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Guest blogger: "Metrodome Memories"
December 29, 2013 - Jennifer Brookens
When my husband asked me this morning if he could be a guest blogger here, I admit I got a little defensive. But when he told me the subject of his musings, I was willing. After all, the Metrodome (in a roundabout way) brought me to Minnesota, too... Enjoy, and Happy New Year! -Jenn
- by Dan Brookens
The Metrodome is the reason I'm here.
Growing up in a small town in remote south-central South Dakota, we didn't have much entertainment. Todd County High School football and basketball games were pretty much all we had, and my dad would take us to as many as he could. When our three channels of TV didn't have anything of interest to an 8 year-old boy on, I'd turn to the radio. On most good nights, when there weren't any thunderstorms causing crackling interference, you'd hear the big city AM stations from Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago. But what most often captured my attention were the broadcasts of the Minnesota Twins on WNAX from Yankton. The warm, friendly voice of Herb Carneal made the games come alive. I thought to myself, "I could do that. I would be able to go to all the games for free!"
Money was the issue, after all. Once I caught the bug, I constantly pestered my folks to go to a game. But on a South Dakota teachers salary, and with two older sisters in college, we didn't have an entertainment budget. Especially when it involved a thousand mile round trip to do it. But my mom turned an old box into the "Twins Time" piggy bank. She drew a mouth and teeth around a hole cut in the cardboard that said "Feed Me!" So all summer, every spare coin and dollar I came across went into that box. Then the great news came...we were going to a game! August 21, 1983 vs. the Detroit Tigers at the Metrodome. A perfect 11th birthday present for a sports-mad boy who had never been to the big city.
We signed up for a one-day bus tour from Sioux Falls, since neither my mom or dad were keen on driving in the big city, or really knew what to do for parking and such. That day couldn't come fast enough. We left at 8:30 in the morning for the one o'clock game. But frankly, I was ready to go about a week before that. There weren't many kids on the trip as I remember, mostly retirees enjoying a day trip. I don't think some of them appreciated the 'energy' that the birthday boy going to his first game. I was never the "are we there yet" kind of kid, but that day I'm pretty certain the most asked question by me that morning was "how far is it now?"
As the city drew near, my eyes became wider and wider. My first glimpse of the big city skyline was really incredible, especially considering the tallest building I'd seen in my life up to that point was 10 stories high. As we got to the downtown streets, I caught my first glimpse of the dome. "There it is!!!!" I screamed out. I'm sure the bus driver appreciated the job I was doing spotting for him. The bus pulled into the lot on the east side of the building. I walked around the outside of the building in a daze, holding my mom's hand, staring up at the puffy egg roof the whole time. We entered the revolving doors behind home plate and walked down the corridor, I strained to get my first look at the field. Through the entry way I saw it...the Twins were taking pre-game infield practice. I saw John Castino field a grounder and toss it over to Kent Hrbek. Yes, THE Kent Hrbek, already my favorite player even though he was in just his second season in the majors. It was a weird and wonderful translucent kind of light, and an echoing sound ricocheting throughout the building.
We took our seats and mom said, do you want to walk around the building? "Why would I do that, I might miss something!" No, I was glued in place, not wanting to miss a moment of that day I had waited for all summer long. The Twins had been bad that year, and the Tigers were good, so mom was trying to lower my expectations a bit, just in case we lost. I then explained to her that the Twins would indeed win that day because we had Ken Schrom pitching, our best pitcher that year, and the Tigers had some guy named Larry Pashnick who wasn't any good pitching for them. (Of course the Twins traded for Larry Pashnick the year after, and he wasn't any good for us either.) But my prediction proved to be accurate. Hrbek had the key hit, a run-scoring triple, and Ron Davis (yes THAT Ron Davis) struck out the last two Tiger batters in the ninth and the Twins won the game. Come to think of it, the most amazing part of that day is that Davis didn't blow it, as he seemingly always did back then.
The Metrodome was the site of my greatest birthday ever. Of course, it would be slightly better known in the following 30 years for other things...the World Series, Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Championships, NBA games, Gopher football, Monster Trucks, concerts...and of course the high school football Prep Bowl.
I guess it's appropriate that my last trip to the Metrodome was doing what I dreamed of as a kid. Of course, my 1983 dream was that I was Herb Carneal's replacement as the voice of the Twins. My reality is that my career had brought me, albeit on a winding path different that I had planned, to the dome to call the Fairmont Cardinals state championship football game for KSUM radio. Of course, in my dream I hadn't been in crippling pain while doing the play-by-play on the radio either. I had been in the emergency room Thursday night with a gall bladder attack. The doctor had said I should plan on surgery the next day. When I explained to him that this wouldn't be possible as I had important business to take care of on Saturday at the Metrodome, He understood and let me go with the promise that I would come back next week if things still weren't kosher.
I made it through Friday all right but Saturday morning I was feeling poorly again. But there was no way I was missing this opportunity. Frankly, I only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was experiencing alternating hot sweats and freezing shivers. But I was there, fulfilling a dream. Fairmont lost that game by two points. But as I left the Metrodome press box, hunched over in pain and green at the gills with sickness, I knew it was all worth it. After all, this was where a dream was born, and a life's road had begun. When I got home that night, I packed a bag and headed back to the hospital. The next morning, I was wheeled into surgery to remove that gall bladder. They were listening to the Vikings game on the radio as they were prepping me for the surgery. I quipped, "I hope you do better than they do today" to the staff. "They're going to get their butts kicked", I said to them, and yet again, my prediction proved correct as the Vikes were thumped by the Falcons that day. Thankfully the surgery went better.
I've had chances to go back to the Dome since then, but I've refused them. I left the building that ignited a dream doing what I wanted to do, despite the obstacles placed before me. It's been a building where many dreams were fulfilled, and where dreams have been crushed. It's been the home of pain and triumph.
It will be torn down soon, with a new stadium rising in its place. With that new building new dreams will be sparked, new memories will be made, and new hopes will rise. Some will be fulfilled, some will be dashed. I'm glad I had a chance to make some of those dreams come true, even if they were checkered with disappointment along the way. Thank you, old dome, and goodbye. We'll miss you.
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Guest blogger: Dan Brookens muses on the role the Metrodome has played in his life.