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Metropolitan Stadium / Minnesota Twins / 1961-1981

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Metropolitan Stadium / Minnesota Twins / 1961-1981
Page 2: Enter the Senators
Page 3: The Final Days
Page 4: Stats
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Metropolitan Stadium became a major-league ballpark on April 21, 1961, when 24,606 fans showed up for the Twins' home opener. It took some time for Metropolitan Stadium to make the 40,000-seat level promised to Calvin Griffith when he moved the Senators -- 1964, to be exact -- but at the beginning the Met was regarded as one of the nicest ballparks in the major leagues, if only for its newnewss. Still, it was never really beloved by the more casual Twins fans. Part of the reason was the hodge-podge design: it was built in sections and it showed. Some of the sections were three decks, some were two decks, and some were a single deck. It was perhaps the most open-air ballpark ever constructed, as the only sheltered part of the ballpark was the back of the grandstand, covered by the cantilevered deck above them.
Seating: 30,637 (1961), 40,000 (1964), 45,919 (1975)
Original cost: $8.5 million

Metropolitan Stadium was dedicated in September 1955 and opened on April 24, 1956 as the home of the Class AAA Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, but it was never built to be a minor-league stadium. In the mid-1950s, the Twin Cities civic leaders considered themselves ready to enter the "big leagues" and launched a pursuit of major-league football and baseball teams. To further these efforts, the Baseball Committee of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce paid $478,899 for 164 acres of farmland in rural Bloomington, to be used to build a baseball stadium for a major-league ball team.

Minneapolis's pursuit of a team predated this commitment to a stadium, however. This was an era when local sportswriters acted in several different capacities, and one of the leaders to bring baseball to Minnesota was Charles O. Johnson, the executive sports editor of the Minneapolis Tribune (now the Minneapolis Star Tribune). On the behalf of local business leaders, Johnson made inquiries at the baseball commissioner's office in New York in the early 1950s about possible expansion plans. At the same time the Boston Braves of the National League moved to Milwaukee, which opened the possibility that other franchise shifts could be forthcoming.

The first target was Bill Veeck, who had decided that competing with the deep pockets of Anheuser-Busch was too much and wanted to move his St. Louis Browns. Veeck wanted to move the Browns to Baltimore -- which was indeed where they ended up -- and pretty much ignored all requests to meet with Twin Cities officials. However, the play for the Browns caught the attention of other owners. Overtures were made to Horace Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants, and the creditors of the Philadelphia Athletics, who controlled the franchise. The deal with the Athletics fell through when Twin Cities leaders decided to focus on building a stadium and then attracting a team after failing to raise $1.6 million as a down payment on the team. Arnold Johnson ended up buying the Athletics and rebuilding Kansas City's Municipal Stadium for the 1955 season. It was then that the Baseball Committee of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce decided to go ahead with a ballpark construction. However, the ballpark almost did not come to be, as initial efforts to raise $4.5 million in private capital for the ballpark fell short. Only after a concentrated effort by 50 business leaders was the necessary money raised. Still, the committee was living a hand-to-mouth existence: the groundbreaking was initially delayed because the committee had not paid Paul Gerhardt, a farmer who had grown onions, melons and sweet corn on the 50-acre parcel he was selling to the committee, his $122,000. Gerhardt lined up his farm machinery in protest along what would become the first-base line and refused to move until he had a check in hand.

With a new ballpark -- one that Horace Stoneham had personally advocated to Minneapolis leaders, incidentally, saying that he wouldn't consider a move to Minnesota until a new stadium was constructed -- the New York Giants then negotiated a move to Minneapolis. The Giants knew the area well (it owned the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, who would be the initial tenant of the Met) but at the last minute Horace Stoneham spurned both the Twin Cities and the borough of Manhattan -- which had proposed a new 110,000-seat stadium over the New York Central railroad tracks, on a 470,000-foot site stretching from 60th to 72nd streets on Manhattan's West Side -- and accompanied the Dodgers to the West Coast, setting up shop as the San Francisco Giants.

Next on the suitor list was the Cleveland Indians. Nate Dolan, the majority owner of the Indians, wanted to move the team, but the team's long-term lease for Municipal Stadium made a move unfeasible.