I no longer recall the name of the bar in Des Moines where I watched Game 6 of the 1991 World Series 30 years ago yesterday, on Saturday, October 26, 1991. As Kirby Puckett rounded the bases and Jack Buck famously instructed the television audience he would see us tomorrow night, I looked at my fraternity friends, Borgy and Helmer, and said, “My parents have an extra ticket for Game 7, but I have to work Monday morning.”
My companions looked at me like I was nuts. They were right. And I thank them.
I was a graduate assistant in the Drake University sports information office at the time. Mondays were release days, when we finalized press releases, faxed them to future opponents and media outlets, and stuffed them into envelopes to mail to student-athlete hometown newspapers. It was an important day in the SID office, but I also knew my boss, Mike, was a huge baseball fan. I was sure he would understand.
This would be, after all, Game 7 of a flipping World Series. At the time, only 30 previous World Series had reached a Game 7. The venue, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, was a building I knew well. In fact, I would characterize the relationship I had with “The Dome” as almost intimate. Over the nine years in which it was open, I had been in nearly every nook and cranny of the building it seemed.
I attended the first regular season game there on April 6, 1982, a year the Twins lost 102 games. I attended the 1985 All-Star Game where I cheered for my favorite player, Steve Garvey, who was now wearing the horrible browns and yellows of the San Diego Padres making him look like a “taco.”
Once we were old enough to drive, my high school buddies Schu, Lam, Flynn, Brian, Dave, Jake, and whomever else would drive downtown Minneapolis, walk up to the gate, and buy cheap seats in the upper deck in centerfield. Demand for Twins games in the mid-80s was not exactly strong, so no advance purchase was necessary. We bought Dots at the concession stand and would throw some toward the field. We were convinced we could see the red ones on the outfield turf from our perch several stories above in center field.
The air pressure in the lobby of The Dome literally shoved you out the door, held open by an usher, when you were leaving. It was always a let down when ushers forced you to exit through the revolving doors. I recall going, as an early teen, to a game in the General Mills luxury box along the third base side. This was 1982, before luxury boxes were really luxurious. Still we felt so important, what with the private bathroom and the food and the comfier seats.
I once caught a foul ball hit by Tony Phillips of the Oakland A’s while seated along the third base line. I had my baseball glove because as I recall an on-field clinic was held prior to the game. Except to stand up, I did not need to move at all. The foul ball literally landed in my glove, held above my head. The modest crowd of a few thousand applauded my catch.
As I got older and began a career working in sports, I was fortunate to work special events such as the 1990 U.S. Olympic Festival as an intern with the USOC. I also worked the 1991 NCAA men’s basketball regional in the Dome, as well as the 1992 Final Four. Later, in 1998, the year the Vikings went 15-1, only to blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead at home to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, my friend Bob and I worked Vikings football games for SportsTicker. We phoned in score updates and stats, and interviewed NFL players in the locker room after the game. We thought we were the shit.
So many memories are connected to that place, that concrete building with its inflatable fabric roof and hefty bag outfield wall.
Early in the morning of October 27, 1991 I called my parents and told them I was coming home. I steered my Toyota Corolla north on I-35, armed with a change of clothes, some Bruce Springsteen mix cassette tapes I had made for road trips, and (probably) a Diet Mountain Dew, ready for the four-hour ride from Des Moines to our house in Plymouth.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of the game. I do not remember how my dad got the tickets, other than that they likely came via his employer, General Mills. I know I sat next to my sister who, for reasons she can no longer recall, was home from her junior year at the University of Colorado. Our seats were in section 237, row 16. It was high up in the top deck, down the left field line. The players looked like ants. The Dome’s one videoboard (state-of-art in 1982) was to our left, making it difficult to watch videos or see stats. Our parents were in obstructed-view seats in section 225, row 31. These were literally in the last row of the top level, behind a concrete pillar. I had sat in those seats for Games 1 and 2. My friend Flynn, who attended Game 1 with me, recalled to me recently that we could touch the roof from those seats. That may be an exaggeration, but to a person who claimed he could see a half-inch diameter red dot on the centerfield turf from 100 feet above, who am I to question the legitimacy of his memory?
I know we waved our Homer Hankies. I know we screamed with each Jack Morris strikeout. And, of course, I know we jumped up and down like school kids, hugged one another, and high-fived strangers when Gene Larkin lifted a long fly single to left center.
I wish the iPhone were a thing 30 years ago as I have no visual remembrance of the event. It was a moment to cherish and enjoy forever, but all I have is the history my brain creates. I wish I had video shot from our seat way above the field. I wish I had a photo of my sister and me. I wish I remember what I ate and what I wore. I wish I journaled more of my life.
And I guess the lesson in this stroll down memory lane is that absent visual evidence, our sense of recall is selective, but our association with place is often strong. We know WHERE we were when something happened, and we often recall WHO we were with at that moment. Place and people are what matters. Possessions have so much less meaning without a connection to place or people.
The next day, Monday, October 28, 1991, I awoke early, around 5 am and ate breakfast. Before heading south, I drove to Erickson’s Supermarket to buy copies of the StarTribune, as I wanted to give one to my journalism professor Robert Woodward who was the quintessential “newspaper guy,” but also a baseball fan. He once let me write a journalism history class paper on newspaper coverage of the Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Yankees rivalry from 1947-56. I don’t know why, but I wanted him to have this copy of the StarTribune among the many stacks of yellowing newspapers in his office. I guess I hoped after a few years he would see it and think of me.
Place and people. They evoke so many memories and emotions.