While we’re only about a quarter of the way through the season, Minnesota is home to the best team in Major League Baseball.
Sure, Jorge Polanco has been red hot at the plate. And yes, Kyle Gibson has been a terror on the mound (despite a Worldstar-worthy fight with a pigeon in New York last week). But the real heroes responsible for the team’s turnaround are Tom Johnson, Michael Haas, and Joel Gillespie, who recently built a shrine to the boys of summer at Darby’s Pub.
Superstitions and shrines aren’t new to baseball, as JoBu VooDoo fans already know. But the motivation for the shrine at Darby’s, says Johnson, came earlier this year during a trip up to Canada.
“I was in Ontario and I saw a big shrine for the Montreal Canadians,” Johnson shares. “I thought it was so cool and thought we needed to do something like this in Minnesota.”
Johnson pitched his idea to Haas and Gillespie, both diehard Twins fans, who were on board immediately. Now they just needed a spot.
“Darby’s was the first – and only – place to get back to us,” Johnson laughs. “We showed up at the bar and they had this really cool, dark corner they said we could use. It was perfect.”
The group quickly got busy putting together the holy arrangement of artifacts. Haas owns and operates a trippy Twins fan site, Metrodome Dreamscapes, packed with vintage photos and videos, so they had plenty of material to begin with. Then they added stuff like Homer Hankey prayer flags, an ashtray full of genuine Metrodome dirt, original Metrodome blueprints, votive candles of some of the players, and Minnie and Paul, which may or may not have been from a repurposed nativity set the crew found on Craigslist.
“We were going for a combination of, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool!’ and, ‘It looks like a crazy person made this,” says Johnson. “By the time we were done, we definitely had the crazy person piece nailed.”
The centerpiece and most unique element of the shrine has to be the “Flaming Tortuga,” where visitors can reach their hands through the flames (not really) in the middle of the shrine to rub the hair of Willians “La Tortuga” Astudillo.
According to legend (which the guys made up like, three weeks ago), for those of true faith, the flames will be cool enough to touch and the Twins will be brought luck. To those of less-than-true faith, the flames will burn your hand to ashes, but the Twins will also be given luck.
The shrine itself was created to be very tongue-in-cheek, but according to Johnson, the reality that they might actually be doing more harm than good sunk it right before the grand unveiling.
“We were all excited, but then thought like what if they end up losing every game the rest of the year? Is it our fault?” he laughs.
Fortunately, since the shrine was christened back on April 26, the team has been on an absolute tear.
“Marcus [Dorn, Darby’s owner] told us that if the Twins go to the playoffs, he’s keeping the shrine and we’re never getting this stuff back,” Johnson says.
For now, anyone and everyone is invited to stop by the bar, pay homage to the shrine, leave an offering, and bask in the spirit of a winning ball club.