Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 65

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 65

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This is the grave of Carl Pohlad.

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Born in 1915 in Des Moines, Carl Pohlad moved to California to play junior college football. He was discovered by none other than Bing Crosby, who convinced him to go to his alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane to play football, even though he was in his late-20s already. He then fought in World War II beginning in 1943 where he was supposed to be part of the Normandy invasion until he got poison oak. But he was wounded later in the war and won the purple heart and silver star. He had already gotten involved in business even before he played football, starting to make money by foreclosing of people’s farms during the Depression. After the war, he became a major banking investor and from there a general businessman involved in any number of ventures that made him a billionaire.

In 1984, Pohlad bought the Minnesota Twins, one of the most pathetic franchises in the game. But under his ownership, they won the World Series in 1987 and again in 1991. He spent resources to resign stars like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek instead of letting them to go free agency. But as the price of baseball players grew, Pohlad became a stingy owner, dooming his team to being terrible. His sense of public service over profit was never strong. When the state of Minnesota balked at paying for a new stadium, Pohlad started looking to bail. He nearly sold the team to a businessman with the intention of moving it to Charlotte in 1997. And then in 2001, he volunteered to have his own team contracted in Bud Selig’s idiotic contraction plan. This led to howls of fury from Minnesota fans. Moreover, this was a pure profit motive from Pohlad, who would have received between $125-250 million for it, more than the team was worth. Moreover, Pohlad had lent $3 million to Selig, giving a strong and probably accurate impression that a quid pro quo was in action here. Selig was forced to give up his idea but Pohlad defended the move to the end of his life in 2009.

Of course, Pohlad tried to avoid paying estate taxes by transferring most of his ownership in the Twins to his son before he died. This led to an IRS suit against the family that was eventually settled for far less than the family should have paid.

Pohlad has never been a character in a film or on TV. Maybe someday there will be a show on the sheer greed of billionaire sports owners.

Carl Pohlad is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oddly, he is buried right next to Paul Wellstone. The number of famous people with no connection buried next to each other in this nation is bizarre, including Andrew Carnegie and Samuel Gompers. When I wrote the Wellstone post last week, I neglected to mention that the lake in the background, which you can also see above, is Lake Calhoun. Because for some reason Minnesota felt the need to name a lake after John C. Calhoun. Unfortunate that Wellstone has to overlook a lake named after such a terrible human. More fitting for Pohlad.

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  • MAJeff

    There have been moves to rename Lake Calhoun.

    http://www.startribune.com/lake-calhoun-naming-issue-prompts-much-debate-but-little-movement/355197351/

    The view of downtown at sunset from the southwest side of the lake is glorious, when the oranges and purples of the sky are reflected off both the lake and downtown buildings.

    • los

      the web says…
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Calhoun
      Lake Calhoun is the largest lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and part of the city’s … The United States Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, sent the Army to survey the area that would surround Fort Snelling in 1817.

      https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/06/22/lake-calhoun
      Activists want a new name for Lake Calhoun
      Riham Feshir · Jun 22, 2015
      Lake Calhoun was named after John Caldwell Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman, former vice president, senator, secretary of state and proponent of slavery. He is infamously known for preaching slavery as “a positive good” in the 1800s.

      Mike Spangenberg, a Minneapolis blogger and activist, started the petition June 20 after an attack in a historic Charleston, S.C., church killed nine people.

      Lake Calhoun has had a few names over the years. Its original indigenous name was “Mde Maka Ska,” which translates to White Earth. Settlers changed the name to Lake Calhoun in 1820 to honor Calhoun, who established Fort Snelling.

      In 1890, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board renamed it with the Dakota name “Lake Medoza” (also spelled “Mendoza”) or “Lake of the Loons.”

      The Medoza name never stuck, however, and Minneapolis’ largest lake has been known as Lake Calhoun for 125 years.

      Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Brad Bourn said it’s not the first time in recent history there has been an effort to rename the lake. In 2011, the board tried to give it a new identity but was told it didn’t have legal authority to do so.

      State Climatologist Pete Boulay, who processes all name change requests, said it’s unclear why the Medoza name is not in the books.

      It’s possible the 1890 request never made it to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, he said.

    • Pyre Light

      Union troops trained at nearby Fort Snelling early in the Civil War. Is it too much to hope somebody organized a mass “piss on Calhoun” event?

      While researching that I also learned that the fort was used as a mass internment camps for indigenous civilians during 1862-1866, and that Dred Scott lived and was married there.

      • I believe Dred Scott’s time at Fort Snelling formed the basis to his claim to freedom.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    What is the sequence of events that leads one to visit Carl Pohlad’s grave? Did you just pick a cemetary and he happened to be there?

    • Eric was visiting Wellstone’s grave, and noticed that Pohlad’s was next to it (and knew who Pohlad had been).

      • In this case actually, I went to Hubert Humphrey’s grave and stumbled on Wellstone and Pohlad.

        I am now at the point as well where I visit a place with no intention of finding graves and friends are like “we have some graves to show you.”

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          that beats having people offer to show you horses, though, yes?

          • Warren Terra

            We have this great restaurant you’ll love! They have a whole ketchup menu, just for ketchups!

          • West of the Cascades

            I’ll bet the most prized places he’s shown are dead horses’ graves.

  • lizzie

    Thanks for mentioning your post about Paul Wellstone; I hadn’t seen it. It’s like what boomers say about Kennedy’s assassination–I’ll always remember where I was the precise moment I heard about Wellstone’s death. Sanders’ primary run often made me think, sadly, “it should’ve been Paul.”

    On another note, Lakewood Cemetery is beautiful. It features a chapel modeled after the Hagia Sophia and the interior is entirely covered with intricate mosaics.

    • Warren Terra

      Sanders’ primary run often made me think, sadly, “it should’ve been Paul.”

      Wellstone really was everything Sanders’s supporters imagined Sanders is.

  • AlanInSF

    No mention of the Minnestota Twins being a “pathetic franchise” should pass without noting that the team’s long-time owners before Pohlad, the Griffith family, were among the most racist of owners in a sport where racism almost seemed to be a job requirement for owners.

    Talking about moving the franchise from Washington, D.C. to Minneapolis, Calvin Griffith said this… ‘I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota.It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.’

    Even so, Griffith was probably only the second most racist major sports franchise owner in the Nation’s Capital at the time. George Marshall, the owner of the NFL team with the racist nickname, refused to employ a black player until 1961, and then only because the federal government wouldn’t let him use D.C. Stadium (later RFK) if he didn’t.

    If only we could return to those carefree days when America was great and moral.

    • MAJeff

      Oh, I’d forgotten about Calvin the shitheel. He was an awful human being.

    • wengler

      And compared to Griffith, Pohlad was a crazy free-spender. Griffith was probably the stingiest owner in a sport full of stingy owners. He was also one of the last owners to have the baseball team as his primary and only business.

  • ThresherK (KadeKo)

    And then in 2001, he volunteered to have his own team contracted in Bud Selig’s idiotic contraction plan.

    As the #2 Expos fan around here (behind Lemieux) I have almost as much loathing for Pohlad as for Selig.

    The closest farm team to me was, for many years, a Twins affiliate. They were able to run a farm system better than most other teams. Was Pohlad responsible for any of that, or did he simply get out of the way of good appointees?

    • wengler

      New Britain?

      • ThresherK (KadeKo)

        Why, yes.

        I learned how to spell names like Torii Hunter and Doug Mientkiewicz before most fans had heard of them.

        • N__B

          Torii

          Why wasn’t his nickname “Donuts”?

  • osceola

    The number of famous people with no connection buried next to each other in this nation is bizarre…”

    Here’s another one if you’re ever in Indianapolis. John Dillinger is buried near President Benjamin Harrison. That would make a good post.

    • Warren Terra

      Ah, Benjamin Harrison. Served a full term as President and still manages to be less memorable than his grandfather who served 31 days in the same job.

  • wengler

    The hilarious thing about the attempt to move the Twins to Charlotte was it failed because the ‘businessman’ couldn’t get the taxpayers to give him a free stadium.

    We have the poorest rich people in the world.

    • los

      Sad. But I will Make America Grifted Again

      /djt

  • BarryR

    Odd that you should mention making a film about Carl Pohlad; his son,Bill is a producer of independent movies. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0688361/

    Jim runs the baseball side of things now

  • J.Eek

    Long time lurker but I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk about Pohlad. Don’t forget that he was instrumental in destroying the Twin Cities streetcar lines so that he could move everyone onto the buses he owned and then running that system into the ground. When the Met Council bought it they had to immediately scrap 15% of the fleet. Plus, another 75% of the buses were more than 15 years old. The bus system was in such disrepair that he basically held the cities hostage to buy it off him.
    Anything for a buck with good old Carl.

  • Randy

    When the state of Minnesota balked at paying for a new stadium, Pohlad started looking to bail.

    An intrepid local reporter asked one of his sons how much the Twins organization might be willing to kick in for a new stadium. The response was loud laughter.

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