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Twins territory remains strong

MINNEAPOLIS -- Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators to the Twin Cities in 1961 knowing the team needed to build a loyal fan base well beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators to the Twin Cities in 1961 knowing the team needed to build a loyal fan base well beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul.

He quickly abandoned an idea to call the Major League Baseball team the Minneapolis Twins, opting instead for Minnesota Twins. It was a distinction with a major difference, that of appealing to millions more people.

"This was the first team in sports to take a regional name, not a city name," said Doug Grow, a former newspaper reporter now writing a Twins history book.

When a Sioux Falls, S.D., journalist asked Griffith why he treated the smaller newspapers so well, the team owner took him to the parking lot of Metropolitan Stadium and ordered: "Look where all these license plates are from."

Typically, a third of Twins' fans came from outside a 100-mile radius of Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.

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That widespread fan base continues, which Grow credits to Griffith's early efforts.

Twins' management emphasizes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin fans in what the team's marketing pitch calls "Twins Territory."

Since the beginning 49 years ago, the Twins have fielded one of the largest radio networks in baseball, covering much of a five-state area.

People at those stations, more than anyone, know the reach of Twins baseball. They say that despite so many other things Upper Midwest residents can do, they still love their Twins.

Frank Quilici, a former Twins player, coach, manager and broadcaster, said after he left the team, he traveled the state for a milk distributor and heard firsthand the importance of the Twins.

"They turn that radio on in spring training and don't turn it off until the season is done," Quilici said.

During years of legislative debates over whether to fund a new Twins ballpark, lawmakers from areas far from the Twin Cities often were strong supporters.

Then-Sen. Roger Moe of Erskine, for instance, liked to tell the story about how candidates learned to avoid campaigning in nursing homes during a Twins game, fearing bad feelings if senior citizens were interrupted.

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"I know there are a lot of folks night in and night out ... waiting for the game to come on the radio," Twins president Dave St. Peter said.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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