The Minnesota Twins have always been a working man's baseball team. Landlocked in the Midwest, and stuck in a division with some of baseball's better franchises, the Twins have always found a way to out-hustle and outsmart their opponents. Strung together with a tiny budget, the Twins manage to hold their own against baseball's larger markets, those with far superior payrolls, and thus, far superior players. In addition to their pair of World Series titles, the team flirts with, if not making, the playoffs almost yearly with a young team who is short on experience, but possess enough hustle and sheer will to win the big games.
Much like their home-state team, the Hold Steady is a workingman's rock band. While they have never been the best rock band on paper, the Hold Steady wins when it comes to press (their latest, Boys and Girls in America, was a perennial album of the year for 2006) and the band has fostered a devout, if not somewhat insane, fanbase based on their nonstop touring, chaotic live shows, and the ease with which they have usurped Springsteen of the blue-collar rock crown.
Although they are based in Brooklyn, the Twin Cities is where the Hold Steady hang their "TC" hats, and despite living in New York and being on the doorstep of the Yankees, the Hold Steady are diehard Twins fans. In fact, they hate the Yankees, like any good sports fan should. And the loyalty is not just one-sided; recently the Twins organization has been playing the band's version of "Take Me out to the Ball Game" during games.
The Hold Steady's singer, Craig Finn, took some time to chat about being a Twins fan, the relationship between sports and music, and how he fears shooting former Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek in the face while on live television.
MERCURY: I'm not going to ask you a single question about music. It's all Minnesota Twins baseball from here on out. Do you mind?
FINN: No, not at all, I'd love that.
Did you grow up in Minnesota and were you always a Twins fan?
Well, I moved to Minnesota from Boston as a kid, and my parents were Red Sox fans. I was kind of a Sox fan, but my dad had access to Twins tickets through his work, so I was mildly a fan. That was until 1987; the year I got my driver's license, my first girlfriend, and the Twins won the World Series. That was a magical year. Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Tom Brunansky—it was just a great team with some amazing personalities. That whole year just turned me into a major Twins fan, along with everyone I know.
So you stuck with them in the dry years that followed?
There were a lot of dry years. Other than the 1991 season, there were some pretty bad years. What made me from a "B" fan to an "A+" fan was once I moved to New York, they were talking contraction [folding up and moving] with the team. They were talking about taking away a team that had won two World Series in 15 years, all because they just couldn't afford to have a payroll like the Yankees do. It was just outrageous, and I liked how the team responded to that by making the playoffs that year. The funny thing is that the Minnesota Vikings have always been the larger franchise for Minnesotans, which I personally never understood why, but the Vikings awful season last year, coupled with the great Twins years, has really changed things.
Have you been to any of the World Series games in Minnesota?
I have not, but I have been to a few of the playoff games when they played the Yankees in New York. It's funny because Yankees fans know about their team, but they just don't know anything about baseball. They are Yankees fans, not baseball fans. They want to pay all that money to win, and when they do, they want to celebrate like it was even the whole time.
Did you feel threatened going to Yankees Stadium during the playoffs and rooting for the Twins?
No, the first game was a day game and it was really mellow. The next game was a night game and since it was after work, people were much drunker. My friend had a Homer Hanky [a beloved Twins ball park gimmick—editor], and when he took that out, we had some beer thrown on us.
Well, that's what the Hanky is for, right? Mopping up the beer that gets tossed at you?
What do you think about the Metrodome?
It's much better for football. As far as Vikings football goes in Minnesota, there is a lot of revisionist history. People think that if we played without the dome, in the cold, they'd win more games. They just want to feel like they'd be tough enough to watch those games in the cold, and I don't think it's true.
How tough can that team be? Their best player was named Fran Tarkenton!
Are there a lot of people in the Minnesota music scene that are Twins fans?
Definitely. Especially the older crowd, like the Jayhawks and Golden Smog. I was at Twins' spring training this year and I saw Paul Westerberg at the game.
I went down to Fort Meyers, Florida, for two games, and had a lot of fun. I was talking to this guy Jim Walsh, who is doing the Replacements oral history and he told me Paul would be down there. I kind of had my eye out looking for him, and sure enough, he was there with his son. I've never met him before, so it didn't seem like the right time to go bother him. It's funny because even before we did "Take Me out to the Ball Game" for the Twins, I was at the Metrodome last year and noticed how great the music was during the games. They played a lot of the Replacements.
That is crazy. Well, the whole theme of this issue is about the relationship between sports and music. Mostly how we all have that moment—that dreaded choice—where we choose between one or another. Do you know what I mean?
Yes. The band and I were recently talking about this, how it seems cooler now for musicians to be into sports. Most bands we play with have a least one or two members who are into it. My theory is, when I was growing up, no cool bands liked sports, although now I know that Westerberg loves the Twins. It just never seemed like they could actually like sports. The band that I think changed it all was Pavement. They seemed like normal dudes who made great music and happened to like sports. They might have changed it all.
People definitely seem more comfortable, and less closeted, about it now.
I often wonder if it's all part of a bigger thing. Like, post-Cobain, that people no longer associated punk rock, or post-punk rock, with being an outcast. I think that is part of a much larger thing. I just have never felt super angry or alienated. I kind of like to just drink beer, eat wings, and watch baseball. And that describes the people I hang out with, and the people in our band. During summer tours, right after sound check, it's just the perfect time to catch an entire baseball game on TV.
Have you ever had [Hall of Fame player] Harmon Killebrew's "Killebrew Root Beer"?
I haven't. But do you know that Kent Hrbek has a hunting and fishing show? I want to go on it, but I'm afraid I will have a Dick Cheney moment where I shoot him. Maybe I can do the fishing part of the show. Then again, maybe it can be this sort of Jackass type of thing, were we both drink a 30-pack and he just shoots me while I'm wearing a bulletproof vest.
Do you have a favorite baseball song?
I just heard Bob Dylan do "Take Me out to the Ball Game." That was pretty great.
You know "Catfish" (about famed pitcher Catfish Hunter), right?
Oh yeah, of course, that's a great one. I don't know if I have an all-time favorite baseball song. There's not a lot to pick from.
If you don't like John Fogerty's "Centerfield," you're kind of screwed.
Yeah, that's the thing. "Talkin' Baseball" is not all that good. It definitely didn't age well. Did you ever notice that during baseball games, when they put on music, it makes white people dance? There are all kinds of dudes who just get up and do crazy dances during the game. I don't know why that is. I don't think that happens during other sports.
Trivia time. Let's see how big of a fan you are.
Okay, I'm ready.
Question number one: What is the Twins' mascot's name?
Oh man! [Long pause] I can't tell you the current one, but the old one was Twinkie the Loon. He was awesome.
What? It's TC Bear.
Yeah, TC Bear. I know TC Bear. Fuck!
Question number two: Where did the team relocate to Minneapolis from?
Correct. Question number three: How many Twins players have their numbers retired?
Hrbek, Puckett, [Tony] Olivia, Killebrew and...
I'll give you a hint, he's rumored to be Jewish.
Oh yeah, I never think of him as Twin because he left the team.
Question number four, final question: How many Twins have won the MVP?
Zoilo Versalles, Justin Morneau, Carew, and Killebrew.
Well done. You are a real fan.
The Hold Steady perform at The Crystal Ballroom on Mon, May 28.