Twin George Mitterwald Recalls Owner Calvin Griffith

I’m agog over the “Ghosts of D.C.” blog. I
found this classic 1959 image there of owner Griffith
hovering between President Eisenhower and
star Harmon Killebrew. Please, read their
great “what if?” essay speculating
on how the Twins could have
become the L.A. Dodgers! How would
Mr. Mitterwald have felt about that?
 

The ex-Twins catcher sounded so pleased to recall manager Billy Martin.

Then, I spoiled it all for George Mitterwald.

Did he have a memory of owner Calvin Griffith?

“Calvin was a one-owner owner and he liked to let everyone know it. We used to say he threw nickels around like they were manhole covers.

He tried to cut my salary my third year after raising my average 30 points and breaking the fielding record for catchers with a .997 average.

I ended up getting a $4,000 raise, but had to hold out for eight days to get it. He held it against me all the season and curbed my playing time.

I never had real problems with the Cubs.”

Coming Thursday: George’s best day ever?

Twins Catcher George Mitterwald Salutes Manager Billy Martin

I miss the old “Baseball Bible.”
The cover paintings were part of
that reverence. I never tried to
get a TSN autographed. I couldn’t
bear seeing those covers bent in
the mail!
 

George Mitterwald hasn’t forgotten manager Billy Martin. I asked for any memories of their brief time together in Minnesota. Mitterwald replied:

“Billy Martin was a great manager, whom I learned a lot of baseball from. His strategy and willingness to always push the envelope when it came to making the opposition try to stop us from taking extra bases, stopping us from stealing home, double stealing and taking the extra base almost all the time.

Off the field he was brash at times, generous all the time and just plain fun to be around all the time because of his comedic nature.”

Coming Monday: Contrasting memories of owner Calvin Griffith.

Twins Pitcher Dave Boswell A Yankee?!?

Today’s Boswell’s
autograph is tighter.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Dave Boswell could have been neither.

I asked him about joining the Twins, as well as his success at bat. He added a couple of startling tidbits concerning what might have been.

First, I asked how owner Calvin Griffith was upon signing his first contract.

“Tom, tell you what — I got $15,000 and a new car. It wasn’t that hard getting it from Mr. Griffith.


Had the same offer from the Yankees.”

I pointed out that the designated hitter rule wasn’t suited for pitchers like Boswell. He had 74 career hits, four of them home runs! He replied:

“I signed as a pitcher and outfielder. Loved to play every day.”

One explanation for Boswell’s mound success, four straight years of double-digit wins (culminating in a 20-win season in 1969) could be Minnesota pitching coach Johnny Sain. How did Sain help?

“John was great at explaining situations to you. All of a sudden, you would find yourself in that position and you knew what to do.”

Twins fans, send your thanks to this might-have-been Yankees outfielder now. My reply ended with…

“Been very ill lately. Sorry it took so long.

Dave Boswell”


Coming Thursday: My “10 Most Wanted List” — Phillies Edition.

 

Twin Frank Quilici’s Italian Nickname


One of the things I love about baseball? You can’t assume anything.

Growing up in the Midwest, it seems like Frank Quilici is a Twins tradition. Whether infielder, manager or long-time color commentator, he’s a big part of team history.

Reading about Frank, the first surprise that popped up was his nickname:

Guido.

Not being Italian, I puzzled at the accounts of teammates tagging Frank with “Guido.” Was this just a sign of more relaxed, less-politically correct times?
Try listing all ethnic nicknames for current players. Can you think of any?

I asked in a letter, along with a request for memories of Metropolitan Stadium and that 1965 A.L. Championship squad. I received a sparkling reply to my letter:

“Guido is my Dad’s name in italian. he loved baseball and we enjoyed every day that we could play catch and go to the park. Guido means ‘Guy’ in English. I was proud and happy that the guys called me my dad’s name. I was very proud of him and my mom.

Metropolitan Stadium was a big playpen for my four children. As they grew up, they loved being there and loved the people who worked for Calvin Griffith. It was like extended family. Bob Showers has a great book out called The Twins at the Met

“The 1965 team was led by our silent leader, Harmon Killebrew. Our veterans were really class guys and we played day by day, forgetting the last game and looking forward to the next.

“My life in baseball was magic but not without setbacks and fighting for everything I earned. I loved every minute that I wore a Twins uniform.

“Best of Luck. Go Twins! Frank Quilici”

Ken Retzer: John F. Kennedy’s Batterymate


Many people catch the President, on TV, even at a rally.

Ken Retzer caught John F. Kennedy at a ballpark in 1963.

Retzer, starting catcher for the Washington Senators, received the 1963 season’s ceremonial first pitch from JFK.

The Illinois-born receiver enjoyed another milestone that year. Behind the plate for baseball’s 100,000th-ever game, Retzer handled the historic ball that would be displayed in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame.

I was fascinated to see Retzer’s success in hitting knuckleballers like Hall of Famer Early Wynn. He wrote me:

“I was a line drive hitter,few strikeouts. Just 31 in 1961. So that helps to hit all pitchers. Knuckleballers were hard to catch, almost like catching a butterfly.”

He seemed to wear a different uniform number yearly. Why?

“Any time I veteran player would join the team, I gave up my uniform. The last was #14 for Gil Hodges the manager.”

Twins fans should know that Retzer played a role in the team’s 1965 American League championship. When catchers Earl Battey and Jerry Zimmerman held out, owner Calvin Griffith called Retzer as a bargaining chip. Signing Retzer, who performed admirably throughout spring training, convinced the other two catchers to ink new contracts. Unfortunately, Retzer was cut a day before the season began.

Retzer deserved a World Series. He’s a World Champion autograph signer, giving all-star treatment to every fan who writes. Ask any Senators fan.

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