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November 06, 2001

sick at heart

I'm sick at heart today and find myself praying for a baseball team, praying that somehow, some way, the Minnesota Twins will survive. Get some sort of reprieve, even if just for a little while.

(In case you hadn't heard-- and I'm still amazed this isn't getting more coverage-- Major League Baseball owners are meeting today to vote on contraction and most people think that the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins will be eliminated completely. And there'll be other changes as part of this, too, like the Diamondbacks being moved to the American League, oddly enough).

If the Twins cease to exist, I'll be devasted, disconsolate, and I won't be the only one.

(My Mom just called. She's worried about her Mom, my Grandma Olson. That if the Twins cease to be, she won't have anything to live for, that it'll be "the last straw." I worry myself. About my Grandma, about how I could possibly handle it, about the team, about other fans . . . ).

Most people wouldn't peg me as a baseball fan, but I'm a lifelong Twins fan. My parents have had partial season tickets since 1985, we were going to games well before that, too. My grandparents who live in South Dakota live for the ballgames and are big fans. Some of the best nights of my life have been at ballgames. Two of the happiest and most intense days of my life? When the Twins won in '87. And being at Game 7 of the '91 World Series. Of course I've tons of great memories associated with watching the club back in the late '70s. Or early '80s. Or last year, dangit. The team is finally in a position to compete next year, this club has great chemistry and will be in a pennant race. Well, if they continue to exist. Which sounds so very unlikely right now it makes me sick.

I wish Minnesota had a better Governor (now there's an understatement), I wish this whole stadium situation hadn't gotten so screwed up, I wish I could somehow impress upon people (especially those voting today) how much the Twins have meant to me and my family and to so many.

Those who haven't followed a team their whole lives won't understand, I know. That's okay. But forgive me if I get cranky (more than that, really) if I hear anyone making light of this whole situation . . . it's not "just baseball" to me. And if you're a cynic who thinks this is all a scam or something and that the Twins aren't really in jeopardy . . . I don't want to hear about it right now (though I'd like the part about the Twins not being in jeopardy to be true, it's this kind of thinking that is why the Twins are in danger at all-- but I don't want to get into all that now).

I've been to probably a couple hundred games, I've watched or listened to many many more. So many family memories, so many conversations, so many amazing moments . . .

Last year, during my "Rod Carew year" (that is, I was 29-- my age matched his jersey number), I had my picture taken as I stood between Rod Carew and Tony Oliva. I stood there and thought about the many hours I'd spent playing with my "Rod Carew batting trainer" in the backyard as a child, the many games I watched on TV or listened to on 'CCO. About how I could always talk about the Twins with my family even when we weren't getting along and had a hard time talking at all. I thought about how Carew was my hero for a while, what a classy classy guy he was. And about how Oliva was, too, though I never really saw him play-- just heard the stories from my Dad and my grandparents and so many others. I was overwhelmed to stand between them and all I could think to do was to shake their hands and say "thank you."

When Tom Kelly retired, he talked about how he got to see every major league game Kirby Puckett played and how "you can't beat that." No matter what happens with the Twins, I try to console myself with the knowledge that I'll still have those many many memories. And souvenirs. Memories of Kirby's first (and last) games. Of watching so many great (and not-so-great) players. The time a bunch of us kids in the outfield seats yelled loud enough during the game to get Gary Ward to turn around and wave at us. I've got my 1985 All-Star game pennant that has signatures on it of Harmon Killebrew, Mark Salas, and Mickey Hatcher (I know that doesn't make sense, I was a kid and just waved that pennant and tried to get any autograph I could). I've a ball signed by Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and Zoilo Versailles. The caps from many cap nights past (including the one where the Dome ripped and partially deflated and the game was delayed and then Ron Davis came in in relief and gave up a bunch of homeruns). Al Newman's old warmup jersey. The foul ball I (finally!) got last year. My homer hankies. Tapes of two incredible ALCS, and World Series and of the celebrations afterwards. Countless ticket stubs, some programs, plenty of promotional items and a whole lot of magazines and newsclippings. I think about the baseball signed by Jim Perry that remains one of my Grandma's prized possessions, she won it by answering Twins trivia many years ago. I remember spending my 6th birthday at Met Stadium, watching fireworks after the game and cheering for Rod Carew and Butch Wynegar and the rest of 'em. I remember telling my Dad before the '87 season that "the Twins are gonna do something, this year-- new turf, new uniforms, new manager . . . I can just feel it." I remember skipping school with just about everyone else in the school after the Twins won the '87 World Series, to go to the victory parade and rally. I don't remember breathing during Game 6 or Game 7 of the '91 series. Game 7 will always be on the list of best nights of my life (I still can't quite believe I was really *there*).

I'll always have those memories, those souvenirs.

If the Twins cease to be, I'll miss going to the ballpark with my folks. Miss making the same jokes with my Dad about how by now Bob Casey (the Twins public address announcer who's been with the club forever) is now actually an animatronic Bob Casey. Miss saying "he's looking terrible" about a player when he's up and we really need a big hit (a tradition that began when Gaetti did seem to look terrible and then proceeded to hit a homerun). I'll miss mentioning "The Newman Factor" long after Al Newman stopped playing for the Twins. Or joking about Lenny Faedo and so many Twins that are now pretty, um, obscure. Man. I'll miss complaining about the food at the Dome and the sound system and the scorekeepers who aren't paying attention. I'll miss seeing Tony Oliva and Juan Berenguer in the stands every so often. I really want to be sitting in the Dome next year, saying "he's gonna hit a triple" before every one of Guzman's at-bats (well, except when I say "he's gonna bunt").

I could go on and on (I know some of you think I have already). It's a game, yes, but . . . I've spent so many hours with it, with this team, at the Dome . . . to think of the Twins ceasing to be breaks my heart. To think about the many generations of Twins fans who'd miss them, of the kids growing up now who'd never get a chance to go to a Twins game or maybe even to any major league baseball game . . . it makes me sad, it makes me sick, it cuts deep, I can't find the words.

So yeah. I'm praying today and I hope that God's up there and loves baseball (and the Twins) as much as I do. That some humans here on earth have hearts and come to their senses.

startribune.com, pioneerplanet.com, channel4000.com are some of the sites with local coverage. ESPN et al should have coverage, too.

Posted by Laurel Krahn at 10:01 AM

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You know what it is... people who don't understand what it means to lose your baseball team, YOUR baseball team, never had the passion for the game that thankfully touches so many of the rest of us. Every die-hard or even semi-die-hard baseball fan has a particular season or two which marks the beginning of their fervor, and usually it's associated with some other event in their life for which they need a bit of playful distraction. Mine was the 1992 Milwaukee Brewers. During 1992, one of the more difficult years of my life, baseball became an escape and a salvation for me, something to focus on so I didn't have to think about what else was going on. Ever since then I've been a baseball fan, though I kind of lost that a little when I was associating with non-fans in college and such. I went to a St. Paul Saints game a couple years back and it brought back all the memories of the outdoor ballpark I loved in Milwaukee, and whenever I came back home in the summertime I'd try to catch a game or two before they tore down the old County Stadium. You can't get to it now since evixir.com's still down, but I had a retrospective up for my last game at County Stadium at http://evixir.com/countystadium/ which kind of reflected how I felt about the park and about the Brewers in general.

Anyway, baseball fever, hot damn. I hope the Twins get something worked out and that Pohlad and everybody else involved gets their head out of their asses. It is the greatest game in the world, after all.

Posted by: vix at November 6, 2001 02:49 PM

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I know the feelings you're describing all too well, having spent three frustrating years following the expansion Senators before they moved to Texas and killed my interest in baseball until 1990. I think it's ironic that the only people who are likely to save the Twins for us at this point are the players...yes, those "greedy, greedy men who make millions of dollars playing a kid's game." They're really the only ones with the muscle to stand up to the owners and say it's not going to happen, and I think they're going to do the right thing by Everyday Eddie, A.J., the Hawk and all the other guys who probably will be left out in the cold if a dispersal draft happens.

Here's hoping, because as much as I like watching the Saints, I really don't want to lose two major-league teams in one lifetime.

Posted by: Kevin at November 7, 2001 05:20 PM

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Minnesota losing a team would be a travesty. I've lived through it on the football end before--I was born a Baltimore Colts fan and until I was nine I lived only about four blocks from the stadium.

The Twins are on the contraction list for three reasons:

(1) The MLB owners would like Minnesota to serve as an object lesson for any other city that dares think about declining an owner's request for taxpayer-funded handouts.

(2) The elimination of the Twins would greatly expand the local market of the Brewers, who happen to be owned by Bud Selig and his family.

(3) The Twins have an owner who will happily take the cash rather than dragging the league into court.

I still get sad whenever I see that photo of the Mayflower moving vans pulling away in the night, in the snow.

Posted by: Dave at November 7, 2001 08:47 PM

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