Love the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome or hate it, you won’t have to see baseball played there anymore. That’s because the New York Yankees, about the least likely visitors to have a sense of nostalgia that you’ll ever find, were presented the opportunity to shut the stadium down on Sunday night. And they did it, spotting the Minnesota Twins a lead for the third time in the ALDS, but taking it back with a pair of homers from Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, winning 4-1 and sweeping the Twins.
The Yankees will start the ALCS at home against the Angels on Friday.
Andy Pettitte pitched 6 1/3 innings for the Yankees, taking advantage of an overagressive (and overeager) Twins lineup all night and throwing just 81 pitches before he was pulled. The Twins scored their one run in the sixth, but that was the only time the Metrodome crowd of 54,735 ever became a factor.
In the seventh, Rodriguez stroked a 3-2 fastball from Carl Pavano over the baggie in right field, and Posada followed two batters later with a shot that dropped just over a leaping Delmon Young’s glove in left.
Minnesota had one more shot to tie it in the eighth when Nick Punto led off with a double. But when Denard Span chopped one up the middle, Punto took the crowd noise to mean the ball had gotten through, and charged around third. Derek Jeter had caught the ball and threw home to Posada, who fired back to Rodriguez in time so he could tag Punto out easily.
Punto saw the stop sign from third-base coach Scott Ullger too late.
“It was one of those things where the crowd got me a little bit,” Punto said, his eyes moist with tears. “Fifty-five thousand people screaming, I though the ball might have got through. It’s a huge play in that game. I can’t let that happen.”
So that’s it for the Twins’ remarkable comeback — and baseball in the Metrodome. There’s no shortage of reasons to rip it as a ballpark — its design quirks led to a lot of cooky things over the years, the field was basically in the corner of a rectangle, the concourses were small and the place has all the charm of a warehouse.
But it’s also given the Twins a unique and remarkable home-field advantage over the years (though they lost their last eight playoff games here). When the place was rocking — as it was in the 1987 and 1991 World Series — the Twins were practically unbeatable, feeding off an enthusiastic fanbase as visitors struggled to manage the environment.
I got a chance to drive by Target Field, their new home slated to open next season, and while it looks very nice, it also looks like most of the other new ballparks that have gone up lately — stone/glass facades, big scoreboard, view of the city skyline. That’s great, but it’s also where everybody else has taken their stadium in the last 15 years.
The Metrodome isn’t going anywhere, but its best days haven’t been with the Vikings. They’ve been with the Twins, and even though it was designed more for football, I’ll remember it more for baseball, and I’m going to miss it.