Reflecting on Rod Carew, Minneapolis and Racism


The tumult of latest 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 Times sportswriter John Branch (my former colleague, since I’ve been retired from the paper for 13 years) quoted one thing I had stated in a panel dialogue on race various years in the past, which he clearly and chillingly discovered pertinent to the information of at present, 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 staff proprietor, Calvin Griffith, in entrance of Target Field, the staff’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 tell you when I came to Minnesota,” he stated. “It was when we found out that there were only 15,000 Blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games but they’ll fill up a wrestling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. We came because you’ve got good, hard-working white people here.” Griffith later apologized for his remarks.

Credit…Associated Press

I known as Carew and located him magnanimous, as typical, and in addition direct about Griffith and the present protest motion towards racism.

It was clear he was working by the information about Griffith. He had issued a press release not too long ago, which learn partly that he “understands and respects” the Twins’ choice 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. year, I made $170,000. When the season was over, Calvin called me into his office, thanked me for the great season, told me that I had made the team a lot of money, and handed me a check for $100,000. Could have knocked me over. A racist wouldn’t have done that.”

Carew, nevertheless, then nonetheless uncomfortable taking part in 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.

Yet Carew recollects that when he was advised he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, “The first person I called was Calvin.” He additionally reasoned, “While we cannot change history, perhaps we can learn from it.”

Credit…Mark Avery/Associated Press

Now 74, Carew sounded robust. Just a few years in the past, he went by a coronary heart transplant and a kidney transplant — each on the identical time. “I’ve recuperated, been given a clean bill of health,” he stated, “and I’m feeling great.”

Like a lot of the nation, he has been deeply troubled by the racial tragedies relating to white cops and Black males which were recorded. He has lived by discrimination each in his native Panama and within the United States, however maintains a cautiously optimistic outlook.

“It’s a way of life, but I do think things will change, at least somewhat,” he stated. “Almost everyone has a camera on their cellphones. Now, cops are being watched like never before. I personally haven’t had any run-ins with police in recent years, but I’m still aware that you have to be careful.”

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

When I used to be doing the e-book with Carew, he advised me then, “I’ve also been hassled by white cops when they’ve seen me driving a nice car,” including, “They think you’ve got to be a pimp.” He recalled one specific occasion which he advised me was a particular that characterised the final.

Credit…Associated Press

“After a Twins game in Met Stadium” — or Metropolitan Stadium, the previous ballpark in Bloomington, Minn. — “a couple of years in the past, I’m driving down 35W near my home and going 50 in a 55-mile zone. Two cops in a squad automotive pull me over. ‘You know the speed limit, boy? You think you’re going to be burning up the highway with this fancy automotive you’re driving?’

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

Credit…Associated Press

“I told them my doubts. One cop said, ‘Do it slowly.’ When he saw my name, he starts shaking his head and says, ‘Well, Rod, you’re nuts for going over the speed limit.’ I said: ‘I know I wasn’t going over the speed limit. I knew you guys were behind me. And I knew you were going to stop me.’” It ended with out additional incident. “I’m Rod Carew, but the bottom line is I’m still Black.”

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

There’s plenty of progress on this nation. We’ve come a great distance. And we nonetheless have an extended strategy to go.

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