COMMENTARY

John Casper Jr.: Kelly recalls Metrodome memories

2014-01-23T19:41:00Z John Casper Jr.: Kelly recalls Metrodome memoriesJOHN CASPER JR. john.casper@lee.net La Crosse Tribune
January 23, 2014 7:41 pm  • 

ONALASKA — The roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was deflated last week, and the building itself will gradually be torn down to make way for a new $1 billion stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The memories of what happened inside the building, however, will live on forever, especially for those who had a hand in creating them.

Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, whose teams won two World Series in the Dome, shared some of those memories Thursday night at Stony Creek Inn, where he was the featured guest and speaker at the La Crosse Loggers Winter BBQ.

“It was a wonderful building for me,” said Kelly, who stepped down from managing in 2001 and is now a special assistant to the organization. “I won games there, lost games there. But a lot of great memories there for me and for a lot of people in the upper Midwest.”

At the top, of course, has to be 1987 and 1991, when the Twins beat the Cardinals and Braves, respectively, in thrilling Games 7. In both Series, the Twins didn’t lose under the Teflon-coated roof.

The unique aspects of the park — the white roof, the odd and inconsistent bounces, the “baggie” in right field — made it unlike any other in the majors. One might think it was one of the last true homefield advantages in Major League Baseball, considering every park built today shares a certain “comfort” value the Dome definitely lacked.

But Kelly said that wasn’t exactly the case with his teams, even though the Twins had a .541 winning percentage in the Metrodome and won 13 of their first 16 postseason games in the building.

“Really, in actuality, we probably misplayed more balls in the roof than the visitors did,” he said. “You’d like to think it wasn’t that way, but there were times you just shake your head. The other team is catching them and you’re not.”

It definitely provided for some unusual moments.

“There was crazy stuff that happened,” said Kelly, who said he didn’t take anything from the Dome because he and his wife are trying to de-clutter in their old age. “I remember when Dave Kingman hit the ball and it got stuck in one of the holes up there. There’s a lot of weird hops and bounces.

“But the best thing is the memories that it gave a lot of people.”

Kelly lamented the fact that without the Dome, high school and college teams won’t have a place to play in early spring, when the weather in Minnesota and Wisconsin is far from predictable and usually cold, wet and miserable.

“I’d be in there, and they’d have games at 9 p.m., midnight, even later,” Kelly said. “That’s how often it was used. These college teams embraced it, and high school teams embraced it. It was very important to them and now that avenue is gone.”

The new Vikings stadium will be able to host baseball games — the University of Minnesota will play its home games there — but the cost probably won’t be the same as the Metrodome.

“As of now,” Kelly said, “the kids are a little stuck.”

That being said, Kelly couldn’t be happier with Target Field, which offers the fresh air, sunshine and view of downtown he never had on the other side of downtown.

“It’s the scenery that makes it attractive,” Kelly said. “It’s a magnificent place.”

And while Target Field may be everything that the Metrodome wasn’t, it won’t replace the memories.

And while the roof may be deflated, those will live on forever.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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