Leaves of Grass
August 29, 2009 3:18 AM
Something about this week has kept good old Walt Whitman in the front of my consciousness.
For the uninitiated, Whitman wrote (and re-wrote) "Leaves of Grass" around the time of the Civil War, and all but invented truly American poetry.
Beyond writing a book whose title perfectly sums up this week's activity down in the rail yard, Whitman was well known as an early baseball fan, and he spoke about it in prose and poetry on various occasions.
In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base", a certain game of ball...Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious. -- Walt Whitman, 1846
It's impossible to sum up what Whitman's poetry has to say about the American character, and equally impossible to know how he would have reacted to a Fourth Estate which has little interest in going beyond the press release, or a TV news culture which has the attention span of a gnat.
After recording as many of the local news shows as I could this evening, I expected to start this article with a few clips from the coverage of today's completion of the grass install. Oh, if only there had been any worthy coverage.
Yep, that's real grass down there, son.
What short stories I did find in the early evening programs dutifully quoted from the press release (again), slapped together some footage of sod rolls and bulldozers, and surrounded it with toothy grins. Of all that I saw, only KARE11's Jensen Twins did anything remotely creative, or gave the story more than a passing mention. By 10:00 PM, the whole thing was all but forgotten. That's a shame.
(As an aside, I would embed the video here but the damn KARE11 web site force-feeds commercials that you can't even mute. I'm protesting.)
The Jensens also got the most interesting quote that I heard from Larry DiVito (who is clearly uncomfortable with all the attention): "To grow grass in this climate is not the challenge it was 30 years ago, and we're pretty comfortable with the heating system we're installing, the type of grass we're installing and that we're gonna be successful up here."
The first statement is pretty remarkable, essentially dismissing (with justification) all of the concerns people might have about climate-related turf issues based on their memories of what outdoor baseball used to be like around these parts. Lord knows there were plenty of issues back at the Met.
The climate hasn't changed, but the average fan may not realize that field technology has changed substantially. It's really nothing short of a miracle, when you think about it.
Coverage was a little better earlier in the week, though all the stations pretty much looked the same. KSTP has some pretty cool pre-grass helicopter shots.
(The interviewer) said: "Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!"
He (Whitman) was hilarious: "That's beautiful: the hurrah game! well — it's our game: that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game: has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life." -- 1889
In words, as usual, MinnPost outdoes everybody else in a terrific behind-the-scenes post by Alison Stoven O'Connor. That's far and away the most interesting and informative article I read this week.
The Strib used much cheaper tactics and tried to rile up some animosity from local sod growers. Pitiful. Of course, they also covered the Guv's inevitable -- and inevitably lame -- response.
And people wonder why that paper is dying. It's not the good people working in the trenches. It's the management and editorial staff who encourage this type of garbage in the hopes that they can stir up a profitable rhubarb. The Twins have good reasons for selecting the vendor they did, and they are right up front about it. In baseball, every tiny advantage counts. And I think you can reasonably say that the right grass is more than a "tiny" advantage.
In fact, MPR gets some good quotes about how the team may manipulate grass length. It's an old story, but there's something there that is worth knowing. It's one of the ways they will be able to revel in the fact that it isn't artificial turf!
"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars." -- Walt Whitman
It's now well past midnight, and the 24-hour news cycle has left the grass story to fade from public consciousness. But I'm just getting started.
Another over-my-head shot
Parking ramp knothole
B ramp glimpse
Another B ramp glimpse (don't loiter here!)
Workers against green
I don't think it's coincidence that it is not possible to see even a single blade of playing field grass from the skyway. (This is not a lament, just an observation.)
Here's the best shot I got, a variation on the one I posted earlier, taken with the camera held over my head, while trying to stay moving lest I be hustled away by parking ramp security ("No Loitering" signs are everywhere):
(Click to enlarge)
Because I couldn't be around for the actual sod laying, here are a couple of galleries worth checking out:
Twins Official Gallery 1
Twins Official Gallery 2
Ballpark Authority Sod Gallery
And don't miss this summary of the timeline for completion.
There's also a lot of grass and other greenery to be seen out on the plaza.
The big glove will go on that circle. Note the gap between the plaza and the ramp. That's 394 you can see through there.
A path for workers -- don't touch the plaza! -- in front of three giant Chia pets
Purple flowers above Second Avenue
Some infrastructure stuff:
Gate 34 Puckett
You can finally see how the plaza will meet the street on the north side of this emergency exit tower (which will be converted to a regular entrance/exit)
I realized I've never shown how the walkway over Seventh Street meets the A ramp
Stairs down to Seventh Street now have the start of railings
The parking bay structure is now clearly visible
Louvres (oddly without any random gaps like the Fifth Street facade):
Notice the temporary railing extensions
And a little bit of sky, just for fun:
There you have it, the sum total of my hour-long walking tour.
On a day when I got some discouraging news about my own artistic aspirations, and was again frustrated in my attempts to help the Twins tell the story of Target Field, let's give Uncle Walt a shot at providing some context:
It is a beautiful truth that all men contain something of the artist in them.
And perhaps it is the case that the greatest artists live and die, the world and themselves alike ignorant what they possess.
Who would not mourn that an ample palace, of surpassingly graceful architecture, fill’d with luxuries, and embellish’d with fine pictures and sculpture, should stand cold and still and vacant, and never be known or enjoy’d by its owner?
Would such a fact as this cause your sadness? Then be sad. For there is a palace, to which the courts of the most sumptuous kings are but a frivolous patch, and, though it is always waiting for them, not one of its owners ever enters there with any genuine sense of its grandeur and glory.
I think of few heroic actions, which cannot be traced to the artistical impulse. He who does great deeds, does them from his innate sensitiveness to moral beauty.
Whitman sure covered a lot of territory. He had a keen sense for beauty, history, art, humanity. These are all things which need be present in architecture (and business, and life) for it to soar and capture the imagination of those with whom it comes in contact.
As such, while grass has certainly humanized this ballpark to a degree, it's only a small milestone. Whitman would be the first to say that a place isn't a place without people.
Can you wait?
Thanks for stopping by today, and for keeping things going in my absence. Next, I'll return to TCF Bank Stadium for a bit. There's lots more to see there, and it's quite relevant to what's going on here. Until then...
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This page was last modified on August 29, 2009.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3046 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
This looks south and shows how the Northstar tracks are sheltered by the promenade above. This is the side which faces the HERC plant.
Bag checking at Ball Park Lanes was incredibly simple, as was the pick up later. The line was short and fast-moving.
The Ron Coomer corner features a bar.
Perched welder on the top of the canopy.
The art panels on the Fifth Street facade as viewed from the top of the Minnekahda building.
Click to enlarge.
Giant screened images! (573 Club, my back to Seventh Ave windows)
The louvres on Fifth have been completely filled in
These openings will facilitate access to the catwalks which run throughout the canopy.
Discovered on the upper concourse!
This little item stands just to the south of the site, where the volleyball courts used to be. It has to be related to exterior finishing elements, which means this is the first glimpse of the actual stone to be used. Very buttery.
This is the last hope for so-called knot-hole views. I'm skeptical.
This is the LRT path looking from the ballpark site (behind me) toward downtown. The line currently ends about two blocks up this street. This bridge over I-394 is also being partially rebuilt as part of the ballpark project.
Gate 3 ticket window
The Hrbek gate is directly below. It's a lively place after a game.
A few details worth noticing (Kauffmann Stadium, New Comiskey, Comerica Park, Source: LP)
Look closely at the overhang. You'll see the on the right it is flush with the fence, and then it sticks out farther and farther as you move toward center. More fun for Michael Cuddyer.
The entrances are all the way around on the other side.
(Click to enlarge)
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
The storage tunnel is barely visible at left behind that guy.
The rules were clearly posted next to this new entry point on the Seventh Street side. I have no problem with the rules!
Ballark Authority members listen to the LEED introduction
Press box, hallway to the print room
A desolate Marquette Ave
Here's the view of the entrance ramp to 394. Looks like they are painting...
Viewed from the A ramp.
This is during halftime.
A distinct misstep, ostensibly to guard against missteps. But methinks I smell a lawyer...
Looking from the middle of the third base side back toward the entry door
Hey! An unnumbered gate!
Left to right: Opat, Oliva, Dave St. Peter, Melvin Tennant (Meet Minneapolis), Jerry Bell, Rybak
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures