Rodney Cline Carew...
Rodney was a no-brainer all-time Twin and Hall of Fame player the day he left Minnesota. He's now immortalized in the team's "sculpture garden" (in addition to Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew) on the Plaza outside brand-new Target Field in Minneapolis. He gave fans like me a reason to tune in my radio in the 1970's for late night Twins games on the west coast, when they fielded some pretty mediocre clubs. I mean, the middle infield in the '74 opener was Rod at second, and the hot, new shortstop...Sergio Ferrar? Exactly.
Three main memories of him?
*The casual, three-quarters-underhand flip throw to Harmon for the out, second to first...
*The curious running style, his arms held curiously out to his side as if he were holding onto the rails of an escalator...
*The smooth warmup swings before the pitch, before he assumed a bent-over crouch with his bat held parallel to the ground...
No one ever seemed to be in the right spot for those bunts, even if they knew he might lay one down. No question, he was the best bunter in the second half of the 20th Century. I remember hearing how he'd tap pitches in practice with disgusting regularity in ballbags placed around the grass in the vicinty of home plate
Now, of course, we have padded fences, shin guards, elbow guards, et. al. You'll have to go to another universe to find granite markers on a playing field. But I digress...
|1967 Twins Issued Photo: |
The Rookie, Rod Carew
Rod played in the Cocoa Rookie League (see minor league stats) that first summer, before moving up to "A" ball for the seasons of 1965 and '66. It is not well known that the Twins, along with other teams during the Vietnam War era (see "Hardball Times article on major leaguers in 'Nam), had him designated for an early call up to the majors during the 1965 season. The possiblity existed that players could be selected any time for active duty overseas. Rookie catcher John Sevcik and second baseman Bernie Allen were both eligible for the draft, but the call never came. Intriguing, the thought of Rod Carew starting at second base against Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series! Cool, actually!
Remember, this was against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, Led Zepplen, student protests, and civil unrest in many cities nationwide, Chuck Manson (ugh!). But all I remember from that season was a lovely summer, Fourth of July fireworks, my mom, dad and family, swimming outings to nearby lakes...and, of course, the inspired play of a surging baseball team with many, colorful stars - including Rod. He was also participating in National Guard drills during that season (a sure sign of the times!), which took him away from competition for many games at a time.
He also gained notoriety with his seven steals of home (one short of Ty Cobb's season record), a facet of his performance that year recalled wonderfully in the highlighted blog account.
Of his seven steals of home during the 1969 season under the approving eye of manager Martin, Rod Carew used the surprise factor five times in the first inning.
''Pitchers,'' Carew has explained, ''don't expect you to take a risk so early and kill off a potential rally.'' Carew also ran in a crouch that, he believed, propelled him toward the plate faster. But he also knew when not to try to steal home. Never with two strikes or three balls on the batter. Never with none out. Even so Carew had six steals of home by June and in July he equaled Pete Reiser's 1941 record. He stole home nine more times in his career, but he was a marked man.
Radio: by CBS,by Vin Scully, Win Elliot and Jerry Coleman
1977 was the year that would define Rod Carew. He hit .388, nearly pulling off the first .400 year in baseball since Ted Williams did it with .406 in 1941. Had 239 hits. 38 doubles...16 triples...14 homers. Drove in 100 runs. Won the MVP. He was profiled in Time Magazine that summer, found at the link - an excellent spread. I remember my sister, Susie, handing me that edition, and my flipping out. Today, in 2010, I look back at the year he had and think it was far more impressive than the famous year Williams pulled off in 1941 (when he batted .406). For one thing, Carew ( see Baseball Reference) had many more at bats than Williams did, 616, walking 69 times; Williams had 456 at bats, with 147 walks. And Carew accomplished it in an era with a longer season of games, relief pitchers who could throw your timing off, jet travel between time zones that leave people groggy, etc., etc.,...sorry Teddy Ballgame - (he's about my favorite player of the old-time players, along with Stan Musial) - but to me, it's just a far greater test of endurance that Carew displayed as opposed to Williams...it's just so hard for a hitter, even a super-fantabulous one like Carew, to maintain a high batting average the higher up the at bats ladder he climbs.
To wit: I held up an SI mag with Rod and Ted from '77 in front of Rod at a Twins Fest at the Metrodome in Minneapolis a few years back, hoping he'd sign it. Instead, he got all sparked up and went into a real cool Ted story from his playing days, all the way to the photo session you see here on the mag - all on live radio.