MINNEAPOLIS -- The second level of the Metrodome in right and right-center is curtained off, in an attempt to make this cavernous building feel more intimate. The canvas that blankets those seats in the heavens is adorned with the images of former Twins greats. Situated up there is a massive photo of a young and smiling Kirby Puckett. And last night, in the sixth inning of the Red Sox' 5-3 loss, David Ortiz hit a ball that, in the estimation of Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, ``was headed for Kirby Puckett out there, the curtains."
And then it caromed off one of 19 sets of speakers that ring the playing field. The ball, Hunter said, was ``way gone. 450 [feet]."
Instead, it landed in the outfield for a single. A simplified version of the Metrodome's ground rules: If a ball hits a speaker in fair territory, the ball is alive. If a ball hits a speaker above foul ground, it's a dead ball.
``Longest single in baseball history," remarked Twins closer Joe Nathan.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona couldn't afford to be as amused as Nathan, especially when Manny Ramírez (0 for 11, three walks in the series) grounded into an inning-ending double play on the next pitch.
``It's like playing putt-putt golf," Francona said. ``You got to go around the windmill. That's bull. I hope for their sake they get a new ballpark. This is a major league baseball game. That's embarrassing."
``There's some angels out there catching my [stuff]. That was some bull. That ball was supposed to hit Kirby. What the [heck] can you do?"
First base coach Bill Haselman, a diplomat by nature, gave Ortiz the good news when he pulled up at first, disgusted with his single.
``He told me if they catch the ball off the speaker, you're out," Ortiz said.
Hunter and Ortiz were teammates in Minnesota before Ortiz was hitting balls like he clubbed last night with such regularity. And so, Hunter, on the way off the field, had some fun with his buddy.
``The expression on David's face was pretty sad," Hunter said. ``I said, `Keep your chin up.' He looked like he wanted to curse me out."
``Too many cameras," Hunter said.
Historical precedence? Well, according to the Twins media guide, Minnesota's Chili Davis, on July 5, 1992, hit a ball to right off Rick Sutcliffe that caromed off a speaker to second baseman Mark McLemore, who turned a homer into an out. It was, as one writer pointed out last night, perhaps the only homer ever taken away by a second baseman.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, a coach with the Twins dating to 1991, said he'd never seen the speaker rattled by Ortiz hit by any other player. Gardenhire said Mo Vaughn cranked a ball off a speaker one time but he believes it was a speaker in right, instead of right-center, making Ortiz's truly epic.
``Mo Vaughn hit it," Hunter said. ``But I think his was coming down. It would have been an out. David's was on the rise. You'll never see that in another 20 years."
At this point, a reporter mentioned that Hunter was correct because the Twins will be playing under the stars across town come 2010.
Hunter, laughing, said, ``You'll never see it again. I can't believe that was a single. Who put a speaker out there in the outfield? I want to know how it got out there. I've never seen a baseball field with a speaker in the outfield.
``I ain't the only one that catches homers in the Metrodome. Speakers do, too."