Remembering the team owner who moved his team to get away from black people
Mark Armour and Dan Levitt’s greatest GM series concluded last week, but they are keeping the content rolling over at their Pursuit of Pennants blog. Today’s subject: Calvin Griffith.
Griffith owned the Senators and then, after moving them out of D.C., the Twins until the early 1980s. As Dan details today, Griffith was one of the last of the old school owner/GMs who ran both the business and the baseball operations. He had some savvy when it came to baseball ops, but by the time the 1960s and especially the 1970s rolled around, the job was just too big for one guy, and it led to a lot of trouble for the Twins eventually. The post provides an excellent example of how the business and player development side of the game fundamentally changed during the decades Griffith was in charge.
Not mentioned, however, was my “favorite” part of Calvin Griffith’s legacy: his explanation for why he moved the Senators to Minnesota in 1960. Here are his comments, taken from a Star-Tribune report in 1978. His jumping off point was when he was asked by someone about rumors that he might move the Twins out of Minnesota.Remember, he said this at the time -- in 1978 -- not in the 50s or the 60s:
“They’ve got all the ink and all the typewriters but they don’t have all the truth,” Griffith said. “There’s no damn place in the country worth moving to. They talk about New Orleans, but what’s wrong with that is...”
At that point, Griffith interrupted himself, lowered his voice and asked if there were any blacks around. After he looked around the room and assured himself that his audience was white, Griffith resumed his answer.
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”
And after that he began to rip his own players for their personal lives and work ethic.
There’s a statue of Griffith outside of Target Field. He didn’t make Cooperstown, but he is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the legacy of the man whose innovations essentially caused the game to pass Griffith by -- Marvin Miller -- can’t get the time of day.