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Calvin Robertson Griffith (December 1, 1911 - October 20, 1999), born Calvin Robertson in Montreal, Canada, was a Major League Baseball team owner (1955 - 1984). He was famous for his devotion to the game and for his sayings.

He was the nephew of Clark Griffith, who raised Calvin from the age of 11. After Calvin's father died a year later, Clark adopted the boy. The senior Griffith owned the Washington Senators from 1920 until his death in 1955; upon his death, the team passed into the hands of Calvin, who had worked up through a variety of positions with the team, starting as a batboy, and serving a brief stint under Joe Engel and the Chattanooga Lookouts at Engel Stadium.

Under Calvin Griffith's ownership, just a few years after his father's death, Calvin moved the Senators to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota in 1961. They were renamed the Minnesota Twins. Famous for his sayings ("He'll either be the best manager in baseball - or the worst," he said when he gave a young Billy Martin his first manager job), one of his most infamous landed him in trouble in 1978, drawing charges of racism. Speaking at a Lions Club dinner in Waseca, Minnesota, Griffith was quoted as saying:

"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ballgames, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here."

When his quote was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, Griffith offered a conflicting defense: that his quotes had been taken out of context, that he had been misquoted entirely, and that he was joking, trying to get a laugh out of the crowd.[1] His best player, Rod Carew (already in a bitter contract dispute with Griffith), immediately declared he no longer desired to be "another nigger on (Griffith's) plantation." The remark from Carew seems to have been a negotiating tactic, however, as Carew later said that "Calvin and I had a very good relationship...When I got the news that I was going into the Hall of Fame, he was the first person I called. I was 3 o'clock in the morning...I called him before I called my mom because I owed him that much respect." Carew also acknowledged that Griffith surprised him with a $150,000 bonus after the 1977 season. [1]

In 1984, buffeted by the changes in baseball brought about by free agency, Griffith sold the Twins to Minneapolis banker Carl Pohlad; Griffith wept at the signing ceremony.

Griffith died on October 20, 1999 at the age of 87. Ironically, he was buried back in Washington, D.C., a city he rarely visited after he moved the Senators to Minnesota, and as a result made him one of most disliked figures in Washington sports.

References

  1. ^ The Twins at the Met, 2009, Beaver's Pond Press, by author Bob Showers, page 64
Preceded by
Clark Griffith
1920–1955
Owner of the
Washington Senators (I)/Minnesota Twins
1955–1984
Succeeded by
Carl Pohlad
1984–2009

External links

Further reading

  • John Kerr, Calvin: Baseball’s Last Dinosaur (Wm. C. Brown, Dubuque, 1990)
  • David Anderson, Quotations From Chairman Calvin (Brick Alley Books Press, Stillwater, 1984)
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