Sid Hartman: Owning Twins was a great love for Pohlads

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2009 - 7:31 AM

Carl Pohlad had his hand in many ventures, but he got the most pleasure from the baseball team he purchased in 1984.

Eloise and Carl Pohlad in the Metrodome in 1984.

Carl Pohlad, who died Monday at 93, would tell people that while he was involved in many, many types of businesses, the one that gave him the most enjoyment was owning the Twins, and especially the two World Series championships.

Unlike a lot of other owners of sports teams, Pohlad never got involved in trying to run the club. Under him, the Twins had a history of being loyal to their managers and baseball executives, more so than any other team. He took a lot of undeserved criticism from a lot of people, including members of the press who had no relationship with him.

Yes, I could call him a close personal friend.

The one low point of Pohlad's ownership came over the team's inability to get a new ballpark built for many years, while the losses on the field accumulated. So after the 2001 season, he agreed to let the Twins be one of two major league teams contracted.

The criticism he took from fans and the media really got to him. That is one time we had some disagreement. He resented being called cheap because every one of the general managers he employed would tell you that he never blocked a deal they proposed. However, with a small-market team, there had to be some limits.

"With Carl, the one thing I would say, as much as any, is loyal," said Andy MacPhail, the president of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles, who was general manager of the Twins during their 1987 and '91 championship seasons. "Once you sort of crossed a threshold with him, where he trusted you, then he was extraordinarily loyal in return. And I think that's one of the reasons the Twins have been a model franchise and very consistent, because he didn't succumb to the pressure to make changes after a bad year or two if he had faith in his people.

"Any time I thought there was something that I thought would make a meaningful difference to the team, I asked him for it, he never turned me down," MacPhail said.

Going to league meetings and mingling with other owners and serving as chairman of the executive committee for a period were things Pohlad told me several times that he would never forget.

The satisfaction running the Twins gave Pohlad was secondary to the thrill it gave his wife, Eloise, who didn't know anything about baseball at the time Carl bought the team, only to become a great fan of the game after her family became involved. She attended most of the games and got to know players personally.

In fact, Eloise Pohlad played a big part in persuading him to buy the team from Calvin Griffith. She wanted him to have an interest outside of everyday business. Her death, at age 86 in 2003, hit him hard. She was a great lady with a fantastic personality.

Life has been tough for Pohlad recently. He was confined to a wheelchair and spent a lot of time at the Mayo Clinic. He couldn't attend many games last year because of his health. Ray Zehr, his longtime employee, would pick him up every morning, bring him to have breakfast at the Minneapolis Club, then to the office for a period and then back home, where he had a full-time staff to take care of him.

I will miss those turkey sandwiches he served in his boardroom at lunchtime, when he would make suggestions for baseball, many of which have been adopted to make the game more successful.

It's sad that the man who saved baseball for this area by buying the team, and then by contributing many millions to build the new stadium, won't be around to see a game played there.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. • shartman@startribune.com

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