Tagged: Feature Story

A Lifetime Legacy

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and
devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Carl
Pohlad did all of these things and more.  
Born in 1915, Carl learned about hard work from a young age. During the tough times of the Great Depression, Carl worked in the cornfields where he first became a business man. Carl would gather up local boys to pick weeds — collecting five cents of each
boys’ commission.
While it was often nonstop
work for the boy, Carl took great pride in his sports; including football.
Pohlad played two seasons at Gonzaga University before returning to Iowa after
the senior season.

Upon his return to the
Midwest, Carl continued to work, before, in 1942, he was drafted into the Army.
While he was in Europe however, Carl’s businessman like ways continued as he
used a tent to continue his small loans occupation.

Pohlad was injured in the
war, returned to Iowa where he received a Purple Heart, and in 1947 married his
longtime wife, Eloise Pohlad.

After years of being an
entrepreneur in several industries, including the Pepsi-Cola bottling company
and many banks, Carl Pohlad for the first time became a widely-known figure
when he purchased the Minnesota Twins from Calvin Griffith in 1984 for $34

At the time of the purchase,
there were rumblings of the team possibly being moved to Florida. Pohlad helped
dash those thoughts, and the beginning of a true baseball franchise in
Minneapolis was underway.

“I believe Carl did save baseball in Minnesota,”
says Minnesota Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony, “Calvin Griffith was
poised to sell the team and we would have been moved to Florida. Mr. Pohlad
stepped in and purchased the club and looked at it as entertainment value, not
only for his family, but also for the people of Minnesota and the upper

That’s how Carl was; while he
was a business man at heart, Pohlad cared deeply about the community, and when
he purchased the Twins, his intent was to keep the team a local product.

“No one can know for sure
what would have happened had Mr. Pohlad not purchased the team, but the fact
remains that he did keep the Twins in Minnesota.” said team President and good
friend, Dave St. Peter, “Mr. Pohlad knew that the Twins were a community
asset.  By buying and owning the
team, he enabled this community asset to remain here for the long term.”

Within the first few seasons
under Pohlad’s wing, the Twins won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. Carl
loved to win, and was even more keen on building a solid foundation for the

“His biggest contribution to the Twins, in my
estimation, was his ability to foster continuity and he created a solid base
for the organization.” says Antony, “He didn’t panic when things weren’t going
well, he hired good people and let them do their jobs.”

Letting his people do the
work was another thing that Pohlad strongly believed in. While some baseball
owners take pride in running the show and being in the spotlight, Pohlad didn’t
care for the attention.

Aside from being a great
businessman that was careful with his money, Pohlad was strong on respect, and
showed that in the way he treated his staff.

“Mr. Pohlad was a very
thoughtful man and respected his employees.” St. Peter says, “He was a big fan
but never interjected too much in the operation of the franchise. He was very
supportive of his employees and trusted them to do their jobs well. When he was
at games, he always had a smile and a handshake for everyone. He often enjoyed
stepping into the manager’s office for a kind conversation and a vote of

And it wasn’t only the staff
that Pohlad cared for, he loved his players, and it was always important to him
that his organization was a model for other teams.

“He and his wife Eloise genuinely cared about the
players and wanted to win,” Antony mentions, “but they were most proud of
having an organization they could be proud of and was respected in the game.”

Pohlad was never criticized for being unkind or
trying to steal the spotlight. The biggest mark against Carl in his years as
the team’s owner was for being cheap.

Many blame Pohlad for not spending money, and
simply putting a team on the field to be semi-competitive rather than a team
promised to win it all. Carl was, after all, one of the richest owners in the
game; Forbes magazine estimated Pohlad’s fortune at $3.8 billion last
September, making him one of the richest men in America.

Yet what many fans never understood, was that
Carl was a businessman at heart, and had many other investments in addition to
the Twins.

“Mr. Pohlad was not a cheap owner.” says Antony,
“Mr. Pohlad was willing to pay what he needed, setting benchmarks, when we
signed Kirby Puckett for $3 million a year and again when he got $6 million per
year. Many fans and media look at his overall net worth and think he should
spend whatever it takes to have a championship team. The Pohlads have always
been very competitive and want to win, but they also believe in running the
organization as a business in that it should be self-sustaining.”

And then there is the new, nearly $550 million
ballpark that is set to open next season. Carl deeply wanted the Twins to stay
in Minnesota, and worked hard to make it a reality.

“Mr. Pohlad was careful with money.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!”
St. Peter says, “Although some say he was “cheap” for not signing high-cost,
high-profile players – those decisions were really made by the folks who ran
the baseball team and not Mr. Pohlad.
I can tell you that Mr. Pohlad was very generous with the construction
of Target Field by putting in more than 22 million dollars extra for
enhancements above and beyond the more than 100 million pledged to build it.”

Carl is now gone from the lives of many, yet his
franchise respected by most remains in the hands of the Pohlad family. His son,
Jim Pohlad, has taken over as the team’s CEO, and the team’s Star Tribune beat
writer La Velle E. Neal III says the same business sense is present.

“Jim is being dealt a pretty good hand with a
competitive team heading into a new stadium.” Neal says, “Jim may be a tad – a
tad – more impulsive than his father. But the same business sense is there.”

And while Jim might just be a little more
impulsive as Neal mentions, Dave St. Peter says he shares the same view as his
father — that he isn’t the show.

“Jim shares the idea that the owner is not the
“show”. The players are.  He will
not seek the limelight and will operate under the radar as much as
  All similar to the way
his father conducted himself.”