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No feud like an old feud

Caught in the traditional animosity between St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Twins are open to box office trouble

Minneapolis and St. Paul are divided by much more than the Mississippi River which flows between them. St. Paul, on the east bank, is the state capital, an old railroad and lumber town with a predominantly Irish population. Minneapolis, pronounced Minni-hopeless in St. Paul, is Swedish and German. As described by a chamber of commerce man, Minneapolis is younger, larger and more energetic than its rival, with newer buildings and wider streets, "which I'm sure you've noticed."

It was this Montague-Capulet atmosphere that made Calvin Griffith hesitate before moving his Washington Senators to Minneapolis last fall. He was informed, correctly, that no self-respecting St. Paul citizen would watch a Minneapolis team play baseball, or vice versa. Deciding that neither city could support a major league team without help from the other, Griffith hedged by renaming his club the Minnesota Twins and announcing it would play its home games in Metropolitan Stadium in suburban Bloomington, a spot equidistant from both downtown areas. This, Griffith hoped, would win over citizens of both towns.

Last week the Twins, having won five of six road games to lead the American League, arrived in Minnesota for the first time. ("As far as I'm concerned," said St. Paul Mayor George Vavoulis, "we're 5-0. Minneapolis is 0-1.") A local paper announced that "Minnesota's onetime feuding Twin Cities have solidly nailed down the red carpet of unity" in welcoming the team. On display in both towns was the team emblem, twin ballplayers shaking hands from opposite sides of the Mississippi. Waitresses wore Twin buttons. A special fight song—We've going to Win, Twins—was played incessantly. The Toni Twins were brought to town—both towns—for the occasion. The team even picked two bat boys—twins, of course.

The day before the first game there were, naturally, two banquets for the team, a breakfast in St. Paul and a lunch in Minneapolis. A long motorcade carried the players from one town to the other along streets crowded with onlookers.

The luncheon in Minneapolis was heavy with sugary speeches. Joe Cronin spoke of "the exhaustive study" the American League made when it considered expansion. Ford Frick called himself "an ardent expansionist." He also referred to the Twins as Minneapolis, causing Mayor Vavoulis to leap to his feet and alert the commissioner to the existence of St. Paul. Calvin Griffith, who moved to Minnesota simply to make a little money, heard himself called a "man of rare courage and great loyalty, a dynamic leader with characteristics all of us try for." To a standing ovation, Griffith rose and assured his audience that "while in Washington we weeded out a lot of players with a defeatist complex. The boys we have left sense the spirit and vitality of their new home."

There was one genuine moment. When Paul Giel, once an All-America tailback for the University of Minnesota and now a Twins pitcher, was introduced, he was greeted with a roar that lasted two minutes. When it died, Giel grinned broadly, spread his arms and said: "In the words of Charley Weaver, these are my people."

Disappointing turnout

The morning of the first game, the Minneapolis Morning Tribune confidently predicted the crowd would reach 32,000. It was, therefore, surprising when only 24,606 showed up, 2,000 less, the visiting Washington press gleefully pointed out, than the Opening Day crowd at Griffith Stadium. The day was marked by confusion typical of a new franchise. Mickey Vernon, manager of the Senators, was barred from entering the stadium by a guard who didn't "care who you say you are, no one gets in here without a pass." Governor Elmer Andersen threw out the first ball to Minnesota manager Cookie Lavagetto. Cookie dropped it. And Ford Frick, raising the American flag in center field, had it stick halfway up. Joe Cronin stepped up and helped pull, but the flag held fast. Griffith and Lavagetto took a turn with no luck. So the flag remained at half-mast during the game, symbolically as it turned out, since the Twins lost in the ninth inning 5-3. The fans were generally subdued throughout the game—"knowing," a paper the next day called them.

Only 17,445 people showed up for the second game, and less still, 13,408, for the third. It was the lowest attendance any new franchise has had for its opening three-game series and it set people to speculating whether or not Calvin Griffith's move to the upper Midwest might be, in time, a magnificent failure.

The Minnesota front office is optimistic. The team has an advance sale of 400,000, of which 45% has come from the area outside the two cities. On opening day a busload of people drove in from Billings, Mont., 800 miles away. A pilot in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. bought four season tickets, and plans to make two charter flights to the ball park each day. A cab driver in Armstrong, Iowa bought five season tickets and will run a ferry service to the ball park. One South Dakota town, population 75, has ordered 74 tickets for a Yankee game in June (someone had to mind the store). Requests for tickets have come in from all over the hinterlands, from towns named Sleepy Eye and Thief River Falls, Rugby and Portage la Prairie.

Despite this rural enthusiasm for the Twins, the front office knows it needs hearty support from the cities. There is concern about St. Paul, where the advance sale is lower than had been expected. "They'll never get St. Paul to come," said one St. Paul man before the first game. "You can call the team the Twins if you want, but everybody knows it's a Minneapolis ball club playing in the old Minneapolis Millers ball park."

Many Minneapolis people agree. "No discredit to St. Paul," said one Minneapolis official, "but we did all the work getting the team. The St. Paul people didn't cooperate until after we nailed it down."

The red carpet of unity may have been laid out for the Twins, but underneath it the Mississippi—and the old feuds—go rolling along.