Party Crashers

We told you so. That's the message that Julian Loscalzo and a handful of compatriots wanted to impart at yesterday's official groundbreaking for the new Twins' ballpark. Loscalzo was the gadfly-in-chief behind the "Save the Met" campaign that vainly fought against the building of the Metrodome nearly three decades ago. Now that outdoor baseball is finally on track to return to the Twin Cities, Loscalzo was reveling in vindication.

Smoking one of his ubiquitous cigars on the back patio of Cuzzy's bar, a few blocks from the stadium site, Loscalzo notes that no less an authority than Sid Hartman once referred to his group of agitators as "geniuses." "Calling us geniuses was an insult," he says. "We proved him wrong."

He's joined by fellow baseball devotees like Mike "Sammy" Samuelson. ("Everyone calls me Sammy," he explains. "Kind of like Cher, except not as gay.") Sammy initially boycotted the Metrodome, but finally couldn't stay away. "I said, what the heck, I'll go to a game," he recalls. "Then I got hooked again." He's been a season ticket holder since 1987.

Armed with a green "Save the Met" banner and a six pack of beers, the group sets off for the ballpark ceremony shortly before 6 p.m. "This is probably 20 years old," Loscalzo says of the sign. "It's our third version. This has been to Cooperstown three times I think."

Upon arriving at the ballpark site, Loscalzo initially shows unusual reticence about imposing on the Twins' party. He hangs the banner on a fence just outside the stadium area. "I don't have the stomach," he says of entering the event. "I can't go that far."

But after about 10 minutes Loscalzo and his compatriots can't resist the urge to enter the fray. Initially they're stopped by a security guard who believes they're with the handful of anti-stadium protesters gathered nearby. ("Jerry Bell, go to hell," one woman screams repeatedly.) But he eventually let's them pass.

They set up at the back of the crowd and hoist their antiquated sign. On stage Carl Pohlad is being introduced to the crowd. "They don't care about us," Loscalzo says of the Twins. "As a matter of fact they're very nice to us."