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Wind Rips Hole in Metrodome, Then Angels Blow Lid Off, 7-6

April 27, 1986|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — In less than a half-hour Saturday night, the Angels were witness to both heaven and hell.

Hell came first as the Angels and the Minnesota Twins were privy to a sneak preview of Hades: The Metrodome roof approached the verge of collapse, with 80-m.p.h. winds tearing holes in the fiberglass dome and whipping through the stadium, sending speakers and light standards swaying on their cables like yo-yos in a wind tunnel.

Heaven (for the Angels) came after play had been suspended for nine minutes in the eighth inning and advanced into the ninth. Down by five runs as they took their final at-bats, the Angels rallied behind three two-run home runs--by George Hendrick, Ruppert Jones and Wally Joyner--to stun the Twins, 7-6, before a crowd of 31,966.

"Amazing," said Reggie Jackson, who walked just before Joyner crushed a Ron Davis offering into the upper deck for a 417-foot game-winner. "Unbelievable. Those kinds of things, when I'm out of the game, I'm gonna miss. You can't get those kinds of highs anywhere else."

For a while, though, the Angels were concerned with only hitting the deck. Forget that 6-1 deficit. Look at the roof.

Where are the dugouts?

A heavy rainstorm struck Minneapolis Saturday evening, and by the eighth inning, the Metrodome was showing the strain. The Metrodome roof is actually two thin Teflon-coated fiberglass sheets, separated by eight inches of blower-produced air. It's an inflatable roof, and when the winds suddenly increased, it looked as if it might deflate.

Jerry Bell, executive director of the Metrodome, called the phenomenon "a wind shear," adding: "The wind went from 12 m.p.h. to 80 m.p.h. almost immedmiately."

With Randy Bush at bat and one out in the bottom of the eighth, the roof began to sag and swirl. It was doing the wave, the winds sending ripples through the lower sheet of fiberglass. The lower sheet eventually tore above the upper-deck seats in right-center, causing a light standard to droop perilously close to the stands. Above the third-base line, a geyser of rain water shot through a drainage hole in the roof, dousing a handful of spectators.

Play was interrupted at 10:17 p.m. CST, with fans directed to evacuate to the nearest tunnel. Players sprinted off the field.

"I was out of there," Joyner said. "It was crazy. A lot of people could have gotten hurt--and I didn't want to be one of them."

Angel Manager Gene Mauch said he asked plate umpire Ken Kaiser to suspend play when the winds reached their worst.

"I was really concerned that one of those speakers might come down," Mauch said. "(Bob) Boone was under one of those speakers. (Doug) DeCinces was under another. Joyner was under another. "I told Kaiser to look out, those speakers were raising some hell. I'm sure this place is as safe as any in the world, but when the roof gives a little here and a little there and water starts pouring in, I said, 'Wait a second. Let's think this thing out.' "

Kaiser said: "There was no time to think. I had to be responsible for the players' safety and the fans' safety. I was afraid those lights were going to crash."

Stadium officials, however, said there was little danger of that.

"The key was nobody panicked," Bell said. "As far as I could tell, there was no danger to the fans because there are chains that would hold the lights in place as far as they fell down.

"The inside roof may have caved in, but it wouldn't have touched anybody unless the chains broke. The biggest danger was panic, and nobody panicked."

Jackson called it "scary. I don't see how one of those speakers didn't come down. I'm just happy the (roof) material didn't tear more. If the rip was big, the wind could have really gotten going. It could have torn the thing off."

Eventually, auxiliary fans were used to reinflate the roof. At 10:26 p.m., play resumed.

Bell said: "We don't see any major damage at this point and we should have no trouble playing tomorrow (Sunday)."

Soon after the roof incident, disaster of another kind struck the Twins.

After Bush's sacrifice fly made it 6-1, starter Frank Viola took the mound to face the Angels in the ninth. He pitched to only two batters--Brian Downing, who doubled, and Hendrick, who homered to right-center field.

That made it 6-3 and brought on Ron Davis from the Minnesota bullpen. Davis has been bothered by a cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand, which sidelined him for the past five games. He did not appear ready to return Saturday.

Mauch sent up four straight pinch-hitters against Davis, and three of them reached base. Rob Wilfong doubled to right. Ruppert Jones homered to right, pulling the Angels within 6-5. Rick Burleson fouled out. Jackson walked.

Davis struck out Bobby Grich to bring up Joyner. He then was one strike away from ending the game, running the count on Joyner to 3-and-2.

Joyner then fouled off four consecutive full-count pitches--all fastballs. The fifth he cranked into the highest tier of seats beyond the right-field fence.

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