Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Minnesota Twins

Metropolitan Stadium
8001 Cedar Avenue
Bloomington, MN 55420

Home of the
Minnesota Twins

World Series
- 1965: Twins/Dodgers

All-Star Games
- 1965: NL 6, AL 5

- Opened: 1956
- Updates:
   1961: Grandstand to right
   1965: Left field pavilion
- Signature: Disrepair, rust
- Closed: 1981
- Demolished: 1985
- Remains: None
- Site: Mall of America

Site Memorials
- Home Plate Marker
- Killebrew Homerun Marker

Vital Stat Links
- Official History
- Map

Photo Links
- MN Historical Society:


Article Links
- Andrew Clem
- Atlantic Monthly
- Jim Caple (ESPN)
- James Thielman
- Vendiamo (buy restored Met Stadium seats)

Related Pages Here
- HHH Metrodome
- Nicollet Park
- Wishful Fields
- Target Field

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Baseball Oasis (Source: MN Historical Society)

Metropolitan Stadium: No Place Like Home

By Rick Prescott
Summer 2001

We all know what happens when you build a baseball park out of a field of corn: it has magical properties. But what about an onion patch? Not as romantic, perhaps, but every bit as magical.

Brief History

Metropolitan Stadium sprang out of nearly nowhere in 1955 as the Twin Cities tried mightily to become a Major League destination. Its site was miles from either of the area's downtowns, surrounded by farmland sprinkled with hints of the suburban metropolis it would become (a housing development had already been completed directly to the west). [an error occurred while processing this directive] Nonetheless, on this parcel of land, one summer there was a crop of vegetables (onions, radishes, melons, and even some of that magical sweet corn), the next summer it was grass and baseball. Ten short summers later, the game's top players would meet there in the mid-summer classic, and later that same year the two top teams would battle for a World Championship. [an error occurred while processing this directive] That's a pretty short span between Nowhere and Somewhere. (The span which followed -- from Somewhere to Nowhere again -- would be nearly as brief.)

By 1965, the park had reached what would be its final configuration. The original triple-decked infield grandstand was augmented down the first base line by a permanent double-decked extension. In left field a very large double-decked bleacher section provided thousands of extremely cheap -- and pretty bad -- baseball seats (which actually were built to be rather expensive -- but still pretty bad -- football seats). The rest of the park was made up of temporary seating that simply would never go away. Had the permanent grandstand extended fully down the third base line, Twins owner Calvin Griffith later grumbled, the Twins would never have left the Met for the Metrodome.

Patchwork Glory

But it's a mistake to dwell on what might have been. One can easily imagine what a Met with more permanent seating might have looked like (think Dodger Stadium). In fact, it's even easy to imagine what a rebuilt Met with more modern amenities might be like (Angel Stadium in Anaheim). [an error occurred while processing this directive] But the image we will always have is of the patchwork glory that we actually knew. One of the Twins' regular program advertisers featured a caricature of the park which captured its somewhat schizophrenic qualities (with marginal accuracy). This profile is the one seared into my memory.

I'm sure a lot of Twins fans remember the experience of approaching the park before a game and catching the first glimpse of those uniquely huge light standards looming over what seemed like miles and miles of parking lot. They jutted out of the top of a multi-colored heap of rusty iron and chain link fence, and looked so huge that they might come down at any second. But as those lights got larger, so would our eyes.

Our game was in there, and its heroes: Carew, Oliva, Battey, Kaat, Blyleven, Perry, Grant, Allison, and Killebrew. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Herb Carneal (also a hero) was in there ready to describe the action for all the unlucky fans who couldn't be there -- but wished they could. As you walked the miles of cracked asphalt from the car, the heap got bigger and bigger with every step until it loomed almost incomprehensibly large. Met Stadium was a very big place. It was tall and wide, its stature emphasized by the vast flatness surrounding it. It seemed, in some ways, like an oasis in the middle of a blacktop desert. It was a genuine Destination, with a very big personality all its own.

The Met was the first major league park I ever visited, and it was my home park for my entire childhood. In fact, there are still times when I listen to Carneal's voice and instinctively picture the game out in that massive, creaky, beautiful place. (Alas, the image doesn't last too long before a ball hits a speaker or that damnable baggie.) What I wouldn't give to see just one more game there.

Composite view from the bleachers (Source: LP, 1975)

The View From the Cheap Seats

The left field stands were the cheap seats, of course. To get there you entered not so much through a gate as through an opening in the fence [an error occurred while processing this directive] which surrounded the park (visible on the right edge of this postcard). Then there was a little path leading to the entry for the grandstand. Talk about low-tech!

Underneath the pavilion was a complete jumble. I remember that the rest rooms were there, but I do not recall any fixed concession stands (the park is said to have contained a total of 24). What I remember most is one of the greatest amenities I have ever experienced at a major league park: a standing room, field-level view of the action. The left field fence was made of chain link all the way from the foul pole to nearly straight-away center, and you could stand there just a few yards behind the outfielders and watch the game.

Many people did this, and it was always crowded. To the best of my knowledge, no major league park today has anything quite like this [an error occurred while processing this directive] (I do not count the obscenely expensive modern version which sits right behind home plate). Of course, padded outfield fences prevent this to a certain extent. But there's something special about watching the action from the vantage point of an outfielder. That's how I saw a lot of action when I played the game as a kid, so it always felt familiar.

Up above, there were lots of vendors, and great food that was cheap. My favorite treat was always the Frosty Malt. Our family had a pattern which I still follow today. Hot dogs are for the early innings, and Frosty Malts are for the late innings. The best part of this strategy was that by the 7th inning, the Frosty Malts were all just a little bit melted, so it was like a really thick chocolate shake which you had to eat with a flat wooden spoon. (These days, modern technology ensures that all ice cream treats stay frozen solid throughout the game. * Sigh *)

A Special Night

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The Met saw its share of baseball history, including the night of August 10, 1971, when Harmon Killebrew became the 10th major leaguer in history to hit 500 home runs.

My grandfather, a Twins fan since the beginning, came into town from Sioux Falls to visit and had wanted to go to the previous day's game because of its potential historic significance. Luckily, it didn't work out for us to go, and since Killebrew hadn't delivered yet, we got a second chance.

Because he was going, Grandpa insisted on buying good seats for everyone, and so for the first and only time (that I can remember) we sat in the main grandstand. I remember lots of people, and an electric atmosphere, but at first I didn't quite understand why the game was special.

When Killebrew came to the plate in the first inning, the electricity in the air increased noticeably. And when Baltimore's Mike Cuellar threw up a fat pitch, Killebrew swung and the whole place erupted like I've never heard before or since. The shot landed out in the left field pavilion -- our usual seats.

Detail from Mom's scorecard (Source: LP)

My mom kept a scorecard which shows that, with the pressure relieved, [an error occurred while processing this directive] Harmon hit his 501st homer a couple of innings later. It was not enough to beat the Orioles, who won 4-3 (Killebrew getting all three of the Twins RBIs), but it was enough to make a memory that will be with me for life.

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Even though we were far away from the infield, there was a distinct thrill just being in the presence of big-leaguers, and I didn't want to miss a second of the action. But I remember one time leaving about half way through the second game of a double-header. The Twins were trailing the White Sox 3-0 after losing the first game 2-1. After a long, hot day of baseball, we were not the only people who decided to leave early, and we faced a long line of cars trying to exit. Listening to the game on the radio as we waited, we heard the Twins, only a few hundred yards away but now completely out of our sight, rally to win the game 4-3. Since then I've never left a major league game early -- a lesson learned directly from the extremely bad traffic conditions around the Met. I don't remember exactly how it was set up, but it always seemed like 15,000 cars and one exit.

Such Great Days

But my greatest memories of the Met have to be of bat day and photo day. On bat day, every single kid got a bat -- and plenty of adults too. These weren't cheap bats, and they weren't kid-sized, and with the help of a little tape on the handle, I used mine well into my teenage years.

But photo day may have been the most magical of all. Unlike today's more formal and controlled version, in 1974 the fans gathered on the warning track all around the field, and the players wandered around on the grass. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Fans could stand with players if invited, and everyone could take as many pictures of as many players as they wanted. It was leisurely and extremely informal, and probably went on for 45 minutes or so. The day we went I got to see Tony Oliva and Bert Blyleven up close (and get great shots of each), and take my brother's picture with Harmon Killebrew. (My mom tried to convince me to get my picture taken with him, but I was not interested. I was learning to be a photographer and had no interest in being a subject. Oh yeah, I was also pretty nervous about being in the presence of such greatness.)

My clumsy photos did capture nicely the casual spirit of the event, and the gloriously sunny nature of this day at the park. I also got a shot of some of the seating in the left field grandstand. [an error occurred while processing this directive] The photo shows that it was not individual seats out there like in the main grandstand, but bleacher seats with backs. It only matters because on June 3, 1967, Killebrew launched a home run that landed in the upper deck of the bleachers some 530 feet from the plate! The mammoth shot is memorialized on the wall of Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America -- except they used a seat from the main grandstand to stand in for the bleachers that were actually hit. (They certainly get points for getting the spirit of the event, if not quite the detail.)

Memory vs. Reality

Nothing in my memory can explain why they abandoned Metropolitan Stadium. Of course, I remember it being very hot -- and very cold. But, hey, this is Minnesota! I remember being a long way from the action -- but I always thought it was just because the cheap seats were all we could consider. Come to think of it, I do remember that the third deck of the main grandstand was closed because it was too dangerous.

Abandoning the Met: My Fault?

[an error occurred while processing this directive] I just wanted to come in from the heat. I just wanted to be closer to the action. I just wanted to have one of those cool new domed stadiums. You know, like the Astrodome!

So I wrote a letter to Twins president Calvin Griffith. It was short and sweet, and pleaded for him to support a new domed stadium. At age 13, I knew nothing of stadium politics or financing. I just had visions of something new and fancy.

Apparently, so did Calvin:

"I also support having a domed stadium. True, there's nothing like a bright, warm summer day at the ball park with a gentle breeze blowing. It's a pleasant thought. But there are those days during the season when it's 45 degrees or raining. Such conditions are anything but pleasant for someone wanting to see a baseball game. Under a dome, you can make the weather predictable."

I had found a kindred spirit! My letter had made a difference! We'd get our magical domed stadium! (Read the entire response letter by clicking on the image above.)

But I should have realized -- as should Calvin -- that predictable weather gets old pretty fast. I should have realized -- as should Calvin -- that the Twins would be moving into a football stadium. I should have realized -- as should Calvin -- that Minnesota frugality would result in always making the most practical and sensible choice in design and construction rather than the most exciting. If the Astrodome was financed with Texas Bravado, the Metrodome was built with Minnesota Nice.

My heart sank the first time I stepped into the new place. I immediately wanted to be back out in the sun, watching grounders bounce off real grass, and fly balls soar across real sky. It was an early lesson in being careful what you wish for.

And everything was pretty rusty. And it took forever to get out of the parking lot after games. And there were only a handful of concession stands, and not very many rest rooms. Hmm, it's starting to come back to me now...

The final word, however, should probably come from a player. Killebrew, speaking at TwinsFest 2004, said this when asked about his reaction when he heard the Met was coming down: "It was time," he said. "It was a good park for a while, but we played under some pretty bad conditions there... There were times when it was more like a test of endurance than a baseball game." He went on to describe how winds sometimes helped or hurt him as a hitter, but said that the cold was the real problem. He clearly thinks that indoor baseball is a must in the Minnesota climate.

I must admit that I was deeply in favor of replacing the Met and wrote to Calvin to express my views (see sidebar). It seems a bit sacrilegious in hindsight, but I really loved the idea of a new stadium, especially a domed one. Because of my letter, I've always felt just a tiny bit responsible for the Met's demise and its replacement by the accursed concrete oval...

But let's be realistic: the Met probably wouldn't have lasted much longer without some major structural repair. It probably would have had to be torn

The Song

We're gonna win Twins, we're gonna score!
We're gonna win Twins, watch that baseball soar!
Knock out a homerun, shout a hip-hooray!
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!

We're gonna win Twins, give it our all!
We've got the guys who'll knock the cover off the ball!
Let's hear it now for the team that came to play!
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!

down and reconstructed section by section over a decade or more. Better maintenance would have helped, but the place was put up hastily and it wasn't exactly built to last forever. And protecting it from the elements was simply not an option (though it was proposed). That park was built to lure a team. In that sense at least Met Stadium was a complete success. And compared to what we've had ever since, it looks in my memory like a baseball Taj Mahal.

Ballpark Magic

When I recall those afternoons baking in the sun out in left field, I realize how the experience shaped my love of the game, and some significant portions of my life. For that I'm grateful to that place and to the men who played there.

Exploring the Abandoned Met

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The Met was officially abandoned after the Vikings finished their season in early 1982, but not torn down for several years. The site was a source of great controversy and litigation before it was finally selected as the location for the new Mall of America.

While the litigation was in progress the park simply sat there and aged. It was unused, not maintained, not very well-protected, and highly vandalized. Many people got in and took tours, souvenirs and even photographs.

One of those people was Robin Hanson of suburban Minneapolis. He contacted me after reading this article and offered to add his photos of the forlorn ballpark to my collection. I jumped at the chance, and happily scanned his negatives while we chatted about our memories of the park.

For those who loved this place, the photos are pretty hard to look at. Evidence of the park's final moments is everywhere. After the final Vikings game, fans began tearing the place apart and left almost nothing untouched. Large hunks of the turf were harvested, as was one of the goal posts -- twisted until it broke off at the base! Seats were broken and scattered about the field. It was a most unpleasant end to a park which suffered its share of indignities during its lifetime.

Be sure to browse the collection by clicking on the image above. The park seen here is a rusty mess, left to whither back into the bean field from which it sprang. But the memories are palpable: the original bat racks remain; benches on which World Series teams once sat are still brightly painted and right where they were in the dugouts and bullpens; the rubber ring around home plate is still there; even the famous clock hovers over this now-vacant lot. The temporary stands were all gone, as were home plate and the pitching rubber. But the park's greatest asset was still right there: the sky was blue the day Robin took his tour, and the sun shone down brightly -- a perfect day for outdoor baseball.

Our family only went to games once or twice a season, so it was a big deal. I was always excited, and just a little bit nervous. Of course, I always had my glove! (Nope, never caught a single thing.)

Since the bleachers faced due west, we got an amazing treat during midsummer night games. As we watched the sun set over the more expensive seats, there would be that great moment when a pop-up would go high enough to take my eyes into a sky which suddenly contained stars. Twilight over the Met was an awesome experience (see the photo at the top of this page).

This was the place where I grew to love the arc of a baseball in flight -- that perfect shape which sums up the laws of physics and represents so many truths of nature. In later years I would learn that the same shape fills all great and good works of art, and pervades our lives (if we let it). But I first saw it at the Met, and it was simply a pure and beautiful sight, especially when set against a new night sky.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Occasionally I go out to the Mall of America, and every so often I seek out the plaque which marks the spot where home plate used to be. Then I peer through the foliage of Camp Snoopy to get a glimpse of the red seat mounted high up on the far wall. Then I meander down what used to be the third base line and think about that day I strolled up and down that line taking pictures of my favorite players.

Sure, the Twins have played some great ball since leaving the Met. But when I remember some of my greatest baseball moments, I'm back there: seven years old, glove on one hand, Frosty Malt in the other. Dad is explaining the game, Mom is keeping score. Blyleven and Kaat are the pitchers. Killebrew, Carew and Oliva are the hitters. And the place is -- and always will be -- Metropolitan Stadium.

Ballpark Magic (Source: MN Historical Society)
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