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Calvin Griffith

Calvin Griffith

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Calvin Robertson Griffith (December 1, 1911 — October 20, 1999), born Calvin Robertson in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, was a Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 team owner. As president, majority owner and de facto general manager
General manager (baseball)
In Major League Baseball, the general manager of a team typically controls player transactions and bears the primary responsibility on behalf of the ballclub during contract discussions with players....

 of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are a professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The team is named after the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They played in Metropolitan Stadium from 1961 to 1981 and the...

 franchise of the American League
American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League , is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major...

 from 1955
1955 in baseball
-Major League Baseball:*World Series: Brooklyn Dodgers over New York Yankees ; Johnny Podres, MVP*All-Star Game, July 12 at County Stadium: National League, 6-5 -Other champions:*Caribbean World Series: Cangrejeros de Santurce...

1984
1984 in baseball
-Major League Baseball:*World Series: Detroit Tigers over San Diego Padres ; Alan Trammell, MVP*American League Championship Series MVP: Kirk Gibson*National League Championship Series MVP: Steve Garvey...

, he was famous for his devotion to the game and for his sayings.

Childhood in Montreal and Washington


The son of a minor league baseball
Minor league baseball
Minor league baseball is a hierarchy of professional baseball leagues in the Americas that compete at levels below Major League Baseball and provide opportunities for player development. All of the minor leagues are operated as independent businesses...

 player, Calvin Robertson was the nephew of Clark Griffith
Clark Griffith
Clark Calvin Griffith , nicknamed "the Old Fox", was a Major League Baseball pitcher, manager and team owner.-Biography:...

, the Hall of Fame former pitcher
Pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

 and manager
Manager (baseball)
In baseball, the field manager is an individual who is responsible for matters of team strategy on the field and team leadership. Managers are typically assisted by between one and six assistant coaches, whose responsibilities are specialized...

 who became president of the Senators in . He raised Calvin from the age of 11 and adopted the boy when Calvin's father died a year later. Calvin's widowed mother and his siblings moved to Washington as well, and at least three brothers — Sherry
Sherry Robertson
Sherrard Alexander Robertson was a Canadian-American outfielder, second baseman and front office executive in Major League Baseball.-Member of Griffith baseball dynasty:...

, Jimmy and Billy — and a brother-in-law, Joe Haynes, would eventually become Senators' executives, while brother-in-law Joe Cronin
Joe Cronin
Joseph Edward Cronin was a Major League Baseball shortstop and manager.During a 20-year playing career, he played from 1926–45 for three different teams, primarily for the Boston Red Sox. Cronin was a major league manager from 1933–47...

, a Hall of Fame shortstop
Shortstop
Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball fielding position between second and third base. Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball, because there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the...

, would serve as playing manager of the Senators and Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are a professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of Major League Baseball’s American League Eastern Division. Founded in as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox's home ballpark has been Fenway Park since . The "Red Sox"...

, general manager of the Red Sox, and president of the American League.

The senior Griffith owned the Senators until his death in 1955
1955 in baseball
-Major League Baseball:*World Series: Brooklyn Dodgers over New York Yankees ; Johnny Podres, MVP*All-Star Game, July 12 at County Stadium: National League, 6-5 -Other champions:*Caribbean World Series: Cangrejeros de Santurce...

; upon his passing, the team passed into the hands of Calvin, who had worked his way up through a variety of positions with the team, starting as a batboy, minor league player and manager (serving a brief stint under Joe Engel and the Chattanooga Lookouts
Chattanooga Lookouts
The Chattanooga Lookouts are a minor league baseball team based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA. They are named for nearby Lookout Mountain. The team, which plays in the Southern League, has been a Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers major-league club since the 2009 season. The Lookouts...

 at Engel Stadium
Engel Stadium
Engel Stadium is a stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The stadium was built in 1930 and holds 12,000 people. It was the home of the Chattanooga Lookouts until 1999 when they moved to their current stadium, AT&T Field. Tennessee Temple University has held their home games at Engel since the Lookouts...

), and front-office executive.

Controversial club owner


Under Calvin Griffith's ownership, just a few years after his father's death, the Senators were moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota in 1961
1961 in baseball
-Major League Baseball:*World Series: New York Yankees over Cincinnati Reds ; Whitey Ford, MVP*All-Star Game , July 11 at Candlestick Park: National League, 5-4 *All-Star Game , July 31 at Fenway Park: 1–1 tie...

. They were renamed the Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are a professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The team is named after the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They played in Metropolitan Stadium from 1961 to 1981 and the...

. 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
Billy Martin
Alfred Manuel "Billy" Martin, Jr. was an American Major League Baseball second baseman and manager. He is best known as the manager of the New York Yankees, a position he held five different times...

 his first manager job), one of his most infamous landed him in trouble in 1978
1978 in baseball
-Other champions:*Caribbean World Series: Indios de Mayagüez *College World Series: USC*Japan Series: Yakult Swallows over Hankyu Braves *Little League World Series: Pin-Kuang, Pin-Tung, Taiwan-Awards and honors:*Most Valuable Player...

, 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
Star Tribune
The Star Tribune is the largest newspaper in the U.S. state of Minnesota and is published seven days each week in an edition for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. A statewide version is also available across Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The...

, 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.http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/198108/baseball/6 His best player, Rod Carew
Rod Carew
Rodney Cline "Rod" Carew is a former Major League Baseball first baseman, second baseman and coach. He played from 1967 to 1985 for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels and was elected to the All-Star game every season except his last. In 1991, Carew was inducted into the National...

 (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.

Legacy


In 1984, buffeted by the changes in baseball brought about by free agency, Griffith sold the Twins to Minneapolis banker Carl Pohlad
Carl Pohlad
Carl R. Pohlad was a successful financier and the owner of the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise from 1984 until his death in 2009.-Early life:...

; 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.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, 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.

Calvin Griffith was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum is a museum located in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada. The museums commemorates great players, teams, and accomplishments of baseball in Canada.-History:...

 in 2010.

External links


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)