Paved paradise, put up a Metrodome


October 19, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

MINNEAPOLIS 4 — MINNEAPOLIS -- It's a wonderful time for the World Series, what with the nastiness of recent events and all. We need a diversion, don't we?

And this is no routine World Series, either. No, sir. This one is your basic morality play, all about not giving up and hard work paying off. We love that. Here you have two teams who finished last only a year ago and who now find themselves battling for the championship of the free world, the only world that's left.

They're calling these comebacks worst-to-first, a phrase with which you may be familiar. If not, you will be. Trust CBS for that. The concept speaks to America and to the American dream, wherein a couple of rich guys can spend millions of dollars in the free-agent market to turn a couple of losers into winners.

So, yes, it's perfect, or would be, if it weren't for just a few things. First, there's that tomahawk chop, which wouldn't be nearly as offensive if the latter-day radical, Jane Fonda, and her I-am-the-world main squeeze, Ted Turner, weren't leading the cheering down Atlanta way. Jane Fonda? Ms. Political Correctness? Ms. One With the Oppressed? One day she's sitting on a tank protesting a war and the next she looks like she's auditioning for "F Troop." Where'd the time go?

How do you think these kids got together anyway for what they're now calling "Jane and Ted's Excellent Adventure"? Do you think they met on a picket line?

Jane (carrying a sign): Isn't it terrible what they're doing to these migrant workers?

Ted (wearing a CNN T-shirt): Do you think they get cable here?

OK, that's bad. But it's not the worst thing. The worst thing is that they've taken this wonderful Series -- a matchup of a powerful Twins team and a very exciting young Braves team -- and stuck it inside the Metrodome.

Minneapolis is a wonderful town, famous for, among other things, its great regional theater and its ruly mobs roaming the streets. It's a civilized town. And even though I read in the paper that a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate is being accused of swimming naked with two teen-age girls in the family pool, it's still a place where you want to raise your kids. I mean, how many months can you swim here anyway?

But what isn't wonderful about Minneapolis is its dome. All domes are bad, but this is the major domo of domes. It's the inflatable dome that ought to be blown up. Whitey Herzog was a little more explicit. "They ought to nuke the place," he said.

"The less they [the Braves] know about it," says Charlie Leibrandt, the surprise Braves starter for Game 1, "the better."

Leibrandt, who used to pitch for Kansas City, knows this place and the horror stories. It's not a ballpark, it's a fun house. The circus would play well here except you'd lose the trapeze in the roof.

Oh, the roof. It looks very much like a moonscape. You have a ballpark here where every fly ball is an adventure -- one pop-up for a man, one two-base hit for Kirby Puckett. You look up and all you see is white, a white ball against a white roof in a sea of white noise. Routinely players can't find the ball, they can't hear the ball off the bat and they don't catch the ball.

"The white hankies are waving, and you can't find the ball anyway," says Terry Pendleton. "You can't run after the ball, because you don't know where it is. You can get in big trouble here."

Pendleton has been here. He was here in the '87 Series, when he played for the Cardinals, who lost four games here but won three in St. Louis. There's no other place like it. And the worst part of the worst park is the noise that comes from 50,000 screaming people in this shrunken dome.

How loud is it?

It's so loud that you wouldn't mind sitting next to Orrin Hatch. ("I'm disgusted," Hatch screams. "What?" "I'm outraged," Hatch screams. "What?"

Players actually bring earplugs. I saw where the noise here is rated louder than a jet airplane taking off and only slightly less loud than M.C. Hammer's pants.

"You can't prepare people for the noise," Pendleton says. "They'll have to experience it for themselves. But I'd rather play in the noise than in the cold. What's it going to be?"

It's going to be 29 degrees, they say, by the time the game ends. Bowie Kuhn would wear at least a sweater. Yeah, you need a dome here if you're going to play ball near to Thanksgiving. But you don't need this dome. This dome is a joke, and the joke is on the Braves, who have problems anyway. Their young ace, Tom Glavine, apparently needs another day's rest, meaning that Leibrandt, the team's fourth pitcher, goes in Game 1. Can Leibrandt hold the Twins? Does Glavine have a tired arm? Does the right-field wall look a giant blue Hefty bag?

There are many questions to be answered over the next seven to 10 days. I just know one thing for sure: I can't wait to get to open-air Atlanta, where you'll have to 'scuze me while I kiss the sky.

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