20th Century, Americana, Folk, History, music, Uncategorized

Bob Dylan before his First Album

Bob Dylan Music as a Child. ca. 1953-57. Fizz.net

1961
Hibbing’s Bob Dylan, once a play-for-free minstrel at bars around the University of Minnesota, releases his first album. He takes folk into rock and rock into politics, and becomes a legend of American music. Born Robert Zimmerman, he assumes a new name that pays homage to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. *

So many words have been spilt attempting to uncover the mystery of Bob Dylan. As an historian of Minnesota, I don’t want to play musicologist, but rather focus on a few early relational aspects of his youth that may have contributed to his character which may have contributed to his epic impact on the 20th century.

Louie Kemp began his friendship with Bob at Herzl Camp near Webster, Wisconsin during their preteen years. To his recollection, he witnessed Zimmerman’s first concert at camp in 1954 as an 11year old. The boys hung out in their teen years around Duluth, Minnesota where Kemp grew up. Dylan played around the U of M when Kemp when in attendance there. He likened their adventures to “a modern-day Jewish version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” **

Out of respect, let us allow Mr. Dylan to tell his own story of his Minnesota roots.

“My brains and feelings have come from there… The earth there is unusual, filled with ore,” Dylan said in a 1978 Playboy interview. “There’s a magnetic attraction there: maybe thousands of years ago some planet bumped into the land there. There is a great spiritual quality throughout the Midwest. Very subtle, very strong, and that is where I grew up.” ***

Now we turn to You, Adonai, and listen to Your music. You spoke and created. Did the music of Your voice assemble the matter of this universe? Only You know. Yet we remember, today, the place that writing and music has in Your heart! May we sit with You and watch this moment, Eternal Father? May we listen with You to this exciting beginning when You laid the foundation for Bob Dylan’s artistic release?

We remember first the importance of Herzl Camp. A place with the stated goal of the formation of lifelong Jewish friendships. We remember another after Your heart, David, who bound himself to Jonathan “in close friendship”. (I Samuel 18:1-5) We remember this place and thank You for its contribution in bringing root friendships into the lives of many. Will You bless and keep it in perpetuity?

Next, we thank You that friends give us the place to become. When we are safe, when we are accepted, we begin to believe that we have a self worth knowing. What a treasure You put into us; the longing to know and be known! We praise You that these boys, Louie and Bob, could experience this kind of brotherhood.

Additionally, we thank You for the importance of place and context to Your people and Your Kingdom. You made the tabernacle a place to intersect with Your Presence. You rescued Israel from the famine and placed them under Joseph in Goshen. You gave Your nation Canaan and established Jerusalem. And You gave Bob Dylan the context of Hibbing?!

Yet, in Your economy of purpose, it all makes sense; Hibbing is a place of great contrasts. It’s surrounded by silence and the noise of the largest iron mine on earth. It’s both “Anysmalltown, USA” and significant to the world. Maybe it’s like the writing of Dylan: compact, expansive, verbose, but not over-baked in its turns of phrase? Perhaps it’s like Your storytelling: only honesty, robust, mysterious, prophetic, and believable?

In any case, we remember and applaud this memory of Mr Dylan’s first record to You. We thank You of the inheritance and richness brought to Northern Minnesota through the Jews of Lithuania and all Eastern Europe. We commend You for seeing the talent of an 11 year old, in the middle of the woods, next to the largest open pit mine, in the center of a continent.

We thank You that this young poet participated in many of the most significant events of the next decade, but did not lose his identity. For some reason, Dylan could explore subjects that were misconstrued as political, but not yield to the generational political pressures of the Greenwich folk movement or the hippies. Similarly, though critics tried to place him in a religious box, he always seemed to know the secret of the Messiah; faith is an internal freedom and a permanent hat tip to the Eternal One.

Will You forgive the misbeliefs, unbeliefs, and offenses against You through the folk movement of this era? Will You commend the honest questions of this generation, and bring the inward as well as external peace they sought? Only the Messiah can radiate and impart such healing to our stumbling and prideful race because You know our brokenness, yet still CHOOSE to love us.

Will You speak words of life to this generation and the next and the next as You did through Bob? Will You bring chesed through the music of Minnesota?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” ****

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20th Century, Americana, baseball, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history

Minnesota Twins First Game

1961 Press Photo Calvin Griffith, Cookie Lavagetto. origins unknown.

1961
Calvin Griffith’s Washington Senators are reborn as the Minnesota Twins. They lose ninety games in 1961, but Killebrew, Battey, and Kaat lead them to an American League pennant four years later.*

The history of the Twins is like an old baseball, two pieces of horsehide** somehow stitched together around a lot of yarns! In this case, the Saint Paul Saints and the Minneapolis Millers fans yielded a potent and sometimes violent 59 year rivalry (1902-1960) to back the new team in town. Gone were the days of streetcar double headers where fans and players alike could wind up bloodied by spikes and baseball bats in grudge matches both on and off the field for supporting their team. Baseball was about to become a bona fide professional sport when Calvin Griffith brought the Washington (DC) Nationals/Senators to town and renamed them the “Minnesota Twins”! ***

To backtrack a bit, Calvin Robertson may never had pursued a lifetime of baseball were it not for the tragedy of losing his father James at a young age. At age 11, the boy was taken in by his aunt Addie, whose husband Clark Griffith owned the Washington Senators, and the couple raised him as a Griffith. This meant his participation in baseball: he immediately worked as a batboy for the Senators through his childhood, and went on to both pitch and catch for at George Washington University.***

After university, he entered headlong into the business of baseball. He worked various office positions for farm clubs for the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Charlotte Hornets. **** Returning to DC, Calvin filled a variety of roles in the front office, and gained the trust and business acumen to assume more and more leadership roles. When his uncle passed in 1955, he was elected the President of the team that Clark had built.

Always a close-knit crew, Mr. Griffith and his sister Thelma inherited 52% of the franchise, and they populated its leadership with kin. Take for example that the positions of pitching instructor, farm director, stadium supervisor, and concessions were filled by their brothers and in-laws. In spite of the solid economic footing provided by their adoptive father, the club strained to fill the seats, and Calvin sought a way out of the doldrums in DC. ***

At a serendipitous moment, investors from Minnesota guaranteed $430,000 a year and attendance of 750,000 just as many in the American League were in a mood to expand. On October 26, 1960, it voted to expand to 10 teams and allow the move that Griffith longed to make.**** In their first season in 1961, attendance went from 743,404 to 1,256,743 fans, and the team placed 7th in the league.***** Within five years, they would arrive at the World Series led by superstar hitter Harmon Killebrew, and thereafter be taken as a team to contend with.

So now we come to the All; the Champion of the Universe! We remember today that You chose to include us in the business of Your family, and even to intimately know Your thoughts. You have searched for us when we weren’t even looking for You; You have adopted so many into Your family. All-Knowing One, can we sit with You and remember this time in history, and the lessons from the life of Mr. Calvin Robertson Griffith?

We initiate our prayer with remembering the power of Our Heavenly Father who chooses us. We commend to You Clark Griffith and whatever method You worked in his heart to want little Calvin. We applaud a man who took in a son just because that boy needed him, and then built him up the rest of his life. We are happy to learn the good story of Clark and Calvin Griffith.

We thank You that, perhaps, precisely because he was fathered into the family business, he could also be the conduit of blessing for so many in his immediate family. We thank You that a man who was mentored through every step of the ladder of success by his dad also had the ability to bring that out in his staff and players. We thank You for all the lessons learned between 1922 and 1961 on his slow path to ownership and success. Will You give us the diligence to pursue our goals, even if it takes forty years?

Again and again, we thank You that his determined persistence turned out to be the antidote for the schisms of our twin rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul. We had 60 years of experience in baseball before Calvin Griffith, yet we failed as fans and farm teams because our overidentification with our teams and the honor of our cities. How did this outsider teach us to just “play ball”? How did he ease us past some of our pettiness that couldn’t abide the letter ‘M’ on our ball caps because it might just mean ‘Minneapolis’ instead of ‘Minnesota’? Even the “TC” logo is a testament of binding the “Twin Cities” together under one roof to become one team.

Lord, we also remember to You the shortcomings of Griffith as father of the Twins. Though made in private, he allegedly made statements about choosing this city for expansion instead of New Orleans as follows,
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. 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.” *******
This statement deeply wounded his star player Rod Carew. Carew left the team shortly thereafter for the Los Angeles Angels. And to the Hall of Fame.

Years later, Rod Carew gave this assessment of Mr. Griffith:
“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 have done that.”********

Lord, will You forgive Calvin Griffith his bitter root judgments of African Americans, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities? Will You forgive any counter-judgments made towards him by the fans and players of this state? Will You help us forgive our biological fathers, figurative fathers, mentors, and coaches when they have betrayed us? Will You heal the pain of these our Twins? Take these sins and separations up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ. Help us reach out; across the Mississippi or any other barrier, until we are on the same team again!

“The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God’s gift of undeserved grace was even more powerful.” Romans 5:20 CEV******

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1676509-the-evolution-of-the-baseball-from-the-dead-ball-era-through-today
*** Hennessey, Keith. “Calvin Griffith” Society for American Baseball Research. Internet. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/calvin-griffith/
**** Internet. “Calvin Griffith” Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Calvin_Griffith
*****Ison, Jordan. “Minnesota Twins: On This Day in 1961, the Twins made their Minnesota Debut”. Puckett’s Pond. Internet. https://puckettspond.com/2021/04/19/willians-astudillo-pitched-breakingt-made-awesome-shirt/
****** https://biblehub.com/parallel/romans/5-20.htm
******* Calcaterra, Craig. “Twins have removed the Calvin Griffith statue”. Internet. NBC Sports. June 19, 2020. https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2020/06/19/twins-have-removed-the-calvin-griffith-statue/
******** Carew, Rod. “STATEMENT FROM ROD CAREW ON CALVIN GRIFFITH” (PDF). KSTP. Retrieved June 19, 2020.

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