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Rodney Cline Carew
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 182 lb.
- High School George Washington High School (Manhattan)
- Debut April 11, 1967
- Final Game October 5, 1985
- Born October 1, 1945 in Gatun, Panama Canal Zone
"I get a kick out of watching a team defense me. A player moves two steps in one direction and I hit it two steps in the other direction. It goes right by his glove and I laugh." - Rod Carew
Hall of Famer Rod Carew was one of the most prolific hitters for average of his generation. He won seven batting titles and hit over .300 in fifteen consecutive seasons, despite starting off during the Second Deadball Era). He won the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Valuable Player Award, and was an 18-time All-Star.
Carew was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone to Panamanian parents, who named him after the delivering doctor, Rodney Cline; a nurse who helped in the delivery was named Carew's grandmother. He grew up in poverty in Panama and moved to the United States as a teenager when his mother emigrated to New York City. He did not play high school baseball but was spotted playing sandlot ball by scout Herb Stein, who signed him for the Minnesota Twins in 1964.
Seven Batting Titles with the Twins
"I taught him how to steal home. That's all I ever taught him. As for hitting, he knew how to do that all by himself." - Twins manager Billy Martin
Originally a second baseman, Carew spent three years in the minors before reaching the big leagues with the Twins in 1967 as an Opening Day starter. He singled in his first major league at-bat, off Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles, and went on to hit .292 that year. He was a starter for the American League in the All-Star Game that summer and was honored as American League Rookie of the Year. After hitting .273 for Minnesota in 1968, he hit .332 in 1969 and won his first AL batting crown. During that season, he stole home 7 times, second only to Ty Cobb's record of 8. He also saw his first postseason action that year going just 1-for-14 in the ALCS against the Orioles.
Carew started off the 1970 season hot, hitting for the cycle on May 20th against the Kansas City Royals, and batting over .400 through May 26th. However, a knee injury in June (the only significant injury in his career) caused him to miss three months of the season, costing him another hitting title. He came back in late September and ended the year with a .366 average in 51 games. After hitting .307 in 1971, he led the American League in batting in 1972 without hitting a single home run. On May 12th of that year, he reached base 8 times in a game: he had 3 singles, 2 doubles, and 3 walks in 10 plate appearances as the Twins lost to the Milwaukee Brewers in 22 innings. He was the last major league player to do so until Melky Cabrera matched the feat in 2014.
"There was a point at which I thought I'd never get the MVP, especially the years I played at Minnesota. We never won a pennant there, we were far away from the big media centers of Los Angeles and New York, and I wasn't a flashy power hitter but a guy who hit to spots, who bunted and stole bases." - Carew
Carew led all of Major League Baseball in batting average in three consecutive years, from 1973 to 1975, becoming only the second player to do so (the other being Cobb). Manager Gene Mauch moved him to first base in 1976, in part due to defensive liabilities and in part to lengthen his career. He hit .331 that summer but finished a close third in the AL batting championship behind Royals teammates George Brett and Hal McRae. In 1977, he had his best overall season, leading the American League with a .388 average, 128 runs scored, 239 hits, and 16 triples. His average was the highest in baseball since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941; he went over .400 on June 26th, and never dropped below .370 the rest of the season. In July, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with Williams, and he went on to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award. He hit .333 in 1978 to win his final batting title. However, he was becoming frustrated by Twins owner Calvin Griffith's unwillingness to spend money and team's inability to keep its young stars, he announced his intention to leave the club when his contract was up. Griffith then publicly called him greedy and ungrateful, making a trade inevitable. Prior to the 1979 season he was sent to the California Angels for four players: Ken Landreaux, Brad Havens, Paul Hartzell and Dave Engle.
Later Success with the California Angels
Carew hit .318 in his first year with the Angels, as the team won the AL West title. He went 7-for-17 in the ALCS, but California fell to Baltimore in 4 games. He hit .331 in 1980 and .339 in 1983, but his average dipped to .295 in 1984. On August 4, 1985, he singled to collect his 3,000th hit, fittingly off Frank Viola of his old team, the Twins. He hit .280 that summer, and it was the only season in his career he wasn't named to the All-Star team. He became a free agent at the end of the year, and when no teams expressed interest in signing him, he retired. In his years with the Angels, a common meme among announcers was to say that he even if he went a full season without a hit at that point (i.e. 0 for 500), he would still be a career .300 hitter!
"He could move the bat around as if it were a magic wand." - Ken Holtzman
During his career, Carew recorded 3,053 hits and a .328 lifetime batting average. He also stole home 17 times. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 8, 1991 by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and his #29 is retired by the both the Twins and the Angels. In 1999, he ranked Number 61 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. He remains a national hero in Panamá, and on January 19, 2004, Panama's National Stadium in Panama City, was renamed "Rod Carew Stadium". In 2005, he was named the second baseman on the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team. He was the all-time leader for hits by a player born outside the United States until passed by Ichiro Suzuki in 2017.
Following his retirement, Carew worked as a hitting coach for the Angels from 1992 to 1999 and for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000 and 2001. He suffered a massive heart attack while golfing in September 2015 but survived, although he had to undergo six hours of heart surgery and his long-term prognosis was poor without a heart transplant. In December 2016, it was announced that he was in line to receive a heart and kidney transplant in order to relieve ongoing sequels of the heart attack. Following the attack, he had been installed with a ventricular pumping device at the time, as his heart had become too weak to pump blood throughout his body. The surgery was performed on December 16th, and it came out a few months later that the donor was former NFL player Konrad Reuland, who had died of a brain aneurysm a few days earlier at 29. Ironically, Reuland had met Carew when he was just 11. Carew was well enough to attend the pre-game ceremonies for the 2017 All-Star Game in Miami, FL six months later.
At the 2016 All-Star Game, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the American League batting title would henceforth be known as the "Rod Carew Award", a fitting tribute to the seven-time winner. Its National League counterpart was named the "Tony Gwynn Award", in honor of Tony Gwynn.
Sometimes a target of racism, Carew received death threats when he announced his intention to marry a Jewish woman. Many sources have long claimed that he converted to Judaism when he married his wife and in this sense he is sometimes compared to Sammy Davis Jr. as a famous "Jewish convert of color"; however, this is incorrect. He has never undergone a formal conversion ceremony nor publicly identified himself as an adherent of Judaism; however, his children were raised Jewish and it is assumed that as such he partakes in some Jewish activities such as lighting Hanukkah candles or organizing Passover Seders with his family. Nonetheless, the story about him converting to Judaism is an urban myth. He is named in one of Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Songs as "Hall of Famer Rod Carew!" He is also referenced in the Beastie Boys 1994 single "Sure Shot" with the line "And I got mad hits like I was Rod Carew."
When Carew's 18-year-old daughter, Michelle, fell victim to leukemia, Carew made national headlines again. Her Panamanian-Jewish ethnic mix lowered the likelihood of finding a suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant; in spite of Carew's national pleas, she died in April 1996 before a donor could be located.
- 1967 AL Rookie of the Year Award
- 1967 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- 18-time AL All-Star (1967-1984)
- AL MVP (1977)
- 7-time AL Batting Average Leader (1969, 1972-1975, 1977 & 1978)
- 4-time AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1974, 1975, 1977 & 1978)
- AL OPS Leader (1977)
- AL Runs Scored Leader (1977)
- 3-time AL Hits Leader (1973, 1974 & 1977)
- 4-time AL Singles Leader (1972-1974 & 1977)
- 2-time AL Triples Leader (1973 & 1977)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1977)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1977)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 4 (1973, 1974, 1976 & 1977)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1991
|Thurman Munson||Rod Carew||Jim Rice|
|AL Rookie of the Year|
|Tommie Agee||Rod Carew||Stan Bahnsen|
- Charlie Beattie: "The Legacy of Twins Legends: Killebrew, Carew, Puckett, and Mauer", in Daniel R. Leavitt, ed.: Short but Wondrous Summers: Baseball in the North Star State, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 42, 2012, pp. 88-92.
- Thomas Boswell: "The Zen of Rod Carew", in How Life Imitates the World Series, Penguin Books, New York, 1982, pp. 174-177.
- Rod Carew and Ira Berkow: Carew, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2010 (originally published in 1979).
- Rod Carew (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, October 1986, pp. 73-75.