MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A county judge, citing the role the Minnesota Twins have played in the community during their 40-year history, ruled Friday that the franchise must play baseball in the Metrodome next year.
Hennepin County Judge Harry Crump issued a temporary injunction that ordered Major League Baseball not to interfere with the Twins' 2002 season.
Although more legal battles lie ahead, the judge's ruling could slow down baseball's attempt to reduce the number of franchises playing the sport from 30 to 28.
Owners agreed earlier this month to eliminate two teams prior to the 2002 season. Although they did not specify which teams would be wiped out, most speculation has focused on Minnesota and Montreal.
"I think Judge Crump followed 30 years of judicial precedent," said Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which initiated the lawsuit attempting to block the elimination of the Twins.
"This obviously is not an end in itself, but at least provides the breathing room we need to come up with a solution that keeps the Twins in the Metrodome for 2002 and in Minnesota forever."
Crump's decision was filled with historical references and concluded that the Twins are simply too important a part of the community to allow them to be removed by baseball executives from outside Minnesota.
"Defendant Minnesota Twins Partnership is required to have the Minnesota Twins play their entire 2002 major league home baseball schedule at the Minneapolis Metrodome," Crump said in the decision. He said no attempt could be made to interfere with contracts already in force between the Twins and the sports commission and also said the team could not be sold unless the new owners keep the team in Minnesota next season.
"Baseball is as American as turkey and apple pie," Crump wrote. "Clearly, more than money is at stake. The welfare, recreation, prestige, prosperity, trade and commerce of the people of the community are at stake.
"The Twins are one of the few professional sports teams in town where a family can afford to take their children to enjoy a hot dog and peanuts at a stadium. The commission, the state, citizenry and fans will suffer irreparable harm if the Twins do not play."
Crump mentioned former Twins heroes, including Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, who he said benefited the Twin Cities because of their involvement with the community.
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, meanwhile, met with business leaders Friday to discuss possible ways to keep the Twins from being folded.
No plan was agreed upon, however, and Ventura said he has not changed his mind about using public money to build a new stadium.
"We want them (owners) to delay the elimination of the Minnesota Twins and go for an extension so that we can see light at the end of the tunnel in baseball," Ventura said.