Shocking new information emerged the other night as I re-listened to some of the interview tapes I used for writing Calvin: Baseball’s Last Dinosaur. One of my favorites was a conversation with Harvey Mackay, the self-proclaimed hero who, in 1984, led a ticket purchase drive that legally kept the Twins in Minnesota.
On a whim, I ran the reels (remember this came from the 1980’s) backwards and couldn’t believe my ears. There, clear as a cellophane window in an envelope, was not the voice of Harvey Mackay but an even better known one – that of another millionaire man-of-the-people.
“Harvey, I tell you this is gonna be really yuuuuuuuge,” he said, sounding like he was the pussy that had grabbed the canary. “We can pull this off and nobody will ever be the wiser. Or when they finally figure it out we’ll be on to the next big one. Always keep ’em answering the last one – and neeeeeeeever show your tax returns!”
“So let me get this straight,” answered Harvey. “You first wanna buy like thousands of tickets from Calvin so that he’ll be contractually obligated to keep the Twins playing at the in Minnesota.
“That’s right – at least for a while. I got some Russian buddies who’ll help bankroll some of it and we can get those sucker Twins fans to pony up for the civic cause. Ha! They’ll fill the Metrodome – well, maybe not because who’d wanna see baseball there – and we’ll box Calvin in.”
“But can’t he already break the lease based on losing money each of the last three years? How can we box him in?” answered Mackay, sounding unsure.
“Harvey, you gotta think big if you’re gonna swim with the sharks! If you scream it out loud enough people will fall for it and love you. Heck, I could practically shoot somebody on the streets of New York and get away with it,” said the familiar voice on the other end of the conversation. “You’ll be their savior and what’s Calvin gonna do if everybody else believes it? He won’t wanna run out on people that he thinks support him. He’ll be forced to sell to me.”
“So the Twins won’t go to Tampa or somewhere?” asked Mackay.
“Well, only if I take them there, although I’m thinking more about having a sideshow act alongside my Atlantic City casinos,” said the mysterious yet familiar voice. “I could add them to my towers and hotels. Who’s gonna trump that package?”
“Wow, beware the naked man selling shirts!” answered Mackay. “I like it but aren’t Minnesotans gonna put up a fight. Some baseball bigwigs will be worried about gambling. Congress might even get involved and threaten to take away the antitrust exemption.”
“Awwwwww…. I can buy off a few politicians. And these fly-over-land podunks would yowl awhile, but who cares?” said the mega-mogul. “It’s not like I’m ever gonna run for President and need them to think I care about them.
“Being at the top of the National Pastime is enough to make it worth the sacrifice. I’m going to put out the biggest, the best team money can buy. I’ll put Steinbrenner and the Yankees to shame. When I turn things around everyone will love me no matter where my team plays. First the Twins, then Cooperstown,” he added. “Can you imagine what I could do to that place?”
“Just also remember that spot in the envelope salesman hall-of-fame” you promised me,” Mackay said. “And we keep this little conversation between us, right? I still gotta live here in this Cold Omaha.”
“Kiddo, my lips are sealed with your best glue. You know what a quiet, introspective guy I am,” said the other voice. “Now what’s Calvin’s phone number? I’ll invite him out to New York, a little wine and dine, he’ll never know what hit him. You can stay here and reap all the ridiculous credit for saving the Twins. Write a couple books, start a newspaper column about selling how successful you are compared to the losers who love you. America loves that stuff.”
At this point the tape inexplicably had an 18 and a half minute gap before another voice came on briefly. I would have sworn it was Richard Nixon saying something about taking his dog Checkers with him to a Washington Senators game where he was gonna have a good talk with that Clark Griffith fellow and his nephew Calvin.
Then inexplicably, the recording suddenly caught fire, burst of flame and was consumed in just a few seconds. All the evidence of this incredibly revealing conversation was up in smoke faster than I could say Alternative Facts. It was almost like I’d never had that taped interview with Harvey Mackay because he ducked my phonecalls and requests to learn about his heroic efforts for almost a year.
Ah well, we all know that bumble-brained Calvin Griffith would never have been able to figure out the game of a Sid Hartman proclaimed “genius” like Mackay. His cheapness and all-consuming interest in getting the highest dollar would have made him putty in the hands of a Donald Trump. He certainly wouldn’t have had enough loyalty to Minnesota to take less money and sell the team to a local banker who Calvin believed would keep the Griffith family involved with baseball operations.
Sometimes facts just get in the way of a good story, although they didn’t here. Making it all up is so much easier and fun.
Yes, I’ve learned my lesson and so should you. Don’t trust what your lying eyes see. Listen to what the really successful guys say, especially when they tell you how successful they are. If that doesn’t seem to work, just try playing the tape backwards.
Above all, don’t read this book (right) that claims to have non-alternative facts on these subjects.