Thursday, October 8, 2009

Twins Final Game Photos Part I (Vendors)

The following photos are from the final Sunday Twins game at Metrodome. This batch is of many of the vendors.

It's really funny, but I saw lots of vendors with cameras on final game. We all seemed to want to capture this period of our lives with a last minute photos. Why I/we didn't do this years ago, I don't know.

There are so many great people we come in contact with every day. It would have been great to take pictures of friends, fans, and players for the past 20 years and look back and wonder where everyone was today.

Final Twins Game at Metrodome. I decided to wear a "throwback" jersey. These were the shirts worn from 1998-2004.

Pro: They looked pretty good and had the Bud and Miller logos right on them.
Con: I forgot how hot they were to wear.

Doug Rutz in his 2009 vending uniform prior to the final Twins game in Metrodome.
There was a line about 15 deep to take your picture in front of the countdown sign. I paid off the people in the line with a bag of sunflower seeds and a bag of peanuts.

They probably would have let us go anyway... after all, we had to work.

This is the "Class of 1982". These are the vendors that have worked since the opening season of Metrodome.
Front Row L to R: Nancy, Joe, Trixter, Dave
Back Row L to R: Wally, Jerry, Lyle, Tom, Brian, Jake, Jon, Becker, Steve
Quite an accomplishment.

Tom Newell was a member of the "Class of 1982". Somehow he had saved his uniform from that very first year and wore it to the final Twins game at Metrodome.
He also had his very first price button from that very first year. In 1982, the price of beer was $1.90.
(There was quite a lengthy discussion prior to working whether beer was actually $1.90 or $1.50 in that first summer. I think either way, it is amazing considering the price of a beer next summer at Target Field will likely be $7.50... and people will pay for it.)

There are more photos to come. I will share more as I get time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Final Metrodome Game (part II)

Metrodome baseball just will not end.

Games like tonight are the kinds of games that I wish I would/could have written about years ago. There were no blogs back then… Hell, there was barely an Internet back then.

Tonight’s game reminded me so much of 1991. Even the Homer Hankies were out again.

Not that this team is going to win the 2009 World Series or anything beyond this game, but the crowd “in the building” had many of the same emotions. This was “Do or Die” baseball at it’s finest.

The crowd was AWESOME.

There are too many games at the Dome that when the home team gets down early, the crowd goes into a shell. Not only do the fans not care about the outcome, but they feel obligated to “sit on their wallets” because they are unhappy with the product on the field.

NOT TONIGHT!!!! Not with everything on the line.

The Twins were down 3-0 early, but this Metrodome crowd was going to do whatever it took to help the Twins win the 2009 AL Central Title.

I worked the left field corner tonight. These are interesting fans in the corner for a busy game. They are the fans that get in line early for special tickets (i.e. Yankees, Red Sox, playoffs, etc…), but I get the feeling that they don’t attend too many games during the regular season. They just like to go to the best ones.

Not that they are bandwagon fans, because I am sure they hang on every pitch at home on their TV. The fans I sold to tonight were great fans. They just want to go to games that really mean something, and not just a whole bunch of normal games.

The best thing about fans like this is that they are into EVERY pitch. They know when to cheer… They know when to be quiet… and best of all; they know that this type of game is no place for The Wave.

Sidenote: (I have always HATED The Wave. For years, I have called The Wave, the first sign of a completely uninterested crowd. The wave is made for a crowd that has no clue what is taking place on the field. They are only interested in making a spectacle of themselves. Any time the wave starts, a regular fan knows that either there are thousands of kids in the building, or too many people do not know what the score is.)

So when the Twins got down early tonight, the fans didn’t sit back down in their blue flappy chairs or forget where their wallet was, they kept tipping back the Buds knowing that all 54,008 “in the building” could have an impact on the game.

…And they did.

You could still sense it in the 12th. The fans were as tired as the team (or as a beer vendor after 25 miles of stairs in 5 nights). We had been taken on an emotional roller coaster ride and desperately wanted to survive to play another night. All that yelling and screaming (and drinking) could not be wasted on a loss. So nobody left, and everyone kept cheering even though many had very little left in the tank.

It wasn’t wasted. It was a great finish. Lots of beer vendors stayed until the end. I stayed even though I knew that my parking meter had expired 30 minutes ago. It really didn’t matter.

Everyone wanted to see what could be the final pitch for the Minnesota Twins. Fortunately it wasn’t tonight.

The baseball field at the HHH Metrodome just isn’t ready for retirement… yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Final Game???

Tomorrow is it; The final Twins game at the Dome. …or is it???

The curtain with former players on it in right field has been removed. The Vikings have already renamed the Metrodome “Mall of America Field” starting on October 5th. What happens if there is baseball in the Dome on Tuesday… or later? Do the Twins now play at MOA field at HHH Metrodome?

Will Sunday be the final game, or do the Twins play on Tuesday. Or do we just host the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS next Sunday?

This is the life of a beer vendor in the playoffs. Game times change on short notice. If you want to work, you have to stay on top of the baseball schedule.

Lots of time in a pennant race or in the playoffs, we aren’t even told what time to report to work. All management can tell us… “Umm, check the paper and show up 45 minutes before game time.” Network TV and MLB decide when each game will be played.

But that’s alright… we’ll rearrange our regular schedules to sell beer. Don’t worry; we will be there just like the fans!

We are beer vendors. If there are beers to sell and a game to sell them at, fans can count on us.

After all, we want to make sure everyone has a good time… oh yeah, and there’s money to be made.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Last Call!

Tomorrow starts the final homestand of the Twins at the Metrodome. 3 more games left selling beer to some of the best fans in baseball.

It is really hard to believe this is it… Seems like just yesterday the countdown was 162… now it is 3.

The Metrodome is hated by many people around baseball. Local media, national media, Mike Ditka, Ozzie Guillen, rookie outfielders… hell, there are many days that I hate the place.

Through all the criticism, the Dome has been my second home for over 20 years. There are many great memories that I have shared. …But left out of all of that are the great friends, players, fans and colleagues that I spent over 1200 games with since 1989.

Where does one begin… where do I finish… who gets left out? Forgive me if I forgot anything. It was 20+ years and I never wrote anything down until 2 months ago. Please tag your own favorite Dome memory.

These are my final Random Memories… It is THE collection of the things I remember most after 20 years. Not so much“thank you’s”, but things that I feel I must mention before it ends. Most of these will mean nothing to everyone reading this. This is my “Closure”.

I will never have another opportunity like the last 20 years… whatever opportunity it was.

Kirby Puckett always looked up and said “Hey Man, how ya doin’”
Rick Aguilara after a “Save Wave” in ’91 or ’92 – “Hey guys, thanks.”
Cal Ripken Jr. signed a baseball for me on the second try.
Dick Bremer bought/took a beer when he and Bert broadcast the game from left field.
Tony Oliva sang Happy Birthday to my Mom in 2008
Jodi Mientkiewic & Dark Star drank Bud Light
Tom and his wife are Nick Punto fans in section 117
Sue will drink whatever light beer I am selling in section 116
Jennifer needs a lemon in section 133
Jeff Lenihan made “don’t settle for that sugary stuff” famous in the press box when I sold Diet Coke
The woman in section 130 always bought a Diet Coke from me in the early ’90’s
3000th hits by Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, and Eddie Murray… all games I worked.
500th HR’s by Frank Thomas (Sydney was at that game with YMCA too)
Leading the Metrodome for 7th Inning Stretch in 1990.
The Bud group on occasion in section 232
The customer that asked, “How much for the entire case?”… Then he bought it. $138 please.
Section 129, Row 4: 4 Michelob Golden Lights
Susie, Grace, Bobbi, Wilbur, Mike, Jim, Linda, Rod, Steve – my earliest friends at the Dome
Early Coke vendors: Gerald, James, Jack, Dave, Roger, Paul
The other Dan Smith
Wooden Nickels & Straws
The Bud Fresh Day and the LUCKY draw
Almost getting arrested in section 212 after Game 7 ended.
Dave at the guard desk
The 95-degree game in 2004. Someone forgot to turn on the air.
Andy, Mike, Tony, Tim, TK, Big Ed, Wegs, Z, Tom, Tim, Mike, Scott, Igor, Tom, Jake, Dave, Doug, Papa Chad, Justin, Al, Lyle, Troy, Trixter, Wally, Jerry, Ross, Ron, Craig, Gary, Jon, Dan, Beck, Lisa
Dan Schaal’s stories
Bosses: Jay, Mike, Molly, Mark, Roy, Paul, Ken
Leah born during All Star Break 2005
Big John, Amy
Dog Pound
Forklift races
“You do the Math!”
1st game after 9/11/01
Dome vendor picnics
Baldwin Parking lot
Brut, by Faberge
The Porch
Gate C picnic area

Vendors that will be missed on Sunday
Tim Wallman, Tom Plantenburg, Ray “Your Vendor”

There are so many stories, and so much more to the list above… If you want to hear the story, buy me a beer at Maxwell’s, and just ask. I will always enjoy sharing Metrodome beer vendor memories.

Hope to see everyone this weekend. If you are going to be “in the building”, let me know. Who knows where I will be working or what I might be selling, but I will try to find everyone I can.

I am anxious to find out who buys my final beer in the Metrodome for Twins games.
LAST CALL for alcohol at the Metrodome.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


27 Players in MLB history have hit 3000 or more hits. 25 players in history have 500 or more home runs. Out of those 52 milestones, 4 of them happened at the HHH Metrodome while I was working.

What are the odds?

Somehow the Dome has been home to 4 of the greatest offensive milestones in MLB history.

3 players have collected their 3000th hit in the Metrodome…

Dave Winfield
Eddie Murray
Cal Ripken, Jr

1 player hit his 500th HR in the Metrodome.

Frank Thomas

I wish I could say that these games were sellouts and that everyone realized what was about to happen that night. It would be nice to share the story that 50,000 fans came out to see future Hall of Famers reach baseball immortality… It just wasn’t that way.

It is too bad, because each one of these players deserved better. They deserved a home crowd cheering them on, hanging on every pitch

Even Winfield, who was a member of the Minnesota Twins, did not have a huge crowd that night. If I remember correctly, he needed 3 hits that night to reach 3000, and no one thought it would happen. Most players struggle in their at bats approaching major milestones.…

…but not Winfield.

He went 2 for 3 and then got his 3rd hit off Dennis Eckersley in the 9th. I hung around after he got his first 2 hits, but deep down hoped he wouldn’t get it until the next night.

If he struck out tonight, that would mean a huge crowd the next day.

I wasn’t rooting against him… but rooting for him… TOMORROW.

Didn’t happen that way. Oh, well. I was “in the building”.

Murray and Ripken got their 3000th during the tough years at the Dome (1995 & 2000). “Exercise Games”. Small crowds, even with the potential to see a milestone. There were probably fewer than 15,000 those nights.


In Baltimore, each probably would have played in front of sellout crowds.

Frank Thomas hit his 500th HR during a day game in 2007. It was a fun game for me because Sydney was there with her YMCA group. She got a kick out of telling all of her friends that I sold beer at the Twins games. I stopped up and said “HI”, but it probably didn’t have the impact that a visit from Wally “The Beerman” would have had.

I tried to explain to her group that they should hold onto their tickets, because Frank Thomas was only the 25th player in MLB history to reach 500 homeruns. You can imagine what that meant to a bunch of rowdy 3rd graders.

The opportunity to see a 3000th hit or a 500th homerun doesn’t happen everyday, nor are you guaranteed to see it if you attend a game.

I was lucky… I had to be there… I had to work

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Pennant Race

There is nothing better than a pennant race for beer vendors. A pennant race means many more butts in the seats and more excitement. This leads to more beers sold, and… happier fans.

Fortunately the Twins are in the chase again this year.

There were 43,338 fans in the Dome on Saturday with only 4 home games remaining. The walk-up tickets sold were over 7,000. This was the 2nd largest crowd of the year (after Opening Night way back in April).

Compare this to Toronto @ Tampa Bay, where there were only about 22,000 tickets sold and there were probably about 10,000 no shows. (Many baseball fans remember last year when the Rays were leading the AL East and were selling out every game at “The Trop” in September.)

Since 2001, most baseball games in September at the Dome have meant something.

The 1990’s were not like this. There were many games in the late 90’s were announced crowds were under 10,000 and the actual number of people in the building was maybe 6,000.

These games are BRUTAL!

To be honest, I skipped a lot of them. These games tend to just drag on and those in attendance don’t feel like spending any money on a losing team. $6.75 for a 16 oz. beer sounds a whole lot worse when the team on the field is 22 games out and behind by 5 runs in the 4th inning.

I like to call these games “exercise games”. The only good thing about working them is that you don’t have to go to the gym that day.

Beer vendors spend “exercise games” walking twice as many steps and selling half as many beers. To quote a vendor hired in 1982, “You do the math!” That results in more work and less pay.

Now, every good beer vendor likes to work hard, but we like the end result to be making MORE money.
Back to Saturday’s game…
The Dome roof played a part in the end result. In the eighth inning, Tiger left fielder, Don Kelly (no relation to former Twins Skipper, Tom Kelly) lost a routine fly ball in the roof and it allowed the tying and winning run to score.
Sure, it would have been a great day for outdoor baseball - 83 degrees and sunny… but the Twins might have lost that game and that would have lead to smaller crowds (and fewer beers sold) the next day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


There are certain days of vending, I will never forget…

Some have to do with the action on the field:

Games 6 and 7 of the 1991 World Series
Game 1 of the 2002 Divisional Playoffs vs. Oakland.

Then there are unforgettable games that have nothing to do with anything to do with baseball:

The night Tom died
The first game played after 9/11

August 1, 2007 was a night I will never forget… and it had nothing to do with anything that happened in the game.

I usually park in a commercial parking lot close to the Dome that does not charge and does not tow. (These are the secrets you learn after 20 years on the job.) On this night the lot was full so I proceeded to my backup parking spot on the other side of 35W.

It required a bit of a drive because of the proximity to 35W and I-94, but it was not much further to walk to the Dome. Besides, it was free to park there.

I took Washington Ave. and crossed over 35W going east at about 6PM to get to my parking spot. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary just yet… But, nothing had happened.

I arrived at my parking spot around 6:05 and proceeded to take the footbridge back over 35W to get to the Dome. It was a walk that on every other day was extremely noisy due to the traffic underneath. I had walked this bridge hundreds of times with Ed (another beer vendor who parked in the same area), and it was impossible to carry on a conversation until arriving at the other side. We would usually just walk without talking for a while and then continue the conversation on the other side of the bridge. Today, I was late and walked the bridge by myself.

On this day, there was no noise underneath, and was almost surreal as I could actually hear my footsteps. That was something I had never heard before on this walk.

Looking down to the freeway below, it was obvious something was wrong. There were absolutely no cars going Southbound on 35W and traffic was completely stopped going Northbound.

I remembered thinking there must have been a serious accident on the bridge over the Mississippi River that shut down all traffic. Until I arrived at the Dome about 6:15, I had no idea of the magnitude of what had happened.

Arriving at the Dome, I noticed all the vendors around the guard desk watching the TV. I looked in to discover the reason for all of the strange things that I noticed on my trip in to the Dome.

The 35W Bridge over the Mississippi River had collapsed at 6:05 PM.

There were not many details or any video at this point, and no one really knew what was going on. The bridge went down an hour before game-time, and we weren’t even sure if people could make it to the game or if the game would be played.

The Twins decided to play the game, and we went to work. It was interesting that the conversation in the stands had very little to do with the game on this evening. It had to do with talking to fans and passing along to others what we heard about the collapse. Everyone wanted to know from everyone else what had happened.

I’m sure many people at home sat by their TV sets that evening and watched as the news and video rolled in about the collapse and the victims and survivors. We were shielded from that news in the Dome. No one had any connection to what was happening only a mile away.

Vendors were not exempt from this tragedy. Word spread of a couple of our colleagues who passed over that bridge to get to the Dome every night and had not made it to the game. We all were talking on each trip back to the room asking about the vendors that were not in the building that night, hoping they were not on the bridge.

Finally word came in that each was safe and caught in traffic behind the collapse.

Looking back on the game that night, I remember all the conversations with fans about the collapse and the emotion of thinking about all the empty seats. We all were left wondering if the reason for the empty seats was because someone did not make it over the bridge alive.