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Looking Back on Game 163


Twins Daily Contributor

The best baseball game I have ever attended was Twins vs. Tigers in the Hubert H. Humphery Metrodome in 2009. Game 163. 

Image courtesy of © Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers led the American League from May 16th to October 6th, when the game was moved from its original date of October 5th because Brett Favre and the boys had a ball game. 

On September 6th, the Tigers held what seemed to be an insurmountable lead of seven games. They went 16-12 in September but floundered in the early October games, winning one of four. The Minnesota Twins won all four games, beating Cy Young award winner Zach Greinke in the process, thus leading to a tie after the final day to force a "163" for the division crown.

 

The rosters for both teams are a treat to look back on. The Tiger's notables in the pitching department were Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Edwin Jackson, Armando Galarraga, Dontrelle Willis, Fernando Rodney Joel Zumaya, and Fu-Te Ni. A formidable staff even before they added Max Scherzer

The bats brought some noise, led by Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, and Marcus Thames. A balanced lineup with decent reserves to make up a very formidable opponent.

 

 

The Twin's roster was steeped in talent as well. It was a potent offense with some sluggers and the famed piranhas. The staff was middling with a rotation of Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, and Carl Pavano. None had an awe-inspiring season. The bullpen was the strength of the staff in the 2009 season, led by Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Jesse Crain, and Bobby Keppel

The lineup was where this team made its hay—led by Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Jason Kubel, Alexi Casilla, and Orlando Cabrera. One of the more talented lineups the Twins have ever assembled, but it didn't have the starting pitching to match. We parked the Porche in the driveaway with the lack of starting pitching.

 

So on October 6th, 2009, these two very talented ball clubs would clash in a wild (mid)west showdown in the giant inflatable toilet, and I got to sit with my butt touching the back of the dome in the third deck. I was as far away from the field as humanly possible, and it was the best fan experience of my life.

We enter the dome to the familiar scent of peanuts, dome dogs that you can almost taste while you walk the concourse, and spillage from the trough. It's an aroma that I can smell to the day, and if I could get it made into a candle, I would. 

We meander to our seats, doing the awkward dance of not wanting to divert our path to a stranger then it ends up being a classic midwest exchange of "ope, scuse me." After taking in the smells and midwestern hospitality, we got to our seats to see the dome's bright lights and the place humming. The fans, the music, and the players getting ready for a win or go-home ball game, the excitement was palpable.

The game started slow, contrary to the energy draped all over the Metrodome. The first two innings were scoreless until the forever underrated Magglio Ordonez ripped a single to center field. Then one of the most memorable sports moments of my life took place. Twins fans capitalized on the energy in the building and the controversy that surrounded Miguel Cabrera that season. 

The crowd slowly started chanting. I couldn't understand what was being said at first, but then the crowd noise began to swell, and the entire state of Minnesota was chanting "Alcoholic." The crowd grew louder and more confident until the future first-ballot hall of famer blasted 430 foot no-doubter off the chairs in right-center field. The dome was deflated, and the score showed 3-0 in favor of Detroit.

The Twins did what all great ballclubs do in the bottom of that inning. They didn't get all three back, but they responded. Matt Tolbert and Span hit back-to-back singles. Tolbert advanced on a fly ball out, and then on an errant pick-off attempt to first base, Tolbert scored. In true piranha fashion, the Twins responded and kept the crowd alive.

The game stayed at three to one in Detroit's favor until the left-handed bat of Kubel deposited a homer of the future Cy Young Award winner Porcello to end his evening. The Twins then loaded the bases but failed to cash in again in the bottom of the sixth.

Baker walked the leadoff hitter in the 7th and was relieved by big Jon Rauch , who ended the threat. The little guys struck again in the bottom of the seventh. Fan favorite Nick Punto singled to start the inning, then The OC- Orlando Cabrera, dug in. One false pick-off move, then a hanging breaking ball... 

From my vantage point, it looked like he popped up to shortstop. The crack of the bat was almost on delay. The crowd noise was like a tidal wave that built up and crashed into our row in the back. The left fielder was moving back, and the ball kept floating and found the seats in the first couple rows in left field. 

Pandamonium. Cabrera immortalized himself in the hearts of Twins fans with one swing and sent Minneapolis into a frenzy. Homer hankies enveloped the sea of fans.

It felt like the game was in hand, and our bullpen was our strength. Nathan and Guerrier were waiting in the wings. Each with a sub-three ERA. 

Guerrier, with the double braided Phiten necklace, the mark of a good baseball player back then, was not sharp. Ordonez pumped a homer to left field to tie the game, and then Guerrier followed it up with two walks. 

Ron Gardenhire had to pull his best setup man and go to the closer. The game was hanging on by a thread, with our last big-time arm taking the hill, but we had our stud on the mound. Nathan fell behind 2-0 to Brandon Inge and induced an infield fly on a borderline pitch. Nathan and all his twitchiness got the backward K with his big curveball and recaptured the momentum.

The closers ruled the ninth inning. Rodney and Nathan both hung zeros, and we headed to extras. Crain entered the game and promptly hit Aubrey Huff with a pitch, and the pinch runner scored on a Inge double. Former Twin Clete Thomas was the defensive replacement for Ordonez in the outfield for the Tiger's attempt to close the ball game.

Cuddyer led off with a looper to right field. Ryan Raburn made a sliding attempt at the dying quail that made it to the fence in right field. Delmon Young couldn't cash in with the ground out. Brendan Harris then was able to work a walk, but the double play was in order. The Twins were one grounder away on the Metrodome's turf to getting a jump-start on the off-season. 

Tolbert tapped one back up the middle, but on this day, the turf giveth. Tie game. Redemption was spelled Raburn however. Punto lined a ball to left that was caught, and Raburn hosed the pinch runner Casilla at the plate. More baseball.

The 11th went quietly, but the dome was ready to burst. Thus began the inning that may have given me gray hair as a 13-year-old. Bobby Keppel was on to pitch and intentionally walked Raburn to load the bases. 

Keppel threw his first pitch to Inge, and he at least thought the pitch hit him. To this day, I still couldn't tell you if that was the case. After the game, Jim Leyland said that the replay confirmed the pitch hit Inge. What matters is that the home plate umpire kept Inge at home that day. 

The conclusion of all the hoopla was Inge hitting a tweener ground ball similar to Tolbert's, but Casilla made an excellent play and got the force out at home, two outs, bases still loaded. Keppel then struck out Gerald Laird to close the inning, immortalizing another player in Twins' history.

The bottom of the 12th felt inevitable. If Keppel can show that heavy of a sack, we can snag one run with the bottom of the order. Go Go Gomez led off with a single and made it to second on a ground out. Leyland put Young on to get the double play back in order, with Young's run not meaning anything. 

That brought Casilla to the dish, along with his .202 batting average with zero home runs. The slap hitter got his barrel out front and shot one through the right side. We all knew who was on second base. All I could think was "don't fall." Mauer got gobbled up by the turf monster earlier in the game on a fringe double. 

Gomez flew around third, and the team met him in a pile of dust after the celebratory slide. The top of the Metrodome flipped its top. We were hugging people we didn't know, and the blur of homer hankies took over the stadium.

It may not have been perfect, but it was our moment. The season wasn't galvanized by a World Series or even a post-season win. It was just a beautiful baseball game. The game had everything a lover of the game could dream of; much like a heavyweight title fight, the teams traded punches until finally, in the 12th round, someone hit the canvas. It's a game I will look back on and remember the beauty of a crap stadium and group that wouldn't be denied on October 6th, 2009.

And to cap off the night of baseball, we got blasted by that famous gust of Hubert Humphrey Metrodome air, trailed by the scent of dome dogs you could taste, peanuts, and urine. On that night, it was perfect.


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I have to agree - greatest game I've ever been to. Managed to score seats 10 rows of left field fence after lots of calls to the office.

The corporate loathing in the fans when the 'south Detroit' line of 'Don't Stop Believin' was played is seared in my brain. So wonderful.

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I drove downtown and parked, a little later than I had wanted. The day was cold and really ******. It was misty/raining/ sleeting and around 32 degrees F if I remember,  and the scalpers who had any tickets left were unhappy because they were so cold. . One guy wanted $100, another $50, and after haggling for 20 minutes between several people a guy walked up looking miserable and sold me two tickets for $20 each. We had to watch the anthem before walking down to our seats just in time for the start of the game. The seats were in Row 3 just above the Tigers dugout. It was a phenomenal game. The atmosphere was electric and yes the ball did graze Inge's jersey. What a game.

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I won tickets in the company box suite - the only time I submitted my name to win tickets (why do I not do that more?). 

Usually when you are those suites most people not paying attention to the game.  All the windows were open and am surprised no one fell out everyone was so glued to the game.  By far the best game I have ever seen in person.

Who could not have predicted that Casila would have the hit to send the team into the play-offs.

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That was one of the top 3 games ever at the Dome. Sadly one thing still sticks in my mind though, and it is a memory that makes me ashamed and embarrassed to have been there. The stadium wide chants of "Al-CO-HO-LIC!!!!"  When Miguel Cabrera came to the plate.  Crazy, awesome, tense, fun, suspense filled game that today I still can't fully enjoy to this day.  OF course at the time I was young and stupid and thought how cool it was, but again looking back embarrassed.

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On 1/28/2023 at 11:22 AM, Alex Boxwell said:

I got to sit with my butt touching the back of the dome in the third deck. I was as far away from the field as humanly possible, and it was the best fan experience of my life.

 

I was at the game and sat in the top row of the second deck, about even with home plate on the first base side. I'm not quite sure where you were seated because there were only two decks at the Metrodome.

And while it certainly was an exciting game, I could hardly bear to watch. It was excruciating.

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48 minutes ago, Doc Munson said:

That was one of the top 3 games ever at the Dome. Sadly one thing still sticks in my mind though, and it is a memory that makes me ashamed and embarrassed to have been there. The stadium wide chants of "Al-CO-HO-LIC!!!!"  When Miguel Cabrera came to the plate.  Crazy, awesome, tense, fun, suspense filled game that today I still can't fully enjoy to this day.  OF course at the time I was young and stupid and thought how cool it was, but again looking back embarrassed.

From what I remember the chant was "Point Two Six", referring to the result of the test done on his blood. It certainly wasn't the entire stadium but it was definitely audible. And I agree, that was cringeworthy.

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The greatest game I've ever been to.  I was at game 162 against KC before it because I was wanted to make sure I was at the last Twins game in the metrodome.  I waited in line as the box office outside the dome for an hour or so when they released tickets for 163.  I ended up in CF, lower deck (up above the first section of folded up seats). 

Such a wild game.  So many ups and downs and momentum shifts. That atmosphere was just electric.  

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