Baseball’s Rod Carew “Understands” Minnesota Twins Decision to Remove Statue

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[Rod Carew\ Griffith Statue]
Carew: “I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field...“While we cannot change history, perhaps we can learn from it."
Photo: YouTube

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew says he "understands and respects" Minnesota Twin' decision to remove statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who Carew played for.

The tumult of recent weeks has made my thoughts turn to Rod Carew, whose past life as a Minnesota Twin speaks to present days in Minneapolis, and the country.

In a tweet the other day, the New York Times sportswriter John Branch (my former colleague, since I’ve been retired from the paper for 13 years) quoted something I had said in a panel discussion on race a number of years ago, which he obviously and chillingly found pertinent to the news of today, in which Black men are targets of the police, from casual racial discomfort to killings.

Then Carew came up again with the news that Twins management had decided to take down the statue of a former team owner, Calvin Griffith, in front of Target Field, the team’s ballpark, because of racist remarks he made at a speaking engagement in 1978.

Griffith had moved the Senators franchise from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota for the 1961 season. “I’ll tell you when I came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when we found out that there were only 15,000 Blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games but they’ll fill up a wrestling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. We came because you’ve got good, hard-working white people here.”

Griffith later apologized for his remarks.

I called Carew and found him magnanimous, as usual, and also direct about Griffith and the current protest movement against racism.

It was clear he was working through the news about Griffith. He had issued a statement recently, which read in part that he “understands and respects” the Twins’ decision to remove the Griffith statue, but he also remembers “how supportive” Griffith was to him, a young Black rookie second baseman in 1967, and beyond. Carew wrote: “In 1977, my M.V.P. year, I made $170,000. When the season was over, Calvin called me into his office, thanked me for the great season, told me that I had made the team a lot of money, and handed me a check for $100,000. Could have knocked me over. A racist wouldn’t have done that.”

Carew, however, then still uncomfortable playing in Minnesota and, presumably, for Griffith, sought a trade that landed him in 1979 with the Angels, in Southern California, where he now lives.

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Here is Rod Carew's full statement on removal of Calvin Griffith's statue:

"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.

“I first met Calvin Griffith in 1964 when he travelled to New York City to watch me workout at Yankee Stadium. Calvin and longtime Minnesota Twins scout Herb Stein must have liked what they saw as they signed me to a professional contract shortly thereafter. I can tell you when I got to the major leagues with the Twins in 1967, Calvin was my most ardent supporter. He told manager Sam Mele that I was the Twins everyday second baseman. I saw no signs of racism whatsoever.

“In 1977, my MVP year, I made $170,000. When the season was over, Calvin called me into his office, thanked me for a great season, told me that I had made the team a lot of money and handed me a check for $100,000. You could have knocked me over. A racist wouldn't have done that.

“There is no way I can apologize for what Calvin said in Waseca in 1978. His comments were irresponsible, wrong and hurtful. I recall my response at the time reflected my anger and disappointment.

“Now that more than four decades have passed, I look back on Calvin’s comments and our personal relationship with additional context and perspective. In my view, Calvin made a horrible mistake while giving that speech in 1978. I have no idea what happened that day, but who among us has not made a mistake? I know Calvin paid a heavy price for those comments and I believe his thoughts on race evolved over time.

“When he traded me prior to the 1979 season, Calvin told me he wanted me to be paid what I was worth. Later that year the Angels made me the highest paid player in baseball. A racist wouldn't “In 1991, the first person I called after I was told I had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame was Calvin.

“I have long forgiven Cal for his insensitive comments and do not believe he was a racist. That was NOT my personal experience with Calvin Griffith –prior to or following that day in 1978.”


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