Our ballpark for the two title campaigns has gone out of existence. It wasn't really a "ballpark," it was a "building." An embittered manager Whitey Herzog of St. Louis said of the Twins after our '87 success: "They do well in this building." He was trying to apply a dagger as if to suggest we didn't have a true "ballpark," and there was more than a grain of truth there.
Well, if those who share nostalgia about '87 and '91 are old-timers, what does that make me? I will always embrace memories of our '65 team. Bittersweet memories indeed. We climbed so far, yet we were denied the World Series title in the maximum seven games. We burst our buttons with pride about our Metropolitan Stadium. Quite logical, as five years earlier we were a "cold Omaha" with our minor league Minneapolis Millers.
Minnesota was awash with unbridled state pride for the '65 season and the climactic World Series. Imagine, the World Series in Minnesota! The whole idea required adjustment. Along the way we knocked off the New York Yankees, mainly with a perfectly-timed Harmon Killebrew home run that symbolically seemed to extinguish the Yankees' dynasty of that era - the Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle dynasty. Oh, and Roger Maris.
In '65 we had the dazzling Tony Oliva - "Tony O" as he was so affectionately called by Herb Carneal. What a prodigy with the bat, from Cuba. He burst on the scene in 1964, playing all 162 games. I look at that "162" number now and question the judgment of having him play daily. Why not a day off after a night game, or sitting down for game 2 of a doubleheader? Today that would surely be done. Was baseball scared of getting complaints from fans who wanted to see Oliva on a given day?
Gate receipts were more important then, in the days with such limited TV reach. Was Tony like a circus attraction, though? His body may have been worn down in ways that brought consequences later. We're learning all about what happens to football players today.
Tony had a marvelous career but his body wasn't resilient enough to get the kind of longevity needed for the Hall of Fame. Just one more solid season would have sealed it. Many argue he was good enough anyway.
Tony did not distinguish himself in post-season play. I'm sure that hurt. One heroic World Series would have gotten him in. We won our division in '69 and '70 but got stopped short of the Series. I will never forget how, by the time of those division-winning seasons, we had come to take the "Met" (our stadium) for granted, almost dissing it sometimes. By the end of the '70s it was common to hear people talk about the stadium like it was passé. Strange.
Cities go through generations of stadiums. It's as if the public demands a new one every 20-30 years, the way restaurant customers expect a little re-decorating once in a while.
I will remind you that I have written a song about Tony Oliva, and it's online. Here's the link:
Just days ago I posted the song I wrote about our current Target Field. I invite you to listen by clicking on this link:
Today I have some straight poetry to share, inspired by that unique Cuban athlete who is so beloved. The poem about "Tony O" reflects on his journey from when he was just a prospect. I invite you to read:
A young man here from Cuban shoresCould he break down baseball's doors?