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  1. If there is any baseball player that could do it all, Harmon Killebrew would be that guy. He was an outstanding power hitter, he could play first base, third base and left field. His nicknames “The Killer” and “Hammerin’ Harmon” left little to the imagination as to what he was known for. Just a Small Town Boy If there was ever a small-town all-American youth, Harmon Killebrew is it. Killebrew grew up in a small town eastern Idaho where he worked as a farm hand and carried 10 gallon-95 pound milk buckets daily. It’s no wonder that he was able to hit sluggers when he got older. Harmon Killebrew was a tri-sport athlete in high school in Idaho. He played basketball, baseball and was the star quarterback of his football team. Killebrew was a natural athlete, a natural talent. Harmon Killebrew intended to play at the University of Oregon and was offered an athletic scholarship, but he turned it down. Harmon Killebrew ended up attending the College of Idaho and playing in the Idaho-Oregon Border League. Stellar Player, Incredible Man Killebrew showed out in semi-pro ball; so much that Idaho senator Herman Walker dropped a bug in the ear of Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith (father of Calvin) about the state’s crowned yet uncovered jewel. That led to a $50,000 contract for Griffith and inked the start of a career that would not only serve as the greatest of a ballplayer from Idaho, but one of the most prolific in the history of Major League Baseball. Harmon spent 22 years in the majors, 21 of which were with the Twins/Senators organization. Killebrew was rock-solid for Washington, consistently flirting with and surpassing a .300 batting average and earning all star accolades in 1959. Yet when the train left D.C. and headed west to Minneapolis, Killebrew’s true talent was untapped. Ten all-star appearances, an MVP award, and five HR titles later, Killebrew’s lore as a hall of famer was cemented. Yet after years of incredible accolades Harmon is remembered by most as a great ballplayer but an even better person. Kind to teammates, fans, and even umpires, Killebrew was the pinnacle of a gentleman that had the utmost respect for those around him. That genuine demeanor carried into his life off the field following retirement from baseball. Killebrew spent time with the A’s, Angels, and Twins as a broadcaster and continued to grow the game of baseball for those of all ages. And if you need more proof on how beloved Harmon was, find another former played who had an entire episode of the David Letterman show dedicated to him. Killebrew passed away in 2011 following a battle with Esophageal Cancer. The Twins released this statement following his passing. "No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew. Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. However, more importantly Harmon's legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man." Harmon Killebrew was the full package as a player and person. It’s no surprise that his silhouette embodies the MLB logo to this day. And while he’s no longer with us, his kind demeanor, heroic home runs, and genuine personality bring back fond memories to Twins fans that span almost the entirety of the organization’s history. Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here: #12 - Torii Hunter #11 - Chuck Knoblauch #10 - Jim Kaat #9 - Frank Viola #8 - Kent Hrbek #7 - Tony Oliva #6 - Johan Santana #5 - Bert Blyleven #4 - Joe Mauer #3 - Harmon Killebrew #2 - Coming Soon! View full article
  2. Just a Small Town Boy If there was ever a small-town all-American youth, Harmon Killebrew is it. Killebrew grew up in a small town eastern Idaho where he worked as a farm hand and carried 10 gallon-95 pound milk buckets daily. It’s no wonder that he was able to hit sluggers when he got older. Harmon Killebrew was a tri-sport athlete in high school in Idaho. He played basketball, baseball and was the star quarterback of his football team. Killebrew was a natural athlete, a natural talent. Harmon Killebrew intended to play at the University of Oregon and was offered an athletic scholarship, but he turned it down. Harmon Killebrew ended up attending the College of Idaho and playing in the Idaho-Oregon Border League. Stellar Player, Incredible Man Killebrew showed out in semi-pro ball; so much that Idaho senator Herman Walker dropped a bug in the ear of Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith (father of Calvin) about the state’s crowned yet uncovered jewel. That led to a $50,000 contract for Griffith and inked the start of a career that would not only serve as the greatest of a ballplayer from Idaho, but one of the most prolific in the history of Major League Baseball. Harmon spent 22 years in the majors, 21 of which were with the Twins/Senators organization. Killebrew was rock-solid for Washington, consistently flirting with and surpassing a .300 batting average and earning all star accolades in 1959. Yet when the train left D.C. and headed west to Minneapolis, Killebrew’s true talent was untapped. Ten all-star appearances, an MVP award, and five HR titles later, Killebrew’s lore as a hall of famer was cemented. Yet after years of incredible accolades Harmon is remembered by most as a great ballplayer but an even better person. Kind to teammates, fans, and even umpires, Killebrew was the pinnacle of a gentleman that had the utmost respect for those around him. That genuine demeanor carried into his life off the field following retirement from baseball. Killebrew spent time with the A’s, Angels, and Twins as a broadcaster and continued to grow the game of baseball for those of all ages. And if you need more proof on how beloved Harmon was, find another former played who had an entire episode of the David Letterman show dedicated to him. Killebrew passed away in 2011 following a battle with Esophageal Cancer. The Twins released this statement following his passing. "No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew. Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. However, more importantly Harmon's legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man." Harmon Killebrew was the full package as a player and person. It’s no surprise that his silhouette embodies the MLB logo to this day. And while he’s no longer with us, his kind demeanor, heroic home runs, and genuine personality bring back fond memories to Twins fans that span almost the entirety of the organization’s history. Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here: #12 - Torii Hunter #11 - Chuck Knoblauch #10 - Jim Kaat #9 - Frank Viola #8 - Kent Hrbek #7 - Tony Oliva #6 - Johan Santana #5 - Bert Blyleven #4 - Joe Mauer #3 - Harmon Killebrew #2 - Coming Soon!
  3. Last week, Nate Palmer wrote an article here at Twins Daily about the 1978 event in Waseca in which then owner Calvin Griffith, who brought the team to Minnesota from Washington DC in 1961, spoke to a group of citizens. In his discussion with the Waseca Lions, Griffth was quoted as saying, "“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." In addition, he chose to go after Hall of Famer Rod Carew, calling him a "fool" for taking the contract he did. Carew released a statement, which you can read by clicking Aaron's tweet below. It begins: "I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field. While I've always supported the Twins decision to honor Calvin with a statue, I also remember how inappropriate and hurtful his comments were on that fateful day in Waseca. The Twins did what they felt they needed to do for the organization and for our community. While we cannot change history, perhaps we can learn from it." https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1273971609125048321 The decision to remove the statue continues a trend of the Twins doing great things in the organization and in the community including: First team to announce they would not be releasing any minor leaguers and would continue to pay them through August. Pohlad Family Foundation donated $25 million commitment to racial justice. The Twins released the following statement in regard to their decision to remove the statue of Calvin Griffith. “When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction with our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’ As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball – including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961. “While we acknowledge the prominent role Calvin Griffith played in our history, we cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978. His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value. “Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today. We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused for many people – both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory. We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our ongoing commitment to provide a Target Field experience where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome. “Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality and injustice in Twins Territory.”
  4. On Friday morning, the Minnesota Twins announced that they had removed the bronze statue of Calvin Griffith from outside Target Field.Last week, Nate Palmer wrote an article here at Twins Daily about the 1978 event in Waseca in which then owner Calvin Griffith, who brought the team to Minnesota from Washington DC in 1961, spoke to a group of citizens. In his discussion with the Waseca Lions, Griffth was quoted as saying, "“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." In addition, he chose to go after Hall of Famer Rod Carew, calling him a "fool" for taking the contract he did. Carew released a statement, which you can read by clicking Aaron's tweet below. It begins: "I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field. While I've always supported the Twins decision to honor Calvin with a statue, I also remember how inappropriate and hurtful his comments were on that fateful day in Waseca. The Twins did what they felt they needed to do for the organization and for our community. While we cannot change history, perhaps we can learn from it." The decision to remove the statue continues a trend of the Twins doing great things in the organization and in the community including: First team to announce they would not be releasing any minor leaguers and would continue to pay them through August.Pohlad Family Foundation donated $25 million commitment to racial justice.The Twins released the following statement in regard to their decision to remove the statue of Calvin Griffith. “When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction with our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’ As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball – including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961. “While we acknowledge the prominent role Calvin Griffith played in our history, we cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978. His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value. “Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today. We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused for many people – both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory. We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our ongoing commitment to provide a Target Field experience where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome. “Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality and injustice in Twins Territory.” Click here to view the article
  5. Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players. But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career. Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise. The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease. When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses. But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team. But it wouldn’t be his Twins team.
  6. The Twins appeared to be ascending in 1977. The 'Lumber Company' made a charge towards the division title and over a million fans watched Rodney Carew fall just eight hits shy of hitting .400. But the team was about to go sharply downhill - before the next season even began. Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players. But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career. Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise. The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease. When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses. But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team. But it wouldn’t be his Twins team. Click here to view the article
  7. From the safety of the walls of my study, book and Twins bobbleheads looking down on me in great thought, comes a new post, "It's Official: Senators Announce Move To Minnesota, Oct. 26, 1960." It gives a short glimpse into the intrigue and downright un-transparent (opaque?) nature of the pre-move behavior by Griffith and the American League in 1960. It was a whole month before anyone ever used the word "Twins" in any context other than that involving Minneapolis and St. Paul. But that's a story for another time (and which is conveniently linked at the beginning of the above piece). I hope you enjoy the read-centric nature of my latest, minor classic. http://sabr.org/sites/default/files/images/GriffithCalvin.jpg
  8. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Ixy8W4PnS0o/UnBluCHW5HI/AAAAAAABGEo/qmhUosz6xq4/s400/Scan_Pic0055.jpg The end of a successful bubble blow or a difficult-to-swallow salary negotiation pill courtesy of owner Calvin Griffith? I think the latter! For the full story about Bert Blyleven's Bicentennial Year Bird gesture towards the Met Stadium crowd on May 31, 1976, go to my piece, "This Day In Twins History: May 31, 1976-Bert 'Waves Goodbye,'" at Classic Minnesota Twins. It will eventually link you to the full story at my Twins Facebook page.
  9. This post is part of a series in which Mark Armour and I count down the 25 best GMs in history, cross-posting from our blog. For an explanation, please see this post. Along with our countdown of the greatest 25 GMs in history, we occasionally plan to write about some people who did not make our list, as well as other topics related to baseball operations and front offices. Calvin Griffith is not eligible for our Top 25 because we chose to not include people who also owned the team, although despite his successes in the 1960s he would not have made the list in any case..When Calvin Griffith formally took over the Washington Senators in late 1955 after the death of his uncle Clark, he became the last of the family-owners to act as his own general manager. After more than half a century, many writers have a tendency to wax nostalgic about these owner-operators. In fact, these men, who had no outside source of income, often ran their clubs on a shoestring budget and spent much less on scouting and minor league operations than the wealthier franchises. By the early 1950s some of these teams were spectacularly unsuccessful. Somewhat astonishingly, Griffith proved an exception—at least for a while. During the 1960s the Twins were one of the American League’s best clubs and led the league in attendance over the decade. The organization that Calvin inherited evolved into an extended family operation. Brothers Sherry, Jimmy and Billy Robertson and brother-in-law Joe Haynes all held key executive positions within the system. And all had grown up around baseball and were competent at their jobs. But Griffith was very much in charge and immersed himself in all aspects of the team. Until the travel got to be too much, he personally saw in action nearly all the players receiving large amateur bonuses or acquired by trade. When he felt his managers were not being aggressive enough getting his young phenoms into the lineup, he forced the issue with future stars such as Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Rod Carew. Another time, when he thought the coaching was subpar, he kept his manager but revamped his on-field staff with expensive, big-name coaches. Because Griffith spent most of his energy concentrating on the baseball side of the operation, he neglected expanding or pursuing additional revenue sources, a shortcoming that exacerbated his lack of non-baseball resources. Griffith was a unique blend of bluster, naiveté and baseball smarts. Before formally joining the Senator organization in 1942, he had honed his craft working in the minors as both a manager and front office executive, and by the early 1950s was helping his aging uncle run the team. During his long apprenticeship Griffith had learned the baseball business but could never generalize beyond the lessons of the time and place in which he had learned them. Once the environment changed, Griffith was lost. He also remained surprisingly unpolished, which caused further difficulties in the 1970s and 1980s as he was forced to deal with increasingly sophisticated fellow owners, players, agents and press. By the late 1950s Washington was finishing last in American League attendance every year, usually by quite a distance. When Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul came calling to entice a move, Griffith was more than ready to listen, and the Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, causing the AL to put a new expansion team in Washington. The Twins had jumped to fifth in 1960 after three consecutive last-place finishes, and the franchise Griffith brought to Minnesota was laden with talent. Many of the players had been signed as amateurs: Harmon Killebrew as a bonus baby (1954), Bob Allison (1955), Jimmie Hall, Jim Kaat (1957), and Rich Rollins (1960). The Senators organization was also at the forefront of signing Latin American--particularly Cuban-- players, a talent source that was especially attractive to the Griffiths because it was inexpensive. Legendary scout Joe Cambria helped deliver several extremely talented Cuban ballplayers to the franchise, including Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Oliva. Just before the start of the 1960 season, Griffith made a great trade with Bill Veeck and the White Sox. He dealt 32-year-old Roy Sievers for two young players, Earl Battey and Don Mincher, plus $150,000. Over the next five years, as the youngsters matured, Griffith shrewdly reinforced his team. He traded for key pitchers Jim Perry and Jim “Mudcat” Grant, forking over about $25,000 in the latter deal, and purchased two veteran relievers, Al Worthington and Johnny Klippstein. Griffith wouldn’t spend beyond his relatively meager means to build a winner, but he wasn’t looking to pull money out of the franchise—he wanted to win and would do everything he could within his financial wherewithal. In 1965 the Twins won 102 games and the American League pennant. After losing a seven-game World Series to the Dodgers, the young and talented Twins appeared poised for many years of pennant contention. To Griffith’s credit, he had also assembled one of baseball’s more racially mixed teams. Many of the team’s stars were African-Americans or dark-skinned Cubans. Nevertheless, the Twins failed to capture a winnable American League over the next three years, principally because of a dramatic and unexpected drop-off by some for the team’s top position players. Griffith did his best to compensate, promoting Rod Carew in 1967 and trading for Dean Chance. The Twins won the new AL West in 1969 under manager Billy Martin, but lost to the Orioles in the ALCS. Griffith fired the mercurial Martin, and helped by a 19-year-old Bert Blyleven, the Twins won the division title again the next year. As the core of the team aged, however, Griffith could not replace his stars. And while he smartly traded for Larry Hisle in 1972 and stole Lyman Bostock as a late round amateur draft pick that same year, Griffith’s scouting and player development machine was only slowly recovering from the death of Haynes in 1967 and Sherry Robertson in 1970. The team played roughly .500 ball over the five years from 1971 through 1975, but attendance fell off significantly—from third in the league in 1971 to last by 1974--and Griffith lost around $2 million. When free agency came in 1976, Griffith was ill- prepared to meet it, both financially and because he had a league leading 22 unsigned players. In the first few years of free agency the Twins lost Bill Campbell, Eric Solderholm, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, and Tom Burgmeier. Griffith was also forced to trade Blyleven and Carew before they became free agents, though he engineered a nice return for both, including $250,000 in the Blyleven deal. Griffith slashed his payroll to the league’s basement, so when the team flirted at the edges of contention in 1976 and 1977 Griffith could claim a profit. Nonetheless, Griffith had little chance of competing without outside resources, a more enlightened approach to additional revenue sources, or a rebound in attendance. The opening of the Metrodome in 1982 did little to help. The Twins again finished last at the gate and bottomed out on the field with a record of 60-102. After continued financial struggles and flirting with moving the franchise, Griffith finally gave up and sold the team in 1984. He left behind the nucleus of the 1987 world championship squad, including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne. In September 1978 Griffith’s legacy was marred by his appearance at the Lions Club in Waseca, Minnesota. In what he thought were off the record comments, Griffith disparaged nearly everyone, but most incendiary were his racist comments regarding the reasons for moving the franchise to Minnesota. Griffith may have put together an integrated team, but he was also the product of a franchise and era that for many years had segregated seating in Washington’s Griffith Stadium and was the last team to desegregate its spring training accommodations in Florida. In his first 15 years at the helm Griffith masterminded the turnaround of one of baseball’s most hapless franchises and oversaw one the American League’s better teams of the 1960s. When Minnesota initially proved to be the financial bonanza he had hoped for, Griffith spent the additional revenues building a pennant winner. He purchased players, included money in trades, and paid top salaries to his stars. But as the economics of the game changed, Griffith had little to fall back on except his baseball intelligence, which left him and the Twins constantly struggling on the field and at the gate. To read more about the history of baseball operations and the GM, please buy our new book In Pursuit of Pennants–Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball via the publisher or at your favorite on-line store. Click here to view the article
  10. .When Calvin Griffith formally took over the Washington Senators in late 1955 after the death of his uncle Clark, he became the last of the family-owners to act as his own general manager. After more than half a century, many writers have a tendency to wax nostalgic about these owner-operators. In fact, these men, who had no outside source of income, often ran their clubs on a shoestring budget and spent much less on scouting and minor league operations than the wealthier franchises. By the early 1950s some of these teams were spectacularly unsuccessful. Somewhat astonishingly, Griffith proved an exception—at least for a while. During the 1960s the Twins were one of the American League’s best clubs and led the league in attendance over the decade. The organization that Calvin inherited evolved into an extended family operation. Brothers Sherry, Jimmy and Billy Robertson and brother-in-law Joe Haynes all held key executive positions within the system. And all had grown up around baseball and were competent at their jobs. But Griffith was very much in charge and immersed himself in all aspects of the team. Until the travel got to be too much, he personally saw in action nearly all the players receiving large amateur bonuses or acquired by trade. When he felt his managers were not being aggressive enough getting his young phenoms into the lineup, he forced the issue with future stars such as Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Rod Carew. Another time, when he thought the coaching was subpar, he kept his manager but revamped his on-field staff with expensive, big-name coaches. Because Griffith spent most of his energy concentrating on the baseball side of the operation, he neglected expanding or pursuing additional revenue sources, a shortcoming that exacerbated his lack of non-baseball resources. Griffith was a unique blend of bluster, naiveté and baseball smarts. Before formally joining the Senator organization in 1942, he had honed his craft working in the minors as both a manager and front office executive, and by the early 1950s was helping his aging uncle run the team. During his long apprenticeship Griffith had learned the baseball business but could never generalize beyond the lessons of the time and place in which he had learned them. Once the environment changed, Griffith was lost. He also remained surprisingly unpolished, which caused further difficulties in the 1970s and 1980s as he was forced to deal with increasingly sophisticated fellow owners, players, agents and press. By the late 1950s Washington was finishing last in American League attendance every year, usually by quite a distance. When Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul came calling to entice a move, Griffith was more than ready to listen, and the Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, causing the AL to put a new expansion team in Washington. The Twins had jumped to fifth in 1960 after three consecutive last-place finishes, and the franchise Griffith brought to Minnesota was laden with talent. Many of the players had been signed as amateurs: Harmon Killebrew as a bonus baby (1954), Bob Allison (1955), Jimmie Hall, Jim Kaat (1957), and Rich Rollins (1960). The Senators organization was also at the forefront of signing Latin American--particularly Cuban-- players, a talent source that was especially attractive to the Griffiths because it was inexpensive. Legendary scout Joe Cambria helped deliver several extremely talented Cuban ballplayers to the franchise, including Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Oliva. Just before the start of the 1960 season, Griffith made a great trade with Bill Veeck and the White Sox. He dealt 32-year-old Roy Sievers for two young players, Earl Battey and Don Mincher, plus $150,000. Over the next five years, as the youngsters matured, Griffith shrewdly reinforced his team. He traded for key pitchers Jim Perry and Jim “Mudcat” Grant, forking over about $25,000 in the latter deal, and purchased two veteran relievers, Al Worthington and Johnny Klippstein. Griffith wouldn’t spend beyond his relatively meager means to build a winner, but he wasn’t looking to pull money out of the franchise—he wanted to win and would do everything he could within his financial wherewithal. In 1965 the Twins won 102 games and the American League pennant. After losing a seven-game World Series to the Dodgers, the young and talented Twins appeared poised for many years of pennant contention. To Griffith’s credit, he had also assembled one of baseball’s more racially mixed teams. Many of the team’s stars were African-Americans or dark-skinned Cubans. Nevertheless, the Twins failed to capture a winnable American League over the next three years, principally because of a dramatic and unexpected drop-off by some for the team’s top position players. Griffith did his best to compensate, promoting Rod Carew in 1967 and trading for Dean Chance. The Twins won the new AL West in 1969 under manager Billy Martin, but lost to the Orioles in the ALCS. Griffith fired the mercurial Martin, and helped by a 19-year-old Bert Blyleven, the Twins won the division title again the next year. As the core of the team aged, however, Griffith could not replace his stars. And while he smartly traded for Larry Hisle in 1972 and stole Lyman Bostock as a late round amateur draft pick that same year, Griffith’s scouting and player development machine was only slowly recovering from the death of Haynes in 1967 and Sherry Robertson in 1970. The team played roughly .500 ball over the five years from 1971 through 1975, but attendance fell off significantly—from third in the league in 1971 to last by 1974--and Griffith lost around $2 million. When free agency came in 1976, Griffith was ill- prepared to meet it, both financially and because he had a league leading 22 unsigned players. In the first few years of free agency the Twins lost Bill Campbell, Eric Solderholm, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, and Tom Burgmeier. Griffith was also forced to trade Blyleven and Carew before they became free agents, though he engineered a nice return for both, including $250,000 in the Blyleven deal. Griffith slashed his payroll to the league’s basement, so when the team flirted at the edges of contention in 1976 and 1977 Griffith could claim a profit. Nonetheless, Griffith had little chance of competing without outside resources, a more enlightened approach to additional revenue sources, or a rebound in attendance. The opening of the Metrodome in 1982 did little to help. The Twins again finished last at the gate and bottomed out on the field with a record of 60-102. After continued financial struggles and flirting with moving the franchise, Griffith finally gave up and sold the team in 1984. He left behind the nucleus of the 1987 world championship squad, including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne. In September 1978 Griffith’s legacy was marred by his appearance at the Lions Club in Waseca, Minnesota. In what he thought were off the record comments, Griffith disparaged nearly everyone, but most incendiary were his racist comments regarding the reasons for moving the franchise to Minnesota. Griffith may have put together an integrated team, but he was also the product of a franchise and era that for many years had segregated seating in Washington’s Griffith Stadium and was the last team to desegregate its spring training accommodations in Florida. In his first 15 years at the helm Griffith masterminded the turnaround of one of baseball’s most hapless franchises and oversaw one the American League’s better teams of the 1960s. When Minnesota initially proved to be the financial bonanza he had hoped for, Griffith spent the additional revenues building a pennant winner. He purchased players, included money in trades, and paid top salaries to his stars. But as the economics of the game changed, Griffith had little to fall back on except his baseball intelligence, which left him and the Twins constantly struggling on the field and at the gate. To read more about the history of baseball operations and the GM, please buy our new book In Pursuit of Pennants–Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball via the publisher or at your favorite on-line store.
  11. This post is part of a series in which Mark Armour and I count down the 25 best GMs in history, crossposting from our blog. For an explanation, please see this post. Along with our countdown of the greatest 25 GMs in history, we occasioally plan to write about some people who did not make our list (as well as other topics related to baseball operations and front offices). Calvin Griffith is not eligable for our Top 25 because we chose to not include people who also owned the team (although despite his successes in the 1960s he would not have made the list in any case). When Calvin Griffith formally took over the Washington Senators in late 1955 after the death of his uncle Clark, he became the last of the family owners to act as his own general manager. After more than half a century, many writers have a tendency to wax nostalgic on these owner-operators. In fact, these men, who had no outside source of income, often ran their clubs on a shoestring budget and spent much less on scouting and minor league operations than the wealthier franchises. By the early 1950s some of these teams were spectacularly unsuccessful. Somewhat astonishingly, Griffith proved an exception—at least for a while. During the 1960s the Twins were one of the American League’s best clubs and led the league in attendance over the decade. The organization that Calvin inherited evolved into an extended family operation. Brothers Sherry, Jimmy and Billy Robertson and brother-in-law Joe Haynes all held down key executive positions within the system. And all had grown up around baseball and were competent at their jobs. But Griffith was very much in charge and immersed himself in all aspects of the team. Until the travel got to be too much, he personally saw in action nearly all the players receiving large amateur bonuses or acquired by trade. When he felt his managers were not being aggressive enough getting his young phenoms into the lineup, he forced the issue with future stars such as Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Rod Carew. Another time, when he thought the coaching was subpar, he kept his manager but revamped his on-field staff with expensive, big-name coaches. Because Griffith spent most of his energy concentrating on the baseball side of the operation, he neglected expanding or pursuing additional revenue sources, a shortcoming that exacerbated his lack of non-baseball resources. Griffith was a unique blend of bluster, naiveté, and baseball smarts. Before formally joining the Senator organization in 1942, he had honed his craft working in the minors as both a manager and front office executive, and by the early 1950s was helping his aging uncle run the team. During his long apprenticeship Griffith had learned the baseball business but could never generalize beyond the lessons of the time and place in which he learned them. Once the environment changed, Griffith was lost. He also remained surprisingly unpolished, which caused further difficulties in the 1970s and 1980s as he was forced to deal with increasingly sophisticated fellow owners, players, agents, and press. By the late 1950s Washington was finishing last in American League attendance every year, usually by quite a distance. When Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul came calling to entice a move, Griffith was more than ready to listen, and the Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, causing the AL to put a new expansion team in Washington. The Twins had jumped to fifth in 1960 after three consecutive last place finishes, and the franchise Griffith brought to Minnesota was laden with talent. Many of the players had been signed as amateurs: Harmon Killebrew as a bonus baby (1954), Bob Allison (1955), Jimmie Hall, Jim Kaat (1957), and Rich Rollins (1960). The Senators organization was also at the forefront of signing Latin American--particularly Cuban-- players, a talent source that was especially attractive to the Griffiths because it was inexpensive. Legendary scout Joe Cambria helped deliver several extremely talented Cuban ballplayers to the franchise, including Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Oliva. Just before the start of the 1960 season, Griffith made a great trade with Bill Veeck and the White Sox. He dealt 32-year-old Roy Sievers for two young players, Earl Battey and Don Mincher, plus $150,000. Over the next five years, as the youngsters matured Griffith shrewdly reinforced his team. He traded for key pitchers Jim Perry and Jim “Mudcat” Grant (forking over about $25,000 in the latter deal) and purchased two veteran relievers, Al Worthington and Johnny Klippstein. Griffith wouldn’t spend beyond his relatively meager means to build a winner, but he wasn’t looking to pull money out of the franchise—he wanted to win and would do everything he could within his financial wherewithal. In 1965 the Twins won 102 games and the American League pennant. After losing a seven-game World Series to the Dodgers, the young and talented Twins appeared poised for many years of pennant contention. To Griffith’s credit, he had also assembled one of baseball’s more racially mixed teams. Many of the team’s stars were African-Americans or dark-skinned Cubans. Nevertheless, the Twins failed to capture a winnable American League over the next three years, principally because of a dramatic and unexpected drop-off of some of the team’s top position players. Griffith did his best to compensate, promoting Rod Carew in 1967 and trading for Dean Chance. The Twins won the new AL West in 1969 under manager Billy Martin, but lost to the Orioles in the ALCS. Griffith fired the mercurial Martin, and helped by a 19-year-old Bert Blyleven, the Twins won the division title again the next year. As the core of the team aged, however, Griffith could not replace his stars. And while he smartly traded for Larry Hisle in 1972 and stole Lyman Bostock as a late round amateur draft pick that same year, Griffith’s scouting and player development machine was only slowly recovering from the death of Haynes in 1967 and Sherry Robertson in 1970. The team played roughly .500 ball over the five years from 1971 through 1975, but attendance fell off significantly—from third in the league in 1971 to last by 1974--and Griffith lost around $2 million. When free agency came in 1976, Griffith was ill prepared to meet it, both financially and because he had a league leading 22 unsigned players. In the first few years of free agency the Twins lost Bill Campbell, Eric Solderholm, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, and Tom Burgmeier. Griffith was also forced to trade Blyleven and Carew before they became free agents, though he engineered a nice return for both (including $250,000 in the Blyleven deal). Griffith slashed his payroll to the league’s basement, so when the team flirted at the edges of contention in 1976 and 1977 Griffith could claim a profit. Nonetheless, Griffith had little chance of competing without outside resources, a more enlightened approach to additional revenue sources, or a rebound in attendance. The opening of the Metrodome in 1982 did little to help. The Twins again finished last at the gate and bottomed out on the field with a record of 60-102. After continued financial struggles and flirting with moving the franchise, Griffith finally gave up and sold the team in 1984. He left behind the nucleus of the 1987 world championship squad, including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, and Greg Gagne. In September 1978 Griffith’s legacy was marred by his appearance at the Lions Club in Waseca, Minnesota. In what he thought were off the record comments, Griffith disparaged nearly everyone, but most incendiary were his racist comments regarding the reasons for moving the franchise to Minnesota. Griffith may have put together an integrated team, but he was also the product of a franchise and era that for many years had segregated seating in Washington’s Griffith Stadium and was the last team to desegregate its spring training accommodations in Florida. In his first 15-years at the helm Griffith masterminded the turnaround of one of baseball’s most hapless franchises and oversaw one the American League’s better teams of the 1960s. When Minnesota initially proved to be the financial bonanza he had hoped for, Griffith spent the additional revenues building a pennant winner. He purchased players, included money in trades, and paid top salaries to his stars. But as the economics of the game changed, Griffith had little to fall back on except his baseball intelligence, which left him and the Twins constantly struggling on the field and at the gate. To read more about the history of baseball operations and the GM, please buy our new book In Pursuit of Pennants–Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball via the publisher or at your favorite on-line store.
  12. The Minnesota Twins first home baseball game was played on April 21st, 1961, but that 5-3 loss was the tip of a large and rocky iceberg. Minneapolis and St. Paul civic leaders, yearning for their metro area to be considered “big league,” had been chasing a major league team for almost a decade. It did not go smoothly.The St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics, New York Giants, and Cleveland Indians had been wooed unsuccessfully. In their pursuit, the Twin Cities sibling rivalry flared up so that each built a major league stadium–but neither had a major league team. Civic leaders went so far as to back a new major league, the Continental League, which was to begin play in 1961 along with New York, Denver, Houston, Toronto, and other frustrated metro areas. To short-circuit the new league, Major League Baseball responded by expanding by four teams - but even then it looked like Minnesota would miss the cut. Part 1 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks. When the expansion meetings ended, however, Minnesota had their team. They weren’t awarded one of the expansion teams, but the Washington Senators, owned by Calvin Griffith, were relocating to Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. To ease the political backlash of that move--the American League owners rightly feared the nation’s lawmakers retaliating with additional antitrust hearings or other potentially punitive legislation--the D.C. area was awarded one of the two American League expansion teams. Griffith and the Twin Cities leaders had been talking about moving his franchise to the region for several years. In the face of pressure from minority owners and politicians, Griffith had never committed. However, with guarantees in place for attendance, moving expenses and bank credit, the quest had finally been completed. The franchise which Minnesota adopted was a team on the rise, though not by a terribly high standard. The Senators had not finished higher than fifth in the American League since 1946. Their inaugural season as the Twins didn’t change that trend; the team finished 70-90 and in seventh place in 1961. It also led to manager Cookie Lavagetto being replaced by Sam Mele, who would manage into the 1967 season. But Mele inherited a solid core of players. Catcher Earl Battey’s work in the 1960 season had earned him Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes, and he would garner multiple Gold Gloves and All-star appearances. Outfielder Bob Allison had been named Rookie of the Year just two years earlier, and would rank in the top ten in home runs eight times. Starting pitcher Camilo Pascual would win 20 or more games in 1962 and 1963 and be recognized as an All-Star five times. And 22-year-old Jim Kaat was beginning a career that would end with 283 wins and 16 Gold Gloves. Each was capable of doing significant harm to an opposing team, but they were joined by an absolute Killer. Next: Harmon Killebrew Leads A Revival Click here to view the article
  13. The St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics, New York Giants, and Cleveland Indians had been wooed unsuccessfully. In their pursuit, the Twin Cities sibling rivalry flared up so that each built a major league stadium–but neither had a major league team. Civic leaders went so far as to back a new major league, the Continental League, which was to begin play in 1961 along with New York, Denver, Houston, Toronto, and other frustrated metro areas. To short-circuit the new league, Major League Baseball responded by expanding by four teams - but even then it looked like Minnesota would miss the cut. Part 1 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks. When the expansion meetings ended, however, Minnesota had their team. They weren’t awarded one of the expansion teams, but the Washington Senators, owned by Calvin Griffith, were relocating to Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. To ease the political backlash of that move--the American League owners rightly feared the nation’s lawmakers retaliating with additional antitrust hearings or other potentially punitive legislation--the D.C. area was awarded one of the two American League expansion teams. Griffith and the Twin Cities leaders had been talking about moving his franchise to the region for several years. In the face of pressure from minority owners and politicians, Griffith had never committed. However, with guarantees in place for attendance, moving expenses and bank credit, the quest had finally been completed. The franchise which Minnesota adopted was a team on the rise, though not by a terribly high standard. The Senators had not finished higher than fifth in the American League since 1946. Their inaugural season as the Twins didn’t change that trend; the team finished 70-90 and in seventh place in 1961. It also led to manager Cookie Lavagetto being replaced by Sam Mele, who would manage into the 1967 season. But Mele inherited a solid core of players. Catcher Earl Battey’s work in the 1960 season had earned him Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes, and he would garner multiple Gold Gloves and All-star appearances. Outfielder Bob Allison had been named Rookie of the Year just two years earlier, and would rank in the top ten in home runs eight times. Starting pitcher Camilo Pascual would win 20 or more games in 1962 and 1963 and be recognized as an All-Star five times. And 22-year-old Jim Kaat was beginning a career that would end with 283 wins and 16 Gold Gloves. Each was capable of doing significant harm to an opposing team, but they were joined by an absolute Killer. Next: Harmon Killebrew Leads A Revival
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