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Clark Griffith, son of former Twins owner Calvin Griffith and namesake of the former Washington Senators co-owner, on his great-uncle's opinion of the Yankees: “He always appreciated the Yankees’ ability to draw crowds, but they also irritated him with their attitude about money,’’

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

Yankees have meant misery ever since 1920

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • October 6, 2010 - 1:22 AM

The Twins have followed three of their division titles in this decade with first-round elimination by the New York Yankees: in four games in 2003 and 2004, and in a three-game sweep last October.

This might cause current followers of the local ballclub to suffer from a degree of frustration when it comes to the Yankees. Trust me, as Minnesotans, we are impostors in this area of frustration compared with our ancestors -- the original Washington Senators.

It was on Oct. 26, 1960, that the American League and Calvin Griffith announced he was moving his Washington franchise to Minnesota. Washington received an expansion franchise, also known as the Senators.

Part of the deal was that the records of the Washington franchise -- dating to the American League's start in 1901 -- would stay with the new Senators. In 1972, those Senators moved to Texas, and the Rangers eventually turned the 1901-60 records over to the Twins.

This wasn't much of a favor, particularly when it came to competition with the Yankees.

There was a confluence of historic events for the 1920 season. The Yankees purchased Babe Ruth from Boston. And Clark Griffith became a co-owner of the Senators, managing a final season before moving to the front office.

The Yankees went to the World Series and lost in 1921 and 1922. In 1923, Col. Jacob Ruppert opened his magnificent Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and his team responded with its first World Series victory.

"Yes, but the next two seasons ... my great-uncle would look back to those two seasons, '24 and '25, and say that it drove Colonel Ruppert absolutely crazy that the Washington Senators -- the Senators! --won two straight pennants,'' Clark Griffith said.

Clark is a Minneapolis attorney. He's the son of Calvin and the namesake of Clark Griffith, the Senators' patriarch who died in 1955.

The Yankees of Ruth and numerous greats finished second, two games behind the Senators in 1924, and the Yankees of Gehrig but with an injured Ruth, finished seventh and 28 1/2 games behind the Senators in 1925.

The Senators also ran away from the Yankees to win the AL pennant by seven games in 1933. That was three World Series (and one victory) in the first 14 seasons of the Griffith organization, but the family would not get its fourth until 1965 with the Twins in Minnesota.

From 1920, the arrival of Ruth in New York and the start of Griffith control in Washington until the move to Minnesota, the Senators finished ahead of the Yankees five times in 41 seasons. The Yankees compiled 992 more victories in those years, an average of over 26 per season.

"What was your namesake's opinion of the Yankees?'' Minnesotan Clark was asked Tuesday, on the eve of the Twins' entering another playoff series as underdogs (9-to-5) to the Yankees.

"He always appreciated the Yankees' ability to draw crowds, but they also irritated him with their attitude about money,'' Clark said. "He recalled a controversy from when a national 'Game of the Day' started on radio. The game was regularly broadcast from Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees would keep the money.

"Clark and the other [American League] owners raised hell, so the Yankees started keeping half -- but the other owners were still ticked off, because they should have been keeping an eighth. That was the Yankees."

George Weiss created the Yankees' farm system that led to four World Series titles in a row from 1936 to 1939, and then a record five from 1949 through 1953. They also won in 1947, and after that season, Weiss went from farm director to general manager.

"Back then, a general manager was all-powerful,'' Clark said. "One day at Yankee Stadium -- I was a little kid -- my father took me down this long hallway to a huge oak door. He tapped lightly on the door, and this deep voice said, 'Yes.'

"We stepped inside, and there was George Weiss, sitting behind a huge desk. Calvin said, 'This is my son, Clark.' Weiss said, 'Hello, young man.' That was it. No handshakes.

"We slid back out and Calvin said, 'You have met George Weiss.' He was quite an imposing figure.''

As will be the case tonight when the Yankees, reigning champs of baseball for the 27th time, are introduced at Target Field.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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