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Twins fans have a rally good time
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10/03/2003  7:12 PM ET 
Twins fans have a rally good time
Outpouring of pride found in downtown Minneapolis
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Twins banners supporting the team are draped over parts of the bell tower at City Hall in Minneapolis. (Jim Mone/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- You can forget the Yankees when you've got the Hankies.

That was the overwhelming sentiment as at least 2,000 giddy Twins' fans packed Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis for Friday's victory rally.

They got their Homer Hankies, they got paper Eddie Guardado and Jacque Jones masks on sticks, and they cheered from the skyways and the street, welcoming the Yankees to their Terrordome.

The city has come alive once again as its heroes return from New York with a 1-1 split against the heavily favored Yankees in the American League Division Series.

A huge inflatable Twins' jersey sprouted up from the asphalt as team organist Sue Nelson tickled the ivories to the tune of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."

A man in a Corey Koskie jersey told his daughter in a Cristian Guzman jersey to meet him at the Mary Tyler Moore statue if she got lost.

And that homespun Midwestern charm and vernacular popularized to the rest of the country in the seminal 1990s noir film "Fargo" was spilling out of the mouths of Minnesotans as they waxed joyfully about their Twins.

Take Vickie Parker, who skipped out of work to attend the 2 o'clock gathering.

Parker, who works for Target stores at its downtown headquarters, lives in nearby Minnetonka and sees a lot of the vibe that powered the Twins -- including her favorite player, Gary "The Rat" Gaetti -- to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

When asked if the city is as electric as it was in those years, she didn't hesitate to say, "You betcha."

Really.

"Oh yah, it's back to where it was then," Parker added. "It took a little longer to get going because they had a bad first half, but everybody's very excited. Especially because we won the first game."

As nice and homey as Minnesotans seem, there's some genuine defiance in their voices when they talk about the Yankees.

Maybe it's fact that the Twins are the small-market poster child, the team that almost vanished.

Maybe it's the fact that New York is the biggest market ever and the Yankees have the biggest payroll ever.

Whatever the reason, a lot of locals had plenty to say about it Friday, including city councilman Paul Ostrow.

"Everybody talks about the small market and the low payroll, but what they all seem to ignore is that this is a great baseball team," Ostrow said. "The same thing goes for Minneapolis-St. Paul. We're smaller but we're better."

Ostrow then announced the obligatory city-vs.-city wager, which will send the local Norwegian seafood staple lutefisk and good ol' wienies to New York if Minnesota loses. And should Minnesota, the Twin Cities will receive cheesecake and bagels.

That heart-warming if tired gamesmanship seemed to invigorate David Marx, a clerk at an Amoco gas station in nearby Plymouth.

Marx stood on top of a large tree planter to glimpse Friday's rah-rah session led by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, players Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart and Johan Santana, and other local officials, including governor Tim Pawlenty.

"Being at Game 7 in 1991 was the greatest moment of my life, easily," said Marx, who has averaged 50 games a year in the Metrodome for the last 20 years.

"But here we are for the second year in a row. It's really amazing."

Marx will miss the opening game of the World Series if the Twins happen to make it because he's touring around the country following his favorite rock band, Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks and Co. will be in Vegas that night.

Maybe his priorities are a bit out of whack, but he said his gut feeling is right on.

"I think they can do it," Marx said. "And I know they think they can do it."

So does Brad, the barkeep at the watering hole on Sixth Street known as Lyon's Pub, which features all the newspapers from the '87 and '91 triumphs on the walls.

Friday's fish-wraps screamed with daunting headlines recapping the Twins' -- and reliever LaTroy Hawkins' -- Game 2 missteps.

They read, "Bummer in the Bronx," "Hawk gets shot down," and "Yanked out."

Brad's smooth swill-pouring style didn't seem to be stalled by any sense of panic.

"They can do it," Brad said. "No one here thought they could do it in '87 and they did, so why can't they do it now?"

Those were exactly the sentiments of Pawlenty, also known as the Minnesota governor who never tried a pile driver against George "The Animal" Steele.

"We're gonna win the World Series," Pawlenty yelled, pumping his fist.

"Then we're gonna come back here, roll up our sleeves, and get to work on solving our stadium issue."

That comment, along with Twins legend Tony Oliva's prediction of Twins in four, really got the crowd going.

Marx soaked in the words, cracked a smile, and muttered to himself.

"Ya got that right."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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