Park and Ride

Anyone following sports in the Twin Cities over the past 20 years knows that whether the hometown team won or lost wasn't always as important as where they played the games. The first substantive sports story to appear in City Pages (then known as Sweet Potato) quoted the superintendent of the old Met Stadium acknowledging that the prospect of indoor baseball at the Metrodome made him "shudder a little bit." Sports fans and City Pages scribes have been cringing at the ugly pincushion ever since--but still prefer it to the fat-cat con artistry of taxpayer-financed alternatives.

While the Dome debate, the Target Center buyout, and St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman's hockey palace have all figured prominently in City Pages' coverage, the paper hasn't overlooked the more beguiling, human aspects of sports. Between a steady regimen of cover stories and news items, Craig Cox regularly made the pilgrimage south for the Twins' spring training and was one of the first baseball beat writers to proclaim that the 1987 World Champions were legit. (In covering Gophers basketball, Cox also made some prescient observations about the difficult balancing act between academics and athletics confronting coach Clem Haskins.)

Under Steve Perry, annual baseball issues melded extensive previews of the local nine with pungent analysis from baseball union rep Marvin Miller and Sabrmetrics guru Bill James, plus an offbeat feature story or two. Luring writer Ann Bauleke away from the Readerwas a coup for this paper, for no one in town humanized athletes with the empathy and incisive eye for detail that she brought to the ballpark. Confronted by years of condescending and discriminatory treatment from then Twins media relations head Tom Mee and other members of the team's front office and staff (not to mention the good ol' boys in the press corps), Bauleke, an exceedingly gentle soul, finally erupted with a brilliant column that skirted p.c. cant and eloquently laid out how and why she was being denied the access accorded her male peers. Not coincidentally, she eventually "burned out" on baseball writing.

Over the past two seasons, the baseball beat has benefited from the wit and wisdom of Brad Zellar, while Zellar's buddy Mike Mosedale has shored up the paper's football and boxing coverage during his year on the City Pages staff.

As a die-hard basketball junkie, I have been fortunate enough to cover the Timberwolves (and occasionally the Gophers) for the paper since 1991, a period that has seen the team evolve from the dunderheaded Bob Stein and Jimmy Rodgers to the (mostly) shrewd machinations of Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders, best summed up by the arrival and blossoming of Kevin Garnett, who seems destined to become the greatest athlete ever to don a Minnesota uniform. If Garnett's $121 million contract symbolizes the extent to which sports have become infected by the glitz and greed of show biz, his smile and style of play reaffirms why, for those of us who write or read about what we watch, the joy of the games will persevere.


 

Cal Griffith and Carl Pohlad circled each other like doddering sumo wrestlers as they tried to squeeze the last possible dollar out of the deal. In the meantime, it was easy to overlook the fact that baseball is more than an investment opportunity.

Ann Bauleke, July 25, 1984

 

What the Twins want, in a nutshell, is for all of us to get together and buy them a new ballpark more deliberately tailored to a well-to-do clientele that will make the Pohlads a lot more money. The public, understandably, does not want to go along. So a number of the best minds in local politics and finance are now consumed with finding the most artful means of skirting the popular will.

Steve Perry, October 16, 1996

 

Finally, the advanced age of the Civic Center may make all these negotiations moot--or provide a Trojan horse for the construction of a new facility....We haven't heard anything from Mayor Coleman about a brand-new hockey arena in St. Paul. At least not yet.

Britt Robson, January 29, 1997

 

[T]he North Carolina option is full of holes: [Don] Beaver wants to move the club to the 46th-largest media market, where he must spend millions to upgrade a ballpark that currently holds just 10,000, while he awaits a $150 million stadium referendum that's more unpopular in the polls than the proposal here. Further, Beaver has no season-ticket holders or upfront fan money for his venture, and the NHL franchise that just came to the Triad is drawing squat.

Page Three column, October 8, 1997

 

No doubt Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles spoke for many of his colleagues when he told the Star Tribune last week that he wouldn't approve [Twins owner Carl] Pohlad's sale to Beaver until funding is secured for a proper facility in Carolina....A canny businessman who is not used to being outmaneuvered, [Pohlad] obviously didn't anticipate that the local community would be shrewd enough--and disgusted enough--to call his bluff.

Britt Robson, December 3, 1997

 

Even with the recent slump, the team is playing better than it has in years--yet nobody's getting excited...people are suspicious of success, hesitant to stick their necks out and believe this team is for real. Believe it.

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