Twins remove Griffith statue outside Target Field

June 19th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins announced Friday morning that they have removed the statue of former owner, team president and general manager Calvin Griffith from the area outside Target Field.

"When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction with our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our 'forever ballpark,'" the Twins' statement read. "As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball -- including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961.

"While we acknowledge the prominent role Calvin Griffith played in our history, we cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978. His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value."

Griffith and his family were instrumental in relocating the Washington Senators franchise to Minnesota to form what would become the Twins in 1961, establishing the presence of Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. Years later, in '78, Griffith made racist comments regarding his relocation of the club as part of a speech he gave at a Lions Club in Waseca, Minn.

"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here," Griffith said at the time, according to the Minneapolis Tribune. "Black people don't go to ballgames, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here."

Griffith also called franchise great Rod Carew a "damn fool" for agreeing to his contract, which Griffith perceived to be below Carew's value. Carew, a black Panamanian, was a 12-time All-Star, an American League Rookie of the Year Award winner and an AL MVP at that time with the Twins.

Carew later wrote in his memoir, "One Tough Out," that Griffith's statements nearly spurred him to leave the team altogether before a Saturday game against the Royals in Kansas City. The next day, Carew cited the speech as a reason why he would not return to the field with the Twins, and as a result, he was traded to the California Angels before the start of the 1979 season.

"I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins' decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field," said Carew in a statement Friday. "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."

Carew has since publicly said that he does not believe Griffith to be a racist, and his statement said that he has "long forgiven" Griffith for his comments and noted that Griffith was the first person he called when he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

"There is no way I can apologize for what Calvin said in Waseca in 1978," Carew's statement continued. "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 have done that."

The statue of Griffith was one of eight located outside of Target Field and stood outside of Gate 29 down the right-field line, along North 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis. It originally was dedicated on Sept. 3, 2010, at the conclusion of the Twins' inaugural season at the new ballpark.

"Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today," said the Twins in a statement. "We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused for many people -- both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory. We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our ongoing commitment to provide a Target Field experience where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome.

"Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality and injustice in Twins Territory."