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, baseball, Culture, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history, sports

Saints vs. Millers: Streetcar Double Headers 1907

 

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1907 Spalding Guide - Hart - MPLS team

April 1907

“A heated sibling rivalry develops between the Twin Cities’ two pro baseball teams, the Saints and Millers. Streetcar doubleheaders are scheduled on Decoration Day, July 4, and Labor Day, with a game in each city.” * 

A bit of background is in order to help those who may not know much about the Twin Cities. There is definitely much in common between these two places, but it’s the distinctions that give each it’s flavor. They may not be thought of as ‘strong’ flavors by those who consider Minnesota ‘flyover country’, but that is a matter of taste.

St. Paul is the older brother of Minneapolis. According to local legend, first two structures in St. Paul were a log trading post that doubled as a pub, and a log Catholic church. There are very strong communities derived from nations with a Roman Catholic heritage: Irish, French, Polish, Italian, and Mexican. This city leans blue-collar, tends to move slower, and with more respect for tradition.

Minneapolis is the kid brother that just kept growing. It historically has been more Protestant, with residents mostly from Western and Northern European descent. It leans more white collar and entrepreneurial, with more nightlife to spend new money.

Holy Umpire, thanks for the heritage of baseball in Minnesota! What an awesome combination of sport with times for team play, and individual achievement! Baseball truly is a mirror of the best attributes of our culture.

Unfortunately, Saints and Millers reflect the darker sides of our nature too. Sometimes we, as fans attempted to “help” our home team. Check out this example of ‘sportsmanship from 100 years ago;

“The newspapers joined the struggle, firing their artillery at enemy camps across the Mississippi River. In the 1890s, when both cities were represented in the Western League, the Minneapolis Tribune leveled a charge of “dirty ball” against its neighbors to the east, the Saints, who were owned and managed at that time by Charles Comiskey. “Manager Comiskey,” reported the Tribune, “will be served with a formal notice that the Minneapolis club will not play today’s game unless guaranteed that there will be no spiking of Minneapolis players, no interference on the part of the crowd, no throwing of rocks, no throwing of dust and dirt in the eyes of the Minneapolis players, and a few other tricks which the game yesterday was featurized by.” ** 

God, thanks that You gave a home team to enjoy and be proud of. Will You forgive us for when we have gone overboard and over identify ourselves with a baseball team? Will You forgive harsh words that were sowed then between Minneapolis and St. Paul that still smart today? 

Today I want to acknowledge specific sports offenses to You. We have loved winning more than losing, but doesn’t losing build character? We have loved showboat personalities more than the team at times, but innately we know that a single player can’t win the game. We  can behave like spoiled brats at games, then lecture our kids about the importance of sportsmanship. God help our ERA and our era!  Have mercy on our inconsistent batting average with beloved rivals of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thanks that these hostilities birthed a solution; the Minnesota Twins! Will You help us find creative ways to find common ground with our rivals today?

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

** Thornley, Stew. On to Nicollet: The Glory and Fame of the Minneapolis Millers.

*** Peruse this wonderful link to the complete article by Stew Thornley. http://www.stewthornley.net/millers_paydays.html

**** Dig into a book on the Saint Paul Saints, again, by Stew Thronley. http://www.mnhs.org/mnhspress/books/st-paul-saints

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20th Century, baseball, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history, sports

Professional Baseball 1902: Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints

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1902

“The Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints join teams from six other Midwest cities to form the American Association. Baseball became the first professional sport in Minnesota back in the 1890’s.” * 

Thank You for this joining of teams to form the American Association! Specifically, thank You for the Millers and the Saints who saw the future benefit of this league. Thank You that we have enjoyed the freedom of association in this place for so long!

Thank You for the blessings of the sport of baseball: teamwork, diligent practice, exercise, and the fun and challenge of competition! Thank you for the comraderie grown here by the simple act of belonging to a team. Wow! That’s a big one! Every kid needs somewhere they belong, and to feel that they have something to contribute to the group!

Thank You that for the low entry cost of participation in baseball: a bat, a ball, and a glove. Thank You that success in this game is not dependent on physical attributes to the degree it is in other sports. Baseball players represent just about every body type: thick guys can hit the ball a mile, tall guys can stretch farther when they pitch, thin guys guy use their agility for fielding and stealing bases, etc. Thank You for the lack of contact in baseball, and the focus on sportsmanship and skill!

It is amazing to live in a place where a passion can become a career! These few teams believed in their sport enough to enable the dedicated to carve new occupations out of thin air. The notion of being paid to play a sport to the average Minnesotan three generations ago who lived and worked on a farm must have seemed new and strange.

May it always feel like a privilege to play professional baseball!

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

**Complete record of the Millers vs. the Saints 1902-1960. http://millers-saints.com

 

 

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