Calvin Griffith gets up from his desk with a groan and stretches black rubber half-boots over his shoes. He limps out of his office into the darkness, moving carefully across the parking-lot ice to the royal-blue Bonneville with the miniature baseball glove dangling from the rearview mirror.
Sometimes on the way home he stops at a grocery store. "I like that because you run into people who talk to you," he says. He drives to his suburban Minneapolis apartment and there mixes himself two vodka and tonics. "I try to keep it to two." He gets out the cocktail rye bread, toasts it and spreads it with cheese and maybe a little taco sauce. He turns on the TV. "Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Magnum, P.I., Dance Fever. I love to see those nimble bodies move."
When the TV show is happy, something Griffith doesn't understand happens to him. "If I see people making up or getting back together with each other. I cry," he says. "But if anything gets sad, I turn it off."
When the rye and cheese are gone, he takes a steak or an Italian dinner from the freezer and cooks it. After dinner, it's time for the 10 o'clock news. Then it's time for bed.
April 4, 1983
"You're right," says Griffith, the 71-year-old owner of the Minnesota Twins. "It's no fun for me, alone in that damn apartment."
Griffith's life is no lonelier than those of many people his age in America. It's the way he combats his loneliness that marks him.
CAMPBELL'S MINIMUM TOO HIGH FOR CALVIN
TWINS TRADE BLYLEVEN, THOMPSON
BRAUN: TRADE ME SOON AS POSSIBLE
Seventy-two baseballs are displayed in Griffith's office. There are three Calvin Griffith nameplates on his desk, and a fourth of sorts scrawled on tape across a pitcher of coffee. There's an American flag planted to the left of the desk and behind that is a statue of Babe Ruth. There are nine pictures of Griffith, including Richard Nixon with Calvin and Dwight Eisenhower with Calvin. Nowhere there family with Calvin.
"Richard Nixon," says Griffith, "he was good. A real good baseball fan. Go look at that baseball over there. It was signed by FIE-del Castro. I got some over there signed by movie stars, too . . . uh, Gary Grant and the other actor, Charles Heston, and . . . oh, who else? Ali, Ali . . . I don't know how to pronounce his last name. He's the fighter. Ali Muhammad, that's it."
He has shaken hands sitting down, saying he is too old to get up, and now he's already telling a stranger about the small cyst he will have removed from his wrist the next day. He peers at it with the same disdain The Babe would have given a bruise from a fastball, and then he gives it the same cure. He spits on it.
Copper bracelets circle both of Griffith's wrists to hush his arthritis. He has suffered phlebitis and blood clots in his lungs and, last year, he had knee surgery. "They took out the cartridge," he says.
He points to a picture of an old white-haired man on the wall. "That's Clark Griffith," he says. "I did everything in the world to make that man happy. Everything. His eyes could pierce right through you. Look at those goddamn bushy eyebrows. When he got mad at you, it was like they were coming out and pointing at you. Next to God, Clark Griffith was it."
The look on Calvin's face and the tone of his voice suggest he might play the combination both ways, just in case. The late Clark Griffith was Calvin's uncle, the man who became his guardian when Calvin was 11 years old, changed his last name from Robertson to Griffith and groomed him to inherit the Griffith baseball team. Today, in the hallways of the Twins' offices at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, portraits of the old man hang like brooding icons.
Calvin closes his eyes. "I get vibes," he says. "Is that what you call 'em, vibes? You shut your eyes and it comes around, something comes around. I still speak to him—say, if I'm thinking about making a trade—and suddenly I'll get a feeling one way or the other. He's the one who really influenced my life. I don't really remember much about my real father.
"I've thought of this same thing so damn many times: If Clark Griffith hadn't come along and taken me out of Montreal, what would Calvin Griffith . . . ?" He stops and corrects himself. "What would Calvin Robertson be doing today? What in hell would have really happened to me? I talk to Uncle Clark and say, 'Thank you, I hope I've fulfilled all your wishes.' "
Is it Clark's wish that makes Calvin keep the baseball team through all the criticism, all the carping agents, all the financial anguish, all the Sony Walkmans on all the young ballplayers' ears?
Griffith returns from his reverie, a little surprised, and says, "No. If the players and salaries and hair makeups had been like this when he owned the team, he would have gotten out so fast it would have been like night and day. I can hear him saying to me, 'Why didn't you get out when you had the chance?' "
SODERHOLM RAPS TWINS; IT'S MUTUAL
HISLE DECIDES TO GO ON MARKET
BOSTOCK IS CERTAIN TALKS WITH TWINS HAVE ENDED
If Calvin would just give us one more year together without getting rid of anybody, we could become a contender. I'd love to be part of a dynasty here, play with the same group of guys for 10, 11 years. Maybe he'll let us. I don't know why it should be any different this time, but maybe. . . ."
Gary Gaetti, the Twins' 24-year-old third baseman, is driving his pickup through the Minneapolis dusk, trying to explain the blessing and curse of playing for Griffith. A young man's big league dream can be realized faster here than on any other team in baseball, because Griffith regularly rids himself of veterans with six-figure salaries and replaces them with rookies making the $35,000 minimum. Then the kid becomes the vet, and it's a race to see whether Griffith trades him or he declares for free agency.
Gaetti is one of a group of kids that Griffith now calls his "last stand"—when he isn't saying he plans to be running the Twins at 85, just like Uncle Clark. Thirteen of the Twins' 25 players last year were rookies. In one September game, baseball history was made when nine of the Twins' 10 starters were rookies. The team's average salary was $67,300, compared to a league-wide average of $242,000.
After years of failure and perpetual patching of his star-decimated team, Griffith seems to have embarked on a new game plan: Pack the club with first-and second-year players, get all you can out of them as they endure the six-year wait until they can become free agents, and hope that in the meantime salaries level off, TV revenue-sharing among the rich and poor markets begins and cable-television money swells. Griffith certainly needs the money. He lost more than $1.6 million in 1980 and 1981, and each new season has been a cat scratch for his team.
As Minneapolis looked on in dismay last season, in the first month Griffith traded the Twins' five highest-paid veterans. Then the Twins stumbled through the second-worst May in baseball history. By June 22 they were 16-54. TRADE CALVIN banners and bumper stickers proliferated, and 90% of those questioned in a Minneapolis TV survey said he should sell the team. Relief Pitcher Ron Davis had a swifter solution: "Put him in an old folks' home." Griffith retreated to the second row of his personal box so the rabble couldn't see him. The rabble went him one better by staying home. When the season ended, the Twins had baseball's worst record (60-102) and worst attendance (921,186), but Griffith had ridden baseball's highest ticket prices and the lure of the new domed stadium to a profit of less than $100,000. Still, that it took so much effort and so much bile to make so little money caused Griffith's worry over his team's future to escalate.
Griffith caused another stir at the World Series when he declared that he preferred every one of his regulars to those of the world-champion-to-be Cardinals, except for St. Louis Shortstop Ozzie Smith. But that sentiment was buried and forgotten in the Minnesota winter snow when the Twins marched on the front office to talk about their contracts.
Lacking the leverage of arbitration or free agency, young regulars Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner were still unsigned four weeks into spring training. Gaetti, who hit .230 last season, was offended by the Twins' offer of $55,000. "Listen," he says, "I don't have anything personal against Mr. Griffith. He gave me a chance to play. But I have a good year and do everything they ask for public relations, then go in to talk contract and find out it means nothing. They dig up negative stats you couldn't believe. We realize they don't care about us as individuals—so why should we care?"
Gaetti's lament was only one in a chorus. Twins Second Baseman John Castino reportedly once left a Griffith negotiating session in tears. Hrbek, who was second in the 1982 American League Rookie of the Year voting, reacted to Griffith's offer of $80,000 this spring by boycotting the Twins' first exhibition game.
Griffith: "Everybody can be a morning glory—you pay the s.o.b.s, and they become daffodils. They send their agents at you because they say they don't want to hurt your feelings by negotiating themselves. Three agents came in to negotiate for Castino, and who the hell did the talking? A woman. It was one of the damndest things I ever heard of. I gave up doing most of the face-to-face negotiating last year after listening to a couple of agents. I said, 'I don't give a damn what you think. It's what we think.' "
Griffith, the last American League owner to depend solely on baseball for income, was coping until the late 1970s. His teams had won the American League pennant in 1965, and division titles in 1969 and '70; by the early 1970s the Twins ranked among the league's top three teams in salary structure. Then in 1976 came free agency, and that turned baseball into an auction block for the Steinbrenners, Autrys and Turners. Griffith's best players began to play out their six years of service and leave, or they would be dealt so the Twins could unload their soaring salaries, and Griffith came to be viewed as either a champion of financial sanity or the most miserly of old coots.
• Bud Selig, Brewers owner: "He could turn out to be the smartest one of us all. His franchise is in a helluva lot better shape than many others, without all those deferred payments that most of us have to make."
• Butch Wynegar, former Twins catcher, dealt to the Yankees: "He claims he's losing money. He's got it stashed in the cobwebs of his vault. What a relief to get out! The players think the organization's a joke."
• Bill Veeck, former White Sox owner, who once tried to explain to Griffith the hopelessness of hanging on: "It's not just that he marches to his own drum; I don't even think he hears anyone else's. He doesn't identify with the fans—never has. He doesn't do things because they're good p.r. or politically smart. It's a strange thing to say, with that big fat belly of his, but in a perverse way I find him gallant."
• Minneapolis cabby: "He only turns up the stadium lights for flyballs."
• Griffith: "You don't see anyone with 50 years of age or responsibilities hollering about me. It's the young ones that never had to make a bigger decision than what subject to take. I don't mind being called a dinosaur. A dinosaur, from what I've seen on TV, is a pretty powerful person. A dinosaur usually pushes himself around to where he doesn't get hurt."
Gaetti, who signed on March 18 for about $70,000, leaving two unsigned Twins at the end of last week, still has a question: "Is Mr. Griffith in baseball to win or just to cut corners so he can stay?"
IS IT GOODBYE FOR TWINS 'STARS'?
TWINS TRADE DANNY FORD
CAREW BLASTS GRIFFITH FOR NOT SIGNING MARSHALL
In the autobiography in Griffith's mind, he was born in 1922 at age 10 in the back seat of a Franklin sedan. In the front seat sat the Washington Senators' owner Clark Griffith. In the back sat young Calvin and his 9-year-old sister, Thelma. The children thought they had driven to Washington to visit Uncle Clark for a summer vacation. They would never go home again.
Within a year all that seemed to remain from Calvin's first 10 years in Montreal was the scar on his stomach from the night he accidentally brushed against the pot-bellied stove as he was taking a bath. The rest of those 10 years seemed to have vanished.
"I started living," he says, "actually living." Now there was money and servants and new clothes and constant excitement in the house over the fortunes of his uncle's baseball team. Now he had to go to church and Sunday school. He had to sit with his tutor on Saturdays before he could go out and play baseball, and the other boys had to wait, too, if they wanted the thrill of playing with a slightly scuffed American League ball. "I felt loved in Washington," he says.
He became the Senators' bat boy and entered a private high school, Staunton Military. By then he was shrewd enough to see what lay before him if he took no foolish risks. Clark Griffith was childless and searching for an heir. Each night the old man would come home from Griffith Stadium, light a Robert Burns cigarillo, pour one ounce—always just one—of Old Grand-Dad, take a one-hour nap, play an hour of cribbage with Calvin and then pull out a note pad and talk baseball.
After a Hall of Fame pitching career during which he had mastered the then-legal spitball and scuffed ball, Clark Griffith by 1920 had obtained controlling interest in the Senators, then known as the Nationals. He was hard enough to trade the husbands of both of Calvin's sisters, Joe Cronin and Joe Haynes, and soft enough to cry when his hero, the Lone Ranger, sent him a recorded message for his birthday. He was close-fisted enough to supervise his team's equipment inventory, and generous enough to move Jane Robertson and her other five children to Washington and support them after Calvin's father died in 1923.
Young Calvin's only concern was that the miracle of his own good fortune might somehow be revoked. In the vortex of a wild fan-and-player celebration on the field when the 1924 Senators had just won the World Series, the 12-year-old bat boy stood alone, sobbing with dread at how his uncle might react to the disappearance of the baseballs.
After three years of squirming at George Washington University, Calvin convinced his uncle in 1935 to let him begin learning the business of operating a baseball team. He was dispatched to the farm system and spent seven. years at Chattanooga and Charlotte, working his way up to president of the Chattanooga Class A team and then as president and manager of the Charlotte Class B team.
By 1942 he was back in Washington, catching the Senators' batting practice and supervising the concession stands. The old man's eyebrows whitened, and the young man's responsibilities grew. When death came in 1955 to the owner of a team that had finished in the second division 20 times in 35 years, Washingtonians lined the streets for the funeral as if he had been the President.
Calvin and Thelma each inherited 26% of the club; together they had control, and Calvin became president and chairman of the board. Washington was soon aboil with talk that he was planning to move the Senators. Griffith responded in a story under his byline in The Washington Post of January 12, 1958, saying that he intended to stay in Washington forever.
But revenues could not match overhead, and as Congressmen and baseball men howled, Griffith had to decide whether to keep baseball in Washington or himself in baseball.
By 1961 the Washington Senators were the Minnesota Twins, Griffith was discrediting the "forever" pledge as a p.r. man's blunder and Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich was calling the sense of loss "overwhelmingly small." The dinosaur had found a way to survive.
GRIFFITH SPARES FEW TARGETS IN WASECA REMARKS
TWINS' PLAYERS RAGING OVERB CAL'S REMARKS
ROD CAREW: AFTER 79, I'M GONE
I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ball games, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. . . .We came here because you've got good, hard-working white people here."
So said Griffith, according to the Minneapolis Tribune, at a 1978 banquet in Waseca, Minn. which he did not know was being covered by the press. He was also quoted as calling Rod Carew "a damn fool" for signing a Twins contract for $170,000 when he was worth more, and as saying that Wynegar was having a "miserable year" because "he was playing 'hands' with his wife during spring training, and instead of running around the outfield he did his running around the bedroom. Now, love is love. But it comes pretty cheap for these young ballplayers these days, and I think they should take advantage of that and wait to get married."
With that, Griffith had a second metropolis inflamed. Callers blitzed the Twins' switchboard. Blacks denounced him for bigotry. A front-page Minneapolis Star editorial demanded he abdicate. A $1-million-a-year radio and TV sponsor announced it would reconsider involvement with the Twins. Carew said, "I'm not going to be another nigger on his plantation." Wynegar punched out a garbage can and broke his finger.
"Waseca was the biggest frame-up that ever happened," Griffith says. "The newspaper was going so lousy it needed something to stimulate it. I was misinterpreted. They asked if black people came to ball games and I said no; all I was doing was quoting a survey I'd read that said they went to boxing matches and rassling, but not many went to baseball. I almost cried when I read that story. Not a family did as much for blacks as the Griffith family.
"The Wynegar thing, if Don Rickles had said it, would have gotten a helluva big laugh. You go to meetings like that, you've got to put a little humor into the damn thing. You can't get up on your feet and be a cloudy face and no ambition—I mean animation. You've got to giggle a little and get people in the right mood. The people down there in Waseca had one of the biggest times in their life, they tell me."
Thelma shakes her head with sisterly, affectionate disapproval. "He gets himself in trouble," she says. "Sometimes he speaks without thinking. He's not that good at putting thoughts into words."
Griffith long ago established himself as one of sport's most accessible and quotable owners. Reporters could rap on his door, enter and fill their note pads with sentences so coarse in honesty and so magnificently mangled in syntax that some began to enjoy him. He was quoted last year as saying that rookie Center-fielder Jim Eisenrich was "doomed to be an All-Star." When asked whom he would choose as managerial replacement after his controversial 1969 firing of Billy Martin, he said, "I guarantee you one thing. I won't do anything rational."
His temper would explode as his team and gate receipts wilted under the August sun. After a 12-2 loss to Detroit on Aug. 17, 1981 he steamed, "It's a goddamn shame when a fellow with the experience of [Jerry] Koosman is pitching so lousy. As old as he is, that was one of the dumbest pitching jobs I've ever seen. . . . You wonder how we wound up with such goldarn scabs as we've got now."
As he sat behind his desk like some big-jowled sequel to Babbitt, it did not take a sharpshooter to zero in. Some writers fired away regularly; the players took target practice on a picture of him they taped in the locker-room urinal. Griffith would mutter for a few days, but the enchanting thing about him was that he never seemed to nurse a grudge.
Minneapolis fans vacillated, admiring him for lambasting .247-hitting millionaires and howling when he let their favorites go. At the Twins' final game ever at Metropolitan Stadium, in 1981, 100 fans cornered Calvin coming out of the men's room and besieged him with autograph requests. He granted every one. That same day the crowd in the stands chanted, "We want Calvin," and when he finally acknowledged them by standing and received more cheers than boos, he called it one of the biggest thrills of his life.
One fan, a local actor-playwright named Bob Breuler, became so fascinated that in 1981 he began buying a seat right in front of Griffith's box. He observed Griffith closely and wrote a one-man show he hopes to star in himself someday. "I see him as a folk hero with foibles," Breuler says. "He'd sit up there during the game and curse and swear at his players for making mistakes. But I always sensed that somewhere in there, there was a heart—a heart shaped like a baseball, with stitches."
Carew thought so the day Griffith paid him a $100,000 bonus for his .388 season in 1977. So did spent veterans like Julio Becquer, Shorty Pleis and Carroll Hardy when Griffith called them back to the big leagues so they could qualify for pensions. Former Shortstop Zoilo Versalles remembers informing Griffith of financial problems, being told to come into the office and finding a check awaiting him, no questions asked.
"Firing me probably cost him $15 million at the gate and five pennants," Billy Martin claimed modestly. "Still, he paid me well as a manager and a coach. I don't know that his image will ever change, but there are too many good things about him that don't get out. Look at how he takes care of his family. Look at his front office."
For Griffith, family and front office are synonymous. Sister Thelma (her husband, Joe Haynes, who pitched for 14 years in the majors, died in 1967) is vice-president and assistant treasurer, which means no one questions her when she brings her Dalmatian into the office for the day. Calvin's son, Clark, and his nephew, Bruce, are executive vice-presidents; his brothers, the twins Jimmy and Billy Robertson, are vice-presidents; his nephew, Mike Robertson, is traveling secretary; another nephew. Tommy Cronin, works in sales and advertising; and a cousin, Ruth Harvison, is secretary to the farm director. Nepotism? "We're fortunate to have a family so capable of running all those departments," Griffith says.
The players may flee, but the employees linger. The team has had three trainers since 1912. It has 10 scouts who have belonged to the organization for 20 or more years; one scout, Zinn Beck, worked until his death at 95. Charlie Daniels, who's in charge of stocking the concession stands, has 51 years of tenure, and most of the other front-office personnel, including Griffith's personal secretary, have been with the club since the move to Minneapolis.
Griffith was never the type to flaunt his loyalty or charity, and only his stinginess became legend. Players were forbidden to take home bats to work out with over the winter, so they taped them together, stashed them in garment bags and smuggled them out when the equipment manager wasn't looking.
At times it all seemed the stuff of barroom anecdotes, and at others it seemed profoundly sad. Natalie, the woman Calvin married in 1940, often sat inside alone as Griffith came home at night and walked straight to the lake in the backyard of their house in Wayzata. He would cast his line and sit in the glow of the floodlights for an hour and a half, with only the ripple of the water and the buzz of the mosquito zapper for company.
Natalie wanted to go to operas and plays and to talk about books. Calvin: "I like to look at magazines. Read a few stories, read the captions. I don't like to socialize too much. You run into people who are not athletic-minded. They're bookworms or symphony patrons, and that's all they want to talk about. I don't mind a musical once in a while, but none of these damn dramas for me."
She asked him to leave in 1974, and they have been separated ever since. Griffith did not pursue a divorce, uncertain about the effect that settlement terms might have on his grip on the team. He rarely speaks to his only son and his only grandson. He rarely sees or hears from his two daughters. Corrine, 38, married Phillip Pillsbury, a man who's famous for making dough and who's even older than Calvin. Clare, 35, a landscape designer, moved to Oakland years ago.
"At home my father was—well, remote might be too harsh a word," says Clare. "Then he'd walk into the stadium and become a showman. I accepted the fact that his whole life was at the ball park. But I wonder now what we all saw through our different eyes when I see how strong the feelings have gotten about him in our family."
"He's alienated from everything he should be cherishing right now," says Griffith's older sister, Mildred.
"I like him, but I feel sad for him," adds Wheelock Whitney, a member of the Twins' board of directors. "Baseball is everything in his life. He doesn't have any nurturing relationships. It's almost like he's become a man in a bunker."
GOLTZ TO SIGN 6-YEAR PACT WITH DODGERS
LANDREAUX GLAD TO TAKE WALK—TO DODGER CAMP
KOOS GONE: PLAYERS' ANGER AT GRIFFITH GROWS
The Minnesota Twins' dining room is the warmest place in Griffith's bunker. There are mounds of meat and potatoes when he's not dieting, cottage cheese and soup when he is. And here, at least, there are people who like to talk baseball.
Calvin limps to the elevator, goes down two floors and studies the walls there, looking for an appropriate place to hang a picture of Clark Griffith's coffin. He enters the dining room and takes a seat. He tucks a napkin in his Twins tie clip and addresses Executive Vice-President Howard Fox, a man who sometimes calls him The Boss.
Griffith: "Boy, I see where the Gophers won big last night. Beat Illinois 70-something-to-something. Boy oh boy!"
Fox: "Must be pretty good."
Griffith: "I guess so. I'm not sure of the score. I guess I'll have to check the sports sheet."
Fox: "I see where there were more schools put on NCAA probation. Oklahoma [sic], I think."
Griffith: "Oklahoma? Geez-ee whiz. What was it, their football, soccer, hockey team?"
Fox, clearing off The Boss's emptied plate and handing it to the kitchen help: "I think football."
Griffith: "Holy cryin' out loud, Howard, you hear about those crappies they're catching? Two and a half pounds. Damn, that's this goldarn big!" He spreads his hands.
He sips his iced tea, and now maybe brother Billy or Jimmy or nephew Tommy pulls up a seat. Inevitably the subject becomes baseball and the verbs become past tense. And the heads all swing, sad, simultaneous pendulums, over how wonderful the game once was and how warped it has become.
"Ballplayers used to sit in the dining car and discuss baseball when they traveled by train," Calvin says. "Now they get on a jet plane and 80 percent have attaché cases and some kind of musical box with earphones on. The money is so easy they don't have to struggle or become students of the game. The talent has become watered down. The players today wear gloves that are like nets—they just look at the ball and it's caught. They were better hitters back in the olden days, too, because they would stay after a game and take batting practice. A player today wouldn't think of staying after.
"We didn't have all this hospitalization, pension funds, termination pay, grievances, arbitration. . . . Most of this stuff makes me sick. The old reserve clause was fair. Players weren't being derived of a damn thing. Who pays the bills—the player or the ball club? Free agency has been the ruination of baseball. Now Steinbrenner regulates the salaries for everyone. Most of these owners sign these players to such ridiculous salaries just because they're afraid of their image with the fans if they don't. But I'm still trying to find a way. Anybody that says Calvin Griffith doesn't want to win is a damn liar right to their face."
His glare moves across a room that is far more than a fortress against change. It's this dining room, says Veeck, that's one of the secrets of Griffith's well-stocked farm system. "The old scouts around the league don't feel comfortable with the Steinbrenners, but they love to sit in that dining room and eat the good food and talk baseball," Veeck points out. "Calvin listens and picks up a lot of tips on young ballplayers that way."
He also plows some $2.5 million back into the farm each year and understands his sport at levels the corporate tycoons will never know. He spotted a Class-A kid named Carew in spring training in 1967 and decreed him to be the Twins' starting second baseman, over the protests of his manager and farm director. Carew hit .292 that year. And strangely—the St. Paul Dispatch calls it Calvin's Hex—few of the talents that Griffith has traded or lost to free agency have yielded a good return on their new teams' investments.
Some say this is why Griffith finds a way to stay on: He's the self-appointed purist, shining the lantern upon the path baseball once walked and must walk again. But consider. When the Senators' revenue was dwindling, Griffith moved the home-run fences in and revoked his uncle's rule not to sell beer at the stadium. When Minneapolis proposed a domed stadium with artificial grass, he stiffened—and then asked where to sign.
And at the end of the '84 season, when the Twins have an option to renegotiate their 30-year Metrodome lease if they have not drawn a three-year average of 1.4 million fans a year or the league's average team attendance—whichever is lower—and Tampa and Denver are clamoring for a team . . . ?
• Calvin Griffith: "I love baseball so goddamn much—it's like a dessert. I love to be around crowds for the simple reason that they want to hear you."
• Thelma Griffith Haynes: "I don't think Calvin would even be interested in going to baseball games if it wasn't his team."
TWINS GO AGAINST PRECEDENT, OFFER
WYNEGAR RICH LONG-TERM CONTRACT
SMALLEY SIGNS FOR $2.45 MILLION
ERICKSON IS AWARDED SALARY REQUEST
On the office walls hang a Monet print, a Chagall print, a Dartmouth diploma and a photograph of the Griffith clan. On the table stands a Japanese grammar book. Behind the desk sits Calvin Griffith's 41-year-old son, Clark, an evening jogger, a lunchtime chess player, an evening student of Spanish. There's a faint coat of amusement on his face that would take little scraping to reveal a primer of pain.
"If I don't become the owner of this team, I won't be devastated," he says.
"I recommended Clark to be the next commissioner of baseball," Veeck says. "It would all depend on the people he gathered to do his heel work; Clark's office hours are not too punctual," Calvin Griffith says.
The relationship has always been tense. Clark remembers being asked into his father's office several years ago to discuss a tactical situation and reeling off what had happened to every batter in every inning leading up to that moment. He remembers not being asked into his father's office to talk baseball anymore.
Clark remembers getting three hits in a high school game, stealing second and third and scoring the winning run on a suicide squeeze. "How could you let that pitcher pop you up?" he recalls his father saying of his one failure that day.
"A lot of bull," Calvin growls. "I was not critical."
Calvin wanted Clark to start his apprenticeship in the minor leagues, the way he had. Clark resisted. Clark cherished books. Calvin: "No book tells you that with a man on first, you give the bunt sign." Clark helped hammer out the 1976 and '80 collective-bargaining agreements with the players' union. Calvin: "They took away every right the ball club had." Clark championed an advertising campaign to boost ticket sales. Calvin: "We got rid of it. You spend $200,000 to $300,000 a year telling people, 'C'mon out and see us, we're great,' then you win five out of 15 and you make yourself look like a horse's ass." Clark led the drive to sign Roy Smalley and Wynegar to lucrative long-term contracts. Calvin: "Neither one was a leader. I said, 'They're the same damn things we had when we were paying them way down.' "
"You must battle for the hearts of fans," the son says. "We're asking fans to pay their emotional dollar to the Twins, to live and die with us, to hope for us. You can't keep getting rid of your best players and dash those hopes on the rocks every few years."
He carted most of his library of non-baseball books home from the office to ease the father-son strain, but that gesture didn't suffice. Last summer he was stripped of his responsibilities as team representative at league meetings and arbitration cases. His father began to send communications through Fox, whose power grew as Clark's diminished. The tension crested with a physical confrontation between Fox and Clark, and now Griffith's son moves through the hallways like a bad hallucination the others pretend not to see.
"You have to have your heart and soul in this game," lectures his uncle, Jimmy. "I don't think Clark does."
"They're full of crap," Clark snaps. "I love baseball."
Both Thelma and Calvin have executive vice-presidents for sons, although Bruce Haynes never became as deeply involved in club matters as Clark. "Clarkie wouldn't go to the minor leagues to learn, so I wouldn't force Brucie to go," Thelma says. "In some ways it would be a relief if we just sold the team."
Calvin Griffith could go from scapegoat to instant millionaire by selling, but he isn't anxious for that. He has been paying approximately $26,000 a year in premiums on an insurance policy, the purpose of which is to protect the eventual heir from debilitating inheritance taxes, but passing the team on to kin no longer seems to be as important as it once was. "Clarkie and Brucie are young enough to take care of themselves," he says. "As long as my mind isn't cluttered, I don't know why the hell I should worry about anybody else. I know both of them want it, but neither is in a position where he has money coming in from other sources to put into it. If I die, the board of directors will settle the question. It could be a little sticky."
Clark sits at his desk, trying to understand where it all went wrong. He has a map of Mount Royal Cemetery, the place where James Robertson, his grandfather, was buried in Montreal. He has been told conflicting stories about the man who raised his father for the first 10 years—that he was witty and charming, that he was a mean and vicious brute, that he died in a hunting accident, in a boiler explosion, from ingesting a poison. He plans to go to Montreal, to stand over the burial plot and somehow in the silence to come closer to accepting why he can't get the thing he has always wanted more from his father than a baseball team.
"Love?" his father muses. He folds his hands and stares down at them. "Love is a funny word. My love was to try to put bread and butter on the table for my family. Clark says I wasn't a good father to him. Hell, if I wasn't, I'd have saved a helluva lot of money. . . . I'd have let him go to public schools and learn the hard way. He was spoiled more than anything else. I had to work day and night. He's always felt he could run a ball club better than me.
"Hell, I played catch with him and every other damn thing. I can't understand it. . . . I can't understand a lot of damn things. . . ."
Calvin's memories of his own childhood come only in shreds, and only when coaxed.
He remembers huddling under a bearskin rug in a horse-drawn buggy, delivering newspapers in Montreal with his father, a frustrated ballplayer who played briefly in the minor leagues. He remembers his mother sending him out at dinnertime to find his father and stooping to look under the tavern doors until he found him. He remembers hiding in the closet or under the bed in his room, afraid of what might happen when his father came home with the stink on his breath. He remembers being forced at school to take recess with the girls because he fought too much with the boys. He remembers standing apart from the girls, humiliated, and finally skipping school until the truant officers came. "I was a mean sonofabitch in Montreal," he says. He remembers his mother telling him he'd be the only one going with those strangers to Washington for a long summer vacation and replying, "I'm not going unless Thelma goes with me." He remembers being told the vacation was permanent.
"I don't know why they chose me to go," he says. "They needed me. I was the oldest son. I took care of the horses and delivered the papers. I was the one that did most of the goddamn work. I don't know why it was me."
He remembers being told in Washington that his father had died at 42 of cirrhosis of the liver.
"I sit back now and say to myself, 'How could you lead one life and then go into an atmosphere so different?' I must have had a split personality.
"But now I wouldn't change any of it. I'd like to have good relations with my family, but it's not going to affect me one iota, or the way I live one iota. My Uncle Clark wouldn't approve of the way I live; that's one thing I try to keep from thinking about. He believed you should have companionship, but he didn't have TV back in those days. My life is very full.
"I'd like to still be running this team when I'm 85. What do you do when you retire?"
SMALLEY TRADED TO THE YANKEES
TWINS TRADE WILFONG, CORBETT WYNEGAR, ERICKSON TRADED
A month and a half ago, the salary of Ron Davis was raised to $475,000 in an arbitration hearing. The owner blanched.
"If I had to pay him that much money for the whole year," said Calvin Robertson Griffith, "I know deep down in my heart that I would die a slow death."