The Saints of St. Paul, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Loving 'Fun Is Good'

Ham Solo. Bud Squealing. Hammy Davis Jr. Kevin Bacon. Squeal Diamond. The Notorious P.I.G.Piggy Smalls. These are just six of the former and famed "Ball Pigs" the St. Paul Saints have employed over the past 15 years. The Ball Pig, a small swine in a light blue tutu, is a featured attraction at Midway Stadium, and I want to stress that this farm animal is simply one of many attractions. There's a kid in the grizzly suit challenging the audience to daredevil acts. The kid dressed as a "nerd" judging child/parent contests. The Drag Queens that "drag" the infield with yard rakes, an Asian cowboy that sings "Rainbow Connection," and the trains, the multitude of trains that rumble by the stadium during the course of the evening. Oh, and apparently there is a baseball game, too.

"Fun Is Good" is the motto of this minor-league ball club, members of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball along with clubs based in El Paso and Forth Worth. Co-owner/director of fun Bill Murray's (Golden Globe-winning actor of such classic flicks as Garfield and Ghostbusters II) fingerprints are all over this franchise. Along with partners Marv Goldklang and Mike Veeck, the owners have made the Saints an institution in the northern reaches of the heartland. The food is good, as fine as I have ever had at any ball game or carnival. I had the braut and deep-fat-fried cheese curds – a golden brown explosion of goodness on your taste buds – the tickets are cheep, and not a moment is dull. No one wants to hit the bathroom, because we all want to participate in the atmosphere of "fun."

Everyone won a White Castle cheese burger the night I went, with the "Slider for a Slider" promotion, when star outfielder Scooter Jordan slid into home and brought the score to 3-0 against the hated (and rather sad) St. Joe Blacksnakes at the bottom of the third.

There were about 5,000 people at the game. Every time a train would pass, we all stopped and yelled "train" as the very word crawled across the scoreboard. A newly wed couple was given crowns and placed in seats directly behind home plate. We cheered them. Bought them drinks. I think the wife got annoyed with all the attention. I can't see why. We were just having "fun."

Murray, Veeck, and Goldklang have done something that has been lost on the big-league boys for far too long: They have created a community. As the night went on and "we" were hammering the Blacksnakes, I walked around the ballpark and talked to a few folks. These people go to church together, go to school together, have jobs together, and at the Saints game, they were all having "fun" together. Between innings, one kid jumped into a pile of dog food simply to win his entire row a cute prize. In a day and an age when it costs an arm and leg to see the Twins (or Rangers or Astros) and listen to the major-league boys whine about money and steroids (the Rocket will make more money this year as a Yankee then the entire Tampa Bay Devil Rays roster), it was nice to have "fun" at the ballpark.

Fun is good.

[Editor's note: Timothy Braun is on a cross-country road trip/writing adventure and is doing some blogs for the Chronicle along the way. Can't say we aren't a little jealous.]

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