Minneapolis-St. Paul used to be such a quiet place. True enough, Twin Cities folks could get riled up on occasion over the Vikings and, long years ago, the Golden Gophers. But since Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale went gently into the political night—even homegrown humorist Garrison Keillor recently departed from the shores of Lake Wobegone—there has been little reason for people in this neck of the woods to raise a fuss.
Yes, but that was before the climactic events of this baseball season in that damn Dome. Last week the good citizens of the Twin Cities became positively obsessed with making noise. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is mostly responsible, of course. The Dome holds noise the way Busch Stadium in St. Louis holds the midsummer heat. When Dan Gladden hit his grand slam in Game 1, a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sound meter registered the crowd response at 118 decibels—approximately the amount of noise you would hear if you stood within 400 feet of a jet aircraft taking off, or if a high-powered rifle were fired next to your ear.
Cardinal starter Joe Magrane wore earplugs, but the din as well as the Twins still got to him. Because fielders were often unable to communicate with one another, fly balls hit between the infield and the outfield and into the outfield gaps became adventures in dangerous living. Indeed, noise was news in Minnesota: the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a box listing the loudest plays.
And the shouting was hardly confined to the Dome itself. Normally subdued Minnesotans roared all through the day and night, inside and out on Saturday and Sunday. They had found their voices and they wouldn't give them up until they had lost them. Blame much of this on the Homer Hanky, the brainchild of Terrie Blair, the Star Tribune's manager of consumer promotion. The Hanky, emblazoned with a red and white baseball and the names of the team and the newspaper, was conceived merely as a promotional gimmick. But the original order of 200,000 Hankies was wiped out by the time the playoffs with Detroit began. Since then some 500,000 have been ordered and 255,000 sold—for 50 cents to buyers with a newspaper coupon, a dollar to all others. Last week the locals were lining up outside the newspaper office in the predawn hours for morning sales. A post-office box was even set up to take orders—at $2 apiece—from around the nation. The Homer Hanky had become a fad of near Hula Hoop and flagpole-sitting proportions. A Twins fan would rather have been caught in his underwear last week than without his Hanky. Newborn infants were being swaddled in Hankies, and at least one grave was draped with one. As Blair said, the Hanky's appeal reached from "womb to tomb." Major League Baseball loved the Hanky so much that it was seeking some of the profits, claiming that the Star Tribune used the Twins' name without obtaining permission.
October 26, 1987
The Hanky's creator originally saw the thing as strictly a "cute visual" gimmick. Visual schmisual. Whenever a Hanky was raised last week, a mighty roar issued forth. It was in a league with the insidious Dome itself as an instrument of aural terror. And so it was that before Game 1, a Homer Hanky Warmup Rally was held outside a downtown tavern. The thunderous climax of this Hanky-waving riot was the appearance of Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser, who was hoisted above the crowd of more than 2,000 in a cherry picker. "Down with the music and up with the mayor," shouted the tavern's proprietor. Fraser, a man of middle years, dressed in a tweed jacket, rumpled brown slacks and a Twins shirt, stood some 25 feet above the heads of his shrieking constituents waving a Homer Hanky with one hand and leading the crowd with the other in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. As the chill afternoon breeze set his perch to swaying, Hizzoner looked for all the world like one Minnesotan who could have used some peace and quiet. He'll get it—next week.