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RIP to Minneapolis Baseball Legend Willie Mays

Plus a Black bookstore for sale, modular builds coming to north Minneapolis, and Spruce Tree Center is in 'Minecraft' in today's Flyover news roundup.

Hennepin Country Public Library

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Willie Mays Played Here

OK, I know we try to claim every famous person as a Minnesotan, but let’s take the passing of Willie Mays at the age of 93 as an opportunity to acknowledge the baseball great’s brief career in Minneapolis. Yes, “baseball great” is an inadequate way to describe a guy who’s on any reasonable short list of the game’s best players ever—he retired in 1973 with 660 home runs, 339 stolen bases, and a career batting average of .301. And as for “brief”... well, we’re talking about two months here.

Mays started the 1951 season with the Minneapolis Millers, who were then the Triple A farm team for the New York Giants. He was off to the big leagues before June, and fans who didn’t make it to Nicollet Park before he split formed the “I Didn’t See Him Club.” The Giants even took out an ad in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune sort-of apologizing to local fans for promoting Mays so quickly, though his rise was inevitable. “The Tribune’s Halsey Hall was already calling Mays ‘one of the greatest players who has ever come along in baseball’ by 1951, and none of Hall’s colleagues disagreed,” Andy Sturdevant wrote in a 2016 column for MinnPost that covered Mays’s short stint here. Mays lived at 3616 Fourth Ave. S., just around the corner from the Hosmer Library, and a short walk away from the ball field at 31st and Nicollet.  

Wanna Buy Black Garnet Books?

“Have you ever wanted a bookstore but the idea of scouting locations, fundraising/applying for funds, building out a retail space from scratch, curating (by hand) an opening inventory of 2,000 titles, and doing grassroots marketing for two years sounds like a lot of work?” That’s what Dionne Sims asked on Instagram yesterday, and if you answered “yes,” well, Sims just might be willing to make a deal with you. 

After running it online for a bit, Sims opened Black Garnet Books in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul in 2022; it was the culmination of efforts that began in the weeks after the police murder of George Floyd. “Minnesota doesn’t have a Black-owned bookstore,” she tweeted in June 2020. “I think that’s my new dream.” Now Sims has another new dream: She’s going back to school with plans to become a writer. (And her plans have a way of becoming realities.) But she wants the legacy of Black Garnet to continue without her. “This bookstore has the foundation to continue for years to come, and I realized that’s what I wanted to accomplish,” as she puts it.

North Minneapolis Goes Modular

George Modular Solutions broke ground yesterday on a $11.8 million manufacturing facility in north Minneapolis that will build modular residential and commercial buildings, reports Katelyn Vue of Sahan Journal. Behind that project is former L.A. Laker Devean George, who was raised on the north side and whose dad still lives there, and who was dismayed by the abandoned buildings and insufficient opportunities in north Minneapolis. “The goal of George Modular Solutions is to both speed up the development of new housing in north Minneapolis and boost the community’s job base,” says Vue. New affordable housing developments in Brooklyn Park and the Upper Harbor Terminal will use the units built in the new facility. 

A St. Paul Landmark Goes Digital

There are people who hate the Spruce Tree Center for some reason. When Racket sent Ian Ringgenberg across the river to explore St. Paul, he referred to the distinctive St. Paul building’s “grotesque green architecture.” And there are those who (sort of) defend it. “In the age of Minecraft, I’d venture to say the pixelated brutalism (as one friend of mine put it) has aged better than most 1980s urban mall structures,” Bill Lindeke wrote in MinnPost last year

As Lindeke’s quote suggests, it’s hard not to think of the popular sandbox game when looking at the Spruce Tree now, given the blocky, tiled exterior of the building, And we can’t say for sure that Twitter user (OK, fine “X” user) @moeinminn is the first to take a crack at reconstructing the STC in Minecraft. But her version is the first that we’ve seen evidence of online, and she did a nice job of it. I hope she now truly knows peace.

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