MINNEAPOLIS -- There were the endless rows of blue plastic seats -- sometimes at odd angles. There was that big ol' baggie in right field, that springy turf and, of course, the jet of pressurized air that blew you out the door as you exited the ballpark.
Target Field is a beautiful home for Twins baseball -- widely regarded as one of the best game experiences in the league -- but the Metrodome, despite its flaws, made for a unique venue that defined the formative years of many a Twins fan around the Upper Midwest.
Dome-field advantage marked an era of the Minnesota Twins -- and let's go ahead and take a look back at some of the biggest moments this club experienced at its former home.
1) Larkin walks off the Braves in '91
A World Series walk-off is a good starting point, is it not? That goes double when the Fall Classic in question is both the most recent in club history and considered one of the best ever contested. A 0-0 tie played into extra innings at the 'Dome as John Smoltz and Jack Morris traded zeroes late into the night, and after Morris tossed a 10th scoreless frame, the Twins loaded the bases for hobbled pinch-hitter Gene Larkin, who launched the first pitch into left-center and sent Dan Gladden home with the championship run. It's been 30 years since then without another men's professional title in Minnesota.
2) "We'll see you tomorrow night!"
Speaking of World Series walk-offs... Kirby Puckett was already bound for enshrinement as a Twins legend before Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, but this big swing destined him for club immortality. This one, too, was tied into extra innings before Puckett stepped up to lead off the bottom of the 11th against Charlie Leibrandt. He launched it into left-center, and we'll let the broadcasters take care of the rest.
"We'll see you tomorrow night!" Jack Buck roared.
"Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!" John Gordon crowed.
3) Twins wrap up '87 World Series
This one wasn't as dramatic as those contests in '91, but it still held a special place as the first World Series title for the franchise in the 23 seasons since it had relocated from Washington. Twins fans have been doubly lucky in that the club never did lose a World Series game at the Metrodome, either. This one was the fourth of those, in Game 7 of the '87 Fall Classic against St. Louis, and Jeff Reardon got Willie McGee to ground out to third, sealing a hometown victory in the World Series in what was, at the time, the biggest postseason game ever contested in Minneapolis.
4) Fans celebrate '87 pennant
It proved a massive upset when the Twins took their notorious struggles on the road in '87 to Detroit and won the American League Championship Series in a tidy five games against the Tigers, owners of the best record in baseball. (Seriously, the Twins were 29-52 away from the Metrodome that year.) A tired squad got back to the Twin Cities after punching their ticket to the World Series and just wanted to go home -- but around 11 p.m., the Twins pulled into the 'Dome to pay tribute to what they expected would be a handful of assembled fans.
Instead, they walked into a packed stadium of more than 50,000 people, waving Homer Hankies and greeting their boys with a thunderous roar.
"What an absolutely amazing reception that still brings both goosebumps and tears," wrote Kathy Viola, wife of team ace Frank Viola, to the Star Tribune.
5) Game 163
Enough of that old-timey World Series stuff, though. Let's finally hop to the modern era to the very end of the Metrodome's life, when Target Field was set to become a reality -- but the Metrodome Era just didn't seem to want to end in 2009. On Sept. 30, the Twins lost to Detroit and fell three games back in the division with four to play. The Twins beat Detroit the next day and swept Kansas City to finish the season -- while the Tigers lost two to the White Sox. That forced a tiebreaker at the Metrodome, which, of course, went to extra innings. The Tigers and Twins both scored in the 10th before Alexi Casilla finally chopped a grounder through the right side in the 12th to push the Twins to a 6-5 victory. The Metrodome Era lived on.
6) Santana fans 17
Bert Blyleven is the only pitcher to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Twins, but few -- if any -- pitchers in Twins history had as dominant of a peak as Johan Santana during that stretch from 2004-06 when he was one of the premier aces in baseball and won two Cy Young Awards in three years (though he should have arguably won all three). That mastery was at its peak on Aug. 19, 2007, when the Texas Rangers simply had no answer for Santana and his trademark changeup. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced and recorded two or more punchouts in every frame until the sixth. He finished his outing by striking out the side in both the seventh and eighth, finishing the game at a club record 17 -- without issuing a walk.
7) 2006 AL Central watch party
There was just something about these Twins and leaving things until the final day of the regular season, as evidenced by the pair of division championship tiebreakers in 2008 and '09 and, well, this. The Tigers and Twins were tied atop the division entering the final day of the '06 regular season, and first pitch between the Tigers and Royals in Detroit was actually an hour before the Twins and White Sox got underway at the 'Dome.
The Twins dispatched the South Siders in under three hours -- but all of the fans stayed in place, as the Tigers were still locked in an extra-innings battle with Kansas City at Comerica Park. Minnesota fans and players watched together on the stadium video boards as Kenny Rogers coughed up two runs in the 12th and the Tigers went hitless in the bottom of the frame, securing Minnesota's fourth division title in five years and launching a raucous celebration among all who stayed.
8) Hrbek hits World Series grand slam
Kent Hrbek grew up in Bloomington, Minn., just minutes away from the Twins' first home of Metropolitan Stadium. He did briefly get to play at the Old Met before the Twins moved to the 'Dome, where he lived out every young player's childhood dream of knocking a World Series grand slam in front of his hometown fans. It came with the Twins holding a one-run lead in Game 6 of the 1987 Series, facing elimination, and the lefty-on-lefty smash off Ken Dayley to dead center field put the game out of reach before Hrbek circled the bases with roars and fist pumps.
9) Winfield joins 3,000-hit club
While we're on the topic of hometown feats, Hall of Fame right fielder Dave Winfield only came home to Minnesota for two years in his 22-year career, but the St. Paul native made the most of that time by becoming the 19th member of the 3,000-hit club in front of his local fans on Sept. 16, 1993. (He also hit his 500th career double and 450th homer that season.) The historic knock was a chopper through the left side off Hall of Fame A's closer Dennis Eckersley and actually made a big difference in the game, as it drove in the first of two Twins runs in the ninth and eventually led to a 5-4 Twins win in 13 innings.
10) Milton's no-hitter
Not all no-hitters are built equal -- but Eric Milton's was about as dominant as they come. One of only two no-nos pitched by a Minnesota hurler at the Metrodome (Scott Erickson had the other), the gem featured 13 strikeouts and only two walks -- both in the first three innings. Catcher Terry Steinbach promptly erased that second free pass by throwing the runner out on a steal attempt, and Milton completed his outing by setting down the final 18 batters in order. Six of the strikeouts came in the sixth inning or later -- and Milton sealed the deal in front of Minnesota fans by whiffing Jeff DaVanon on his 122nd pitch.