There was little ambiguity to Calvin Griffith's racism.
The Minnesota Twins' original owner demonstrated as much in 1978 while speaking to Waseca's Lions Club. At one point Griffith, who relocated his Washington Senators to Minneapolis in 1961, pumped the brakes on his speech, hushed his voice, and asked if any Black people were in attendance.
"I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota," Griffith proceeded to say, unaware that Minneapolis Tribune reporter Nick Coleman was transcribing his remarks in real-time on a napkin. "It was when I 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. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here."
Griffith went on to mock future Hall of Famer Rod Carew, one of the Twins' Black stars, as "a damn fool" for accepting a below-market-rate contract.
Six years later, Griffith sold the team to the late Carl Pohlad, whose family still owns it. In 1999, Griffith died at age 87.
Fast-forward to 2020: May's police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a nation-wide movement to topple monuments to racists, including the bronze statue honoring Griffith that was erected outside Target Field in 2010. The statue of Griffith, pictured above, was removed by the team Friday morning.
“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 organization said in a statement. "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."
The statue existed for a decade due to "an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today," the Twins said, while offering an apology for "the pain it caused for many people – both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory."
In a separate statement, Carew says he understands and respects why the Twins tore down the statue, noting that he forgave Griffith long ago and doesn't consider him a racist.
"When he traded me prior to the 1979 season, Calvin told me he wanted me to be paid what I was worth," Carew says. "Later that year the Angels made me the highest paid player in baseball. A racist wouldn't have done that."
In other news regarding our long-overdue reckoning with American's foundational racism...
Calhoun Square, the Uptown shopping complex named after pro-slavery zealot John C. Calhoun, just removed its massive marquee; its TBD future name will (presumably!) be inoffensive. Last week, a collection of protesters, some of them Dakota and Ojibwe, ripped down a 10-foot statue of historical monster Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul.