10/08/2002 9:51 pm ET
Much ado about the Metrodome
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Lights! Camera! Earplugs! Welcome to Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at the Metrodome, the loudest, freakiest baseball show on earth.
Before Minnesota's first home game in the AL Division Series against Oakland, most of the media here focused on the din of the dome, and the nearly 56,000 fans who packed the place proved the pundits prophetic.
Both teams were awed by the atmosphere, and the A's got a taste of what the noise can do to on-field communication when a routine popup early in Game 3 caused two infielders to collide.
Standing amid a throng of reporters during Minnesota's batting practice Tuesday, Twins infielder Denny Hocking smiled at the memory.
"You saw what happened," he said. "That was caused by the noise. Nothing but noise."
Asked what that noise compares with, he smiled again. Then he laughed.
"I don't know ... an airport? The flight deck of a battleship?"
That might be a bit of an overstatement, but the point was made. And heard. It was two hours before the first pitch, and less than 1/4 of the fans expected were in their seats. But you got a little taste of what was to come when the Twins ran off the field to make way for Anaheim's BP.
"Listen to that," said ESPN broadcaster Jon Miller, who bounced around the turf behind the batting cage, alternately conducting and submitting to interviews. "There are maybe 10,000 people here, and it already sounds like 40,000."
Not far from Miller stood Steve "Psycho" Lyons, a former big-leaguer now working as an analyst for FOX. This was to be his first game as a broadcaster in the Metrodome, but he's got a few memories of his experiences here as a player, and they have little to do with noise.
"You've gotta remember, we're talking White Sox-Twins in the late 1980s." he said. "It wasn't exactly 'Thunderdome' back then."
But Lyons knew what to expect for Game 1, and he was excited about it.
"I saw the 1987 and '91 World Series games here on television, and that kind of noise is just incredible," he said. "I don't think there's any question that this is the loudest baseball stadium."
Nobody questions that. Oakland outfielder David Justice said last week that Yankee Stadium is a close second, but the Angels played two games in the Bronx last week, and Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said there's no comparison.
"Yankee Stadium is loud," he said. "But this is something beyond loud. You'd have to come up with a new word, I think. ... Even when there are 25,000, you can't hear. Now, there are going to be 56,000."
And most of them will be waving their white Homer Hankies at every opportunity. Miller marveled at Minnesota's ability to feed off the frenzy created by the fans.
"I was talking to Tony La Russa, who used to come in here with the A's, and he made what I thought was an excellent point about this place," Miller mused. "He said, 'When those Twins get turned on, you couldn't get them turned off.' And I think the same goes for this team here."
Bu the noise isn't the only advantage the Twins have here. Miller, Lyons and Hocking all made mention of the rock-hard turf and the grayish Teflon roof. Both can make life miserable for opponents.
"The roof's dirty, and the turf's old," Miller said. "It's not your ideal baseball experience, that's for sure. But you know what? People complain about pop flies going out at Fenway, and they complain about playing in the wind at Wrigley Field. Part of the fun of this game is that it's different, based on different venues."
"It takes away your aggressiveness as an outfielder," Lyons explained. "Going in on a line drive, you have to worry about the bounce. A ball high in that roof, not only can you not take your eyes off it, but you don't know if another outfielder -- or infielder -- is closing in on you, not able to hear you call for it.
"You've just got so much to think about. It's crazy."
Hocking has heard it all a million times, and he doesn't dispute that the Twins have an advantage here. But he insists the advantage is minimal.
"Everybody makes a huge deal out of it, like it's not fair," he said. "But a lot of it, to me, is just mental."
So, in other words, the dome can get in your dome?
"Exactly," Lyons said.
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.