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My time capsule full of laughs

March 16, 2009

by Matt Kane

I pillaged through my own personal time capsule Monday night, and was humorously reminded of my history in this world.

Over the weekend, I drove back to my old stomping grounds, the city of Sauk Centre, to retrieve a full carload of stuff I had been storing at my brother’s house for about a decade.

My brother dropped off a few things a couple weeks ago, and claimed there wasn’t too much of my stuff remaining in the dark walk-in closet, but boxes and crates piled in my car to where I could see just a sliver of my back windshield through the rearview mirror, told me otherwise.

After running the plump full boxes and crates down the stairs in my house to the Matt Kave in the basement, I decided to open a few lids Monday night, and let all that stuff breathe fresh, air-conditioned air for the first time in 10 years. Four hours later, the closing credits to the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” show signified I had buried my hands, eyes and brain into my history long enough for one night.

During those four hours I was reminded of a lot about who I once was.

Like, that I had white-blonde hair — there was a lock of my one-time blonde curls framed with a certificate commemorating my first haircut; that I skated with my head down in hockey — a bag holding the hard cast, a sling, and an arm immobilizer; that I loved toys — stuffed E.T. doll and Star Wars action figures; and that I saved everything that had to do with baseball — lots and lots of sports magazines, trinkets, and Twins memorabilia.

The one box I found most interesting was an orange (the fruit) crate marked “Graduation Stuff.”

I knew this box contained everything my mother displayed at my high school graduation in late May of 1995.

I noticed, by looking through a sleeve of graduation photos, that I had no idea what a hairstyle was. I also noticed that, although I was chubby, I was quite a bit smaller back then. My old Junior Gold hockey jersey proves that.

In that box of “Graduation Staff,” there was a scrapbook with hundreds of newspaper clippings. I don’t remember if I put the book together, or if my mother did, but I couldn’t believe how many clippings were cut and pasted with an actual scissors and glue (not a keyboard). The scrapbook contained, mostly, clippings ranging from T-ball to junior varsity sports, and under the scrapbook, laying in a loose pile, were my high school years’ worth of clippings.

It’s amazing what someone can find out about himself by reading old newspaper clippings. For instance, I know I scored a goal in my final high school hockey game, but I didn’t know it came three minutes into the first period. And I didn’t know my sister and I both had three hits for the Blue team in T-ball.

I also found a clipping from the Saturday, Oct. 8, 1994, edition of the St. Cloud Times newspaper. The headline for the previous night’s high school football game read: “Paynesville scores a major upset over Sauk Centre, 20-13.”

I was a senior on that Sauk Centre team, and, recently, Delano girls’ basketball coach Tory Spanier has been reminding me of this specific game. Spanier was a tight end for Paynesville during the game, and, what do you know, he scored the first touchdown of the game on a 12-yard reception. At least that’s what the scoring summary says.

I remembered the loss was hard to take for my Mainstreeter teammates and I, because we were ranked third in the state Class A polls with a 5-0 record going in. The Bulldogs came in with a 2-3 record.

I’m sure I was less than pleased to read this article when it was thrown on my doorstep in 1994, but, today, this clipping brings out a laugh (with a little hint of leftover frustration mixed in).

I guess that’s why moms cut square holes into newspaper in the first place. So we can remember and laugh about who we once were. I just hope the scrapbooks of today and tomorrow aren’t filled with 8 1/2-by-11 pieces of white copy paper with articles printed from Internet sites. There’s just something boring about that thought, compared to having oddly-shaped, yellowing newspaper clippings puzzled together on a page.

Also in the four-hour tour of my past, there were a couple national publications that, considering what we all know now, drew chuckles of disbelief.

The first was the USA Weekend insert that was put in newspapers around the country the weekend of April 5-7, 1991. On the cover is Darryl Strawberry taking a swing in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, with the headline, “BASEBALL’S NEW FAT CATS,” and the sub-heading: “Are soaring salaries hurting the national pastime? An Opening Day report.”

Just think about the date of the publication and the subject for a second. In 1991, 18 years ago, a journalist, in this case David Leon Moore, was questioning the effects high salaries would have on baseball. This article is two pages of eye-rolling laughs.

Roger Clemens, then of the Boston Red Sox, was the number one paid player, at $5.38 million per season in 1991. That kind of contract goes to light-hitting infielders today, i.e. Nick Punto ($8.5 million for two years). Funny, but one year after Clemens’ four-year deal expired, he was pitching to a skinny, rookie shortstop with the Seattle Mariners — Alex Rodriguez. Last season, with the Yankees, Rodriguez made $28 million. Those two seem to have a lot in common.

In 1991, the USA Weekend article states that one-third of all Major League players made at least $1 million, and that the average salary was $800,000. Here’s what I found on the Internet (The what? for those stuck in 1991) about the recent numbers in the same categories. An April 1, 2008, story on ESPN.com says that 434 players made over $1 million. I don’t know how many players there were that year, but the number of millionaires had to be at least 50 percent.

According to MLB.com, the average player salary entering the 2008 season was more than $3 million.

Sorry to go off about salaries in baseball, but I found the topic humourous when I saw the 1991 article.

The second magazine that caught my attention was the April, 1997, issue of Twins Magazine, with the cover story “Field of Dreams: The Twins proposed new ballpark brings outdoor baseball to the Upper Midwest.”

Really? It “brings” baseball to the Upper Midwest? If the headline writer meant it “will bring” outdoor baseball to the Upper Midwest, he or she would have been correct.

When one drives through the west end of Minneapolis today, it’s hard to believe it took so long for the Twins to be granted a new ballpark. The 1997 article shows sketches of the proposed stadium, with a retractable roof, at a location next to the Metrodome.

Of course, we now know there will not be a retractable roof, and, instead of sitting next to the Metrodome, near the mighty Mississippi River, Target Field will sit snugly next to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, a.k.a. the garbage incinerator.

That leads me to an idea that popped into my head last week. Because of its neighbor, I think we should affectionately nickname Target Field “The Dumpster.” Or maybe we should wait to do that when the Twins play like garbage (rim shot).

I’m just kidding, I don’t think the Twins will be garbage. They should be competitive for awhile, and maybe one day they can bring Twins Territory a third World Series championship. And, with it, countless newspaper clippings, pieces of memorabilia and memories some kid can collect, save and stuff in a Rubbermaid crate. Then, 10, 20 and, hopefully, 50 years later, that kid in a grown-up’s body can rediscover those yellowed memories, again, and relive the good old days.

Just like I’ve been doing.