1987 Dome Sweet Dome

The Minnesota Twins, displaying a schizophrenic personality unlike any seen in baseball, lose horribly on the road but are unbeatable at home; it's all good enough to give the Twin Cities their first World Series title.

The Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals line up before the first game of the 1987 World Series at the Minneapolis Metrodome, where the Twins were virtually unstoppable—perhaps because of a stadium employee who later confessed to making the indoor air blow towards the fences whenever the Twins came to bat.

From the day it first opened in 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis was ridiculed, heavily criticized and cursed at by most everyone who came to play the Minnesota Twins. Visiting teams detested the Metrodome’s unnatural features: A super-bouncy artificial turf, a white, glare-inducing fabric roof, bandbox dimensions and a tall right-field wall covered with what appeared to be the world’s largest garbage bag. Purists watching from the seats or on television took one look at the Metrodome and prayed that ballpark architecture had reached its nadir.

There was one thing opponents didn’t mind when coming to the Metrodome: The Twins themselves, a young and ineffective group labeled the “Twinkees” for much of the 1980s to date. That changed in 1987 when the Twins suddenly grew up together, shed their pushover image and took advantage of the Metrodome—illicitly or otherwise—overcoming the woes of the road to capture the franchise’s first world championship in 63 years.

The Twins’ early years at the Metrodome threatened to be among their last in Minnesota. The Griffith family, which had owned the franchise since its preteen days as the Washington Senators, had an escape clause in the Metrodome lease if the team failed to average 1.5 million fans a season over any three-year period. After losing 102 in 1982 and 92 more in 1983, the fledgling, no-name Twins needed to sell 2.4 million tickets in 1984 to keep the Griffiths locked in. Threatening to take the Twins to St. Petersburg, Florida—every owner’s favorite bargaining chip—the Griffiths were bought out midway through 1984 by Minneapolis banker Carl Pohlad, and the future of baseball in the Twin Cities was saved.

Pohlad inherited a facility deemed the worst in baseball, but also took over a blossoming rosterThe Twins’ 1982 roster included 11 rookies, many of whom would star in 1987. born out of the misery of 1982. That roster included southpaw Frank Viola and sluggers in third baseman Gary Gaetti, outfielder Tom Brunansky and first baseman Kent Hrbek, who grew up in the shadows of old Metropolitan Stadium.

The power-laden lineup was given immense flair with the 1984 arrival of center fielder Kirby Puckett, a rampaging bowling ball of a player with his curiously short, stocky and very powerful physique. Puckett’s dynamic play both at the plate and in the outfield was instantly evident, and his quick conversion to power—he hit no home runs in 1984, four in 1985 and, suddenly, 31 in 1986—promptly got him promoted to the game’s superstar elite.

Rounding out the Twins for 1987 was the man tagged to lead it all—manager Tom KellyKelly had taken over for Ray Miller late in 1986 and went 12-11 to avoid a last-place finish.. A complete antithesis to the colorful nature of his players, the quiet, emotionally one-note but arid-witted Kelly was happy to melt into the background and let his players take all the credit. And like most successful young managers, the 36-year-old Kelly was there due to a quick and forgettable playing career in the bigs, batting .181 in minimal action for the 1975 Twins.

Ever more maturing and confident, the Twins fought it out in an exceptionally tight-knit American League West that, once more, lacked no powerhouse element; only ten games would ultimately separate first place from seventh. Minnesota held onto the lead for much of the year and, by season’s end, outlasted by two games the Kansas City Royals, emotionally drained with the loss of beloved manager Dick Howser—who died of brain cancer during the season.

The Twins took the natural presumption that big league teams play better at home than on the road to a schizophrenic level. At the Metrodome they were monsters, the majors’ best at 56-25. Yet suspicions abounded. In a year where a sudden outbreak of home runs led to bats everywhere being confiscated and checked for cork, AL opponents had a different theory for the Twins’ stunning homespun success. The team was repeatedly accused of turning on the Metrodome’s air vents that kept the roof aloft—but only when the Twins came to bat, allegedly creating an advantageous wind pattern that gave fly balls a little more of a push towards, and possibly beyond, the outfield wall.

On the road, it was a far different story. The Twins were the AL’s third worst at 29-52, winning only nine away from the Metrodome after the all-star break. Claims of cheating were fewer and far between, but the Twins got caught anyway; veteran pitcher Joe Niekro was ejected in an August game at California when he was collared red-handed on the mound with an emery boardNiekro later claimed he was using the board to file his nails in the dugout. League officials chuckled and levied a ten-game suspension..

Beyond the record, a statistical breakdown of the Twins’ home and road performance offers up a few more clues as to why they were kings at the Metrodome—and paupers away from it.

The overall ledger for the Twins did not make for an impressive postseason participant. They gave up more runs than they scored. The pitching staff’s earned run average was 4.63, tied for 11th in the AL. Their starting rotation, beyond Viola (17-10, 2.90 ERA) and once-and-current Twin Bert Blyleven (15-12, 4.01) was a disaster. One-time stalwarts Niekro and Steve Carlton, both 42 years of age and acquired during the year, were no helpNiekro and Carlton combined for a 5-14 record and 6.40 ERA at Minnesota.. But there was no doubting the Twins’ ability to power the ball. The three sluggers from the Class of ’82—Gaetti, Brunansky and Hrbek—ganged up for 97 home runs and 284 runs batted in. Puckett, batting .332 with a league-high 207 hits, added 28 homers and 99 RBIs.

The Detroit Tigers were initially thrilled to be given the Twins to start the ALCS. The AL East champs had prevailed in a much tougher division where four teams posted better records than Minnesota. They had, with a week to go, rebounded from a 3.5-game deficit against front-running Toronto, doing so in the most authoritative way possible—winning the season’s final three games head-on against the Blue Jays, who completed a year-end nosedive with seven straight losses.

The Tigers had hitting everywhere, a prodigious force that smashed a team record 225 home runs—and were led by, arguably, the AL’s player of the year in shortstop Alan Trammell (.343 average, 28 home runs, 105 RBIs). Unlike the Twins, Detroit had the pitching, anchored as always by Jack Morris (18-11, 3.38 ERA). Some believed this was a better team than the 1984 Tigers that breezed to a World Series title—and they were one of the few teams to win more than lose at the Metrodome, taking four of six contests during the regular season.

But the Metrodome they came back to in October would be a much different place.

Every seat was filled with avid Twins fans that had waited nearly a generation to see their team return to the postseason. They created a sea of confetti by waiving white “Homer Hankies” and—most noticeably—stirred up so much noise that reverberated through the indoor venue, decibel readings taken on the field showed the din to be louder than a Boeing 747.

The rowdiest Tiger Stadium crowds had nothing on this. Detroit was floored, as the Twins summarily dismantled the Tigers in the first two games at the Metrodome. Common wisdom presaged a Tiger rebound against Minnesota road kill for the next three games at Detroit, but the shell-shocked Tigers never recovered from the Metrodome experience, while the Twins never stopped hitting. Minnesota won two of the three and the AL pennant, four games to one, totaling seven homers and 34 runs in five games off Morris, Doyle Alexander (who lost two ALCS games after going 9-0 as a Tiger midseason acquisition) and company. Little was needed of the Twin rotation beyond Viola and Blyleven, who grouped to start all four Minnesota victories.

The challenge of conquering the Twins—and the Metrodome—now fell upon the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Two years after winning the NL pennant—and one year after their offense went AWOL with a .236 team batting average and 58 home runs (resulting in a 79-82 record)—the Cards reawakened at the plate in 1987 and captured their third NL flag in six years.

While everyone else in the league was busy shattering home run records, the Cardinals bucked the trend and continued to win in the way they had all decade—using speed, defense and sharp pitching. Whitey Herzog’s Redbirds took the NL East by three games over the defending champion New York Mets—hung over from their magnificent 1986 performance through injuries, drug problems for Dwight Gooden and a general lack of destiny.

The Cardinals once more drove opposing fielders crazy with a non-stop barrage of line drives, infield hits and stolen bases. Vince Coleman stole over 100 for the third straight year. Fellow outfielder Willie McGee smacked 37 doubles, 11 triples and 11 home runs while knocking in 105 runs. Ozzie Smith set career highs with 104 runs, 40 doubles, 75 RBIs and a .303 batting average—all without a single homer—while continuing his usual wizardry at shortstop.

To say the Cardinals suffered through an off-year in 1986 was an understatement, finishing dead last in the majors in almost every major offensive category. The core of the Cardinal batting order turned the switch back on in 1987, as shown below.

Although the Cardinals predictably ranked dead last in the majors with 94 homers, they possessed one of the season’s most fearsome slugging threats in Jack Clark. The first baseman, far more patient at the plate in search of the big blast (as evidenced by 136 walks and 139 strikeouts over 131 games), clubbed 35 out with 106 RBIs before a September injury ended his season early—and crucially kept him sidelined for the postseason.

Injuries also played havoc with the St. Louis pitching staff—most graphically with an early-season freak incident in which starter John Tudor had his leg broken after being crashed into by New York catcher Barry Lyons, chasing a foul pop-up into the Cardinal dugout. Amazingly, despite the Cardinals’ 95 regular season wins, no single pitcher won more than 11—though Tudor might have pushed 20Tudor finished the year 10-2 in 16 starts. had it not been for his injury. As always, the Cardinal bullpen played a vital and stingy role in snuffing out opponents’ late rallies.

The NL West champ San Francisco Giants were, much like the Twins, recent 100-game losers converted to young and cocky contenders. Roger Craig, the former Detroit pitching guru now managing his second year at San Francisco, motivated his players to embrace the arctic, wind-swept tundra of Candlestick Park; after all, it’s the other teams who despised coming to play there. The new Giant cast fully absorbed Craig’s new attitude, including 23-year-old first baseman Will ClarkAfter hitting 11 home runs in a mildly successful 1986 rookie campaign, Clark exploded for 35 homers and a .308 average in 1987.—who introduced himself to the majors a year earlier by crushing a 400-foot-plus home run to center field off Nolan Ryan.

A highly acrimonious NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals went the distance. Tensions developed before the series even began as the Giants, citing a four-game sweep of the Cardinals at St. Louis the last time they met, were publicly brash about their chances. After the series began, the Cardinals were further irked by the antics of Giant outfielder Jeff Leonard, who called St. Louis a “cowtown” and celebrated home runs in each of the series’ first four games with a “one flap down” trot—jogging the bases with his left arm fully lowered to his side.

After taking a three games-to-two lead back to St. Louis, the Giants were shut up and shut down by Cardinal pitching—which blanked San Francisco in Games Six and Seven to win the pennant by 1-0 and 6-0 scores.

The Twins’ Dan Gladden belts the World Series’ first grand slam in 17 years during Game One at Minnesota; note the Metrodome air duct at left, a source of controversy during the season.

As luck would have it for the Minnesota Twins, they received home field advantage against St. Louis for the World Series, giving them four home games against the Cardinals’ three in a seven-game scenario.

The Twins lost all three games at St. Louis.

They won all four at the Metrodome.

In a microcosm of their Jekyll-and-Hyde regular season campaign, the Twins opened at home with 10-1 and 8-4 routs of the Cardinals, scoring early and often to neutralize the St. Louis speed game—then fell quiet down the Mississippi for Games Three, Four and Five at St. Louis, scoring just five runs on 18 hits over three losses to the Cardinals. Then it was back home for Games Six and Seven, with the noise ear-shattering as ever and the Hankies flying more wildly within the packed house. This time, the Cardinals gave it their best—holding the lead in both games through the middle of the fifth inning. In Game Six, the St. Louis lead was laid to waste by consecutive four-run rallies, capped by a Kent Hrbek grand slam for a 11-5 win; a more taut Game Seven affair was tipped in the Twins’ favor with single runs in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, erasing a 2-1 Cardinal lead.

Fittingly for the Twins, the 1987 World Series was the first in which no team won on the road.

Every Twin seemed to contribute. No one player badly slumped, and seven different Twins hit one homer each. The Cardinals, who hit only two homers, horribly missed Jack Clark—to say nothing of their pitching staff, which registered a bruising 5.64 ERA against the Twins.

Following the World Series, Major League Baseball checked out and could not prove the allegations of the Metrodome air vents creating indoor winds to aid the Twins’ offense. But in 2003, a former Metrodome superintendent admitted that he had, in the late innings of close games in 1987 and other years, ordered the air to blow out when the home team hit. Even if the airflow gave the Twins an advantage—later tests proved inconclusive—he felt no shame. To him, every ballpark had its own brand of home field advantage, and this would be the Metrodome’s.


1988 baseball historyForward to 1988: Roy Hobbs in Dodger Blue Kirk Gibson makes like Robert Redford and gives the Los Angeles Dodgers a storybook ending.


1986 baseball historyBack to 1986: An October for the Ages A historic postseason full of comebacks and collapses takes on legendary proportions thanks to Bill Buckner.


1980s baseball historyThe 1980s Page: Corporate Makeover Baseball enjoys a healthy boom on several fronts, with increased attendance, corporate sponsorship and memorabilia sales; players also continue to enjoy skyrocketing salaries, but some abuse their newfound riches by delving into illegal drugs.


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1987 Standings

National League East
St. Louis Cardinals
95
67
.586
---
New York Mets
92
70
.568
3
Montreal Expos
91
71
.562
4
Philadelphia Phillies
80
82
.494
15
Pittsburgh Pirates
80
82
.494
15
Chicago Cubs
76
85
.472
18.5
National League West
San Francisco Giants
90
72
.556
---
Cincinnati Reds
84
78
.519
6
Houston Astros
76
86
.469
14
Los Angeles Dodgers
73
89
.451
17
Atlanta Braves
69
92
.429
20.5
San Diego Padres
65
97
.401
25
American League East
Detroit Tigers
98
64
.605
---
Toronto Blue Jays
96
66
.593
2
Milwaukee Brewers
91
71
.562
7
New York Yankees
89
73
.549
9
Boston Red Sox
78
84
.481
20
Baltimore Orioles
67
95
.414
31
Cleveland Indians
61
101
.377
37
American League West
Minnesota Twins
85
77
.525
---
Kansas City Royals
83
79
.512
2
Oakland A's
81
81
.500
4
Seattle Mariners
78
84
.481
7
Chicago White Sox
77
85
.475
8
California Angels
75
87
.463
10
Texas Rangers
75
87
.463
10

1987 Postseason Results
NLCS St. Louis defeated San Francisco, 4-3.
ALCS Minnesota defeated Detroit, 4-1.
World Series Minnesota (AL) defeated St. Louis (NL), 4-3.


It Happened in 1987

“Do You Really Believe That?”
On the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Al Campanis—a longtime Dodger executive and minor league roommate of Robinson’s—creates a national firestorm on the ABC late-night news show Nightline when he says that African-Americans lack some of the “necessities” to be managers or front office executives.

Completely stunned by what he’s just heard, host Ted Koppel gives Campanis several chances to dig himself out of a hole—but Campanis merely digs it deeper, attempting to justify his remarks with statements such as black swimmers lacking “buoyancy” to compete with white swimmers. Campanis apologizes a day later, but the damage is done; the Dodgers fire him, and civil rights activists begin lobbying Major League Baseball to step up efforts to hire more African-Americans to executive positions.

Round-Trippin’
Home run records are established here, there and everywhere with 4,458 total blasts, shattering the old mark set just the year before by 600. Eight team records are set, and every American League team averages at least one homer a game—except the Seattle Mariners, who hit 161 in 162 games. Twenty-eight players hit at least 30 round-trippers each. Jack Howell of the California Angels hits a broken-bat homer. Suspicious managers begin asking umpires to confiscate bats used by home run hitters and have them checked for cork; Billy Hatcher of the Houston Astros is the only one who gets caught, a shattered bat revealing all to see during a September 1 game at Chicago.

Among the all-time home run records set during 1987 that still stand:

Most Home Runs, Team, Month
The Baltimore Orioles hit 58 in May.

Most Home Runs, Team, Game
The Toronto Blue Jays hit ten against the Orioles, September 14.

Most Grand Slams, Season, Player
Don Mattingly hits six for the New York Yankees.

Most Consecutive Games with Home Runs, Player
Mattingly again, tying the mark with ten homers in eight games from July 8-18.

Most Home Runs, Rookie, Season
Mark McGwire with 49 for the Oakland A’s. For the first half of the year McGwire is on pace to break Roger Maris’ all-time mark of 61, but quiets down after the all-star break. He’ll make good on a second chance in 1998.

Most Consecutive Home Runs to Lead Off a Game
Marvell Wynne, Tony Gwynn and John Kruk of the San Diego Padres become the first players ever to hit back-to-back-to-back home runs to open the first inning, against the San Francisco Giants on April 13.

For the Sake of a More Important Record
Watching his team being annihilated by the record ten home runs hit by the Blue Jays on September 14, Oriole manager Cal Ripken Sr. takes his son Cal Ripken Jr. out of the lineup late in the 18-3 blowout at Toronto—ending one of Junior’s longevity streaks, the number of consecutive innings (8,243) he has played in. His other streak—that of consecutive games played—remains intact at 907.

Who Keeps Sticking That “Hit Me” Sign on My Back?
Don Baylor, who the year before set an AL record by getting hit 35 times, breaks the career mark of 243 previously held by Ron Hunt on June 28 during a 6-2 win against the Yankees at New York. He’ll eventually finish his career a year later with a final tally of 267 a standard which itself will eventually be toppled by Craig Biggio.

Who’s High, Doc?
Dwight Gooden, 22 and just two years removed from his storybook 24-4 season for the New York Mets, is admitted to a drug-abuse program after testing positive for cocaine. It’s the beginning of a long and troubling slide for one of baseball’s most promising players.

History, Left on Deck
Coming back to the lineup after missing three weeks to injury, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Paul Molitor doubles against the California Angels on July 16—and then proceeds to hit safely in his next 38 games to reach 39, the fifth longest streak in the modern era and the AL’s longest since Joe DiMaggio’s 56 in 1941. Molitor’s streak comes to a frustrating end on August 26 when, hitless in four at-bats against Cleveland, he’s left on deck as Rick Manning strokes a game-winning, tenth-inning hit. The Brewer fans celebrate the win by booing Manning for not giving Molitor one more shot to prolong the streak.

Muy Benito
Rookie catcher Benito Santiago comes close to Molitor late in the year, collecting hits in 34 straight games from August 25 through October 2 for the Padres. Santiago’s stretch sets a record for a rookie and a modern NL mark for right-handed hitters.

Lucky 13, Unlucky 12
The Brewers win their first 13 games of the season to equal the all-time record set five years earlier by the Atlanta Braves. After the 13-0 start grows to 20-3, they proceed to lose a franchise-record 12 straight games (since broken) to return to normalcy. Milwaukee will ultimately finish at 91-71, seven games behind AL East champion Detroit.

Oh, Deer!
Milwaukee outfielder Rob Deer, proving he never gets cheated at the plate, strikes out an AL record 186 times during the regular season—breaking by one the previous mark set by Pete Incaviglia. Your classic high-powered, low-average hitter a la Dave Kingman, Deer hits .238 with 28 home runs but needs only 131 games and 474 at-bats to break the strikeout mark; he’ll remain in the record book through 2008, when Jack Cust passes him up.

Enough, Hough!
Texas catcher Geno Petralli sits behind the mound for only 63 games during the season—and still smashes the all-time record for passed balls with 35. He also sets records for most passed balls in one inning with four on August 22 against the Chicago White Sox—and, eight days later—six in one game at Detroit. Much of Petralli’s woes can be clearly traced to knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough, who is on the mound for 32 of Petralli’s 35 miscues. Overall, Ranger catchers set a major league team record with 73 passed balls.


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