I’ve been writing a lot (a LOT) of grave stories for ballplayers buried in Minneapolis. This is all from a trip I made last year, where I found nearly 30 graves in two cemeteries. On top of that, I stopped in to pay a quick visit to the sites of two of Minneapolis’ most renowned stadiums. If you find yourself in Minneapolis and are looking to check out a couple of historic baseball locations, here’s how to do it.
Mall of America
This one is easy, because if you’re in town as a tourist, odds are pretty good that you’re going to visit the Mall of America anyway. Unless you have kids, though, you might not venture down to the bottom floor, where there is a Nikelodeon-themed amusement park. Here are a couple of reasons to check it out.
Metropolitan Stadium was home to the Minnesota Twins before they moved to the Metrodome in 1982. They played there from 1961-1981, as did the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The original occupants, though, were the minor-league Minneapolis Millers, who called it home before the Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities and became the Twins. The Met, though it started out as a minor-league stadium, was gradually expanded to hold more than 42,000 fans for baseball games. Along with hosting the World Series in 1965 (the Twins lost to the Dodgers), the stadium also hosted soccer games, wrestling matches and a concert by the Beatles.
The Met was abandoned when the Metrodome opened and sat empty and vandalized until it was torn down in 1985. That land eventually became the Mall of America, which opened in 1992. There are two markers to commemorate the space’s baseball history. The spot where home plate was located is in the amusement park, not far from Spongebob Squarepants’ giant pineapple house. The pitchers mound is currently underneath the Rugrats Reptarmobile ride.
Over by the log flume ride, you will see a wooden chair bolted to the wall. That’s the one that Harmon Killebrew busted with a massive 520-foot home run on June 3, 1967, six rows into the second deck. The Twins fixed the seat, painted it red (the seats were typically green) and never sold another ticket for it again. The chair is hung right where the ball landed.
Wells Fargo Bank, 3030 Nicollet Ave.
This is the location of Nicollet Baseball Park, where the minor-league Minneapolis Millers played from 1896 through 1955 before moving to Metropolitan Stadium. It’s now a Wells Fargo bank branch, as well as a Minnesota Transit Authority building, condos and a Family Medical Center clinic. The sign located by the bank is where center field used to be.
Minneapolis fielded baseball teams called the Millers as far back as the 1890s. The Millers team that played at Nicollet Park was part of the American Association. They won nine AA pennants in their time, and many of their alumni became stars in the majors. Nicollet Park, originally named Wright Field after Harry Wright, was torn down shortly after the Millers left for the new stadium.
Ted Williams and Willie Mays are just a couple of the stars who played on these grounds. Negro Leagues legend Ray Dandridge played here with the Millers because, post integration, he was considered too old for the major leagues. He hit over .360 in his first season as a Miller, when he was 35, if you’re curious about what the major leagues missed.
The Millers and their crosstown rivals St. Paul Saints met their fate when the Minnesota Twins came to town in 1961. Since MLB doesn’t want major-league and minor-league teams in the same city, both the Saints and Millers were folded.