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The beginning of the end of the Homerdome

April 6, 2009

by Matt Kane

The Twins home opener against the Seattle Mariners tonight comes exactly 27 years after the two teams christened the 20-acre, $68 million indoor stadium during the first regular-season game April 6, 1982.

That night, back in ‘82, the Mariners, behind a three-hit, five-RBI performance by Jim Maler, defeated the Twins 11-7.

Seattle’s Floyd Bannister pitched 7 2/3 innings and struck out 10 Twins en route to the win. Mike Stanton got the save.

On the other side of the box score, Pete Redfern was the losing pitcher for the Twins after giving up five earned runs on six hits in five innings.

Offensively, Minnesota was led by two young rookies at the corner infield positions.

Twenty-three-year-old third baseman Gary Gaetti cranked out two home runs and drove in four runs on four hits, and, on the other side of the diamond, 21-year-old first baseman Kent Hrbek drove in two runs on two hits, and scored a run.

Gaetti hit two balls into the shiny, new, blue seats during the Metrodome opener, but neither home run was the first in the stadium. That distinction belongs to Twins catcher Dave Engle.

Engle, temporarily, gave the Twins a 1-0 lead when he turned on a Bannister pitch in the bottom of the first inning, and the spelling of “Homer Dome” officially began.

The Twins rebounded from the loss to claim the series with wins in the final two games. In the second game (April 7), Minnesota’s Roger Erickson defeated Seattle’s Jim Beattie 7-5, and, in the third game (April 8), Minnesota’s Brad Havens defeated Seattle’s Gene Nelson 4-1.

In researching these games on BaseballAlmanac.com, something caused me to chuckle a bit, because, it turns out, some things never change.

For the first game at the Metrodome, April 6, 1982, the official attendance count was 52,279. That’s an impressive number in any year.

Game two? The attendance statistics are equally impressive. If the word impressive meant pathetic.

For game two against the Mariners in 1982, the official attendance was 5,213. That’s right, in less than 24 hours, 47,000 people decided they had seen enough of the Metrodome and the ‘82 Twins in person.

The evidence that some things never change can be found when researching tickets to the 2008 Twins games.

Out of curiosity, I looked at what tickets were available for the first two Twins games — tonight and Tuesday — on the Twins official web page.

The “Best Available” seats for two to tonight’s game were in row 20 of section 221 for $22 a piece. Those seats are on the baselines in the upper deck, so a box of tissues to stop the nose bleeds is mandatory.

For Tuesday’s game — the same 7:10 p.m. start time as Monday — the “Best Available” tickets for two people were in row 24 of section 123. Those seats are in the lower deck behind home plate. From Tuesday’s seats, you could scream at Sid Hartman all game, and he could hear you.

I will venture out and say the Twins will get more than 5,000 people at Tuesday’s game, so it’s not quite as extreme as the 1982 attendance numbers between the first two games.

Let’s also hope the Twins’ record this season doesn’t get anywhere near the record posted by Gaetti, Hrbek, Engle, and the rest of the boys of ‘82. Those Twinkies finished with the worst record in baseball at 60-102.