“The Last of the Pure Baseball Men”

January 12, 2008 – On October 26, 1960, Calvin Griffith, President of the Washington Senators, made the historic decision to move his club to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, thereby giving birth to the “Minnesota Twins,” named after the two Upper Midwest cities. Won the American League pennant in 1965; however, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series that year. Voted “Major League Executive of the Year” – 1965. Reputed to be “one of baseball’s most astute judges of raw talent”; in 1964, he discovered and signed Rod Carew a second baseman and one of the most famous of former Twins players. On June 23, 1984, prominent local businessman Carl Pohlad stepped forward and signed an agreement in principle to purchase the team for $32 million from Griffith and his sister, Mrs. Thelma Griffith Haynes, and keep the Twins in Minnesota. On September 7, 1984 the deal was finalized ending an era of 72 years in which the Griffith family controlled the ball club. On October 20, 1999, the man who brought big league baseball to Minnesota died at the age of 87. Calvin Griffith died in his retirement home in Melbourne, Florida, of kidney infection.

I had an opportunity to do a telephone interview with Calvin in the late 1980’s when I was taking some classes at North Hennepin Community College and I need to interview an executive so I choose Calvin Griffith. I got his number from the phone directory and gave him a call in Florida. Calvin answered the phone and I told him who I was and why I was calling and he could not have been any nicer. I don’t know if he was lonely or just loved talking about baseball but he did not want to hang up the phone. We talked about his career and the state of baseball and it was one of the most fun class assignments I ever had. By the time we had this conversation, he and Carl Pohlad had some kind of a falling out and Calvin was bitter about how Pohlad and the Twins were treating him but the man still knew and loved baseball and nothing and no one could keep him away from the game he loved. I had told him about the time when the Met was being readied to be demolished and the Twins had a huge auction of everything and anything that was still left and how I had ended up somehow in the bowels of the old Met and stood outside an office door where Calvin and his cronies were telling old baseball stories, smoking cigars and tipping a few cold drinks. Those were some great stories but many could not be repeated in public today. How the times have changed, I have to wonder what Calvin Griffith was say about the steroid and HGH controversy of today.

If any of you are interested in knowing more about Calvin and the impact he had on baseball in Minnesota, find a copy of “Calvin – Baseball’s Last Dinosaur” by Jon Kerr, it is a fun read. I have a copy signed by both Calvin and Jon sitting on my bookcase and I take it out now and then and read a chapter or two.

 

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