May 27, 2019 06:33 PM
What a year it's been for the Minnesota Twins.
The bats are hot. The pitching has been dominant. And all of it has resulted in a record that is the best in Major League Baseball as of May 25.
Superstitions and baseball go back as far as many can remember. Ex-Twins pitcher Matt Garza's superstition consisted of a specific meal before every start at Popeye's Chicken. Former Twin and World Series champion Frank Viola noticed all of his wins during the 1987 season were accomplished when a banner reading 'Frankie Sweet Music Viola' appeared. When Viola reached out to the fan and realized they didn't have World Series tickets, he provided them with tickets to his starts in Games 1 and 7, both of which he won en route to a World Series ring and MVP honors.
A bar located deep in the heart of the North Loop just outside of Target Field, believes their shrine may have helped the team up to this point. Inspiration struck for Mankato-native Tom Johnson while he was on a trip in Ontario, Canada.
"I saw a shrine devoted to the Montreal Canadiens at a bar and thought to myself, huh-- maybe we needed to do something like this in Minnesota," Johnson said.
He pitched the idea to his friends, Joel Gillespie and Michael Haas, avid fans of the Twins. They were all in, except they needed a spot to display it.
Speaking of the 1987 season, when the Twins won their first World Series in seven games against the St. Louis Cardinals, a fine collection of bobbleheads from that team is on display when walking in the entryway of 315 North 5th Avenue.
"We have the entire display here of that team," said Darby's Bar & Grill owner, Marcus Horn. "So when these guys reached out about this shrine idea, I thought it would be perfect right around the corner [behind the bobbleheads]."
Johnson says it was a perfect match.
"It's not in anyone's way, it's just a small dark corner that needed some flare," he said.
The collection ranges from Metrodome dirt, to crafted homer hanky prayer flags, to a makeshift Minnie and Paul, which may or may not have been taken from a repurposed nativity set found on Craigslist.
"We wanted a nice mixture of 'hey, this is cool!' to 'hey, this looks like a crazy person created this!' I think we for sure nailed the latter," Johnson said.
On the sides of the tremendous display of fandom sits two smaller television sets, playing VHS tapes of old Twins highlights and a combination of baseball clips created by Haas. He also owns and operates a website called Metrodome Dreamscapes, stocked with vintage photos, videos, t-shirts and more reflecting Twins history and adding a trippy, unique vibe to it.
The shrine, in which the three friends title it the Temple of the Soaring Baseball, also includes what may be the most notable element: "The Flaming Tortuga."
"Visitors can reach their hands into the flames in the middle and give a rub to fan-favorite Willians Astudillo's hair for good luck, but there's more to it," Gillespie explained.
According to legend (or since April 26, when the shrine was created), those carrying true faith will feel a cool enough sensation to touch La Tortuga's head and in return, the Twins will be brought luck. However, for those with less faith, the "flames" will burn an individual's hand to ashes but still will give the club luck regardless.
But both Johnson and Gillespie were nervous at first the shrine would bring the team bad luck.
"We felt great initially with the idea but being a Minnesota fan for any sport, always makes you wonder," said Johnson.
"But hey! Looks like it's working out, especially after those back-to-back-to-back homers," Gillespie added.
On April 26, the Twins defeated the Baltimore Orioles 6-1, where Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron all smacked back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning.
Since that day, the Twins have gone on an absolute tear, keeping the pace and continuing to shock the baseball world. After their win against the Orioles that day, they held a record of 17-9. Since then, they hold an 18-6 tally.
Anyone can donate items to the shrine and pay homage. Horn says a loyal following of Minnesota sports fans visit his bar.
"I already told [Michael, Joel and Tom] if the Twins make the playoffs, this stuff isn't going anywhere," Horn said with a laugh.
Johnson added there may be more features added, including a kneeler, typically seen in Catholic churches.
"You never know what this can turn into, as long as the Twins keep up their winning ways," he said.
When asked about an ideal World Series matchup, Horn said he had a border-battle in mind.
"Brewers would be a great matchup... and not just speaking for the bar's business," he said with a smile.
Updated: May 27, 2019 06:33 PM
Created: May 25, 2019 12:50 PM
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