ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins have removed the statue of former team owner Calvin Griffith, who once said he moved the team from Washington to Minnesota “when I found out you only have 15,000 blacks here,” from a pavilion outside of Target Field.

The statue was removed early on Friday, the day celebrated as June Nineteenth because June 19, 1865, was the day enslaved people in Texas were informed that the Civil War was over and they could no longer be another person’s property.

“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 Twins said in a statement released Friday morning. “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.”

On Sept. 28, 1978, former Pioneer Press columnist Nick Coleman documented comments made by Griffith at a Lions Club dinner in Waseca while working in the Rochester bureau of the Minneapolis Star. Griffith, who had moved the Washington Senators to Minnesota before the 1961 season, told attendees he chose Minnesota, “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,” Griffith continued. “It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hard-working, white people here.”

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The Twins erected a bronze statue of Griffith outside of Target Field when the stadium opened in 2010, not far from the No. 29 entrance honoring former Twins all-star Rod Carew and his own bronze statue. Carew, now 74 and a ubiquitous presence with the club, left the Twins for the California Angels shortly after Griffith made his comments, saying, “I’m not going to be another (n-word) on his plantation.”

In a statement released Friday morning, Carew said he respected the Twins’ decision and also believed Griffith’s views on race changed over time, and that Griffith was the first person he called after Carew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

“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,” Carew said. “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.”

“Rodney was right,” Griffith’s son Clark, 78, said Friday. “Rodney and I have been friends for a long time. Calvin was not a racist.”

Clark Griffith, a longtime Twin Cities attorney, said it was “anticipated” that his father’s statue would be taken down and that he had talked with the Twins about the possibility. He did not argue that it should be left up, Griffith said, but declined to elaborate.

“We’re honored that it was up for 10 years,” he said.

A general view of Target Field on opening day before the April 5, 2018 game between the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports
A general view of Target Field on opening day before the April 5, 2018 game between the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports

The Twins and the rest of Major League Baseball are on hiatus as the league and its players negotiate a return to play amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Twin Cities became the epicenter of protests over racial injustice after George Floyd died under the knee of a police officer in south Minneapolis.

“Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today,” the Twins said. “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.”

The Twins have been under the ownership of the Pohlad family since it bought the club in 1984.

Also Friday, Washington D.C. removed the statute of the former owner of the Washington Redskins from outside the team’s former home at RFK Stadium. Protesters recently vandalized the statue of George Preston, the last NFL owner to integrate his team.



The complete Twins statement:

“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.’ 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.

“Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today. 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.”

Rod Carew’s full statement:

“I understand and respect the Minnesota Twins’ decision to remove the Calvin Griffith statue outside Target Field. 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.

“I first met Calvin Griffith in 1964 when he traveled to New York City to watch me work out at Yankee Stadium. Calvin and longtime Minnesota Twins scout Herb Stein must have liked what they saw as they signed me to a professional contract shortly thereafter. I can tell you when I got to the major leagues with the Twins in 1967, Calvin was my most ardent supporter. He told manager Sam Mele that I was the Twins’ everyday second baseman. I saw no signs of racism whatsoever.

“In 1977, my MVP year, I made $170,000. When the season was over, Calvin called me into his office, thanked me for a great season, told me that I had made the team a lot of money and handed me a check for $100,000. You could have knocked me over. A racist wouldn’t have done that.

“There is no way I can apologize for what Calvin said in Waseca in 1978. 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.

“In 1991, the first person I called after I was told I had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame was Calvin.

“I have long forgiven Cal for his insensitive comments and do not believe he was a racist. That was NOT my personal experience with Calvin Griffith — prior to or following that day in 1978.”