The Twins had played what remains the most impressive week of baseball in their history to defeat the 98-win Detroit Tigers in the 1987 American League Championship Series. They had done this by winning four out of five, with the last a 9-5 drubbing of Sparky Anderson’s heavy favorites in Tiger Stadium.
The visitors clubhouse in this ancient ballpark was no place to hold a victory celebration, yet the coaches and the players, the players’ wives and staff members, all jammed their way into that glorified cubbyhole, and sprayed bubbly and exchanged bearhugs and bellowed in delight.
Soon, along came owner Carl Pohlad, in one of those glorious suits he always featured, accompanied by team President Jerry Bell, and Howard Fox, who had made a sudden and slick transition from being at Calvin Griffith’s side to Pohlad’s side while the change in ownership was taking place during the 1984 season.
Outside, standing 40 feet from the clubhouse, was Calvin — the man who brought the original Washington Senators to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961, co-owner with his sister Thelma Haynes, the general manager and the Boss.
Griffith had been invited to join the Twins’ traveling party for this trip to the ALCS, although as nothing more than an extra, as he was on this late afternoon, a bit rumpled in his suit, of course, and holding a bag with some of the keepsakes the Tigers had distributed three days earlier.
The Senators had played in the World Series of 1924, 1925 and 1933, with Calvin’s uncle Clark Griffith in charge. The 1965 Twins had lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Calvin in charge.
The only World Series title for the franchise had come in 1924, beating John McGraw’s New York Giants 4-3 in 12 innings in the seventh game at Washington’s Griffith Stadium.
The Twins were now headed for their second World Series in Minnesota, and I walked over to greet Calvin and get a couple of quotes on this auspicious occasion. And there was this tale:
“I was the bat boy for the Senators in ’24,” Griffith said. “I was in charge of the bats and balls. We beat the Giants in the seventh game, and the crowd poured onto the field to celebrate.
“We kept the baseballs in a box and they took all of the balls as souvenirs. I thought, ‘Boy, I’m really going to catch heck now.’ ”
“The boss [Uncle Clark] told me not to worry about it. He said: ‘Don’t worry about a few baseballs. We just won the championship. That doesn’t happen every day.’ ”
Calvin was 12 when the happy Washington fans absconded with the Senators’ baseball supply on Oct. 10, 1924, and he was 87 when he died on Oct. 20, 1999. And a World Series championship never happened again for Calvin and the Griffith family to take a bow as owners.
The American League confirmed the original Senators’ move to Minnesota on Oct. 26, 1960, and three weeks later, an expansion version of the Senators was announced along with the Los Angeles Angels.
It took the last 27 years of the original Senators; 11 years of those woeful second Senators; 33 years without a major league franchise; and then 15 seasons of the transplanted Nationals — and, as of this Tuesday, Washington is back in the World Series.
The gap is 86 years between the Giants finishing the Senators in Game 5 in Griffith Stadium on Oct. 7, 1933, and the pitching-rich Nationals playing host to Game 3 next Friday in Nationals Park.
You want to count that AL pennant won by the Senators in 1954, the one celebrated by more fans than any triumph in baseball history — more even than the Miracle Mets of 1969.
That would be the fictional pennant claimed by a hapless Washington club in the Douglass Wallop novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” when frustrated fan Joe Hardy sells his soul to the devil, and becomes the power hitter needed for the Senators to steal the pennant from the hated Yankees.
This became “Damn Yankees,” a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that opened in 1955 and ran for 1,019 performances, and a movie in 1958.
I asked Clark Griffith, Calvin’s son, this week if the family enjoyed Wallop’s wonderful satire, and he said:
“Interesting story. My mother, Natalie, and Lucille, Doug Wallop’s wife, were dear friends. They were at our house for dinner; I was maybe 11, and I distinctly remember Doug saying to my dad, ‘Calvin, I’m writing a book that even you’re going to read.’ ”
“Calvin didn’t read it,” Clark said. “He liked those dime Westerns.”