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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20th Century, Crime, History, Intercession, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Uncategorized

Gangster Kidnappings

unknown

June 15, 1933 to January 17, 1934

“The brazen kidnappings of prominent businessmen William Hamm (June 15, 1933) and Edward Bremer (January 17, 1934) by the “Ma” Barker gang put an end to Chief O’Connor’s hands-off crime policy in Saint Paul. Both men are returned unhurt after large ransoms are paid.” * 

In the Prohibition Era of our largely blue-collar city of Saint Paul, there was an empathy and a real motive to look the other way at bootlegging. Physically, the city is located on the Mississippi River, and is the first big stop downstream from Canada. There’s a plethora of natural caves, which made effective stealth warehouses for the product. One also wonders if its populace, mostly of the Catholic regions of Europe, did not share the same moral objections to beer and whiskey of their dry Protestant counterparts in Minneapolis?

To continue the narrative, its people were comfortable with playing dumb to Johnny Law if it meant lucrative cash jobs working for the gangs, and if it kept St. Paul a “wet” city. Civic leadership, allegedly, were on the payrolls of major gangsters from Chicago, and were apt to play it cool if the gangsters kept a low profile. Apparently, this unspoken agreement between Chicago crime and St. Paul police began decades before the Volstead Act.

“This collaboration began in 1900 with the Layover Agreement, an unofficial contract between criminals and Chief of Police John O’Connor.

In exchange for tip-offs about FBI raids and protection during their “layover” in the city, the gangsters first agreed to check in with the St. Paul police when they were in town. Second, they gave a portion of their gains to the police department. Finally, they agreed to commit no crimes within the city limits, though Minneapolis was fair game.”**

During the era of the Great Depression, Hamm and Bremer would likely stand out as targets for kidnapping. Mr. Bremer was affiliated with banking, and Mr. Hamm with brewing. Though very different personalities, Hamm being an affable sort and Bremer more shielded type, both men were visible leaders from noteworthy families in Saint Paul.

Ma Barker also led a prominent family known as the Barker-Karpis Gang. “Though her children were undoubtedly murderers and their Barker-Karpis Gang committed a spree of robberies, kidnappings, and other crimes between 1931 and 1935, there is no evidence that “Ma” was their leader or was even significantly involved.” What is apparent, however, is that she stuck by her sons and their associates throughout their criminal careers.

Alvin Karpis, the probable real leader of the gang, later said that Ma was just “an old-fashioned homebody from the Ozarks … superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding”.**** He concluded that,

‘The most ridiculous story in the annals of crime is that Ma Barker was the mastermind behind the Karpis-Barker gang. … She wasn’t a leader of criminals or even a criminal herself. There is not one police photograph of her or set of fingerprints taken while she was alive … she knew we were criminals but her participation in our careers was limited to one function: when we traveled together, we moved as a mother and her sons. What could look more innocent?’ *****

So we come to You, Jesus, to watch and pray over this event. What do you want to reveal to us today through it? What blessing can come from an enabling mother, this gang, the corruption of police, and the crime of kidnapping?

We ask forgiveness for these past offenses to You in our city and state. Will You forgive Ma Barker for being an enabler of her criminal sons, and the impact of their crimes to our city? Will You forgive us today of similar co-dependence within the families of Minnesota? Give us grace to face our failures as parents, commitment to stand by our kids going the wrong way, and love that affirms them, yet calls out their sin. Will You bless our present and future mothers of Minnesota, and especially the relationships with their sons?

We acknowledge to You the damage done to innocent lives through the willful actions of the Karpis-Barker Gang. Will You bring restitution to all who suffered their crimes, as well as the heritage of the Bremer and Hamm families? Conversely, will You cut off the curses passed down to any generation of the Karpis or Barker clans? 

How we need Your healing for our men, and especially our men enticed into gang life! We acknowledge to You that we have not followed Your laws to honor our fathers and mothers, or practiced proper diligence in the raising of some of our sons. We have driven them away at times: from our families, from schools or job training, from the Church, and, most painfully, from You! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy!

Though we try, we have failed them somehow as: sons, husbands, fathers, and friends. Protect and shield our sons from the enticement of a life of crime, and the arms of surrogate families in the underworld. May these vulnerable boys find a good man to call out their holy masculinity. May they forgive their fathers’ offenses, and break with the spirit of vengeance.

We remember to You how we have subtly yielded to the Enemy in St. Paul, by looking the other way. Our police, it seems, were corruptible because they were internally incomplete. It is hard to bribe a content man. You have said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”******* Have mercy on these policemen past, and free those similarly tempted in the present. We ask Your protections over Minnesota’s police both now and forever; be their shield and very great reward!

We end by thanking You for Your eternal justice! You are our advocate within our broken families, though they may seem beyond hope. You bring us back to our Everlasting Father, no matter our state of lawlessness. You used the Catholic priest Lucien Galtier to rename the city of L’oeil de Cochon, so named for the alleged bootlegger and first resident of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant.

 “Pig’s Eye, converted thou shalt be, like Saul; Arise, and be, henceforth, Saint Paul!”

*******

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** Sharon Park “Gangster Era in St. Paul, 1900–1936”. http://www.mnopedia.org/gangster-era-st-paul-1900-1936

***, **** Paul Maccabee, John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920-1936, Minnesota Historical Society, 1995, p.105.

***** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Barker

****** https://biblehub.com/luke/3-14.htm

******* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Parrant

 

 

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