MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the third inning and the Blue Jays wanted to be somewhere else. They weren't even an hour into the postseason and they were already down five runs and couldn't hear a thing and, you can bet your bottom Canadian dollar, wanted to be anywhere but in the Metrodome getting jackhammered by the Twins in the first game of the American League playoffs.
Everyone in the stands was on their feet waving those little white handkerchiefs, and the music on the public-address system was racketingaround their heads, David Lee Roth and the Ramones and disco and all this mad polka stuff running together, goodness gracious. You could see it in the Blue Jays' eyes. Anywhere else but this lunatic bin. Please.
They'd been warned, of course. They'd heard the stories from 1987, how the Tigers and Cardinals had just put their hands over their ears in the din and stretched out like place mats waiting for a cold supper, and the Twins had won the World Series. The
Jays had known it would be loud. But you just can't know how loud until you hear it. You just can't understand.
The top of the dome grabs all the sound and sends it back down for keeps, and the PA announcer barks out the batters' names like he's itching for a fight, and they cue up the charge call every 25 seconds, and in the end, it's like wearing headphones with the volume turned all the way up.
The Jays said later that they kept believing, that they expected to turn all the ruckus to silence, but it was easy to say then, after they'dmade a game of it. The truth is that for a few minutes there, they wanted desperately to be, oh, maybe back in their hotel rooms, where it would be quiet and they could turn on the cable and watch Arsenio, walk down the hall to get a soft drink, maybe call someone long-distance and talk softly.
Or in the clubhouse, where they could stand in the shower and tell a joke and act tough again. Anywhere but the dome. The hellish, hellacious, hellzapoppin' dome. Where you lose sight of the ball in the white, inflatable roof. Where the draft from the air conditioner sucks balls toward the bleachers. Where you get behind and it seems like you're the only person in a mad world.
The Blue Jays stood in the middle of all that last night and, for a few minutes, wanted nothing more than to get out. But then they scored a run in the fourth inning. And then three more in the sixth inning on five straight singles, their shoulders getting higher and higher with each hit, beginning to understand that maybe it wasn't completely impossible to win in this plastic nightmare of a ballpark.
The Twins managed to hold on for a 5-4 win, but the Jays may have made it a series in the process. It wasn't going to be for three innings. It wasn't going to be when the Jays were down five and sitting there thinking about the Tigers and Cardinals in 1987. And thinking about Arsenio. But then they came around and made a game of it. Maybe it surprised them as much as anyone, this team with a death wish. But it happened. It did. And the dome got quiet.
Very quiet. You could hear the peanut vendors when the Twins' Kent Hrbek grounded into a double play in the seventh. You could hear the mucketies in their sky boxes when Kelly Gruber stood in the batter's box as the potential leading run with two outs in the eight. Rick Aguilera struck him out.
The noise came back only when the Jays were down to their last out and it was looking like you were safe to wave your hankie again. When Pat Borders hit Aguilera's last pitch softly into left field and the Twins' Dan Gladden grabbed it, the Twins had their win. But the Jays had something to hold onto. They did.
If it turns out that they come back to win this thing, they laid the groundwork last night. The Twins had this fanciful notion that they were unbeatable in the dome in the playoffs. The Jays played along for three of the most miserable innings you will ever see, with two errors and a botched line drive. But, in the end, the place was quiet and the Twins were sweating and the myth of the dome was worth maybe a used hankie.
So we will see. The series will go one of two directions from here. The dome will be filled up again this afternoon with the people and their hankies and whistles and aching throats ready for more. It will be loud again, with the Twins going for a 2-0 lead. TC Either the Jays will remember last night's lesson and start playing in the first inning instead of the fourth, or they'll clutch up again and start thinking about home.
Something tells me they're going to play tough.
And maybe win.
$ Something tells me.