People & Places

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BEST TOURIST ATTRACTION Minneapolis 1999 -

Readers' Choice: Mall of America

When out-of-town visitors show up, we inevitably and unenthusiastically yield to their pleas to ogle the Mary Tyler Moore house, the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, First Avenue, the Art Institute....Then we take them to that dank stretch of Third Street in the shadow of the Metrodome where reposes Ray Crump's Original Baseball Hall of Fame Museum of Minnesota. Long ago, back when Calvin Griffith owned the team and things still looked good for Richard Nixon, proprietor Crump was equipment manager for the Minnesota Twins. The front of the establishment is a run-of-the-mill sports-apparel store, where one can browse the usual assortment of Randy Moss jerseys, Yankee caps--and, yes, postcards of Calvin Griffith. The museum consists of a large room in back. (Admission is free, though on cold days the clerk is hesitant to let you in "because of the draft.") Inside are some neat baseball items--a ball autographed by Babe Ruth, for instance, and a copy of Ray's autobiography, Beneath the Grandstands, which features a photo of the protagonist handling dirty Twins laundry. But the museum's glory is the colossal collection of vintage 1970s photos of Ray and a mélange of celebrity friends and acquaintances. Many of the snaps depict Ray in Bloomington's now-defunct Carlton Celebrity Room, wearing a leisure suit and ridiculous sideburns, and most are autographed with inscriptions that make it sound as if he fell on a grenade for his companions during a USO tour of Vietnam. There's Ray with Conway Twitty. Loretta Lynn. Liberace. George Burns. Muhammad Ali. Tony Randall. And that ain't all. The museum's centerpiece is Ray's shrine to Elvis Presley, a mountain of memorabilia and autographed doodads piled inside several display cases. The highlight: a Minneapolis Star story about Presley's concert at the Carlton in 1977, months before he died. Though he dedicated the concert to Ray and then-Twins owner Calvin Griffith, the bloated and moribund Elvis put on an abbreviated and terrible show. "That was probably the worst concert Elvis has done in a year," Ray told the newspaper, noting that Elvis had "apparently picked up a cold after jogging around Lake Nokomis Saturday night." Maybe Ray saw something coming...

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