It was a bit more chaotic than usual Wednesday morning as we boarded the Northstar Line train at Elk River to go to Target Field for the Twins-Braves game. Elk River is the second stop on the Big Lake-Elk River-Ramsey-Anoka-Coon Rapids-Fridley route to Target Field and usually there are plenty of seats left as the train heads to Ramsey.
But on this day there was a huge throng of people getting on the train at Elk River and by the time the train left Elk River there were already some people standing instead of sitting. The bus service from St. Cloud and Becker to Big Lake, where the train originates, brought more riders than usual on a bright, sunny day and at Elk River there were people from Elk River, Princeton, Zimmerman, Milaca, St. Michael, Monticello, Rogers, St. Cloud, Becker and many other cities and towns. There were two people from Canada who had driven from an overnight stay in Fargo and boarded at Big Lake.
By the time the train got to Anoka (and then to Coon Rapids and Fridley), people were jammed like sardines into each car, reminding me of what it's like to ride a bus in New York City where people are pressed against each other with absolutely no room to move. But it was a happy crowd Wednesday, perhaps a few headed to the big city for shopping but most going to the baseball game.
One of the veteran conductors later estimated the ridership at 1,600, quite a few hundred more than normally take the train to Target Field. (There are special trains for Twins games but there are also five trains in the morning and five in the afternoon on weekdays.) Despite the crowded conditions, people were in a good mood, making way for people to stand and some giving up their seats to older riders or those with disabilities. Everybody was getting along.
As we neared Target Field, behind schedule because of the time it took for people to get on the train, a conductor reminded everyone that the first train heading the opposite way would be at 3:57. He advised people not to take that train because it would be very crowded with workers, as well as those who had attended the game. He listed the 4:27 and 4:57 trains as a better bet for getting a seat.
I didn't want to take those later trains so I promised myself to leave the baseball game around 3 p.m. to beat the crowd. I broke that promise and didn't leave until a little after 3:30 even though the Twins were getting beat badly for the second day in a row. That was a bad decision. I usually ride in the closest car to the station but had to walk to the farthest car of six of seven and even that one was already standing room only, still 20 minutes from departure time. I sat down on steps leading to an upper car and chastised myself for not leaving earlier. It might not have made a difference — one person got on the train an hour before it was to leave and he still had to stand. (On week nights the train leaves 30 minutes after the game ends and there isn't such a crush.)
I was talking with a lady and her daughter, from Ramsey, as well as a mother and son from St. Michael. The daughter from Ramsey, a senior-to-be at a charter school, stood up and said I could have her seat, apparently feeling bad that an old person (me) was sitting on a step. I initially said no but she insisted and I sat down next to her mother. (And they say kids of today don't care - it was a nice gesture.)
Then a guy got on the train just before it was to leave, told everyone sitting on the steps to move, and that he wanted to get to the second deck of the car, even though it was also standing room only there. "I work all day and you people are in the way," he said. He shouted at a lady to move, told a father with two very young sons to move, and generally made a you-know-what of himself. There were a few pushbacks from those of us listening to his tirade but everyone finally moved and let him go to the second deck where, predictably, he had to stand.
We went through a couple of the stops on the way back to Elk River, people getting along and making new friends, Then, as we pulled into the station at Anoka, the guy came down the steps and said, "You guys don't deserve to be on the train. This is for people that work." We'd had enough by then and barbs were fired at him right and left, one person saying he had worked for 50 years, "a lot more than you," he said to the guy, and that he deserved to be on the train going home from the Twins game. The upset person was angry but, getting comments from all sides, even a youngster, he moved toward the door.
"Maybe he had a bad day," someone suggested. "I hope that was the reason," another said. "Have a nice day," someone else said to the guy as he went out the door., a statement that led to lots of giggles. A lady said she hoped he wouldn't take it out on anyone at home.
The Northstar is a good deal. They have bike racks so you can take your bike along and ride the trails in the city. You can buy a family pass (two adults and three kids, you can print it at home), the fares are cheaper on weekends, especially for those 65 and older, and the scenery along the way — a links golf course, graffiti art on railroad cars and concrete walls, the Mississippi River, back yards in residential areas — provides an interesting look at life in the suburbs and the city. Conversations abound as you meet new people, friendships are formed, and time flies on the 42-minute trip from Elk River to Target Field, and then back. Tonight (Friday) there will be fireworks after the game and the train won't leave until a half hour after the fireworks are over.
Most days there are many good things about the ride so we couldn't let one guy spoil the day. It was bad enough that the Twins had lost again — and then we had to deal with him. One lady said she was going to pray for him to be nicer to riders the next time there was a day game and had to work while the rest of us were playing. Let's hope the power of prayer is a real thing.
Daily diary for the 2019 Twins
Saturday, Aug. 3 — The Twins took a 4-1 lead over Kansas City, fell behind 5-4 as Martin Perez balked in a run and gave up a couple homers, then tied it at 6-6, scored five in the seventh for an 11-6 lead. and hung on for an 11-9 win as newcomer Sam Dyson faltered for the second night in a row. Nelson Cruz drove in five runs. However, it was the third straight home game in which the Twins had given up at least 9 runs and 15 hits.
Sunday, Aug. 4 — Thirty-nine-year-old Nelson Cruz hit three homers as the Twins pounded the White Sox 11-3, Kyle Gibson upping his record to 11-4, best by percentage among the team's starters. Jorge Polanco and C.J. Cron also homered, Polanco's three-run blast the most important because it came in the second inning after Kansas City had tied the game at 2-2.
Monday, Aug. 5 — Finally, after five series this season in which the Twins had a 2-0 lead and then lost the third game, they swept a three-game series with a 3-0 win over Kansas City. They needed it because Cleveland, 38-16 in its last 54 games, won again. It was a tense game with rookie Devin Smeltzer shutting down the Royals for six innings on two hits. He left with a 1-0 lead and three relievers pitched scoreless innings, catcher Jason Castro hitting his first homer in a month to make it 2-0 in the seventh. And there were outstanding fielding plays by infielders Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza and Luis Arraez, and a diving catch by Jake Cave to end the game. Cave was there because Byron Buxton is again on the injured list. Buxton hasn't played a home game since the first week in July. There comes a time when you have to be more careful, no matter what anyone says. If the game's on the line, or it's a must-win game, that's different. But he's had too many collisions with walls when making the catch wasn't so important. Recent acquisition Sergio Romo has been outstanding for the Twins, while recent acquisition Sam Dyson, after two horrible outings, is already on the injured list.
Tuesday, Aug. 6 — A few weeks ago before the Cleveland Indians went on a streak, a baseball friend said he thought the Twins were a team of destiny. It'll be awhile before we know if that's an accurate assessment. BUT, who would have thought that last night the two slowest runners in the lineup — Nelson Cruz and Jason Castro — would get infield hits in the same inning, and that it led to two runs? The answer: No one! And tell me if you knew back in March that Luis Arraez would be playing almost every day, or more accurately, that you even knew who he was. The big blow in the 5-3 win, over the very good Atlanta team, of course, was the prodigious homer that Miguel Sano hit to win the game. Cleveland lost 1-0 and now the Twins have a four-game lead. It was a good start to what promises to be a bunch of tough games. And to think that a SKOR North radio guy wanted to release Sano without getting anything in return. Oh yes, Trevor May was great in getting his second win in a few days. It would be a huge boost to the bullpen if he gets back to where he was early in the season.
Wednesday, Aug. 7 — It was 11-0 before the Twins scored in a 12-7 loss to Atlanta, Nelson Cruz hitting two homers (32 now) and Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver also homering. Yes, four homers and still a blowout loss. The Atlanta pitcher, just up from the minors, had a 2-5 record this year and had given up six runs a game. Jose Berrios, called by most the ace of the staff, gave up nine runs in 5 2/3 innings (why did the manager leave him out there that long?) and has won only twice in the last 61 days after an 8-2 start this season. Hope he's sharp on Sunday against Cleveland.
Thursday, Aug. 8 — It was too little too late for the Twins, two days in a row, in an 11-7 loss to the Braves, that the Twins fell far behind and then scored some late runs that made the game look closer. Atlanta hitters knocked consecutive pitches out of the park in the first inning and soon it was 3-0 and then 6-0 a couple innings later. Meanwhile, the Indians swept a doubleheader, 2-0 and 5-1, and ended up giving up only two runs to Texas in three games (the Rangers won 1-0 to open the series), while the Twins gave up 26 in three games to the Braves, 23 the last two days. Does that mean the teams needs pitching, as some have said, or was it just two bad days? The answer may come the next four days as the Twins and Indians square off in a four-game set at Target Field. What's scary for Minnesota fans is that the Indians did it without without their top three pitchers. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is still on the IL, Carlos Corrasco is out for the season, and Trevor Bauer has been peddled to the Reds after a temper tantrum. That means the pitching depth for Cleveland is far superior to the Twins at this point. In fact, the Indians used only relievers in the second game yesterday against Texas. The lead is down to two games as the series starts tonight. Oh yes, the highlights:The Twins turned a triple play for the second time this season, both started by Miguel Sano. And Sano hit four bullets in five at-bats, including a three-run homer, and has knocked in 18 runs the past 15 games.
Friday, Aug. 9 — It was a bad start to the Cleveland series for the Twins as they lost 7-5 last night, making it the second three-game losing streak of the season. Not only that, Nelson Cruz left the game with a strained wrist on the same hand that forced him to the injured list in May. He had 14 homers in his previous 17 games. Starter Kyle Gibson walked a career-high six batters and didn't make it out of the fifth inning. Still, the Twins had chances with the bat and failed, leaving two on base in the eighth and leaving the bases loaded in the ninth. It's amazing what they do (or don't do) with the bases loaded. Recently they were 1 for their last 24 at-bats with the bases loaded. That's hard to figure, considering the offense the team has. And opponents have scored 30 runs in the three straight losses. Tonight the Twins send a rookie lefty, Devin Smeltzer, against Shane Bieber (11-4).
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Aug. 13, 1959 - Arnold Dahle shot a 35, one under par, for the lowest round of the week at the Rum River Golf Club.
Aug. 13, 1964 - Bob Nick (.465) and Steve Lindell (.375, 3 homers) led the Princeton town team in hitting for the season.
Aug. 13, 1969 - Princeton got only one hit and lost 10-0 to Crystal in the District Legion baseball tournament. Edina later beat Crystal 3-2 for the district title . . . Al Bornholdt won the men's title with a 74 at the Rum River Golf Club.
Aug. 14, 1974 - Elliot's Bar and CHC were to meet in the title game for the city softball league . . . Lois Anderson and Pat Carlson won the women's competition. and Jim Ossell and Bob Anderson the men's at the President's Tournament at the Rum River Golf Club.
Aug. 16, 1979 - Steve Lodien and Amy Hoffman won junior titles at the Rum River Golf Club.. Hoffman beat Lynn Rosen in a playoff . . . Howard Solheim submitted his resignation as high school baseball coach after coaching since the early 1960s.
Aug. 16, 1984 - The town baseball team beat Dassel-Cokato 8-5 to win the Middlesota League playoff tittle as Steve Kapsner drove in four runs and pitcher Les Nelson struck out 14. The team then lost 4-3 to state power Cold Spring in the region at Cold Spring. Luther Dorr had three hits . . . Hohlen Excavating placed third in the district slow pitch softball tournament to make it to state.
Aug. 17, 1989 - The Princeton Panthers beat Pine City once and Hinckley twice to win the Region 1C tournament at Princeton. It was the first time Princeton had hosted a region tournament. In a 12-3 win over Hinckley Chris Klinghagen drove in five runs and Chad Campbell and Brian Dorr three each.
Aug. 18, 1994 - The Princeton Panthers earned their third trip to the state tournament in six years. Jason Miller pitched a shutout in one of the three region wins . . . The Ziegler Construction team earned a berth in the state Class C slow pitch softball tournament. Dean Groebner hit .565 in the district tournament.
Aug. 12, 1999 - Dan Johnson, Blaine Peterson, Vern Bouley, Mike Hillberg and Rick Peterson were on the Northland Builders trapshooting team that placed second in the state team shoot at St. Cloud. The team's score was 489, two less than the winning team . . .A 10-6 comeback win over Nowthen sent the Princeton Panthers (24-8) to the Region 1C tournament. Jason Miller (8-1) got the win in relief. Brian Dorr's two-run homer started the comeback with the Panthers trailing 3-0. He drove in three runs, Chad Carling two, and the Panthers stole seven bases.
Aug. 19, 2004 - Rick Cotter (72-74) won the men's title at Princeton Golf Club, beating brother-in-law Jim Dufner by a stroke. Six-time champion Greg Braford led after the first day with a 70. Jami Sternquist won the women's title, beating four-time champion Helen Sanborn by five strokes with a 177 (88-89) . . .The Princeton Panthers (27-7) advanced to the state tournament for the seventh straight year, beating Hinckley 2-1 in a Sunday game. Earlier in the tournament the team rallied from a 4-1 deficit to Isanti to win 5-4 in 11 innings as Jesse Zimmer, in the process of being walked intentionally, lined a single on a 3-1 count to drive in the winning run.
Aug. 20 2009 - The Princeton Panthers earned a trip to the state tournament for the 10th time in 12 years. The Panthers got solo homers from Jake Maros, Ben Johnson and Jesse Zimmer, off a pitching staff that hadn't given up a homer all season, three RBIs from Tyler Bialucha and two from Brian Dorr in a 9-3 win over Champlin. A loss to Forest Lake followed but then the Panthers beat St. Francis 4-3 behind Josh Ludwig and beat Forest lake 4-0 as Jake Snyder, who hadn't pitched for 50 days, got the shutout.
Aug. 14, 2014 - Zion Lutheran Church won the title in junior church league softball.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.