The Best World Series Ever
Thirty years ago, the Minnesota Twins, a team that finished dead last the previous year, faced off against the Atlanta Braves, a team that was perennially at the top, or near the top, of their division.
Here they were, ready for a magical performance, facing off in the World Series for the championship of baseball. A 2016 Sports Illustrated cover said, “The 1991 Fall Classic remains the best in baseball history.”
I was there. My late wife and I were in Minnesota, sitting high in the old Metrodome stadium with a bird's eye view for every home game of the World Series. We were also there for the preceding home games of the American League Championship.
Times were different then. While it wasn’t “easy” to get World Series tickets, they were available to average Joes and Janes like us, without paying jacked-up scalper prices.
Generally speaking, the teams in the series made tickets available for season ticket holders, the teams and their families, and Major League Baseball officials, and what was left over after all that was thrown open to the general public in what amounted to a lottery.
My wife and I mailed postcards into a specified address, requesting the right to purchase tickets. The postcards were all thrown into a giant pile and those whose names were drawn were allowed to purchase two tickets to the playoffs and World Series.
Luckily for us, my wife’s name was drawn, though we still had to decide if we really could go.
The tickets were available for purchase at face value, but that was only one element we had to factor in when deciding whether or not to go.
Depending on how it played out, there was the potential for four separate trips to Minneapolis. Four-lane highways now take you all the way from here to the Twin Cities but in 1991, much of it was still two-lane stretching the drive to six hours, meaning overnight hotel stays, meals and related expenses for each of those four trips.
Of course we’d be using up our vacation time and, most importantly, Darling Daughter had just turned three years old so it meant leaving her behind with family while we were at the games.
Despite all that we decided this was an opportunity too great to pass by. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things we would never have the chance to experience again.
Hard as it might be for some to believe, there was no expedia.com and this thing we call the internet was just in its infancy. Through a variety of calls and other maneuvering, we managed to find an affordable hotel in Dinkytown, the area near the University of Minnesota campus.
Best of all, the hotel provided bus shuttle service to and from the Metrodome alleviating us from having to drive to the stadium and fight with the crowds. That would prove to be especially beneficial on that final night when the streets were filled with people celebrating the Twins victory.
Before each game, outside the Metrodome, protestors circled the stadium. Minnesota has a large Native American population with many picketing the use of “Braves” as Atlanta’s team name. A fight that still goes on today, 20 years later.
I won’t pretend to have had an in-depth conversation with the protestors, but I did spend a few minutes talking to a couple of them. I will never be able to hear a fan base doing the “tomahawk chop” chant without thinking of that conversation, and without being disgusted by what that chant represents. I'll be cheering for the Astros the next several nights this year.
Pounding on the Scoreboard
Our seats were very nearly at the top of the stadium. Less than a dozen rows separated us from the back wall. That didn’t really matter to us, all that mattered was we were inside the stadium for the World Series.
We were situated above left field, right beside the big electronic scoreboard. Fun thing, I discovered that, at least in a limited way, it really is possible to manipulate a crowd of 60,000+ people.
At different times during the games, when it seemed a rally was needed and the public address system wasn’t providing incentive, I began rhythmically pounding the side of that metal scoreboard. To my surprise, people nearby began to follow, and then people in the next section, and then the next before, eventually, the entire stadium had picked up the beat.
As fun as that was, my paranoias simultaneously kicked in and I would stop my beating as soon as the crowd’s clapping seemed to carry on a life of its own. Every time I began pounding on that metal I was so concerned I was breaking some rule I also began looking around to see if an usher was going to come along to escort me out of the building.. Fortunately, that was never the case.
We'll See You Tomorrow Night
Speaking of the noise, during the games’ especially tight moments, and there were a lot of them, it was deafening. I seem to remember news reports saying the decibel level was higher than a jet aircraft taking off. My wife and I, seated beside each other, had to shout if we wanted to say anything and, more often than not, didn't even try.
I have so many memories it would take several of these posts to cover them all, so I won’t even attempt that.
Most baseball fans remember the Kirby Puckett home run flying over the plexiglass lining the top of the outfield fence directly below us. That was Game 6 of the series and brought on the memorable line from Jack Buck, “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I still get goosebumps watching the replay today:
The Best Game Ever
I will always say the best pitching performance ever, and best game of the series, came in Game 7 when Jack “Black Jack” Morris threw a complete, extra inning, game to win the series.
There were so many times during the game it looked like Atlanta was going to bust the flood gates, that Morris had run out of gas. I don’t remember how many innings Atlanta had two, sometimes, three runners on base and just one hit would have put them in the lead and quite probably given them the momentum needed to win it all.
Morris somehow rallied every single time. On occasion it was a strike out but more often than not he somehow managed to get a batter to hit a ground ball to bring the much needed out.
I brought a hand held television with me to the game. Cellphones with television apps built into them were something else we didn’t have back then.
The screen on that tv was only a couple inches wide. Overall, imagine the box a bar of soap comes in and put two of those end-to-end and you get a rough picture of how big this thing was.
I didn’t bring it to watch the game, I brought it to hear the announcers because so often they tell you things that are happening you don’t know when watching from the stands.
Late in that game, going into the eighth or ninth inning, they mentioned Morris talking to Twins Manager Tom Kelly. I looked down into the dugout and even from my distance you can tell what was going on. Kelly was talking to Morris about coming out of the game and Morris was telling him there was no way in hell that was going to happen.
This is also why I will always support the designated hitter in baseball. For those who don't know, when the DH is in use, the pitcher does not bat in the game, another player is substituted in his place. In games where the DH is not in use, the pitcher is required to bat and is often replaced late in a close game with a another player who is a better hitter.
If the DH had not been in use, Morris would have most certainly been pulled at some point, substituted when it was his turn in the batter’s box for a better hitter who might be able to get the needed hit.
If that happened, that historic pitching performance would not have. Morris, running on what I can only imagine was pure adrenaline in those last couple of innings, pitched a complete shutout.
In the 10th inning, with a runner on third and Atlanta’s outfield pulled in close to the infield to prevent a ground ball from scoring the run, pinch hitter Gene Larkin hit a line drive. As soon as it came off his bat the crowd roared because we all knew, it was going to fly over the left fielder’s head, driving in the winning run in a 1-0 ballgame.
The Minnesota Twins, the team that finished last the previous year, was World Series champions.
One more memory
The final game was played at night. The temperature when we arrived was in the low 50s and dropped into the 40s during the course of the game. To add to things, it was drizzling rain. A condition that continued throughout the course of the evening.
Fortunately for us, the game was played inside the temperature controlled conditions of the Metrodome. I’m not sure if the game would have been played if it were an outdoor stadium. My guess is they would have made every attempt to do so and it would have been miserable sitting outside watching it.
The Twins now play at a new stadium. Target Field is a beautiful place, I’ve been there a number of times. It’s outside. I can only imagine what it will be like when the Twins again find themselves in a World Series.
I hope the games are just as dramatic as the 1991 ones were, so those in attendance have something to think about besides cold and rain.