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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Evolution of Vended Beer (cont.)

Part II – Jet Packs (1993-1994)

With the problems of pre-poured beer, something different was needed. There were just too many sweaty beer vendors carrying around cups of tap beer.

Along came the experimental “Jet Packs”. This was a remarkable idea that failed miserably. Instead of filling the cups in the room, a beer vendor would strap a mini-keg onto his back and carry cups around. When a customer ordered a beer, the vendor would whip out the tap hose and pour directly into the cup. Sounds like a great idea on paper… right? What management failed to realize is that vendors are mobile and tend to move around erratically.

Now… anyone who has ever thrown a keg party knows that when you move a half empty keg of beer around, it gets foamy. With the amount of movement a vendor does in 2 innings it was shocking that the mini keg of beer did not explode!!

3 or 4 guys gave this crazy invention a valiant effort before proclaiming it a bigger failure than Hydrogen in a Blimp.

Part III – 16 oz Cans poured into paper cups (1994-2000)

Next came my personal favorite, 16 oz cans of beer. These things were awesome because vendors could not just hand them out to customers… we had to open the cans and pour them into paper cups.

Squashed cans by themselves could be thrown onto the field when a team is playing badly. So management decided that if we poured into cups, drunken idiots probably couldn’t toss them more than 4 rows and no one gets hurt. It worked perfectly.

The best part about the cans was pouring them. These were the days when a good beer vendor kept his money in 1 hand, extra paper cups over the beers and a “Church Key” on a rubber band over his left wrist. The church key was your can opener.

There was a critical element to pouring beer from a can into the cups; in order to keep the beer from foaming over the cup, a vendor needed to open the other side of the can to allow air to flow in as the beer flows out. It seems so simple, but this really makes all the difference in the world.

Then came the best part… The POUR. Many vendors could only pour 1 at a time, but the good ones could pour 2 at once. Not only was it faster, but it was a great show.

Here’s the trade secret:

Take two – 16 oz. beer cans in your left hand and palm them at the bottom. Then take 2 20 oz cups and palm them the same way in your right hand. Line both the cups and the cans up so that you can both from 1 hand to the other.

It actually is very easy, but looks difficult. Take a look at this vendor at Wrigley Field as he demonstrates:

Those were the days… I loved the double pour.
People were in awe of this technique. It became part of the beer vendor show.