Griffith relocated the Washington Senators to Minnesota just before the 1961 season and remained owner until 1984. Even after the Twins moved to the Metrodome in 1982, Griffith continued to run the team in a discount style as independent wealthy owners began to populate major sports, Carl Pohlad bought the team for $38 million on Sept. 7, 1984. He died in 1999 at the age of 87.
Even though he’s played a huge part in Senators/Twins History, his racist remarks at a 1978 speaking engagement override his success.
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here,” Griffith had said. “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. We came here because you’ve got good, hard-working white people here.”
He was not aware that a news reporter was present at the speaking engagement.
Statement Regarding Griffith
“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,” the Twins said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Griffith’s statue is one of many statues in the Target Field Plaza right outside of Gates 29 and 34. The other statues include former players such as:
- Rod Carew
- Kent Hrbek
- Harmon Killebrew
- Tony Oliva
- Kirby Puckett
- Former Manager Tom Kelly
- Twins Mascot TC Bear
And former owners:
- Calvin Griffith
- Carl Pohlad and Eloise Pohlad
“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. We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe [the] removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our history.” The Twins stated later Friday afternoon per ESPN.
The Target Field opened in 2010. Fans have been wondering why it took the Twins organization 10 years to remove the statue. However, there is an uproar in the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in Minnesota. The Twins thought it would be an appropriate time to remove the statue.
Rod Carew was a former Twins player himself. Griffith called him a “damn fool” for playing for only $170,000 during that same 1978 appearance. Carew said he long ago forgave Griffith but understands the Twins’ decision on the statue.
“I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field,” Carew, who is black, said in a statement released by the team. “While I’ve always supported the Twins’ decision to honor Calvin with a statue, I also remember how inappropriate and hurtful his comments were. The Twins did what they felt they needed to do for the organization and for our community.”
The Twins organization released a statement on Instagram, and Facebook before taking this matter to the press. They stated all the reasons they got rid of the statue, as well as wanting everyone to feel safe. They concluded saying “Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality, and injustice in Twins Territory.”