Reflecting on Rod Carew, Minneapolis and Racism

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 Times sportswriter John Branch (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 a lot of years in the past, which he clearly and chillingly discovered pertinent to the information of right this 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 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 mentioned. “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.

I referred to as Carew and discovered him magnanimous, as ordinary, and additionally direct about Griffith and the present protest motion in opposition to racism.

It was clear he was working by the information about Griffith. He had issued an announcement 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. 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, nonetheless, 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.

Yet Carew remembers 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.”

Now 74, Carew sounded sturdy. A number of 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 mentioned, “and I’m feeling great.”

Like a lot of the nation, he has been deeply troubled by the racial tragedies concerning white law enforcement officials 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 mentioned. “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 overall.

“After a Twins game 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 know the speed limit, boy? You think you’re going to be burning up the street with this fancy automobile you’re driving?’

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

“I advised them my doubts. One cop mentioned, ‘Do it slowly.’ When he noticed my identify, he begins shaking his head and says, ‘Well, Rod, you’re nuts for going over the pace restrict.’ I mentioned: ‘I 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, but the bottom line is I’m still Black.”

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

There’s quite a lot of progress on this nation. We’ve come a good distance. And we nonetheless have a protracted 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,” will likely be launched in August by Skyhorse Publishing.

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