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Editorial: Baseball remains a key part of Minnesota

Even in the “State of Hockey,” baseball remains an integral part of Minnesota’s culture, past and future.

The roots of Minnesota baseball began among amateur town teams, some organized prior to the Civil War of 1861-65. Today, town team ball continues to flourish in west central Minnesota and across the state.

In the region, you will find teams like the Willmar Rails, Atwater Chuckers, Benson Chiefs, Litchfield Blues and Raymond Rockets. Around the state, you’ll find teams like Bemidji Mudcats, Brainerd Bees, Duluth Dukes, Moorhead Brewers, Nimrod Gnats and Worthington Cubs.

Minnesotans have long kept on playing for the love of the game - baseball.

Professional baseball first arrived in Minnesota in the 1870s. In the 1880s, the first professional minor league, Northwestern League, was formed with several teams in Minnesota. Teams would come and go in the state through the rest of the 19th century.

In 1902, the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints became charter members in the new minor league called the American Association. The two teams continued with a strong fan following and success on the field for the next 59 years.

And in 1944, the Minneapolis Millerettes played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was featured in the 1992 movie, “A League of Their Own.”

In the late 1950s, Metroplitan Stadium was built in Bloomington. By 1961, owner Calvin Griffith announced he was moving his Washington Senators to Minnesota, where they became the Twins. Minnesota also received an expansion team in the National Football League: the Vikings. Both played at Metropolitan Stadium.

Interest in the Twins has been a primary focus in Minnesota since 1961. The state hosted the All-Star Game in July 1965 and also won the American League pennant before losing 4-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

The early 1980s brought a new stadium - the Metrodome - and a youth movement. The Twins again hosted the All-Star Game in 1985.

By 1987, the Twins emerged to win the Western Division. They upset the Detroit Tigers for the American League pennant and then defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3, to win their first World Series.

By 1990, the Twins dropped to last place, but in 1991 the team rebounded to win the Western Division and then defeat the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League pennant. The Twins then beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, in the World Series. The series included Kirby Puckett’s leaping grab to save a run and then his walk-off homerun to win game six. Then Jack Morris went to the mound to shut out the Braves over 10 innings and Gene Larkin's game-winning single in the seventh game, knocking in Dan Gladden for the game and series winner.

In the 2000s, the Twins made the playoffs six times and again hosted the All-Star Game in 2005. Yet the team and fans became disenchanted with the Metrodome. After obtaining a legislative deal, the Twins’ would help built Target Field, which opened in April 2010.

Now the All-Star Game and related activities are coming to Minneapolis over the weekend through Tuesday. Target Field will be home not only to the All-Star Game, but the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Futures Game.

Over the decades, baseball has attracted Minnesotans to all levels of the sport - from LIttle League or community rec baseball to collegiate baseball and beyond.

Baseball has remained America’s pastime in Minnesota.

Batter up!