|ESPN.com: ESPNMagazine||[Print without images]|
It was the best of games, it was the worst of games.
It was the surprising Twins taking the rubber game from the three-time world champion Yankees, it was moronic Twins fans throwing hot dogs, coins and ice cubes at Yankees left fielder Chuck Knoblauch.
It was Doug Mientkiewicz upping his batting average to .407 and delivering a key two-run single off El Duque, it was Tom Kelly having to go out to left field to plead with the fans to stop.
It was a dozen fans wearing each of the letters of Doug's last name, it was a dozen fans being escorted out by security.
It was Salute to Education Night, it was Down With Civilization Night.
In case you missed it, the Twins nearly had to forfeit their 4-2 win over the Yankees Wednesday night because a lot of yahoos with arms but no brains made a target out of Knoblauch -- who helped them win their last World Series.
Afterward, Kelly commented, "It was a terrific game that unfortunately got ruined in my mind."
Watching Kelly's face, you could sense a mixture of disgust, shock and pain. From a practical standpoint, the fans nearly threw away a win, along with everything else. From a personal standpoint, they cast aside years of patience, wisdom and kindness -- things we've come to associate not only with Kelly, but the populace of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Why? Because Chuck "betrayed" them by getting traded to a team that could better pay him and assure him of more regular postseason work? Because he was the symbol of the big-market, bad-Apple Yankees? Puleeze. As longtime Twin Denny Hocking said, "It's time to turn the page."
Another Twin, Torii Hunter, worried what would happen when the Twins visit Yankee Stadium next week: "It'll be a death trap for us." The guess here is that while the bleacher creatures will let the Twins outfielders have it verbally, they won't stoop so low as to throw things. After last night, though, very little will surprise me.
In the sixth inning, after the fans ignored the pleas of public address announcer Bob Casey, Kelly walked out to left field to beseech them. He walked Knoblauch back out to left, and even though the two didn't always get along, they looked like partners in class: Kelly symbolizing sportsmanship, Knoblauch symbolizing ... what? Courage wouldn't be too strong a word for someone who's not only willing to face hostility, but his own limitations. And then Kelly stood sentinel in the bullpen, making sure the creeps behaved themselves.
But guess what? They had to stop the game again in the eighth when more projectiles were thrown. At that point, the umpires should've forfeited the game, and let the 9-0 score stand as a reminder to jerks everywhere that there are consequences for such acts. (And Kelly probably wouldn't have argued.)
So the best feel-good story in sports now doesn't feel so good. Which after-game picture should we take from last night? Is it Kelly throwing late-night batting practice to some of his hitters? Or is it Metrodome workers having to pick up all the trash thrown by all that trash?
One showed the Twins aren't resting on their laurels. The other caused a lot of people to lose sleep last night.
Steve Wulf is executive editor of ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.