Calvin Griffith was the owner and also in charge of the baseball operation when the Twins came to Minnesota for the 1961 season. Calvin graduated from Staunton Military Academy and attended George Washington for two years.
Then, in 1935, his uncle Clark, owner of the Washington Senators, sent Calvin to Chattanooga to learn the business operation for the Senators-owned farm club. Two years later, Calvin started running the Lookouts.
The Depression still was having its effect on America. I was talking to Calvin one day in spring training and he happened to mention a Lookouts’ spring training game from the ‘30s.
“We were charging a quarter,’’ Calvin said. “One person paid to get in that day. I walked over and gave him back his quarter.’’
Calvin’s educational background – Staunton, then a stay at George Washington – was not without merit. That said, elocution was not his strong point. Calvin was a master of the malaprop, including his prediction that the Louisiana Superdome would be a “white duck’’ for baseball.
This came after the Twins and the Houston Astros played the first baseball exhibitions there before the start of the 1976 season.
On Monday, I was listening to the new men in charge of the Twins’ baseball operation, and thinking back to those early years as a ball writer for the St. Paul newspapers in the mid-‘70s.
Try as I might, there was no recollection of Calvin mentioning a “collaborative’’ effort in the team’s decision-making process.
There once was a collaborative effort by a newly-formed executive committee to get Calvin to give up power after his unfortunate speech in Waseca at the end of the 1978 season. Calvin contemplated this proposal for several seconds and then disbanded the executive committee.
Calvin and Thelma Haynes, his sister and partner, sold the Twins to Carl Pohlad in 1984. Carl allowed Howard Fox, who had been with Calvin since the Washington days, to run the ballclub for two years.
Fox had brought in Andy MacPhail from the Houston Astros’ front office as an assistant. Andy had the Eastern liberal arts education – Dickinson College in Pennsylvania – that was on display Monday at the Twins’ introduction of their baseball brain trust, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
The difference was MacPhail had an impeccable baseball heritage: His grandfather Larry was in the Hall of Fame for his front office work, and his father Lee (AL president from 1974 to 1983) would be elected to the Hall in 1998.
Andy also had been around the game long enough to effectively slip in the required “F’’ bombs when discussing challenges or disappointments in a non-public forum, which I always appreciated.
MacPhail was put in charge of the baseball operation as executive vice president and general manager on Nov. 24, 1986. He was 33.
That was also the day that Tom Kelly went from interim manager to full-time (an appointment that lasted for 15 seasons), and Bob Gebhard and Ralph Houk were added to the hierarchy of the baseball department.
Thirty years later to the month, the Twins announced Falvey, 33, as the Chief Baseball Officer, and Thad Levine, 44, as senior vice president and general manager.
Falvey went to high school at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass. He has an economics degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
Levine went to high school at T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va. He attended Haverford College in Haverford, Pa. (same conference as MacPhail’s Dickinson) and has an MBA from UCLA.
Falvey was an infrequently used pitcher for the Trinity Bantams. Trinity’s logo and mascot is a bantam rooster.
Levine played baseball for the Haverford Fords. Haverford’s logo and mascot is a black squirrel.
They come at you with terms you would hear from consultants to large companies, and for people who dealt with Calvin, it is a humorous contrast.
The baseball world changed when the Boston Red Sox took a flyer on a young, Ivy-educated Theo Epstein, and he used his big brain and ability to connect with people to win the 2004 World Series. This week, he won another for the Chicago Cubs, thus having ended the two most-famous championship droughts in American sports – the Red Sox from 1918 and the Cubs from 1908.
I loved Calvin, I really did, but I still smile over the day we were talking about the possibility of trading Rod Carew to the Yankees and he said, “I’m not trading Rodney to them unless I get Gooler or Guder,’’ meaning Don Gullett or Ron Guidry.
It’s a new century. Thanks to Theo, baseball has decided smart is the way to go. And the Twins have brought in smart.
*It’s interesting that we worry about the playing background of baseball executives, yet it’s not an issue with people making personnel decisions with NFL teams.
*There have been more suggestions the Twins aren’t really changing as long as Dave St. Peter is the team president. St. Peter has had and will continue to have as much influence on player personnel as Kevin Warren with the Vikings, Matt Majka with the Wild and Chris Wright with the Timberwolves.