Twin Killing

My résumé may not look like much otherwise, but I like to think I have some pretty solid credentials as a Minnesota Twins fan. I love the Twins. I really love the Twins. I cursed the Metrodome from its first opening day, but that hasn't stopped me from seeing hundreds of games from its miserable blue seats. I keep score, save ticket stubs, and pore over box scores. I own more than 100 baseball mitts. Bunting from the 1987 World Series hangs in my basement, above a case full of baseball memorabilia, including my father's old spikes. There are bookcases in my basement as well, crammed with more than 2,000 books devoted to baseball, from old annuals to biographies of obscure players like long-dead Twins shortstop Danny Thompson. I have ridden a Greyhound bus to Florida to watch spring-training games. In the spring of the Twins 1987 World Series championship season, in fact, I went to Orlando, found a cheap, cinderblock apartment downtown, and got a job at Tinker Field, where I was able to see every spring-training game. I learned to juggle using batting-practice baseballs that had been hit over the fence into the concourses of the adjacent Citrus Bowl.

I was there in the Dome--wearing my ridiculous "I believe in R.D." T-shirt--when reliever Ron Davis imploded night after night after night in 1984 and 1985 (I still have the shirt, of course). I was there again in the blue seats for 1991's game six, and if you require more explanation than that, I pity you your meager memories. I've made a handful of pilgrimages to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and was there again this past summer to see Kirby Puckett inducted.

I can't help myself; I continue to be fascinated, infuriated, and entranced by a game that has abused me as often as it has provided glorious escape and comforting diversion. I recognize that I am apparently in the minority, but I would be truly bereft without Major League Baseball, and it galls me that I am exactly the sort of sad sack that commissioner Bud Selig and his syndicate of extortionists are counting on to save baseball in Minnesota.

But I'm just one man, one sad baseball fan, and I'll admit that I'm grasping at straws. As is Julian Loscalzo, the old "Save the Met" warrior who valiantly opposed the construction of the Dome and has been a loud and longtime proponent of community ownership of the Twins. Julian thinks Bud Selig's November 6 announcement that two franchises will be eliminated from the game represents a terrorist act in a time of war and has suggested that Jesse Ventura dispatch the National Guard to New York to occupy Major League Baseball's offices and place the game in receivership.

Like Julian, I have spent too much of my life tilting at windmills, and this endless monkey business has worn me out. I am grasping at straws, but I will continue to grasp at straws until there truly is nothing left to grab. If I am not yet inconsolable, it is because I have been watching this saga unfold for so long now that I can recognize that a fan's last, best hope--at least in this instance--might in fact be the bumbling bunch of incompetents and nitwits who seem so intent on destroying the game.


The billionaire boys have been crying wolf for so many years now that it was hard to summon anything but further incredulity when the 118-pound Milwaukee automobile peddler masquerading as baseball's commissioner stepped to the microphones in Rosemont, Illinois, two days after the World Series ended and announced that his industry intended to shut down two franchises. Forget for a moment, if you can, that one of those teams is generally assumed to be the Minnesota Twins. Forget that the man at the podium is the shadow owner of one of the worst franchises in baseball, a man who--Wisconsin folklore has it--drives his Lexus nearly every day to a Milwaukee custard stand, where his lunch consists of "a hot dog smothered in ketchup, and a diet Coke." Forget that this is a man who has publicly admitted that he cried at the end of Kevin Costner's For Love of the Game.

Forget all that and try to get serious for a moment: Could this man actually and finally be the long-prophesied wolf at the door, a wolf in the ill-fitting suit of a boneless B-squad Rotary Club toastmaster, but still wolf enough to do a wolf's dirty work? And if so, shouldn't a wolf be somehow more, um, menacing, and not merely pathetic? I mean, seriously, could this odd little man, could Allan "Bud" Selig, actually put a fork in 40 years of baseball tradition in Minnesota?  

I have to admit that I have a hard time believing he could, but there are a lot of things I have a hard time believing that nonetheless kick me in the teeth every day with their brutal truth. I've tried hard not to believe in Bud Selig, period, for years; I don't want to believe in him, I don't even want to acknowledge that he's real, let alone that he's the commissioner of Major League Baseball, but it's hard not to believe in a man when he shambles into your life with dreadful regularity and makes ridiculous pronouncements and disastrous decisions. It's hard not to believe in a man who keeps putting a gun to your head and threatening you. (I can't figure out how a man who seems composed entirely of cartilage even holds a gun, but he does it somehow.) Bud does that, and he has been doing it for years. He held that gun to the heads of the good people of Wisconsin for nine years, until they were finally benevolent enough to build him a big shiny new ballpark; 2,811,040 people paid grossly inflated ticket prices to visit Bud's new monument in 2001--and were rewarded with a 68-94 season from the reliably pathetic Brewers.

Bud Selig is an amazing man, make no mistake about it. But this time he has gone too far. If there is any hope for the Twins, if there is any hope for Major League Baseball, you have to believe that this time he has gone too far.


As plenty of people have pointed out in recent weeks, even as Twins proponents have scrambled to marshal stall tactics against Selig's contraction plan, there's plenty of blame to go around for the current precarious status of Major League Baseball in the Twin Cities. This is a saga that has not lacked for fascinating, complex, thoroughly reprehensible characters on all sides, many of them still largely unknown to the general public.

There's Jerry Bell, for instance, the Twins' president and quintessential bad lieutenant. If you traced this miserable stadium mess back to its source, you'd find the ghastly Bell lurking in the details. Bell was the guy who hammered out the original escape clause that gave the Twins their initial leverage in threatening to vacate the Metrodome and flee Minnesota if a new stadium weren't built. Bell was working for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission at the time, and he would eventually head up that agency; only much later would he cross lines and go to work for the Twins. Bell is a man who has demonstrated the tenacity--and loyalty--of a Taliban foot soldier. In the Hollywood version of this whole affair, when the fat cats need someone killed, Jerry Bell is the guy who pulls the trigger and throws the bodies off the boat.

You also might want to take a good, hard look at a local attorney by the name of Roger Magnuson, who is representing the Twins and Major League Baseball against all comers here in Minnesota. Magnuson has previously done good work for the Twins, having successfully represented the team in an anti-trust case brought by the state Attorney General in the 1990s. He is also the lawyer who was summoned to Florida to represent the Florida Legislature in the Bush/Gore election recount case. Magnuson is an interesting character, to say the least. He is the founder and dean of the California-based Oak Brook College of Law, an Internet-based institution whose Web site proclaims: "We believe that our nation has strayed from its Biblical moorings....Oak Brook College is committed to training lawyers who understand the Biblical foundations of our legal institutions and who desire to practice law consistent with the Biblical principles of truth, justice, mercy, and reconciliation." In demonstrating just such consistency, one supposes, Magnuson is also the author of a book entitled Are Gay Rights Right? Confused or grieving Twins fans looking for justice, mercy, or reconciliation might consider attending services at Straitgate, the nondenominational Christian church in Minneapolis where Magnuson is the pastor.

Suffice it to say that it's easy enough to point fingers in all directions at this dark and confusing time. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of those fingers have ended up pointed at poor Carl Pohlad, the lovable old banker who once upon a time saved baseball in Minnesota--remember that? Anyone with half a heart should be able to see through all the poisonous rancor and recognize poor Carl for what he truly is in this wretched fiasco: a victim. A victim of baseball's disastrous economic policies, a victim of an obstinate and principled populace, a victim of an unlikely and sprawling conspiracy of leftist class warriors, right-wing anti-tax zealots, and newspaper columnists. For years the man has been under siege from without and within, and now, just as he should be settling into his twilight years and playing poker with his grandchildren, the bastards who own Major League Baseball intend to steal his team from him.  

Oh, sure, I've heard the nasty rumor that Selig and his cronies intended to eradicate some other franchise--Florida, perhaps--and that when Carl got wind of the sort of kill fees the owners were bandying about, he barged to the front of the line and begged to get in on the deal. Come on! Carl Pohlad barged to the front of the line? Jesus, people, the man is 86 years old and walks with a cane; Carl Pohlad's barging days are behind him. The best hope for baseball's future in Minnesota is for the citizens of this region to get squarely behind Attorney General Mike Hatch in bringing charges of elder abuse against Major League Baseball. I'm no lawyer, but this looks like a vulnerable-adult case, plain and simple. These vipers are taking advantage of a man in his senescence.

Mark my words: Carl Pohlad is the ultimate victim in all of this. All the poor man ever wanted to do was sell repossessed cars and collect bad debts. He never wanted to own a professional baseball team, but in 1984 somebody had to step up and save Major League Baseball for the struggling, displaced farmers and loan-defaulting deadbeats of the upper Midwest, and Carl, reluctantly, was that man. If you don't believe me, listen to the Pioneer Press, which recently described Pohlad as "a quiet man who shunned the limelight even after he was forced into purchasing the Twins in 1984." Did you get that? Poor Carl was forced into buying the Twins, and now, after shepherding the team through thick and thin, up mountains with breathtaking vistas and down into the dreariest swamps imaginable, this man who has served the great game of baseball with quiet and unswerving dignity is being forced out the door with a big, fat check pinned to his jacket lapel.

It's unconscionable.

According to the Minnesota State Bar Association Web site (, "Regardless of whether an individual lives at home or in a facility, a person is considered vulnerable if he or she is: unable or unlikely to report maltreatment of him or herself because of: a physical or mental infirmity or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunction that impairs a person's ability to provide adequately for his or her own care without assistance." In this particular case, the state might reasonably invoke the "emotional dysfunction" portion of that description, and it would be hard for anyone to argue with a characterization of doddering Carl as physically infirm. Regarding the nature of the abuse as it pertains to The State of Minnesota v. Major League Baseball, the bar association's language is clear enough: "A vulnerable adult is a victim of maltreatment when he or she is subjected to abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation." Further, financial exploitation against a vulnerable adult occurs when someone "either 1) uses or withholds property of a vulnerable adult; 2) acquires a vulnerable adult's funds or property through undue influence, harassment, duress, deception, or fraud; or 3) forces, compels, coerces, or entices the vulnerable adult against his or her will to perform services for the advantage of another."

There can be absolutely no doubt that baseball's contraction plan as it involves Carl Pohlad meets a number of those criteria. Certainly Major League Baseball intends to acquire Carl's property through "undue influence" and "duress"; no doubt a check for $150 million to $200 million constitutes any reasonable definition of "enticement"; and there can be no question that the contraction of the Twins would represent "services for the advantage of another." As for the will of a broken 86-year-old billionaire and the extent to which he was a lucid and cooperative participant in this scheme, I will leave that for the courts to decide.


As Donald Fehr and the Major League Baseball Players Association long ago discovered, if you have to have an antagonistic relationship with the guys who sign the checks, you couldn't get a better group of patsies than Major League Baseball's owners. Selig's timing in making the contraction announcement couldn't have been more perfectly and characteristically wrongheaded. A tremendous World Series between two of the teams most representative of baseball's screwed economics went a long way toward masking--at least for a time--the huge laundry list of problems obscuring the game's future. Selig and his cronies chose not to take advantage of that smokescreen of good feeling and made their grim declaration 48 hours after the Arizona Diamondbacks had received their World Series trophy. That exhilarating, disorienting, and ultimately distressing 48-hour swing demonstrated once again that baseball is a wonderful game and a dirty business. Pie-in-the-sky nostalgia aside, that's been the case forever; while the game retains its ability to enthrall on a consistent basis, off the field it's a demolition derby, plain and simple, with the owners seemingly intent on destroying each other and everything in their paths.  

The news of baseball's proposed contraction, as well as the widespread speculation that the Twins would be one of the two teams eliminated, set off the expected (and on the part of baseball's owners, surely desired) panic among Twins fans and the usual sprawling cast of Power Rubes that springs into full, ineffectual task-force mode every time there is a perceived threat to the Twin Cities' status as a "major league" market. The media erupted in hysteria of the sort that is usually reserved for Vikings losses. Hubert Humphrey's line about the Twin Cities becoming a "cold Omaha" without professional sports was trotted out for the millionth time. There was much wringing of hands and--unlike the previous five or six Twins crises--throwing up of hands. There was, and there remains, a general feeling of disbelief and, from many quarters, resignation. The Twins saga, and the endless, fruitless battle to get a new stadium built, has become Minnesota's version of Bleak House, the gargantuan Dickens novel that chronicled the interminable legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. After years of threats and grandstanding and jinxed stadium bills and failed referendums and countless dead-end proposals and widespread hoodwinking and boardroom maneuvering and umpteen task forces and a general and wholesale failure of public and political will...My God, people are wondering, could this really be the end?

Selig, of course, was being transparently coy when he refused to name names on November 6. Funny, wasn't it, that somehow Minnesota and Montreal were instantly leaked to the press as the likely candidates? The delay in nailing down contraction's victims, of course, was designed to inspire exactly the kind of civic frenzy seen here over the past several weeks. Selig and the cabal of venal leisure barons that make up baseball's owners have bluffed so often in their attempts to wrangle a new stadium for the Twins that it's hard to see this latest move as anything more than one last, ruthless attempt to get Minnesota on board baseball's kamikaze gravy train.

What exactly might be the end result of all the latest acrimony and speculation is anybody's guess at this point, but absent a last-ditch conciliatory solution in Minnesota (unlikely) or a change of heart from Major League Baseball (even more unlikely), the ridiculous mess is sure to end up in some sort of litigious tangle that is likely to linger until spring training, if not longer, ensuring that Minnesotans can look forward to--at the least--one more lame-duck season of baseball at the Metrodome. That's a small consolation, of course, and regardless of whether Selig's contraction notice was a bluff, it still seems clear that--barring significant changes in the disastrous economic structure of the game--the only chance Minnesota has to retain a franchise in the long term is to work out some kind of a stadium package that all sides can live with. And given the contentious stadium brouhahas of the past five years, it seems unlikely that Minnesota will give in to such blackmail at this late date.

The contraction process, of course, will be challenged on any number of fronts; here in Minnesota challenges are already afoot at the judicial and legislative levels, and the inevitable task force has been hastily assembled. Gov. Jesse Ventura, who had previously been steadfast in his refusal to enter the fray, has finally lent his guarded support to the group of business and political leaders that is working to at least delay contraction; that group is spearheaded by Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi, who hopes to marshal private investors to buy the team and rally support for a stadium-finance plan. Across the river Mayor Norm Coleman has apparently joined forces with his recently elected successor, Randy Kelly, in proposing (again) a new Twins stadium (and citywide three percent bar and restaurant tax) for downtown St. Paul. Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump acted swiftly in issuing a temporary injunction binding the Twins to their Metrodome lease for the 2002 season, a move that is sure to be appealed by Major League Baseball. Fehr and his all-powerful players' union will surely file grievances, and in Washington Sen. Paul Wellstone has joined with Rep. John Conyers from Michigan in introducing to Congress a bill intended to limit or revoke Major League Baseball's federal antitrust exemption, a move that is long overdue. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle has also asked President Bush to grant Minnesota a one-year reprieve. (Those looking for hope on that front might keep in mind that Bush was formerly an owner of the Texas Rangers and walked away from that sinecure with a more-than-handsome return on his investment; don't think for a minute that he doesn't fully understand the meaning of the phrase major league asshole.)  

The latest word is that Selig has summoned the owners to Chicago for another meeting just as City Pages goes to press. It's possible, given Crump's decision and the slim possibility of a hasty appeal or resolution, that Selig will lobby for a delay on the contraction issue. It's also possible that the owners will dig in and prepare for a protracted battle. If that's the case, it's already plenty clear that baseball's magnates will have their hands full.

Selig and the owners have found themselves fighting their contraction battle against enemies on all sides--and with baseball's winter meetings looming on December 9. That is the date, presumably, that MLB would like to drop its hammer and name names. It doesn't leave a lot of time for anybody. If Selig thought his November 6 teaser would kick some kind of stadium-salvation action into gear in the Twin Cities, he may have been right, but he could not possibly have expected any serious resolution in so short a timeframe. The timing of that notice is the one factor working most strongly against the notion that contraction is another bluff, one final attempt to extort public funding for a new stadium here. But if in fact Selig and the owners were serious, what was it they hoped to accomplish?


A number of scenarios and much speculation have been bandied about, but the reality is that there is no reasonable economic justification for contraction, other than one based entirely on desperation. When businesses start closing up shop on the main street, doesn't one generally assume that the town is in trouble? You would certainly think so, yet killing teams might seem, in the twisted reasoning of the owners, like a convenient way to try to erase some of the mistakes they made in their disastrous expansion program of the 1990s; it should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that two of the other franchises most often mentioned when the subject of contraction arises are two of the teams baseball added in expansion: the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Both teams have floundered and neither is likely to survive in its present location.

The other two expansion teams, the Rockies and the Diamondbacks, face financial peril as well, Arizona's championship notwithstanding. The Rockies, in their much-ballyhooed ballpark in Denver, routinely draw large crowds but continue to lose money. Arizona is in an even more precarious position and would appear to be on the same fast track to oblivion that has already brought Florida to the brink of extinction; despite the team's success on the field in 2001, the Diamondbacks have been plagued with a severe financial crisis that has reportedly saddled owner Jerry Colangelo with nearly $250 million in debt, and has led him to borrow money from Major League Baseball and plead for salary deferments from some of his players. This is a man who shelled out more than $65 million for marginal players Todd Stottlemyre (15-9 in three injury-plagued seasons with the D-Backs) and Jay Bell (.248 average with 13 homers and 46 RBI in 2001). Matt Williams, a rickety, over-the-hill third baseman, made $9 million this past season and hit 16 home runs. Colangelo had more than 10,000 empty seats in his ballpark for game one of the National League championship series. That's a disgraceful red flag for an expansion franchise that has only been in existence for four years.

So no, there is no clear economic gain for the owners in the contraction wrangle, and even if a case could be made, the choice of franchises is transparently punitive. There is no getting around the fact that the Expos are in trouble in Montreal, but their cause hasn't been helped by absentee owner Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer who plainly bought the team with the hope that he might one day move it to greener pastures. Still, the Expos' current predicament aside, this is a franchise with a history in Montreal: From 1970 though the 2001 season, the Expos had a 2,545-2,580 win-loss record, roughly comparable to Selig's Brewers' record over the same period (2,565-2,532). The Expos have drawn two million fans on four occasions; the Brewers have done so twice. And no team has been more victimized than the Expos by the game's economic and labor woes: The team finished first in the second half of 1981's disastrous split season and lost to the Dodgers in the National League championship series; in 1994, the year Selig and the owners shut down the season and wiped out the World Series, Montreal was six games in front of Atlanta in the NL's Eastern Division.  

The Twins, of course, are another story entirely. Everyone here should know the story of this franchise by now: the first team to draw three million fans, two world championships, Hall of Fame players in Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett, and a history that stretches back to the team's 1901 origins as the Washington Senators. As has been pointed out by others, between 1985 and the strike in 1994 the Twins outdrew the Yankees. And once again, for local fans Selig's timing in targeting the Twins for contraction couldn't have been crueler. After years of absolute futility, the 2001 Twins turned the corner and delivered a winning season and a team of talented young ballplayers. Attendance in the Dome rose 70 percent--roughly the same increase, incidentally, as the Brewers saw in their first year in brand-new Miller Park.

One could, I suppose, make a reasonable case for contraction based on the quality of play in the major leagues--there are too many teams, too many mediocre players making too much money--but the owners created that problem. And even if contraction were the answer (and it's really not, as in all likelihood the union would simply negotiate additional roster spots as part of any contraction agreement), the Minnesota Twins are well down any reasonable list of deserving candidates.

It's hard not to argue that what Selig and the other owners want is to hold any number of cities hostage in a sort of North Stars/Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Colts scenario. Contract teams, and then use those vacancies--in the case of Minnesota, a proven, reliable market--as leverage against other struggling franchises. This is, after all, the 14th-largest television market; the owners must want a team here. They're betting that down the road Minnesota will come crawling back to baseball begging to take on another failing, established team. Please, give us the Oakland Athletics, the Kansas City Royals, give us any ratty, miserable team at all--we'll give you the moon. We can all probably imagine what that moon will cost. When baseball owners start talking about "the long-term welfare of the game," beware: To these fellows welfare is a loaded gun.

It's still, of course, a gamble. Minnesota has been remarkably obstinate in its dealings with Major League Baseball, but I think that's a terrible risk the owners are willing to take: It has, after all, proved to be an effective strategy elsewhere.


That might seem like a cynical perspective, but if this episode has demonstrated anything, it's that you can't be too cynical, and I have to believe that such a scenario is at least in the back of the owners' minds.

If that is the case, Twins fans--and baseball fans and columnists all over the nation--are apparently having none of it. Public response to baseball's contraction announcement has been loudly and nearly unanimously in the Twins' favor. As they have done so often in the past, baseball's owners have created a public-relations nightmare at precisely the wrong time--although one of the more entertaining sidebars in recent weeks has been Selig's comments in the November 14 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Selig...said he thought the talk of contraction had done well from a public relations standpoint, citing columns and newspaper reports from around the country," Don Walker reported. Selig clearly hasn't been reading the same newspapers I have, but then, you have to take pretty much everything Bud says with a tablespoon of salt--he also pooh-poohed talk of a conflict of interest on his part by claiming that St. Louis, being closer to the Twin Cities than Milwaukee is, stands to benefit from the Twins' contraction as much as Milwaukee would. (Milwaukee is 338 miles from Minneapolis, St. Louis 619 miles.) Such fuzzy math might help to explain some of baseball's problems with the bottom line.

And baseball's problems with the bottom line go well beyond the need for new, revenue-producing stadiums. Everybody in the world seems to know this, but Selig and the owners--and, to be fair, the players' union--haven't yet demonstrated the will to work it out. So far the evidence suggests that new-stadium revenue streams will simply get plowed into ever-escalating player salaries, and the positive results of that sort of spending seldom show up on the field. Detroit's attendance was down 23 percent its second year in a new ballpark. Texas paid $250 million to Alex Rodriguez and promptly went in the toilet, finishing in the cellar in the American League West. Pittsburgh, Colorado, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Baltimore all had wretched seasons in state-of-the-art stadiums, while newly crowned world-champion Arizona's attendance has declined in each year of the franchise's existence.  

The frustrating thing for fans is that baseball knows what its problems are, and it knows what the solutions are. Major League Baseball went through the charade of appointing a "Blue Ribbon Panel" to study baseball's economic malaise, but Selig has thus far chosen to largely ignore the panel's recommendations. The game needs a realistic salary cap, minimum payrolls, and real, meaningful revenue sharing. To accomplish those things, the owners need to sit down and hammer out some difficult compromises with the union--both sides are clearly going to have to give some concessions for the good of the game--but that seems even less likely today than it did a month ago. One more reason to applaud Selig's timing: great idea--piss off the union the moment their contract expires and negotiations should be getting under way for a new agreement.

As far as contraction goes, and scary as it is to admit it, a pissed-off Fehr might just be Minnesota's best long-range weapon in the battle to at least delay the move. If the union really decides it's not going to go along with contraction, past performance suggests that the owners aren't going to get it done without another catastrophic work stoppage. If the union somehow does decide to accept contraction, whether for tit-for-tat bargaining purposes, or purely out of self-interest--and why couldn't you argue that the loss of 50 major-league jobs might actually drive up salaries, at least for the better players?--then it's a done deal.

Unless, of course, it's not. If baseball has demonstrated anything in its long, rich, and troubled history, it's that anything can happen. That mixture of hope and dread is ingrained in the mentality of every true fan. I don't have any idea what will ultimately happen to the Minnesota Twins, but I'm still not ready to say I don't care.


Carl's Last At Bat

Pick an epitaph for Carl Pohlad and win a prize!

In the spring of 1999, as the Minnesota Twins unveiled a bargain-basement roster featuring 17 rookies, team owner Carl Pohlad's family purchased a plot and a headstone for its patriarch at Lakewood Cemetery in south Minneapolis.

Planning ahead as always, we laced up our cleats and made a pilgrimage to the site, hoping to scout good seats for the father of all season finales. When we arrived, however, we were informed that the clan had been unhappy with the original tombstone, which was just a short hop high, and with the location of the plot, which wanted for luxury boxes and gourmet concessions, not to mention a retractable roof. Ground will soon be broken at a new site, we were informed--presumably after an acceptable mix of public-private funding is negotiated--and a new headstone is also said to be in the works.

But what about the epitaph? The first headstone read simply: POHLAD. Surely the family doesn't intend to retire the old man's number without comment. America's best and brightest always get the last word. Al Capone's stone at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Chicago, for example, reads "My Jesus Mercy." Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was buried in Hollywood Memorial Park beneath "In loving memory from the Family," carved in marble. Karen Carpenter was "A star on earth--a star in heaven." And Bette Davis? "She did it the hard way."

We have a few ideas, of course. "If they build it, they have to come" is the current favorite around the office. But we don't want to hog the ball. So we're hereby announcing a contest to allow you, the real fans, to write Carl Pohlad's epitaph.

Just scribble your entry on a piece of paper (or, if you want to be environmentally conscious, on the back of your 2002 season tickets), and mail it to:

Carl's Last At-Bat
c/o City Pages
401 Third St. N., Suite 550
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Alternatively, fax your nomination to (612) 372-3737 or tap an e-mail to [email protected].

If the home team survives contraction, the winner will receive a pair of tickets to a Twins game sometime next season. If Pohlad manages to cash in before cashing in, we'll send the winning writer to a St. Paul Saints game instead.

A word to the wise: Be imaginative! You might want to take a cue from the family of Anna Hopewell of Enosburg Falls, Vermont. "Here lies the body of our Anna/Done to death by a banana," her gravestone reads. "It wasn't the fruit that laid her low/But the skin of the thing that made her go."

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