Reporting David McCoy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is Tuesday night in New York and next year, it’ll be at Target Field.
The first Twins ballpark to host an all-star game was Metropolitan Stadium, back in 1965. The old Met is now long gone, but many pieces of it remain.
However, one of the largest and most notable pieces — a foul pole — is mysteriously missing. Our story begins at the end. Metropolitan Stadium was demolished in 1985. A rusty parking lot sign is the last remaining artifact still on site where the Met used to be.
The Mall of America now stands on the site of the old Met, with a plaque marking the exact location of home plate. The actual home plate is in the Metropolitan Club at Target Field, along with many other artifacts.
The original flag pole from Met Stadium is also at Target Field, out on the plaza. And there are other pieces of the Met at town ball parks all over the state, like 500 seats at Schlepper Stadium in Shakopee, and the foul poles at Haddox Field in Bloomington, which, if you ask Twins historian Clyde Doepner, were one of Metropolitan Stadium’s defining features.
“I was impressed with how high the foul poles were,” Doepner said. “They were known for their size. And the height. Even when they put the second deck up, the foul pole went literally to the top of the second deck.”
They were also a unique triangle shape. But here’s the thing about the foul poles at Haddox Field — They’re actually only one of them from Metropolitan Stadium cut in half.
Which begs the question: Where’s the other one?
“Oh, do I ever wonder what happened to the other one,” Doepner said. “Because this is the one thing we don’t know about. I know about the railings. I know about the seats. I know about the gate by the Twins dugout. I know so many pieces of the scoreboard, and the outfield home run distance, and beer signs, and all of these things that we’ve been able to come up with over the years.
“It’s just kind of like it disappeared.”
So we set out to try and find it, starting by sort of re-tracing their steps, so to speak. And to do that, we had to go back in time, back to the beginning.
The Twins called the Met home from 1961 to 1981. After they left for the Metrodome, nearly four years went by before it was demolished. During that time it sat vacant, abandoned in a state of disrepair and disarray. But we noticed something about the old photographs — the foul poles were already gone. Thankfully, Doepner knew the answer to that one.
“When they tore down the stadium,” he said, “the foul poles ended up at Normandale Junior College.”
Rob Fornasiere is now an assistant coach for the Gophers baseball team. But in 1982, he was the head coach at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.
“People thought it was kind of a hair-brained idea,” Fornasiere said. “We were trying to seek out a way to preserve a piece of Met Stadium in Bloomington. And being the baseball coach at Normandale, I immediately thought of the giant foul poles at Met Stadium.
“They took a crane, and a big flatbed truck, and they hauled them over to Normandale and put them in the ground. And we had them for several seasons while I was the coach there. In fact, they were so large, that quite a few people called the college asking what radio station was there in Bloomington.”
The baseball field at Normandale is now a parking lot, and the foul poles are gone. Normandale dissolved its athletic department in 1996, 11 years after Fornasiere left to join the Gophers.
And leaving us to search for new clues.
“I would check with people at the City of Bloomington parks department,” Fornasiere advised.
Bloomington City Planner Londell Pease pulled up the 1989 aerial on his computer screen.
“(You can see) a slight shadow of a very tall structure which is right off the third base line, which I can assume is one pole,” he said. “And off the first baseline we have another structure, and you can just make out the shadow which extends deep into the outfield.”
In 1996, Mark Borgwardt was a supervisor for the City of Bloomington parks department. He saved a manila file labeled “Normandale College foul poles project” at the top.
“I save everything,” he laughed.
“We were in the need for a foul pole, so we went over there and took a look,” he recalled. “One of them was still standing at Normandale Community College, and one of them was laying in the weeds. It had been stored on the ground, so it was pretty rusty. Looked like it had been bent up.”
It was the left field foul pole. How it got bent and damaged, no one seemed to know.
“But the one still standing was in pretty good shape,” he continued. “It was a tall, very impressive pole, because it had been a major league foul pole. We asked the college if we could have it, first of all, and they said yeah, go ahead, take it.”
“So they took the one pole, and it was too tall to use, so they cut it in half, and welded bases on them, and sunk those into the ground, and here we have the foul poles today,” said Mark Rodgers, the current supervisor at Haddox Field for the City of Bloomington. “The other one, last I heard, Normandale had it. It’s rumored to be back in the woods, laying in the woods somewhere. It’s rumored to be in a warehouse somewhere, but we just don’t know where it is at all.”
A guy named Ed O’Brien was a part of that crew, and agreed to meet us at Normandale to see if it was still there.
“This is the area that at one time, I seen it laying,” O’Brien said. “Right in this area. But I do not believe this was black top at that time. It’s been paved over. It’s either pushed back further or it’s gone.”
Our story will be continued next week on Rosen’s Sports Sunday. We head into the weeds and the woods to search. But will we find it? Tune in to find out.