So long, at least for now.
Hoping his departure will help get a ballpark built in St. Paul, an upbeat and
emotional Carl Pohlad began to bid farewell Friday to the baseball team he's owned for the
last 16 seasons.
"The tradition of baseball, I'm convinced, will go on with the new vigor and the
new blood we have in the ownership of the team -- we'll be world champions in just a few
years," said Pohlad, who agreed Thursday to sell the team to fellow sports investors
Glen Taylor and Bob Naegele for $120 million. The sale, set to close June 30, would only
happen if a complicated plan to build a new ballpark in St. Paul wins support from voters,
legislators and Gov. Jesse Ventura.
If St. Paul voters reject a half-percent sales tax increase Nov. 2 or the Legislature
once again balks at funding a stadium, the team would return to Pohlad's portfolio. But
the 84-year-old billionaire banker refused to consider that scenario Friday as he offered
heartfelt goodbyes to Twins employees.
"If the St. Paul vote fails? I don't even want to think about that," Pohlad
said. "I don't think it's going to fail. This is a day of optimism. . . .
Our whole objective has been to do whatever we can to keep baseball in Minnesota and I
think we're close to achieving that objective."
As he glanced down a Metrodome press conference table at Twins manager Tom Kelly and
World Series icons Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek, Pohlad's voice halted.
"I'm having a hard time talking because I'm a little emotional here," he
said. "I hope our legacy is favorable, but who's to say? We've done our best."
A faded reputation
Despite presiding over World Series winners in 1987 and 1991, Pohlad has become a
lightning rod for animosity after bungled stadium efforts at the Legislature, a threatened
sale to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver and seven straight losing seasons. In
August, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman insisted Pohlad must step aside if the push for a $325
million outdoor stadium were to have any chance of becoming a reality.
"Nobody likes to hear anything negative about themselves, but that's the price you
pay for being in sports," Pohlad said. "That's the privilege of the press. And
everybody else can make whatever remarks they want to. We have no choice but to accept
Amid the recent errors on his scorecard, Pohlad hopes Twins fans remember why he bought
the team for $36 million in 1984. Original owner Calvin Griffith was threatening to move
the team to Florida.
"We saved baseball and if it hadn't been for our action 16 years ago, we wouldn't
be here right now," Pohlad said.
He said cataclysmic shifts in baseball's economic landscape -- including corporate
owners in Atlanta and Anaheim, Calif., and lucrative new stadiums in Baltimore, Cleveland
and Denver -- should be considered when fans look back on his Twins tenure.
"We did the best we could operating the team," Pohlad said. "Our record
was handicapped by the low revenues we had to work with. Any team that doesn't have what I
call the machine -- a new stadium -- will not be able to compete."
Even with new stadiums, owners of Major League Baseball franchises in San Diego and
Pittsburgh have complained that small-market teams are doomed unless baseball changes its
economic ways. Pohlad said he hopes a blue-ribbon commission studying baseball's financial
situation will make recommendations soon to cure some of the game's ills.
Whatever the panel comes up with and whatever happens with the St. Paul vote, Pohlad
kept flashing back to the two moments that were the pinnacles of his ownership: the last
outs of the Twins' championship seasons in '87 and '91.
"There will never be another moment in my life that compares with those," he
Twins president Jerry Bell had tears welling in his eyes as he listened to Pohlad's
"I was fine until [Thursday] afternoon when it was done and Carl went into the
office by himself and closed the door," Bell said. "Maybe this will be the extra
little push to get it done in St. Paul. Or maybe it will be a big push.