By Steve Aschburner
August 21, 2009

We come neither to bury nor to praise the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, despite its mausoleum feel and color scheme. The Dome will be in use beyond the Twins' final game this autumn, its Teflon roof inflated over Minnesota Vikings games until a) owner Zygi Wilf and his family strong-arm the Twin Cities into a sweetheart deal for a new stadium, or b) Minnesota loses its second major sports franchise to Los Angeles (we can just see it now, the L.A. Vikings setting sail on all those L.A. lakes).

We do pause to reflect, though, on 10 hard-to-forget Metrodome moments, a mash-up of highlights and lowlights in chronological order:

• Early in the 1984 baseball season, Oakland's Dave Kingman hit a pop fly that found its way into a drainage hole in the Dome's inner roof and stayed there. After a few moments of confusion, necks craned up, the umpires send Kingman to second base with a ground-rule double.

• Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka mocked the joint as the "Rollerdome,'' even in-line skating through Halas Hall once before a rivalry game in Minneapolis. But Ditka's Super Bowl season in 1985 owed much to the Dome. In a Thursday night game, quarterback Jim McMahon (recovering from a neck injury) pestered the coach to use him in the third quarter, the Bears down 17-9. His first two snaps, and first three pass plays, all resulted in touchdowns, triggering a 33-24 comeback that put swagger into Chicago's Super Bowl shuffle. (A different Bears QB, Jim Harbaugh, fared less well in a 1992 Dome game when he audibled Ditka into a rage and helped Chicago blow a 20-0 lead and lose.)

• The 1987 World Series was the Twins' first and most emotional championship, Minnesota's first major sports title since before the Lakers left town. The seven-game Series against St. Louis was a fine one, but the highlight for those who recall that October came late on the night of the ALCS finale vs. the Tigers. The Twins flew home from Detroit, boarded buses, rolled right into the dimly lit Dome -- and were stunned to find a near-packed house of fans at an impromptu midnight pep rally. "Goose bumps,'' bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek recalled.

• One of the biggest trades in NFL history took place on Oct. 12, 1989, when the Vikings gouged their roster and their future for Dallas running back Herschel Walker. Three days later, Walker rushed for 148 yards in a 26-14 victory over rival Green Bay in front of a Dome-record 62,075 fans. On Walker's first play from scrimmage, he shot through a hole, slipped four tackles and raced 47 yards (the last 15 without his right shoe) before being hauled down. It was the Cowboys, however, who won Super Bowls thanks to the trade. Runner-up among running back moments: Adrian Peterson's NFL-record 296 yards rushing against San Diego on Nov. 4, 2007, breaking Barry Sanders' Dome mark of 220 from November 1991.

• Playing their inaugural NBA season in the Dome, the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves took advantage of the novelty and the vast stands to lure 1,072,572 customers to their games, a single-season attendance record that stands.

• The 1991 World Series was crammed with memorable moments; most of the Twins' came in the Dome, most of the Braves' came in Atlanta in the second Series in which the home team won every game (the first was '87). Five of the seven games were decided by one run, three went into extra innings and two more were tied into the eighth. There was Kent Hrbek's hip-check of Ron Gant for a pickoff at first base and Kirby Puckett's dramatic homer to force Game 7. But nothing topped the 10 shutout innings thrown by 36-year-old Jack Morris in the 1-0 clincher.

• With two World Series to its credit, the Dome got greedy, hosting championship games for the NFL and NCAA men's basketball 10 weeks apart in 1992. On Jan. 26, Super Bowl XXVI was won by Washington, 37-24, in the smallest stadium ever to host the game. But it is remembered as much for Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas losing his helmet and missing the Bills' first two plays from scrimmage. On April 6, Duke won its second consecutive Final Four, beating Michigan's Fab Five 71-51.

• Veteran kicker Gary Anderson had been perfect all season -- 39 of 39 field goals, 67 of 67 extra points in 1998 -- and the Vikings nearly so, rolling to a 15-1 record and 41-21 playoff victory over Arizona. But late in the NFC championship game vs. Atlanta, Minnesota up 27-20, Anderson hooked his attempt from 38 yards wide left. Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler drove his team downfield to tie in the final minute. In overtime, Atlanta kicker Morten Andersen nailed the game-winner, from 38 yards, through the very uprights Anderson just missed.

• On April 15, 2000, at the Dome, Baltimore iron man Cal Ripken's third single of the night got him to 3,000 hits in his Hall of Fame career. He did it less than five years after his old Orioles teammate, Eddie Murray, rapped No. 3,000 in the same ballpark. Two years before that, in September 1993, Dave Winfield became the only member of the Twins to reach 3,000 in the Dome. Since this is a group entry, let's note some more of baseball's milestone accomplishments: Frank Thomas' 500th home run in June 2007, and no-hitters by Minnesota pitchers Scott Erickson (April 1994) and Eric Milton (September 1999).

• The Golden Gophers, Minnesota's Big Ten team, vacated the Metrodome in regrettable, if unforgettable, fashion: A 55-0 pasting by Iowa last November in which the home team had six first downs and nine punts. But that doesn't rank as the lowest low, which arguably was the 38-35 loss to Michigan on Oct. 10, 2003. The Gophers were 6-0 at the time, ranked in the top 20, and were on their way to 424 rushing yards. But their 28-7 lead in the third quarter vanished when the Wolverines scored 31 points in the fourth quarter. Minnesota -- which will open new on-campus TCF Bank Stadium next month -- had possibly its finest Dome moment on Nov. 8, 2003, when it moved from the 20-yard line to Wisconsin's 19 with one second left in a 34-34 tie. Kicker Rhys Lloyd nailed his field goal from 35 yards, then led teammates across the field to claim the rivalry's iconic "Paul Bunyan's Axe.''


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