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Commentary : Big Plus: A World Series Without New York

October 25, 1987|SHIRLEY POVICH | The Washington Post

MINNEAPOLIS — This is where a World Series should be played, in one of baseball's smaller towns; where a whole community is seized by the excitement of it, where there is dancing in the streets, where the worship of hometown heroes is busting out all over, and the natives stomp and cheer and give their hearts to their wondrous favorites.

It is always a plus for baseball, and America, too, when the World Series does not land in New York, where it is old hat and little more than a blip on life in that metropolis. Except when the miracle Mets made a hoopla of it last year, the World Series in New York has rarely been a great happening. It has been simply absorbed into the events of a city that always appears otherwise diverted by the latest revelations of city corruption or the newest trends of the fashion zealots or the latest tremors on Wall Street.

Minneapolis is where a World Series belongs, and St. Louis, although one newspaper here suggests that St. Louis is not as deserving because, "in St. Louis after the Cardinals made it into the World Series, there was not the emotional lovefest there was in Minnesota." So there.

This World Series has even unified the feudist Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. In celebration, the mayor of St. Paul ordered the owners of all downtown buildings to keep the lights burning all night to make "a giant candle" of that city's joy, even if the games are being played in Minneapolis. Eric Sevareid, a native, remembers that it took them 20 years to agree on the naming of a bridge between the two cities.

The zest with which the Twin Cities have taken their baseball heroes to their hearts was highlighted Friday night in Minneapolis' Temple Aron synagogue. There, the Star Tribune reported, Rabbi Bernard Aaron conducted the solemn sabbath services with a Twins cap serving as a yarmulke. And instead of the traditional closing hymn, "Yigdal," the congregation sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

It has all been pretty ecumenical in the city's acclaim for its team, now leading the Series. At the Basilica of St. Mary's, a 60-foot pennant reads: "Alleluia, Twins," and nearby the Lutheran publishing house flaunts its own banner: "Thou Shalt Win, Twins."

The badge of all true Minnesotans this week is the "Homer Hankie." It is the hottest-selling item in the state's history, a white handkerchief thing emblazoned with a Twins logo and suitable for waving inside and outside the stadium, serving both to cheer the home team and taunt the other club. The "Homer" connotation tells the Cardinals the Twins hit 102 more homers this season.

When the Twins started beating up on the Cardinals in Game 1, the scene in the Metrodome was a blizzard of white, Homer Hankies being furiously flourished blanketing the 55,000 seats. The lines to buy the hankies were still an hour long when the sold-out sign went up. However, orders were being taken for later delivery in about three weeks.

Anybody with the remotest connection to the adored Twins is a personage in Minneapolis. In the fourth inning Saturday night, the name that went up in lights on one of the displays in the stadium was "Lin Terwilliger," in the form of a "Happy Birthday, Lin." To anyone who would ask who, precisely, is Lin Terwilliger, the answer given is that she is the wife of the Twins' first-base coach, and now you know.

The weekend offered the first two encapsulated games in World Series history, played in the Metrodome, famous and infamous for its wind currents from hot-air blowers that keep the plastic roof aloft, for its lights that so often deny baffled outfielders a fix on fly balls, and its resilient, baggy right-field fence. One press-box inmate, in a reference to the dome's hot-air blowers, yelled to a Twins batter, "Swing now, you've got the wind with ya!"

Yet, no one in Minnesota is apologizing for indoor baseball, and even if the Cardinals had taken a 2-0 lead in games back to St. Louis, the Minneapolis folks should have been solaced according to what they were told by a newspaper writer whose native prides were evident.

She cited her surveys to tell everybody that Minneapolis is still a better place to live than St. Louis, no matter how the World Series comes out. For example: Minneapolis has better health care, less crime, more arts, unemployment a mere 4.8 percent versus St. Louis' 8.1, and more college and high-school graduates. This she did concede: that the Mississippi River shared by both cities has an 18 times greater flow rate in St. Louis than in Minneapolis. But, aha, the sewage discharge rate is three times higher in St. Louis. So, take that, you Cardinal people.

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