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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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