The Brief History of the Minnesota Twins’ Calvin Griffith Memorial
In September 2010, the Minnesota Twins unveiled a memorial to recognize Calvin Griffith, their first owner. While Griffith is credited with bringing professional baseball to Minneapolis, his racist attitudes and actions trump his accomplishments. In response to growing public pressure following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the memorial was removed in June 2020.
Griffith is known for bringing major league sports to the Twin Cities. He took over the Washington Senators from his late uncle and guardian in 1955 and was granted permission to move the team from Washington, DC to Minnesota in October 1960. While the Twins failed to win a league title. World Series while owned by Griffith, the team found undeniable success in Minnesota, winning multiple division titles.
Griffith has built a reputation as an approachable, straightforward, and goof-prone team owner. Journalists sharply pointed out his crude and “mangled” outlook. . . syntax. “His brutal mannerisms also revealed his attitudes towards race. During a speech at Waseca Lions Club in September 1978, Griffith made many explicitly racist comments about his fans and players. Most notoriously, Responding to a question about why he chose to move the Twins to Minnesota, he said:
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota, is when I found out you only had 15,000 black people here.” Black people don’t go to ball games, but they will fill a ring with rattles and sing such a song that it will scare you to death. It’s incredible. We came here because you have good, hard working white people here.
While the comments to the Lions Club were the most explicit demonstration of Griffith’s racist attitudes, his bigotry was not limited to “unofficial” events. In fact, in 1962, the Minnesota State Commission on Discrimination filed a lawsuit against the Twins as the only Major League Baseball (MLB) team yet to separate players during spring practice and during road trips in the South.
With a history and reputation as controversial as Griffith’s, many have questioned the twins’ decision to place a bronze statue of him near Gate 29 at Target Field. Nonetheless, his memorial was unveiled in September 2010, for the Twins’ inaugural season at Target Field. Sculpted by Twin Cities artist Bill Mack, the life-size sculpture of Griffith showed him with a jacket on his arm and a baseball in hand accompanied by a sign that read: “I love baseball, it is. all. Ever since I was little, I played on those sand courts in Washington. There is nothing quite like being at the game.
His statue was part of a collection of memorials meant to showcase prominent figures in Twins history, including Griffith’s successors, Eloise and Carl Pohlad, and players like Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew. In fact, the Griffith statue was placed a few feet from the statue in honor of Rod Carew, a star Griffith player who left the team following Griffith’s racist claims at Waseca. While Carew has expressed support and understanding for the Twins’ decision to erect the memorial, the statue has sparked controversy and uncertainty among Minnesotans.
On April 15, 2015, VICE published an article titled “Why the Twins Should Demolish Their Statue of a Former Owner”. Around the same time, lifelong Twins fan Mike Tucker began what would be called an “individual boycott” of the team and their decision to maintain the statue. Tucker then set up a Facebook group called “MN Twins Fans for Calvin Griffith Statue Removal at Target Field” which has racked up over 250 members.
Responding to controversy and growing community pressure following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, the Twins released a statement explaining that the statue was removed on June 19, 2020. They said: We recognize the The prominent role Calvin Griffith has played in our history, we cannot remain silent and continue to ignore the racist comments he made at Waseca in 1978.
The team further stated, “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 continued commitment to provide a Target Field experience. where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome. ” Upon removal of the memorial, the owners of the Twins pledged to invest $ 25 million in racial justice initiatives.
For more information on this topic, see the original entry on MNopedia.