A Fan's Notes

Ballpark fixture Thomas Hodne on a season for the ages

BY THOMAS HODNE, AS TOLD TO G.R. ANDERSON JR.

I quit alcohol in 1975, and I took up baseball. Baseball is my addiction now. I was an architect, and I worked 150 percent—75 percent on architecture, 1 percent on human relations, and 74 percent on alcohol. I had a "Cheers bar" in Dinkytown, and that's where I spent my time. Baseball helped me out of that.

I go to every home game. I've missed two in 11 years, 81 games a year. I've held season tickets since that damn Dome opened. Before, I didn't go to every game, but since 1975, I'd go to at least three-quarters of the games, out at the stupid stadium in Bloomington. I don't know how many games I've been to in the Dome—when did it open, 1981, 1982? So there's 25 years' worth there where I've gone to almost every home game. Hell, I don't know how many that is.

Nick Vlcek

I just celebrated by 40th 39th-year birthday last May 14. So, I'm only 39. Now I'm coming up to celebrate my 41st 39th birthday. I look in the obituaries in the New York Times, because I see architects that I knew. I do that during the day, and baseball at night. Thomas Hodne Architects, Inc was my business. I did the American Indian Center on Franklin. But otherwise I did most of my buildings in other parts of the world.

But back to the Cheers bar—that's why I go to all the games. Everybody knows me, and we talk, and we give it the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. I'm in section 120, in what's really row one—they added a few rows a couple years ago, so now it's seven. It's okay, I don't mind looking at the chicks down there. I sit opposite the Twins dugout so I could give Tom Kelly the finger. Gardenhire's my good buddy—he's so good. Tom Kelly shit on everybody he didn't like, including Gardenhire.

I used to sneak in during spring training, down in Fort Myers. It used to just rack him. Finally, Kelly saw me sneaking in early in the game one year—oh, did he give me hell. He brought the police over and got me out and said, "If you ever sneak in here before the crowd can come in, we'll have you arrested!" Ha-ha, that was pretty good. So, I know some people don't like me.

I saw Ted Williams play the Minneapolis Millers, before he went up to the big leagues. I'll never forget that—I was about eight years old. That's when the Millers played down on Nicollet. I never got his autograph, but he was wonderful, just great.

I had a paper route, and we had no money. My mother, Martha, worked at Powers department store for 37 dollars a week. My father was a race-car driver, Tom Hodne. He died when I was one and a half years old. So, she married Tubby Clemens as her third husband. Tubby played for the St. Louis Cardinals. And Tubby was such a good guy—oh, I loved the guy. She used to take a streetcar—we lived at 22nd and Fremont—and she used to walk to Hennepin Avenue. At 24th Street, there was actually a bus that ran there. And Tubby picked her up while she was waiting for a bus, and wooed her. He got out of the game in 1926. She married him after I got out of the Navy in 1945. I myself have been married three times. I have seven children from my first family, and two sons from my second, and 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

I'd go to those games at the Nicollet ballpark after my paper route, and wait for a home run ball during batting practice. I'd get the ball and I could get in for free. The balls would land right in the alley and on 31st Street. And Willie Mays played for the Millers, sure. But I don't remember that as much as Ted Williams, my idol.

Then there was the Met. The biggest thing I remember about Met Stadium is I had a hell of a time driving out there. And the parking lot—oh, god I hated that parking lot. At the end of the game you'd have to wait and wait to get out of that parking lot. Absolutely hated it. But I did go out there to those games. I was hooked on it. I was so happy when they came and built the dumb Dome, as I call it.

I go to football games and Gopher basketball games, but the spirit of baseball fans is much better. You can meet people and talk a lot, in between pitches and in between innings. It's a wonderful thing. Even the losses are beautiful. I pray at night, and I tell God I've had a good day, and a good night, and usually I tell him, after games, I've had an excellent evening. Winning or losing doesn't matter much. He understands me. And my third wife puts up with me on this too—she likes baseball.

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