set!And in a year where they were under threat of contraction! No disrespect to Oakland, but for some of us, it was GM Terry Ryan and the Twins who ran the best operation in baseball through the ‘00s.
The rest of the tour allowed us to get a good look at the facilities, which are in line with the other new ballparks that have popped up in places like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati, all of which I’ve seen, and San Francisco and Texas, which I have not. The Twins wisely visited the other stadiums which fall into an artistic class I’d call “cutting-edge traditional”, with their old-timey feel and the use of modern amenities. The architectural job was frankly amazing, as the park had to be dropped into a tight area of downtown, with rail tracks nearby and little room to move. You get a nice view of the Target Center, where the Timberwolves play their NBA games (the NHL ‘s Wild are across the river in St. Paul) and the agricultural firm in the background of leftfield, right behind the Budweiser sign has a definite Midwestern flair to it.
There’s nothing more Midwestern than friendliness and there was one instance where the good people of Minnesota went to an extreme. At a booth, which you see in the accompanying photo below at right, they include a jersey of Aaron Rodgers. What the ?$%*&#@!!! Seeing the jersey of the Packer quarterback on sale in Minnesota is up there with seeing a Derek Jeter jersey being sold in Fenway Park or a LeBron James full-sized portrait on sale in Cleveland. There’s a time to put friendliness aside and get in the business of dispensing irrational sports venom.
The game itself was a stroke of good fortune as it proved to be one of the better baseball games I’ve ever seen. Brewers-Twins isn’t going to electrify a national audience, but it packed Target on Friday night (with locals still providing about 75-80 percent of the crowd). Francisco Liriano took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. After two walks the first hit was a dead-center line drive home by Ryan Braun that suddenly put Milwaukee up 3-2. Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe hit two home runs and the game was tied 3-3 in the ninth. With a man on, two outs and two strikes, Milwaukee catcher Martin Maldonado, the ninth-place hitter, hit a two-run shot that stood up and the Brewers won 5-3.
It was a great game on a perfect evening in what is the latest jewel of baseball’s treasure chest of cutting-edge traditional ballparks. Minnesota has already won one division title in the new place, in the opening year of 2010. After a rough year in ’11, they’re retooling with some younger pitching and hoping the new place brings more fond memories to the fans and perhaps a third World Series trophy. The latter can’t be underestimated—because if the Series is Minnesota’s answer to Wisconsin’s Super Bowls, the Twins still need two more to pull even. But if nothing else, they have a much better place to watch the games.