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Calvin Griffith Memorial, Minneapolis

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 Calvin Griffith memorial

The Calvin Griffith memorial outside of Target Field in Minneapolis, May 13, 2011. Photograph by Flickr user Papahazama. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In September of 2010, the Minnesota Twins unveiled a memorial to highlight Calvin Griffith, their first owner. While Griffith is credited with bringing professional baseball to Minneapolis, his racist attitudes and actions outweigh his accomplishments. In response to increasing public pressure following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the memorial was removed in June of 2020.

Griffith is remembered for bringing major league sports to the Twin Cities. He took over the Washington Senators from his late uncle and guardian in 1955 and received permission to move the team from Washington, DC, to Minnesota in October of 1960. While the Twins failed to win a World Series title while owned by Griffith, the team found undeniable success in Minnesota, winning several division titles.

Griffith developed a reputation as an accessible, outspoken, and gaffe-prone team owner. Reporters vividly highlighted his coarse perspectives and “mangled . . . syntax.” His blunt mannerisms also revealed his attitudes on race. While speaking at the Waseca Lions Club in September of 1978, Griffith made numerous explicitly racist comments about his fans and his players. Most notoriously, while responding to a question regarding why he chose to relocate the Twins to Minnesota, he asserted,

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota, 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, hard-working, white people here.”

While the comments at the Lions Club were the most explicit demonstration of Griffith’s racist attitudes, his bigotry was not confined to “off-the-record” events. In fact, in 1962 the Minnesota State Commission on Discrimination filed a complaint against the Twins as the only Major League Baseball (MLB) team still segregating players during spring training and on road trips through the South.

With a history and reputation as contentious as Griffith’s, many questioned the Twins’ decision to place a bronze statue of him near Gate 29 at Target Field. Nevertheless, 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 over his arm and a baseball in hand accompanied by a placard reading, “I love baseball that’s all. Ever since I was a little kid playing on those sandlots in Washington. There’s nothing like being at the game.”

His statue was part of a collection of memorials intended to highlight prominent figures in Twins history, including Griffith’s successors, Eloise and Carl Pohlad, and players like Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew. In fact, Griffith’s statue was placed just meters away from the statue honoring Rod Carew, a star player under Griffith who left the team following Griffith’s racist assertions in Waseca. While Carew voiced his support and understanding of the Twins’ decision to erect the memorial, the statue generated controversy and uncertainty among Minnesotans.

On April 15, 2015, VICE published an article entitled, “Why the Twins Should Tear Down Their Statue of a Former Owner.” Around the same time, lifelong Twins fan Mike Tucker began what would be referred to as a “one-man boycott” against the team and their decision to maintain the statue. Tucker later created a Facebook group called “MN Twins fans for removal of Calvin Griffith statue at Target Field” that accumulated over 250 members.

Responding to the controversy and increasing pressure from the community following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, the Twins released a statement explaining that the statue had been removed on Juneteenth (June 19), 2020. They stated,“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.”

The team further asserted, “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.” During the memorial’s removal, the Twins’ owners committed to investing $25 million in racial justice initiatives.

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Allen, Scott. “Bruce Levenson's Resignation Brings to Mind Calvin Griffith's Comments about White and Black Fans in 1978.” Washington Post DC Sports Bog, September 9, 2014.

Coleman, Nick. “Sept. 28, 1978: Calvin Griffith Spares Few Targets in Waseca Remarks.” Minneapolis Tribune, September 29, 1978.

Frommer, Frederic J. You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2013.

Guntzel, Jeff Severns. “Racial Justice for the Minnesota Twins: The Forgotten Battle.” MinnPost, September 8, 2010.

Justice, Richard. “Griffith Was the Architect of the Twins' Project.” Washington Post, October 16, 1987.

Moore, Jack. “Why the Twins Should Tear Down Their Statue of a Former Owner.”, April 15, 2015.

Newhan, Ross. “The World Series: Calvin's Team: Griffith Built Nucleus Before Selling Twins Three Years Ago.” Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1987.

Povich, Shirley. “Griffith Shows Colors.” Washington Post, October 6, 1973.

Prewit, Alex. “‘We Weren't Welcome When This Guy Was Around—So Now He's Not Welcome When We're Around.’” Sports Illustrated, June 19, 2020.

Reusse, Patrick. “For Love of the Game.” Minneapolis Star Tribune. October 21, 1999.

——— . “Yes, Tear Down That Calvin Griffith Statue—and Also Listen to Rod Carew.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 19, 2020.

Roe, Joe, La Velle E. Neal, and John Millea. “He Did Pinch Pennies.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 21, 1999.

Sinker, Howard. “Griffith: Talk Misunderstood.” Minneapolis Tribune, October 1, 1978.

——— . “Recalling Calvin Griffith's Bigoted Outburst in Southern Minnesota.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 29, 2014.

Sports Illustrated staff. “A Lingering Vestige of Yesterday.” Sports Illustrated, April 4, 1983.

Thomas, Ffion, Chris Thomas, and John Wilson. “Calvin Griffith: Minnesota Twins, Target Field, Minneapolis, MN.” From Pitch to Plinth: The Sporting Statues Project.

Weiner, Jay. “The Team That Calvin Built.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 8, 1997.

Welsh, Paul. “Carew Supports Griffith Statue Being Placed Near His Target Field Gate.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 27, 2010.

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Turning Point

On June 19, 2020 (Juneteenth), the Twins remove the Calvin Griffith statue from outside of Gate 29 at Target Field.



Calvin Griffith’s uncle and guardian, Clark Griffith, dies, and Calvin becomes the president of the Washington Senators.


Griffith receives approval from the American League’s owners to move the Washington Senators to Minnesota.


The Minnesota State Commission on Discrimination files a complaint against the Minnesota Twins for being the only MLB team still segregating players during spring training and on road trips through the south.


The Minnesota Twins reach the World Series for the first time, eventually losing in the seventh game to the Los Angeles Dodgers.


While speaking at the Waseca Lions Club on September 28, Griffith makes several racist remarks that are recorded and published by Minneapolis Tribune reporter Nick Coleman.


Following Griffith’s bigoted assertions, star player Rod Carew forces a trade to the Los Angeles Angels.


Griffith sells the Twins to Carl Pohlad for $38 million on September 7.


Griffith passes away from natural causes on October 20, at the age of eighty-seven.


On September 3, the Twins reveal a bronze statue of Calvin Griffith outside of Gate 29 (the jersey number of former player Rod Carew) of the newly constructed Target Field.


On June 19, the Twins release a public statement announcing that the statue of Griffith has been removed.