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There's Just No Place Like Dome for the Twins

August 23, 1987|MIKE NADEL | Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has always been the horror away from home for visiting American League teams.

In years past, the park was bad enough, but now the Minnesota Twins are good enough to make it doubly dreaded.

"It's a funny ballpark," third baseman Gary Gaetti said. "Where else do you have a ceiling, a tarp for a wall in right field, plexiglass in left field, Astroturf?"

The Metrodome has been anything but amusing for visiting teams. After taking a couple of seasons to get used to their new surroundings, the Twins are 181-125 at home, a .592 percentage. That compares to 910-759, a .545 percentage, during their years at Metropolitan Stadium.

This year, the Twins have been simply out of sight indoors, running up a 42-18 home record -- an astonishing .700 percentage and the best in baseball.

Ever since the Twins moved into the Metrodome 5 1/2 years ago, the stadium has been dubbed "The Homerdome." But that's not the reason for Minnesota's success. The Twins have hit only 1 percent more home runs in the dome than they did during their 21-year stay at the Met.

If it's not the Homerdome, then, what is it?

How about the Home Sweet Home Dome?

Why does Minnesota, a below-.500 road team that surely wouldn't lead the American League West without being so dominant at home, perform so well at the Metrodome?

"I just think we like playing here and we know how to play here better than the other teams that come in," said Gaetti.

"And we get to bat last."

Gaetti's last statement may tell the biggest truth about the Twins' outstanding home record. They have won 13 games in their last trip to the Metrodome batter's box.

Lately, another statistic has played a big role in the Twins' home success -- 1,513,170 fans have passed through the turnstiles.

"And they're making noise," said newcomer Steve Carlton, who like many of his teammates has received prolonged standing ovations. "They can feel the excitement."

The Twins already have the third-largest season attendance in franchise history. And if they continue to average 25,220 fans for the remaining 21 home dates, they would break the 2 million mark for the first time ever and would easily surpass the 1,651,814 attendance of 1985.

Minnesota appears a cinch to average 25,220 per game, too. The Twins -- who only three years ago needed a ticket-buyout scheme to prevent the franchise from moving to another city -- have drawn crowds well over 20,000 for 22 straight home games, far and away a club record.

And the pennant race really hasn't even started.

The Seattle Mariners felt the Twins' home wrath last weekend, getting swept in a four-game series that capped a 9-2 homestand for the Twins.

Mariners Manager Dick Williams said he was "very impressed with the way they've built their team to suit their ballpark."

He was referring to the Twins' perfect blend of power (Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Kirby Puckett) and speed (Puckett, Dan Gladden, Al Newman, Greg Gagne and Steve Lombardozzi).

Even most of the Twins' pitchers are perfectly suited to the Metrodome, which had a reputation for swallowing up pitchers. Most of them are fastball or curveball pitchers who induce flyballs instead of grounders that have a tendency to scoot through the infield.

Gaetti, Gagne, Lombardozzi and Hrbek form one of the best fielding infields in baseball. And in center field, Puckett has robbed dozens of would-be homers.

The best news for the Twins is that there's plenty more home cooking on the horizon.

After their current six-game road trip ends today at Boston, 21 of Minnesota's final 36 games are at the Metrodome.

"I really can't put my finger on it, but this team obviously excels at home," bullpen ace Jeff Reardon said. "We have to straighten our act out on the road, maybe play one or two games over .500 ... instead of 12 games under. If we can do that, the way we play at home, we'll take this thing. We'll take this thing for sure."

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