Griffith sells the Twins

Friday June 22, 1984

Prior to the Twins 8-6 loss at the hands of the White Sox, a tearful Calvin Griffith signed a letter of intent to sell his share of the Minnesota Twins to banker Carl Pohlad.

The transition would mark the first time since 1920 that a Griffith was not the majority owner of the franchise. Clark Griffith took over ownership of the Washington Nationals that year when he wrapped up his on-the-field career with the Nats. In 1922 Clark Griffith adopted his 11-year-old nephew, Calvin, after the boy’s father died. From that point on, Calvin was a part of the franchise, starting as a bat boy, and eventually taking over ownership of the team when his adopted father died in 1955.

One of Calvin’s first moves as majority owner was to move the team from Washington to the Twin Cities. Calvin Griffith had owned the team from the first day they played a game with “Twins” on their uniforms. He had a reputation for being quite a miser, and by the late seventies was considered a baseball dinosaur. While most baseball owners during that time had made their fortunes outside of the game, Calvin Griffith was one of the last pure baseball men left in the ranks of ownership.

There were signs that the “new” business of baseball was starting to pass Calvin by in the early eighties. He was frustrated that the Twins would invest and develop talent in the farm system just to lose the emerging players to teams with a less conservative approach to spending.

Additionally, Calvin had made some racially charged remarks in 1978 at a speech at the Waseca Lions Club, where he reportedly said “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.” The backlash was predictable and included the loss of future Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew, who refused to play on a Calvin Griffith owned team after that.

All of those factors combined to make Griffith’s decision a relatively easy one, though it was still emotional. He felt regret shortly after the sale when Pohlad fired the remaining Griffiths from their posts in the Twins’ organization, but he remained a fixture at games for the next several years. Most notably, Griffith was present to throw out ceremonial pitches at both the 1987 and 1991 World Series.

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7 Responses to Griffith sells the Twins

  1. Beau says:

    So they were called the Nationals back in the 20’s? If so, when did they get the name Senators?

  2. Scot says:

    They were officially called “Nationals” starting in 1905. Most of the DC media continued to call them “Senators”, the name of the old NL team in Washington. Finally, after the 1955 season, Calvin Griffith gave in and made “Senators” the official name.

    I use Nationals because that was the official name. Most newspaper clippings I have read from the time either refer to them as Senators, Nats (which could be short for either) or Griffs.

  3. Beau says:

    Interesting. Baseball-reference has them listed as the Senators for all those years, and they’re pretty good about putting the “actual” teams name down during those years. For example, the Boston Americans and the Brooklyn Robins, for the Red Sox and Dodgers respectively.

  4. Scot says:

    I have noticed that. I suppose that could be so as not to confuse those early teams with the new Nationals – or the fact that just about everybody called them Senators.

    If you look through their old uniforms, the only years nicknames were included on the jersey was 1905-1906: https://coffeyvillewhirlwind.wordpress.com/2006/12/18/the-franchise-1906/

    Then Senators showed up for the 1959-1960 seasons.

  5. Beau says:

    Hey, I e-mailed Sean Forman and got this respone:

    >

  6. Beau says:

    Let’s try this again…apparently brackets are evil

    …Yes, that has been brought to my attention before. The Senators was
    in such wide use (even the HOF uses the Senators for their Walter
    Johnson bio) that I don’t see a good reason to change it. However, a
    note stating their official name would probably be appropriate….

  7. Scot says:

    I should do a post about the name – you aren’t the first person to comment on it, though so far you are the first not to assume that it was a typo.

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