Revisiting October: Twins Mania Grips Minnesota
by, 10-16-2013 at 12:49 AM (302 Views)
Beneath the fold of the October 17 edition of the Star Tribune was a story that may have grabbed larger headlines anywhere outside of this market.
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.
Nicollet Mall was freshened up with 150 new banners inscribed with “How ‘bout Them Twins?” Northwest Airlines reported that the four daily nonstop flights between Minneapolis and St. Louis with 422 seats were sold out for the impending games in St. Louis. Juan Berenguer, Tony Oliva Les Straker and Al Newman took to Prince’s Chanhassen studio to record “The Berenguer Boogie”, an anthem and video created in what seemed to be 15 minutes to capture the flame-thrower’s patented move. Street vendors had flooded the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, peddling their fresh World Series wears that people happily snapped up quickly.“The Twins are killing us,” Shama said. “We’ve got the Ice Capades next week and I say it’s going to hurt with the Twins getting all of the media coverage and things.”
“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.
The Star Tribune, who had created and distributed the Homer Hanky, announced that they were completed sold out even before to the biggest game of the decade. On the front page, Tom Culligan, the paper’s Vice President of Marketing, informed readers that there were “four factories working around the clock producing hankies” but there would be a limited number of the wildly popular handkerchief available at the Star Tribune’s headquarters that afternoon.Great Clips said it would contribute $1 to food shelves for each of its new Kirby cuts, a new hairstyle named after outfielder Puckett. “It’s like a short crewcut. It’s something different, something fun,” said stylist Lori Loegering.
Columnist Jim Klobuchar documented the scene.
Everyone wanted one. Those who were unable to get one at the Star Tribune headquarters that day were forced to wait weeks for mail order delivery.“In the lobby of the Star Tribune Friday afternoon, pin-striped executives and ad clerks were smiling benevolently at the sight of thousands of people lining the sidewalks to buy a Homer Hanky. They seemed vaguely amused by the mania of it. An hour later, pin-striped executives and ad clerks waited in a corridor line for more than an hour to buy Homer Hankies, when the went on sale for employees.”
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.
This is quaint compared by modern standards. In 2012, Fox employed 38 cameras total including five new slo-mo high speed cameras.Three cameras will be stationed beyond the outfield fences, three focused on third base, first base and home plate from high in the stands and three more on those same bases at ground level.
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.
In preparation for next day’s game, focus shifted towards the two men who would climb the mound.“Twins mania has turned into ticket mania,” Pohlad said. “I have never seen such an avalanche of requests for tickets...I got a call from a kid who went to high school with me 45 years ago. I couldn’t believe it. He said it was very important. He needed four tickets.”
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.
As for the match-up on the field, it was the cliched power versus speed. The Twins had slugged 196 home runs in the season while the Cardinals finished last with 97. First baseman Kent Hrbek had led the Twins with 34 home runs and could out-mash anybody on the Cards’ roster, save for the injured Jack Clark (35), but would be hard-pressed to beat any of them in a foot race around the bases with a five minute head start.The bride-to-be, wary that her special day might be upstaged by, yeech, a baseball game, has gone so far as to impose a ‘no TV’ rule on the groom and their guests. “She won’t be able to make that stick,” said her father-in-law-to-be. “We’ll sneak around.”
“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.
The 1987 World Series would mark the first time baseball would play the game under a roof. The game’s purists lambasted the notion. before the Series, Peter Gammons, then with Sports Illustrated, wrote that “There’s the matter of taking any team seriously that makes its living in the Metrodome. Humpball is the name of the game played there.”The Twins dig in at the plate and grunt as they play long-ball. Watch ‘em in batting practice. They love that time in the cage. They stand there and laugh and measure how far they hit it.
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.
No one will blame Weiner for his miss on that one.“In the year 2087, the Dome will be a quaint relic. The purists of the day will be screaming that it has to be saved. The Dome will be our Wrigley Field, our Fenway Park. Our grandchildren will read about the good old days when the roof was Teflon and the grass was plastic.”