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Thursday, October 1, 2009
Updated: October 2, 1:32 PM ET
Getting over the Hump Dome (continued)

ESPN.com

Metrodome
Even the banners of Twins legends will be happy to see the light of day at Target Field next year.
• Photo gallery: The Dome show

"Since I grew up in the area, I have a lot of great memories of the Metrodome, ever since I was really young," Mauer, the AL MVP favorite, told ESPN.com via e-mail. "I'll miss the fact that every game started on time and there were never any weather delays, thanks to the roof."

Noble words from a native Minnesotan, to be sure, but Mauer's sugarcoating of the Teflon-covered fiberglass fabric roof obscures the truth.

Feeling Minnesota

For a gallery of images of the Metrodome,
click here.

More on the Met:
Zoom gallery: Metrodome moments
Jim Caple: Farewell, Metrodome

Video:
Caple on the Dome Video
The ball that never came down Video
Walking on the dome Video
Cal Ripken's stair climb Video
Twins fans speak to the Dome Video
Torii Hunter on playing outfield Video

For one, there actually was a weather-related postponement: a game against the Angels, on April 14, 1983, when, as then-Twins third-base coach Kelly recalled, the roof "ripped from the weight of the snowstorm that came, icy heavy snow. ... They had to evacuate the building; that was entertaining."

Three years later, there was the lone weather delay, also against those devilish Angels, who, after a nine-minute interruption to reinflate the sagging roof after high winds tore a hole in it, mounted a six-run, ninth-inning rally to defeat the Twins 7-6.

"The roof started shaking, and they had to turn up the air pressure to keep the roof up," Kelly said. "The ball was just flying around like crazy."

If only the crimes attributed to the notorious roof ended there.

The "Eggshell" poses unique challenges for position players. Because the roof is white and transmits light, it often camouflages high popups. During day games, it's harder for fielders to follow high pop flies inside the Dome than it is in the sun at outdoor stadiums. When visiting players try to track fly balls, they can look like cornerbacks breaking for the interception: At the crack of the bat, the outfielder shuffles, shuffles, backpedals -- "Where's the ball? %^#! Where is ... GOT IT!" -- cuts sharply and dashes in to snatch the ball at the last second.

What's even weirder is that the roof itself can literally come into play. On occasion, fair balls deflect off speakers hanging from it. In 1992, Brewers hacker Rob Deer popped out off the roof to Twins shortstop Greg Gagne -- in consecutive at-bats. On May 4, 1984, A's slugger Dave Kingman hit a high pop fly that still hasn't come down; he was awarded a ground-rule double for his disappearing act.

Metrodome Roof
You think you could spot a high pop fly amid the thousand points of light in the Dome's roof?
And that's just scratching the surface of the Hump Dome's quirky style of play. There's the Hefty Bag, a 23-foot tall plastic curtain posing as the right-field fence; the backstop that often caroms wild pitches up toward first base; the relatively cozy outfield configuration that gave rise to the "Homerdome" moniker; and the rumors that the Twins would manipulate the air conditioning to give their hitters' fly balls a boost.

But, as the Twins have demonstrated time after time, one man's misery is another man's edge. Alok Pattani of ESPN Stats & Information reports that, entering Friday's game, Minnesota boasts a .541 winning percentage (1,210-1,028) all-time at the Metrodome versus .441 (982-1,244) on the road. The Twins' plus-.100 home/road differential ranks as the sixth best among MLB teams during the Dome era from 1982 to the present.

"I have nothing but fond memories of the Metrodome," Mets ace Johan Santana, who won two Cy Young Awards pitching for the Twins, told ESPN.com via e-mail. "That's where I got my start. I always felt I had an advantage pitching there because it is a different kind of ballpark. I certainly had an advantage because I knew how to pitch to hitters. I know I gave up some home runs that wouldn't be home runs elsewhere, but that was a trade-off I was glad to make."

Yet for all the hoopla over the Homerdome as a hitters' park, in recent years, the Dome has played fairly neutral. In fact, ESPN's MLB Park Factors data reveals that, while there's been a bit of a longball renaissance this season in Minnesota, home runs in the Dome occured less frequently relative to other stadiums in six of the eight seasons from 2001 to 2008.

And while purists have groaned about the Dome's bastardization of baseball -- bloopers super-bouncing off the carpet and over outfielders' heads, liners getting lost in the lights -- it's possible to appreciate it for what it was without actually lamenting its passing.

"The Metrodome is where I grew into myself as a ballplayer," former Twins star and current Angels center fielder Torii Hunter told ESPN.com via e-mail. "Man, some great memories there. From the fans, to my teammates and some classic games. In Game 1 of the 2002 ALCS, that place was rockin'. I won't miss that turf or the outfield walls. Got plenty of scars on this body from them."

The Dome's baseball death won't match the fanfare of Yankee Stadium's farewell or even the harsh symbolism of Tiger Stadium's stop-and-go demolition in Detroit, but the Triple H does have history. It might not do anything particularly well, but it does a lot, having hosted some sort of large-scale event on more than 300 days in the average year. As the Dome's defenders are quick to point out, it's the only venue that has hosted the NCAA Final Four (1992, 2001), the Super Bowl (1992), the MLB All-Star Game (1985) and the World Series (including, of course, those two Game 7 wins by the Twins).

Puckett
Kirby Puckett's infectious smile was rivaled only by the joy he delivered to Twins fans in clutch moments -- none bigger than this one, when his homer in the bottom of the 11th won Game 6 of the 1991 World Series and kept Minnesota alive to see Game 7.
In addition to hosting some big-time games, the Metrodome has witnessed some incredible individual performances. Consider: