Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: 10 Best Moments
Number 10: Prep Bowl comes to the Dome early
The famous Halloween blizzard of 1991 shut down just about everything, and for a while, put the state high school football playoffs in jeopardy. But the Dome roof, miraculously, stayed inflated, and the tourney went off without a hitch.
"We had kids playing football in here at three or four in the morning," recalls the MSFC's Lester.
The Star Tribune christened it: "The Year the Metrodome saved Prep Bowl X."
Number 9: Super Bowl XXVII, 1992 Final Four
Does anybody really remember Super Bowl XXVII? A slightly favored Buffalo Bills team lost its third Super Bowl to a stunningly efficient Washington Redskins team, which jumped out to a 24-0 lead early and won 37-24. Such a forgettable game that Washington quarterback Mark Rypien, a freakin' Canadian, won the MVP trophy. (Former Gopher place-kicker Chip Lohmiller, who had experience in the Dome, did kick three field goals for the 'Skins.)
The most remarkable thing about the contest was that it was held in Minneapolis. It was only the second time a northern city had hosted a Super Bowl (Pontiac, Michigan, home of the Silverdome, being the other). The Dome was also the smallest stadium to ever host a Super Bowl.
Just three months later, the 1992 NCAA men's final four tournament graced the Metrodome. The game was nothing to cheer—Duke beat Michigan 71-51—but hosting a Super Bowl and a Final Four put the Dome in a party of one.
Number 8: Come-from-behind wins against the Bears, Packers
The Dome has seen its share of blown leads by the Vikings, but on at least two occasions, the home team enjoyed memorable comeback victories.
In 1992, the Chicago Bears led at the half 20-0 when the Vikings rallied to score three touchdowns to pull out the victory. "This is the game that Ditka blew a gasket and went off on Jim Harbaugh," Bagley recalls.
He also cites the nail-biter of a win versus Green Bay in 1993. Down 13-12, Vikings QB Jim McMahon took a snap with 13 seconds left and no timeouts. Despite the fact that he had two legendary receivers in Cris and Anthony Carter on the field, McMahon looked deep for Eric Guliford, an unknown 160-pound receiver standing all alone on the 11-yard line. McMahon fired to the rookie, setting up a field goal, and the Vikings won. It was the only reception for Guliford all season.
Number 7: U2 raises the roof
By October 1997, the Dome had become a venue for large rock concerts—the Stones had already played there twice—but still had a deserved reputation for muddy sound. That didn't stop U2.
"They had a sound technician who looked like a reject from a shelter, but the guy figured out how to deal with sound in the place," Lester says. "He put up some sort of transformation tower to keep the sound moving."
Whatever the techie did, it worked: The concert was considered by many to be the best ever performed in the Dome.
Number 6: Chris Carter's 1,000th catch
On national Thursday night television versus Detroit in 2000, Vikings wideout Cris Carter needed five receptions to reach 1,000 career catches, a milestone previously achieved only by Jerry Rice.
Carter's first two catches of the game came on the Vikings' first possession, which ended with a touchdown on the ground by Robert Smith. On the next possession, Carter caught a short pass in the red zone—a five-yarder—setting up the Vikings with first-and-goal at the four-yard line.
Then came his fifth: an over-the-shoulder fade route to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Carter's friend Michael Jordan was watching the game from a suite, and even His Airness must have marveled at the athletic prowess.
Number 5: Timberwolves inaugural season
One of the great insults in Minnesota sports history—and there have been many—is the departure of the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles. Some 30 years later, the Minnesota Timberwolves brought professional basketball back to the Twin Cities, and for the team's first year, the home games were played in the Dome. One November 8, 1989, Michael Jordan scored 45 points as the Bulls beat the Woofies 96-84, but the crowds kept coming. April 17, 1990, saw the third-largest crowd in NBA history—49,551—flock to what was a surprisingly decent basketball venue. That season, the T'Wolves drew 1,072,572 fans total, an NBA record that may never be broken.
Number 4: Randy Moss acrobatics
In Randy Moss's debut game at the Metrodome, his first TD was a spectacular juggling catch where he tipped the ball to himself on a 48-yard bomb. He finished the game with two touchdown catches—a first by a Viking rookie—to kick off an electrifying Metrodome career.
Another Moss highlight that Bagley calls "one of the most amazing plays that I have seen live," happened on October 19, 2003. The Vikings were tied with Denver 7-7 with no timeouts and 12 seconds left in the first half. On a third-and-24 play from their own 41-yard line, Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper found Moss 44 yards down the field. Two defenders started to wrestle Moss to the ground, but as he went down, he dished a perfect no-look lateral to running back Moe Williams, who headed to the end zone as time ran out.
Number 3: Kent Hrbek tags Ron Gant
The Twins' second World Series in 1991 against Atlanta was one of the tightest ever played: five of the seven games were decided by two runs or less, and three of them went into extra innings. Tension was already high in the noisy Metrodome for game two, with Minnesota having won game one.
The Twinks had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead when Atlanta was threatening in the third. The Braves scored one run and had two outs when Ron Gant hit a single to left. The Braves' Lonnie Smith tried to go from first to third, and Twins left fielder Dan Gladden threw to third. The ball got loose, and Twins pitcher Kevin Tapani picked it up and fired to Kent Hrbek at first. Gant had rounded the bag too far, and scampered back, initially beating the throw. But, depending on which team you were rooting for, Gant either lost his balance or Hrbek pulled him off the bag. Umpire Drew Coble called Gant out, to the disbelief of everyone who wasn't rooting for a Twins win.
Hrbek was unapologetic: "If he had slid, he would have been safe." An Atlanta rally was effectively killed, and the Twins went on to take the game 3-2. Hrbek and his family were jeered by Atlanta fans for the rest of the series, but it's a safe bet that Herbie, an ardent pro wrestling fan, loved playing the heel.
Number 2: 1987 World Series
No one gave the 1987 Twins a chance, and for good reason: During the season, they weren't much better than an average team. But they squeaked into the post-season, made surprisingly quick work of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series, and were poised to take on the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Dan Gladden set the tone early, hitting a grand slam in the fourth inning of game one, and the Twins won handily, 10-1. The Twins took game two, and then proceeded to drop the next three in St. Louis.
Luckily, the Twins came home to the Dome, where they won the next two. Game six featured fireworks from the usual suspects—Kirby Puckett went four-for-four, and Hrbek hit a grand slam. Though the Twins were clearly outmatched, it was a Bad News Bears moment of triumph when they put Minnesota, improbably, on the world champion map for the first time ever.
The on-field celebration after game seven was matched only by the antics of the team off the field. Even in this scrappy bunch, reliever Juan "Señor Smoke" Berenguer drew the most attention by dressing in a fedora and trench coat and carrying a briefcase in a rally at the Dome after the team beat Detroit in the ALCS.
"It's that celebration I remember most," says Lester. "I saw that get-up on Berenguer and just thought: That totally sums up the team."
Did he ever find out what was in the briefcase?
"He just told everyone that's where he kept the sandwiches."
Number 1: 1991 World Series
As sweet as the first World Series victory was in '87, the '91 Series had more drama than a Spanish telenovela. In addition to a spate of tight, extra-inning games, this series featured Hrbek's controversial tag of Ron Gant (see Best Moment No. 3). It also featured Puckett's game-six heroics. First, Puck leapt and snared a Gant rip to center, snatching the ball just before it hit the Plexiglas wall, and saving the Twins a run in the top of the third. (Is there anyone who hates the Dome more than Gant?) Puckett wasn't done, of course. Aside from being one shy of hitting for the cycle, he also crushed the legendary walk-off home run off Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the 11th.
Jack Morris, who had already pitched in games one and four, summed up whether he was ready to pitch again in game seven thus: "In the immortal words of the late, great Marvin Gaye, let's get it on." And get it on he did, hurling 10 innings of shut-out ball in what is probably the best pitching performance in World Series history. An injured Gene Larkin came up in the 10th with the bases loaded, blooped a single to left, and scored Dan Gladden from third. Unbelievably, the Twins were World Champions for the second time in four years.
Afterward, then-Major League Baseball commissioner Faye Vincent gushed, "It was, I think, probably the greatest World Series ever!"
The only problem, of course, was that it was played in that ugly, laughable non-ballpark known as the Metrodome. Even so, the place was full of joy and magic once again. And it's certain that the legendary call by Jack Buck after Puckett's game-six homer—"And we'll see you...tomorrow night!"—will reverberate in fans' heads long after the walls of the Metrodome crumble into dust.
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