On the morning of October 14, an eighteen-month-old little girl by the name of Jessica had horrifically fallen 22 feet into a well in the backyard of a Midland home in West Texas. Improbably, she lasted two days and change without food and water while rescuers dug through bedrock to reach her.
When she was lifted out of the narrow hole on October 16, she was caked in dirt but retrived without a scratch.
It was nothing short of miraculous.
On a far less life-threatening level, Minnesota baseball fans had witnessed their own miracle and the citizens reacted with the same jubilation and exuberance. Pitted against a Detroit Tigers’ team which had won more games than anyone in baseball while scoring nearly six runs per game -- a team which had won 8 of 12 and outscored them 83-to-58 -- the Twins had somehow emerged victorious.
On October 16, World Series fever had a full-out stranglehold on the Twin Cities.
It would be, after all, the first World Series played in Minnesota in 22 years. This Minneapolis-St Paul was completely different from the sleepy town that hosted its first Series in 1965. When the Dodgers came to Minnesota that year, the rivalry between the Twin Cities was still going strong to the point where a disagreement on daylight savings time resulted in an hour difference between the two metropolitan cities divided by a river. The area’s population had exploded in the 1980s and the new inhabitants were elated to be on baseball’s grand stage.
Nothing else mattered.
The night before, the NBA made a preseason appearance at the Met Center. The Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Seattle SuperSonics in front of a crowd of 5,350 -- a lowly number even by preseason standards. Met Center officials admitted they were anticipating 7,500 to 9,500 but when the World Series forced the University of Minnesota to reschedule their football game from Saturday, October 16 to Friday, October 15 it creating a head-to-head with the exhibition game.
But David Shama, the Met Center’s marketing director, told the Star Tribune’s Tom Moton that the real reason for the sparse crowd was the Twins mania that had swept the area since clinching the American League pennant in Detroit.
“I grew up here, and I’m a Twins fan,” Shama said. “But I’ve never seen anything like this. It was more quiet when the Twins went (to the Series) in ‘65. It’s kind of a fantasy dream thing.”
On the popular culture front, the Kirby Puckett haircut was suddenly (and inexplicably) a thing.
Columnist Jim Klobuchar documented the scene.
The main event, Game One, was just a day away.
ABC, who covered the World Series in odd-number years, had the privilege of broadcasting the series between two teams from fly-over land. The network would be pulling out all the stops when it comes to coverage by using 12 cameras.
Two others, [ABC producer Curt] Gowdy said, will be hand-held cameras roving throughout the stands, “not really for interviews per se but to capture the emotions of the crowd, whether it is the players’ wives or a fan who’s never missed a Twins game.
“The 12th camera, being used for the first time, is positioned in the first row of the box seats to the right of home plate, looking straight down the third base line. It’s a terrific angle.”
But that would be for those who were not fortunate enough to score tickets to the actual game. And there were plenty who did not.
Even Twins owner Carl Pohlad was not immuned to the mania gripping the fanbase - his phone wouldn’t stop ringing with ticket requests from long-lost acquaintances he told staff writers Rob Hotskainen and Randy Furst.
For Minnesota, that would be the left-handed Frank Viola. The 27-year-old Viola had finished the year 17-10 with a solid 2.90 ERA (a career-best 159 ERA+) but was facing a significant off-field ordeal: His younger brother had scheduled his wedding for October 17 and Frank was supposed to be the best man.
Naturally, as much as it pained him, Frank was not going to cancel his first World Series visit for his brother’s wedding, writes Steve Aschburner.
“Donna wanted to get married in June or July, but then we said, ‘No, we want Frank to be there, and we don’t want to disrupt his season,’” John [Viola, Frank’s brother] said. “So we thought of October.”
Said Frank: “I thought it would be a little far-fetched. I told ‘em, yeah, I shouldn’t have any problem making it. That was last year, when we were 20 games under .500. It’s unbelieveable.”
The Cardinals, meanwhile, excelled in the National League thanks to strong on-base presence (.340 OBP - 4th in MLB) then robbing the next base (248 steals). They also had a stalwart pitching who allowed just 4.4 runs per game compared to the Twins’ 5 runs.
Doug Grow summarized the clubs.
It’s an Upper Midwest approach to things. Power over finesse. It’s a Minnesota sporting style that goes back to Nagurski. It’s a baseball style that goes back to Joe Hauser in the old Nicollet ballpark long before anyone in the region believed the big leagues would ever come here. It continued with the arrival of the Washington Senators and the major leagues. Then it was Killebrew and Allison and Lemon. Now it’s Hrbek, Brunansky, Gaetti and Puckett. And, of course, on the mound. It’s Berenguer. Bronko Berenguer. It’s big-waistline baseball the Twins play.
When the St. Louis Cardinals step into the batting cage, the walls are safe from baseballs. batting is something the Cardinals do only so they can get a chance to run. The Cardinals look like a bunch of guys headed for a track meet. They lead the major leagues in skinny players and ground-ball base hits and stolen bases. They are descendants of a “Gashouse Gang” style of ball that always has played to adoration in St. Louis.
Jay Weiner, who would later go on to pen Stadium Boondoggles after his coverage of the Twins’ stadium plea in the late 1990s, defended the Dome’s honor and pointed out that purists hated all changes about the game and the transition to indoor ball was a natural evolution.