From 1884 to 1960, Minneapolis was the home city to the minor league Minneapolis Millers. In addition to laying the groundwork for Major League Baseball to come to town when the Washington Senators broke from D.C. for the second time, the roster of former Millers is really, really impressive.
All told, there were 17 former Millers who went on to the Baseball Hall of Fame (15 players, 1 manager, 1 coach) after finishing their professional careers.
The full list can be found here, but topping the alumni reunion are Hoyt Wilhelm, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams. Yeah, there are some good players there.
This morning, I got up and headed to where the old ballpark used to stand. I'd hoped that at the least there'd be a small ballfield or maybe a bronze plaque or something. What I found was a KMart.
I'd have taken a picture, but it was too depressing. The field that was home to Williams and Mays (not to mention countless others who passed through as visiting players) is now a parking lot surrounded by the KMart and a few mini-malls. If I wasn't looking for the park, I'd have never even known it existed.
Further south, in Bloomington, is one of the biggest reasons other countries hate us - the Mall of America. It sits on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium which was razed in 1985. All that remains there is a home plate painted onto the sidewalk outside of one of the shops.
Right now, the reigning baseball venue is the Metrodome, which if I were either Minneapolis or St. Paul, I'd keep on the down low. It's really no place to play baseball, and it's three times as depressing when baseball landmarks (Nicollet more than the Met) are plowed under for more retail space.
Given the amount of available land here, I don't think another park with a diamond would have been such a bad move, considering how park-happy these towns are anyways. When the Wrigley Field renovations were under discussion a few years back, someone had floated the idea of moving the Cubs to a new ballpark, closer to Evanston or further west, and keeping Wrigley for use on a rotating basis by high school teams.
At the end of the season, the high school playoffs could be held there and the rest of the facility could be a historical landmark. Personally, I have no problems with Wrigley (save for capacity and the fact that most of the people with tickets on any given day shouldn't be allowed in the ballpark under a strict "no douchebag" policy I'd enact as team owner) but why wouldn't that idea have worked at Nicollet?
If you're a high school ballplayer and you see a schedule that puts you on the same diamond as Mays and Williams, wouldn't you jump at the chance? If you have a group of buddies who play pickup ball, wouldn't you pay $100 or so an hour to have that same field to yourself? Hell, even if it were free, I'd bet that there'd be enough public interest to keep the park filled on the weekends.
It's a crying shame.
(Photos from http://stewthornley.net)