No matter if the Twins have a good year or the Vikings make a playoff run or the Gophers go to the Rose Bowl, many Minnesota sports fans will only remember the bad times: lost Super Bowls, bad trades, epic meltdowns, games where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.
This is the basis of “History of Heartbreak” by Dan Whenesota (a pseudonym for Minnesota writer Dan Gaisbauer) which in a lighthearted — but serious and in-depth — look runs down, as the subtitle says, “100 events that tortured Minnesota sports fans.”
The glossy, full-color book is full of photos and divided into football (Purple Haze), basketball (Court Jesters), hockey (Skating on Thin Ice), baseball (Diamonds in the Rough), the U (Disorder in Dinkytown), miscellaneous (Distressed of the Rest) and a top 12 (The Dirty Dozen), detailing famous or infamous games, plays, bizarre occurrences, injuries, anything that would send die-hard Minnesota sports fans home shaking their heads.
Each entry is accompanied by a heartbreak meter, with five broken hearts being attributed to the most heartfelt happenings, such as Kirby Puckett’s retirement due to loss of vision. The listings are subdivided into What Happened, Why It Hurt So Much, The Aftermath and Dan’s Notes, accompanied by a calendar telling you the exact day and year it happened.
Getting just one heartbreak rating but no less bizarre is the entry describing when the Minneapolis Lakers’ plane went missing in 1960 returning from a game in St. Louis. The pilots got lost and were forced to land in a Carroll, Iowa, cornfield after residents heard the plane buzzing overhead and switched on their house lights to help it navigate.
In the miscellaneous chapter, an entry relates that golfer Dave Hill shot a 69 in the second round in 1970 as Hazeltine hosted the U.S. Open, its first major. Asked by reporters what the course, which had opened eight years earlier, lacked, Hill said, “Eighty acres of corn and a few cows. … They ruined a good farm by building this golf course on it.”
Other entries that rated five broken hearts are the North Stars losing in the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, Vikings losing Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX and XI, the Timberwolves’ owners trying to sell to New Orleans in 1994, Twins setting a record for a playoff losing streak, Vikes losing the NFC championship to Washington in 1988 and the Gophers blowing a record 31-point lead in a bowl game (2006 loss to Texas Tech at the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., after leading 38-7 in the third quarter).
Other quirky entries detail all five times the Metrodome roof collapsed, the World Hockey Association Minnesota Fighting Saints quitting in the lobby at MSP airport before flying to play in Cincinnati after being unpaid for several paychecks, and Jim Marshall running the wrong way in ’64.
Thoroughly researched and attributed (Sid Hartman and other Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press sportswriters are acknowledged), this book is also nicely designed and packaged, and anyone who reads it will come away with a fairly thorough knowledge of Minnesota sports history — and a vow to get ’em next year.
Eddie Chuculate is a Star Tribune copy editor • 612-673-4293
History of Heartbreak
By: Dan Whenesota.
Publisher: Lake 7 Creative, 256 pages, $18.95.
Coming Sunday: A review of “White Ivy,” by Susie Yang.