Reflecting on Rod Carew, Minneapolis and Racism

Written by on June 30, 2020

The tumult of current weeks has made my ideas flip to Rod Carew, whose previous life as a Minnesota Twin speaks to current days in Minneapolis, and the nation.

In a tweet the opposite day, the New York Occasions sportswriter John Department (my former colleague, since I’ve been retired from the paper for 13 years) quoted one thing I had mentioned in a panel discussion on race quite a lot of years in the past, which he clearly and chillingly discovered pertinent to the information of at the moment, wherein Black males are targets of the police, from informal racial discomfort to killings.


Then Carew got here up once more with the information that Twins administration had determined to take down the statue of a former crew proprietor, Calvin Griffith, in entrance of Goal Subject, the crew’s ballpark, due to racist remarks he made at a talking engagement in 1978.

Griffith had moved the Senators franchise from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota for the 1961 season. “I’ll inform you after I got here to Minnesota,” he mentioned. “It was once we came upon that there have been solely 15,000 Blacks right here. Black individuals don’t go to ball video games however they’ll replenish a wrestling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to demise. We got here since you’ve acquired good, hard-working white individuals right here.” Griffith later apologized for his remarks.

Credit score…Related Press

I referred to as Carew and located him magnanimous, as traditional, and in addition direct about Griffith and the present protest motion in opposition to racism.

It was clear he was working by way of the information about Griffith. He had issued an announcement just lately, which learn partially that he “understands and respects” the Twins’ decision to take away the Griffith statue, however he additionally remembers “how supportive” Griffith was to him, a younger Black rookie second baseman in 1967, and past. Carew wrote: “In 1977, my M.V.P. 12 months, I made $170,000. When the season was over, Calvin referred to as me into his workplace, thanked me for the good season, instructed me that I had made the crew some huge cash, and handed me a verify for $100,000. Might have knocked me over. A racist wouldn’t have achieved that.”

Carew, nevertheless, then nonetheless uncomfortable enjoying in Minnesota and, presumably, for Griffith, sought a commerce that landed him in 1979 with the Angels, in Southern California, the place he now lives.

But Carew remembers that when he was instructed he had been elected to the Baseball Corridor of Fame in 1991, “The primary individual I referred to as was Calvin.” He additionally reasoned, “Whereas we can not change historical past, maybe we are able to be taught from it.”

Credit score…Mark Avery/Related Press

Now 74, Carew sounded sturdy. A couple of years in the past, he went by way of a coronary heart transplant and a kidney transplant — each on the identical time. “I’ve recuperated, been given a clear invoice of well being,” he mentioned, “and I’m feeling nice.” This 12 months, he revealed a memoir, “One Powerful Out: Preventing Off Life’s Curveballs.”

Like many of the nation, he has been deeply troubled by the racial tragedies relating to white law enforcement officials and Black males which have been recorded. He has lived by way of discrimination each in his native Panama and in the US, however maintains a cautiously optimistic outlook.

“It’s a lifestyle, however I do suppose issues will change, not less than considerably,” he mentioned. “Virtually everybody has a digicam on their cellphones. Now, cops are being watched like by no means earlier than. I personally haven’t had any run-ins with police in recent times, however I’m nonetheless conscious that you need to watch out.”

He discovered that lesson a very long time in the past.

After I helped Carew write his autobiography, “Carew,” which was revealed in 1979, he instructed me then, “I’ve additionally been hassled by white cops after they’ve seen me driving a pleasant automobile,” including, “They suppose you’ve acquired to be a pimp.” He recalled one specific occasion which he instructed me was a selected that characterised the final.

Credit score…Related Press

“After a Twins sport in Met Stadium” — or Metropolitan Stadium, the previous ballpark in Bloomington, Minn. — “just a few years in the past, I’m driving down 35W close to my house and going 50 in a 55-mile zone. Two cops in a squad automobile pull me over. ‘You already know the pace restrict, boy? You suppose you’re going to be burning up the highway with this fancy automobile you’re driving?’

“They requested for my driver’s license. My first intuition was to inform them that I’ve acquired my license in my pocket and in the event that they need to take it out. Amongst Blacks, white policemen have a repute that as quickly as you go into your pocket, they suppose you’re going to drag out a gun. They may soar me and pull out their weapons and it’s throughout.

Credit score…Related Press

“I instructed them my doubts. One cop mentioned, ‘Do it slowly.’ When he noticed my identify, he begins shaking his head and says, ‘Effectively, Rod, you’re nuts for going over the pace restrict.’ I mentioned: ‘I do know I wasn’t going over the pace restrict. I knew you guys had been behind me. And I knew you had been going to cease me.’” It ended with out additional incident. “I’m Rod Carew, however the backside line is I’m nonetheless Black.”

That occasion occurred greater than 40 years in the past, however reads prefer it might have occurred yesterday.

There’s lots of progress on this nation. We’ve come a great distance. And we nonetheless have a protracted solution to go.

Ira Berkow is a former Sports activities of The Occasions columnist. His forthcoming e book, “How Life Imitates Sports activities: A Sportswriter Recounts, Relives, and Reckons With 50 Years on the Sports activities Beat,” shall be launched in August by Skyhorse Publishing.

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