Archive for the ‘Minnesota ballparks’ Category

Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium – MIA At The MOA

October 18th, 2013

Metropolitan Stadium was located in Bloomington, Minnesota, 15 miles south of Minneapolis and just south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport off I-494.

Metropolitan Stadium "Home of the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings" (Post Card Dexter Press, copyright Northern Minnesota Novelties)

The ballpark was home to the American Association Minneapolis Millers from 1956 until 1960, the American League Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1981, and the National Football League Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1981. Prior to construction of Metropolitan Stadium, the Minneapolis Millers played their home games at Nicollet Park and the Minnesota Twins played at Griffith Stadium as the Washington Senators, prior to the franchise relocating to Minnesota after the 1960 season.

Metropolitan Stadium Circa 1957 (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Once construction was completed on the Hubert H. Humphre Metrodome in 1982, the Twins and the Vikings both relocated to the new stadium for their respective 1982 seasons.

Looking Toward Right Field from Killebrew Drive (Prior To Construction of Raddison Blu Hotel)

Metropolitan Stadium was demolished in 1985 and is now the site of the Mall of America, a megamall built on the footprint of the  old stadium, covering over 96 acres.

Metropolitan Stadium After Its Expansion to 42,000 Seats (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Home plate was located near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Lindau Lane.

Mall of America, Looking Toward Former Third Base Foul Line From Lindau Lane

Within the Mall of America, Metropolitan Stadium’s  former field is now subsumed by an enclosed amusement park known as Nickelodeon Universe. A marker for home plate is located near the entrance to the Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge (which for roller coaster enthusiasts is the shortest Gerstlauera Euro-Fighter roller coaster in the world).

Home Plate Marker, Metropolitan Stadium - Located Next To Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge

Prior to Nickelodeon Universe, the Mall of America amusement park was known as Camp Snoopy, a homage to former St. Paul resident and Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.

Home Plate Looking Down Former Third Base Line (Former Camp Snoopy Configuration)

As part of the change over from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, the amusement park was completely redone and all references to Peanuts characters were removed.

View of Home Plate Looking Towards Pitchers Mound (Camp Snoopy Configuration)

With the change from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, “Blockhead Stadium” – like Metropolitan Stadium – is now just another lost ballpark.

Mall of America's Camp Snoopy Blockhead Stadium - Now Just Another Lost Ballpark

One of the most popular attractions at the Mall of America, next to Nickelodeon Universe, is the Lego Imagination Center, which resides in what was once right field.

Mall of America Lego Imagination Center, Former Location of Right Field

Former Minnesota Twins first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder Harmon Killebrew is twice honored at the former site of Metropolitan stadium. Killebrew Drive, named in his honor, is an east-west road south of the mall that runs parallel to the former third base foul line.

Looking Toward Right Center Field from Killebrew Drive

In addition, Killebrew’s 522 foot home run off California Angels pitcher Lew Burdette is commemorated in Nickelodeon Universe near the Log Chute.

Harmon Killebrew's Historic Home Run Marker at Mall of America - Located Near The Log Chute

A red stadium seat that once marked the spot where the home run landed in Metropolitan Stadium’s left field upper deck on June 3, 1967,  hangs on the wall above the ride.

All By Myself - The Harmon Killebrew Home Run Red Stadium Seat

With an estimated 40 million annual visitors to the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium is perhaps the most visited lost ballpark site in the country. Located just 11 miles south of the Twins current ballpark, Target Field, Metropolitan Stadium’s former site certainly is worth a visit. Of course, if you live in Minneapolis, or if you are just passing through, chances are you’ve already been. So on your next visit, be sure to look for the home plate marker at the feet of Sponge Bob Square Pants and the lone red chair perched above the Log Chute.

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Nicollet Park – Home Of the Minneapolis Millers

October 16th, 2013

Nicollet Park was a minor league ballpark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, located approximately two and one half  miles south of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Entrance to Nicollet Park (Hennepin County Library – The Minneapolis Collection)

The distinctive Tutor building that was the main entrance to Nicollet Park (shown in the photograph above) was located behind the former right field corner at the intersection of 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue.

Wells Fargo Bank at the Intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street, Looking Toward Former Right Field Corner

Home plate was located at the corner of Blaisdell Avenue and 31st Street. The ballpark faced northeast.

Aerial View of Nicollet Park (Courtesy of Baseball Bugs)

A Wells Fargo Bank is located in the area that was once right and center field. The former infield is now the bank’s parking lot.

Wells Fargo Nicollet-Lake Office, 3030 Nicollet Avenue, Former Location of Infield Looking Toward Right Field Corner

Located near the former infield is a Minnesota Historical Marker celebrating the 60 years, from 1896 to 1955, that baseball was played at the site.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

The historical marker notes that Nicolett Park enjoyed one of the longest running ground leases for a sports venue, running from 1896 until 1951, when the property was purchased by Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. The bank building that now occupies the site was originally constructed in 1957.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

Beyond the left field fence that ran parallel to Lake Street were several one story brick commercial buildings, since demolished and replaced by a four story apartment building constructed in 1981.

Blaisdell Avenue and West Lake Street Looking Toward Former Left Field Corner

Nicolett Park was home to the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League (1896 -1899), the American League (1900 – in 1900 the American League was a minor league), and the American Association (1902 – 1955). The American Association Millers won nine pennants, including one in its last season of play in 1955. From 1908 to 1911, Nicollet Park was also home to the Minneapolis Keystones, an independent, barnstorming black ball club. The Keystones were not a formal negro league team, having played over a decade before the formation of the Negro National League.

Nicollet Avenue and West Lake Street, Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field

Notable Minneapolis Millers who played at Nicollet Park include future Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Dandridge, a standout Negro League  player for the Newark Eagles, played for the Millers at the end of his career, from 1949 to 1952. Mays played for the Millers at the beginning of his career, in 1951, for only 35 games (in which he batted .477, hit height home runs, scored 38 runs, and drove in 30). Williams played for Minneapolis as a 19 year old in 1938. That season he led the American Association in home runs, batting average, and RBI. Other future Hall  of Famers who played for the Millers include Roger Bresnahan (1898-1899), Jimmy Collins (1909), Rube Waddell (1911-1913), Orlando Cepeda (1957), and Carl Yastrzemski (1959-1960). Babe Ruth played in at least two exhibition games (1924 and 1935) at Nicollet Park as well.

Minneapolis Miller Ted Williams in 1938

According to Lawrence Ritter’s Lost Ballparks, it was at Nicolett Park that General Mills (a Minneapolis company) first used the slogan “Breakfast of Champions” in a sign on the outfield fence. The advertising billboard was installed at the park in 1933 following the Miller’s pennant winning season of 1932. Nicollet Park is also the setting for what is perhaps just baseball folklore, when Minneapolis Miller Andy Oyler (a former Baltimore Oriole) purportedly hit the shortest home run in professional baseball. The story goes that a ball off the bat of Oyler got stuck in the mud in front of home plate and before the opposing team could retrieve the ball, Oyler had scored on an inside  the park home run.

Across from the former left field corner, at the intersection of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue, is Champions Bar and Grill which dates back to the last few years of Nicollet Park’s existence.

Champions Bar and Grill Dates to the 1950’s And the Time of Nicollet Park

Champions appears to be the only building located next to the ballpark site that remains from the time of Nicollet Park. The historical marker placed in the Wells Fargo parking lot is the only clue that there once was a ballpark located in this nondescript city block south of downtown Minneapolis.

Postscript: Thanks to Rubin Latz for sharing his picture of  a foul ball caught by his father at Nicollet Park on April 28, 1946. The baseball was manufactured by Wilson and is stamped “Affiliate of the American Association.”

Foul Ball Caught at Nicollet Field on April 28, 1946

On that April day, the Minneapolis Millers played a double header against their cross town rivals, the St. Paul Saints. According to Stew Thornley’s  “Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History,” a record crowd of 15,761 fans attended the game, with some 5000 fans standing on the field. Twenty-four doubles were hit during those two games, with the Saints victorious in both games.

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Minneapolis Metrodome – Soon To Be A Lost Ballpark

October 14th, 2013

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is a multi-purpose stadium located at 900 South 5th Street, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Aerial View of the Metrodome, Circa 2002

Named in honor of former Vice President and Minnesota United States Senator Hubert Humphrey, the Metrodome from 1982 through the 2009 season was the home of the Minnesota Twins.

View of HHH Metrodome From Third Street

The National Football League Minnesota Vikings have played their home games at the Metrodome since it opened in 1982. The the University of Minnesota’s football and baseball teams, the Golden Gophers, also have called the Metrodome their home.

Metrodome with Downtown Minneapolis in Background

The Metrodome is the only sports facility to host the World Series (1987 and 1991), the Super Bowl (1992), the NCAA Final Four (1992 and 2001), as well as the MLB All-Star game (1985).

Fourth Street And Kirby Puckett Place, Entrance to Metrodome, Gate H

The ballpark was the third dome-covered stadium used for major league baseball, following Houston’s Astrodome (1965) and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (1977).

Metrodome View From Behind Home Plate

Home plate was located behind Gate F near the corner of Kirby Puckett Place and South 5th Street. Third base paralleled Kirby Puckett Place, while first base paralleled 5th and 6th Streets.

View of the Metrodome's Third Base Seating and Left Field Grandstand

The center field corner was located near the intersection of South 4th Street and 11th Avenue South.

View of the Metrodome's First Base Seating and Right Field Grandstand

The Metrodome’s unique, inflatable roof is made of a Teflon-coated fiberglass cloth, similar to material used for trampolines.

The Metrodome's Air-Supported Roof

The roof is supported by pressurized air supplied from large fans located along the arena’s roof line.

Metrodome Pressurized Air Support Fans Located Along Roof Line

To keep the dome inflated, the stadium’s internal air pressure must equal or exceed air pressure outside the Metrodome.

Part of the Metrodome's Roof Inflation System in the Upper Reaches Behind Third Base That Keep the Roof Aloft

The entire Metrodome roof was replaced in 2011 after heavy snow build up caused the roof to collapse.  Rather than place the roof in a landfill, a local entrepreneur purchased a large section of the roof material and now offers pieces of it for sale as souvenirs.

View of Centerfield From Upper Deck, HHH Metrodome

A video board, replaced in 2001, is located above the upper deck in left field.

HHH Metrodome Video Board Circa 2002

The home bullpen was located beyond the Twin’s dugout in foul territory, along the third base line.  The visiting bullpen was located along the first base line.

Kyle Lohse Warming Up in Metrodome Bullpen

In this video from August 2002, Minnesota Twin David Ortiz, now known as Big Papi, is standing in the bullpen pregame taking practice swings during Kyle Lohse’s warm up pitches. Afterwards he even stops to sign an autograph.

Located in right field were over 7,000 retractable seats that were used when the Metrodome hosted football.

HHH Metrodome Wall Of Seats Behind Right Field

The Metrodome’s  lower concourse, which ran along the entire perimeter of the ballpark at the top of the lower seating bowl, had the feel of a 1980’s mall food court.

HHH Metrodome Concourse Food Stand

Neither the upper nor low concourse offered any view of the field.

On the HHH Metrodome Concourse With T.C. Bear and a Young Fan

In 2010, the Twins moved to their new home, Target Field, located a mile and a half northwest of the Metrodome.

Target Field Under Construction August 2008 (Looking Toward Home Plate)

Target Field Under Construction August 2008 (Looking Toward Left Field)

The end is near for the Metrodome. After the 2013 football season, the Minnesota Vikings will depart the Metrodome and current plans call for the stadium’s demolition soon thereafter. A new stadium to house the Vikings will be built on the footprint of the Metrodome, with the Vikings scheduled to return for the 2016 season. Hopefully those in charge of designing the Vikings new stadium will find a way to pay homage to the Metrodome and perhaps find a way to keep a piece of the old stadium in place for future generations of sports fans to see and appreciate.

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