Ten thousand days ago, an era came to an end. On the face of it, the day marked the transition for a single team, but in reality it signified the end of an era for all major league baseball.
It was 10,000 days ago, on June 22, 1984, that Twins owner Calvin Griffith officially gave control of the Minnesota Twins to new owner Carl Pohlard. The official hand-off came in a ceremony before that day’s game. Griffith was teary-eyed, which made sense since his family had owned the team for almost as long as it had been around.
In 1912, Clark Griffith, a 200-game-winning pitcher known for his brainpower, mortgaged his possessions to buy a minority share in the club. Several years later, he bought a controlling share in the club. Like his peers, Charlie Comiskey and Connie Mack, Griffith lived the all-American success story of rising up from player to owner.
Griffith kept this controlling interest until his death in 1955. Unlike Mack, whose family sold the club shortly after he stepped away from the franchise, or Comiskey, whose family kept the team for a while before devolving into disputes and lawsuits with each other as they sold the team, Calvin Griffith had a clear successor from his family to carry on in his place.
Officially the nephew of Clark, Calvin Griffith had been raised by his uncle and eventually adopted by him, and he shared his adopted father’s passion for the game. In 1955, the 43-year-old Griffith inherited the team, and he intended to keep it.
When he moved the franchise to Minnesota in 1961, he insisted that the whole legacy of history of the Washington Senators come with him, never mind that a new club called the Washington Senators would start up that year. It was more than business, it was family.
Griffith kept the team for decades, though he had trouble competing financially in the brave new world of free agency. Simply put, his was a mom-and-pop-store franchise. The family had no outside income of note, and they couldn’t afford to run up losses.
This was a trend in the late 1970s and early 1980s across baseball. Several owners who couldn’t compete financially had to sell. Horace Stoneham, whose family had owned the Giants for decades, sold in the 1970s. Bill Veeck, who re-entered the ownership ranks as free agency took off, had to leave by the early 1980s.
By 1984, Griffith’s was the last of the family-owned franchises. (Well, there was the O’Malleys with the Dodgers, but they benefitted from owning the stadium outright, which gave them an extra stream of revenue). When he sold, an era ended across baseball.
It’s funny, if you look at old news footage of the Messersmith decision—the arbitration ruling the killed the reserve clause—you can see owners denouncing it as the end of the sport and the ruin of the game. Obviously, we know that’s utter garbage. The game still stands, stronger than ever. It’s also more profitable than ever. True, for some of the specific owners themselves it was their ruin, as they were forced out.
Even the O’Malleys, the exception noted above, eventually had to leave when the tax burden on their revenue became too much for them without sufficient capital resources from outside baseball.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold for those that just want to skim:
3,000 days since Barry Bonds belts a walk-off home run, the ninth of ten he hits in his career. Just two days earlier, he blasted his eighth career walk-off.
6,000 days since Tom Glavine loads the bases with no outs in the top of the second only to fan the next three straight guys to get out of the jam without allowing a run. He and Nolan Ryan are the only 300-game winners in the last 50 years ever to do that.
6,000 days since Tim Wakefield pitches 10 innings for Boston. No Red Sox starter has gone that deep ever since.
7,000 days since baseball commissioner Fay Vincent declares, “I will not resign—ever!” Today is also 6,994 days since Fay Vincent, in fact, does resign.
10,000 days since the Reds and Giants played an epic 16-inning game. The Reds top the Giants, 6-5, in the long-running contest. They each score one run in the 14th inning.
15,000 days since Brooks Robinson enjoys his greatest—or at least most famous—fielding performance of his life. In Game Three of the World Series against the Reds, he truly is a human vacuum cleaner. He makes a leaping grab in the first inning to begin a double play. Later he snags a slow-rolling ground ball for a tough 5-3 ground out. Finally, he makes a diving catch on a Johnny Bench foul liner. Robinson later says he never had a five-game stretch of fielding like he had in the 1970 World Series, and this is the crown jewel performance in it.
30,000 days since Lou Gehrig belts the sixth grand slam of his career just eight days after his fifth. He’ll end his career with a still-record 23 grand slams.
30,000 days since Doc Cramer makes his major league debut.
1851 The colorful St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals) owner Chris von der Ahe is born.
1889 The Players Brotherhood and its financial backers meet to begin preliminary work on organizing the Players League.
1918 Former outfielder Mike Tiernan dies at age 51.
1922 Hall of Fame slugger Sam Thompson dies.
1927 The Cardinals hire Bill McKechnie as their new manager. He’ll win a pennant for them and be rewarded with a pink slip.
1927 The Phillies hire Burt Shotton as their manager.
1928 The Braves trade Rogers Hornsby to the Cubs for five players and $200,000
1932 Dick Stuart, Dr. Strangeglove, is born.
1933 The Reds hire Larry MacPhail as their GM, beginning his Hall of Fame career as a pioneering executive.
1936 Donald L. Barnes, a 42-year-old loan company owner, buys the Browns for $325,000.
1938 Jim Kaat is born.
1938 The Browns hire Fred Haney as their manager.
1944 Joe Niekro is born.
1964 NL owners approve the move of the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta, but they must stay in Wisconsin for the 1965 season.
1973 New Jersey becomes the first state to let girls play in Little League.
1974 Kris Benson, baseball pitcher, is born.
1985 The Expos sign amateur free agent Mel Rojas.
1988 The Astros name Art Howe as their manager. This is his first big league job as skipper.
1988 The Mariners hire Jim Lefebvre as their new skipper.
1995 Baseball signs a TV deal worth $1.7 billion with Fox, NBC, ESPN, and Liberty Media.
1997 The Tampa Bay Devil Rays hire Larry Rothschild as their original manager.
2000 Sandy Alderson becomes executive vice president of baseball operations for the commissioner’s office.
2000 The Mariners sign free agent Scott Podsednik, who has not yet played a major league game.
2001 Commissioner Bud Selig, fresh off one of the most exciting World Series of all-time, kills all the good feeling by announcing that baseball will contract two teams by Opening Day of 2002.