Name: Calvin Griffith
Election: January 28, 2010
Induction: June 19, 2010
Born (date, year, place): December 1, 1911 in Montreal, Quebec
Died (date, year, place): October 20, 1999 in Melbourne, Florida
Primary Position: Owner
Years Owning a team: 1955-84
Teams Owned: Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins
“To be remembered a full decade after his death is a true honour for my father,” said Clark Griffith from his home in Minneapolis.
“This is just fantastic news, and all of us our very proud that his legacy remains strong and will carry forward in St. Marys.”
Born Calvin Robertson on December 1, 1911 in Montreal, brother of 2007-CBHFM-inductee Sherry Robertson, he was the nephew of Clark Griffith, a former major leaguer and owner of the Washington Senators. Calvin was from a poor family and when his natural father Jimmy Robertson died, Clark Griffith began raising Calvin and then adopted him in 1924. The youngster became a baseball junkie under his uncle’s tutelage, and was known to have spent countless hours in the living room figuring out batting orders and farm team acquisitions to help the team as a youngster. Calvin played baseball and basketball at Staunton Military Academy from 1928 to 1933, and then baseball at George Washington University beginning in 1933. Following that, he managed in the minor leagues in Chattanooga and Charlotte from 1937 to 1941. He moved into several administrative positions throughout the organization, including secretary-treasurer and then vice president beginning in 1942. By the early 1950’s, Calvin was basically running the Senators’ day-to-day operations, and he was handed the ownership of the team after the senior Griffith’s death in 1955.
Calvin Griffith was instrumental in bringing the club from Washington to Minneapolis in 1961, where he served 24 more years as president and principal owner of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins won three AL West titles under his reign (1965, ’69, ’70), one AL pennant (1965), and they hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 1965, the year that Calvin was awarded the AL’s Executive of the Year award. He was inducted into the Twins’ Hall of Fame in 2000, and the organization named the team MVP award after him. Canadian Justin Morneau won that award in 2006 and 2008. There are currently a row of seats in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome named “Calvin’s Seats,” which are used to host underprivileged families at Twins home games.
When Carl Pohlad purchased the Twins for $38 million in 1984, Griffith cried at the signing of the agreement. He spent most of his final years in Minnesota, still attending Twins games and serving as an icon on the Minneapolis sports scene.
Both Calvin and his father were knows for some famous one-liners.
His father Clark, who is inducted in Cooperstown, once said about his Senators, “Fans like homeruns, and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans!”
Calvin was quoted saying “He’ll either be the best manager in baseball, or the worst,” after giving a young Billy Martin his first job as a manager.
But his sense of humour was hidden during contract negotiations. Pitcher Bert Blyleven offered this story about negotiating with Griffith. Agents were not a part of baseball at that time, so players had to negotiate with Griffith one on one.
“You would go into his office and he would sit in a high chair behind a high desk and you would sit on a couch that sank down, so it was like you were looking up about ten feet at this big owner. He would then basically tell you what you were going to make the next year, because that is what he thought you were worth, period.”
Griffith passed away on October 20, 1999 in Melbourne, Florida. He was survived by his wife Belva, his son Clark, his daughters Corrin Pillsbury and Clare Griffith, his sister Mildren Cronin, and his brother Billy Robertson.