How My Hometown Became the Site of an Embarrassing Moment in Twins History
One event in particular makes you embarrassed to any way be associated with the person or organization that they represented. Until recently, I had always simply viewed the event as one of a couple links back to my hometown of Waseca, MN from the Twins. In the events of the last couple weeks, there is a different sort of embarrassment that accompanies reliving a statement made by Twins then owner, Calvin Griffith.
The day was September 28, 1978 and Griffith was asked to speak at a Waseca Lions Club meeting. In the middle of a question and answer portion of the evening, Griffith was reported to make comments about race that would later be detailed by Minneapolis Tribune staffer Nick Coleman.
Coleman wrote that after asking if there were "any blacks in the room" Griffith went on to say:
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks. 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.”
Griffith would also go on to specifically speak about Rod Carew’s contract and call him a “fool” for signing the contract that he did. As you can imagine, when Carew found out about Griffith’s comments he was not pleased. I have to assume saying “not pleased” is putting it very kindly.
It was then and there Carew vowed to never sign another contract with Griffith and the Twins. We will never know if Carew would stick to his word, because he never had the chance to prove it. He was traded to the California Angels prior to 1979, the last season of the aforementioned contract.
This looks to be one of the many examples of the sort of comments and actions that has led to where we see our country now. I know that all of us come to Twins Daily from a variety of backgrounds, and I don’t want to try and convince you to think or feel a certain way about what has happened surrounding George Floyd’s death.
What I believe -- after not just what happened in Minneapolis, but hearing the stories of so many black men and women including some that I do have some connection to -- the root to what caused Griffith to make these racist comments does still exist in some form. I point that out that not to say any specific person is a racist, but we should all continue to look around us to see if we can see through the eyes of those crying for help.
There is hope. I see hope even amongst the Carew-Griffith relationship. Based on Carew’s feelings toward Griffith on his way out of the Twins organization it seems impossible that Carew would make Griffith one of his first phone calls after being voted into the Hall of Fame, but that is exactly what happened.
Carew even welcomed a statue in Griffith’s remembrance to be placed outside of the gate created in Carew’s honor, Gate 29, at Target Field. I haven’t seen an account of how Carew got from Griffith the bigot to Griffith the man he called and thanked (maybe there is a telling in Carew’s new book?), but I wonder if there is more we could all learn from their journey.
Learning is sometimes a difficult journey. Empathy can be just as hard. I don’t know exactly what “getting it right” will look like, but I see hope in the Carew-Griffith relationship. Hopefully Minnesota can lead the way there.
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