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Former Metrodome employee turned on fans to help out Twins

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A former superintendent at the Metrodome admits he tried to help the Minnesota Twins by adjusting the ventilation system during the late innings of close games in an attempt to get baseballs to carry farther.

''If they were down two runs and you're still hoping for them to have the advantage, you'd want to be blowing all the air out and up as much as you can,'' Dick Ericson told the Star Tribune for Sunday's editions. ''I don't feel guilty. ... It's your home-field advantage. Every stadium has got one.''

Virgil Ophus, who worked under Ericson and is still employed at the stadium, said he recalls being in the operations center and watching Ericson come in and turn on various fans in hopes of affecting the game.

''He'd start the fans and he thought it'd help,'' Ophus said. ''He did it when he felt like doing it.''

Ericson, who worked at the Metrodome from the time the Twins began play there in 1982 until he retired in 1995, said he would turn on fans behind home plate and adjust the air conditioning. The Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.

Ericson said the fans were blowing out when Kirby Puckett hit his dramatic 11th-inning, game-ending home run in Game 6 of the 1991 series against the Atlanta Braves, but he said the ball was hit hard enough to go out without help from the ventilation system.

Neither officials for the Twins nor for the Metropolitans Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, asked him to manipulate the ventilation, Ericson said. He also said he was never questioned about it.

Officials for the Twins and the commission said they have no knowledge of the air flow in the stadium being manipulated and have doubts about whether it actually happened.

''It's kind of romantic to speculate about it,'' said Matt Hoy, vice president of operations for the Twins. ''But in a practical sense, I don't know if it holds a lot of water.''

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said Ericson was ''a wonderful employee, a wonderful elderly man,'' but called his claim ''a bunch of hooey.''

Still, some opponents suspected the ventilation system was being tampered with.

Bobby Valentine said the while he was managing the Texas Rangers his players told him that they often felt a breeze blowing out when they were in the field and felt it blowing in when they were batting.

''I became very suspicious, maybe paranoid,'' said Valentine, now a commentator for ESPN. ''They had such an uncanny way of winning.''



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