Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Patrick Plus: Ex-Twins owner Griffith knew defense vs. fielding

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: February 1, 2014 - 6:42 PM

Twins owner Calvin Griffith was under siege after his infamous address to the Waseca Lions Club near the end of the 1978 season. Apparently, Calvin had a couple of Dubonnets in him, drew laughter with his first impolitic remark, and kept rolling.

Bad luck was following Calvin at that time, and he ran into more that night: Nick Coleman, a Minneapolis Tribune reporter, happened to be in the audience and wound up writing a summary of Calvin’s comments for the Trib’s front page.

All Hades busted loose. The racial insensitivity in his remarks led to editorials calling for Calvin to turn over control of the organization to others. Calvin wavered for a time, finally just stayed put, and the editorialists became fixated on other issues.

My favorite response from Mr. Griffith came as he tried to defend his position on race and baseball.

“When we sign a player, I don’t ask what color he is,’’ Calvin said. “I only ask, ‘Can he run? Hit? Throw?’ After this season, I’m going to ask one more question: ‘Can he field?’ We made so many errors … ah, never mind.’’

Most appreciated by me in that great quote was Calvin’s use of the proper baseball terminology: “Can he field?”

We are two weeks from spring training and again I’ll be cringing when the words “offense’’ and “defense’’ come out of the mouths of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, his players, and even his boss, Terry Ryan.

That’s when I decided all was lost: When Ryan, a traditionalist at heart, joined the masses in using those football terms — offense and defense — to describe key elements of the Grand Old Game.

My main irritation is “defense’’ as the term to describe making plays in the field. Wrong.

Defense is “the means or tactics used in trying to stop the opposition from scoring.’’ And baseball’s No. 1 tactic to stop the opposition from scoring is pitching.

Making plays in the field isn’t defense. It’s fielding. Calvin knew that. Why don’t Ryan and Gardy and every other galoot in today’s game know that?

Plus Three from Patrick

• Some of us still have repeated the notion that UConn’s Randy Edsall (now at Maryland) turned down the Gophers’ football job in December 2010. Actually, the Gophers never were seriously interested in Edsall.

• A redshirt year to improve as a passer will make Philip Nelson an effective Big Ten quarterback. He’ll be very good at it by the time Rutgers plays here on Oct. 22, 2016.

• If Jason Kubel has 400 plate appearances this season, the Twins will again lose more than 90 games. He’s no answer to a feeble lineup.

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