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 Minnesota Twins > Twins Greats > Rod Carew
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Rod Carew
Rod Carew

Name: Rodney Cline Carew
Born: October 1, 1945, in Gatun, Panama
Primary Position: Second Baseman
Bats: L
Throws: R
Primary Uniform #: 29
Played For: Minnesota Twins (1967-1978), California Angels (1979-1985)
Primary Team: Minnesota Twins
Elected to Hall of Fame by Baseball Writers in 1991, Player 401 votes on 443 ballots 90.52%

Post-Season: 1969 ALCS, 1970 ALCS, 1979 ALCS, and 1982 ALCS
Awards: Rookie of the Year 1967; American League Most Valuable Player 1977; All-Star (18) 1967-1984

"He has an uncanny ability to move the ball around as if the bat were some kind of magic wand."
--Ken Holtzman

Rod Carew lined, chopped and bunted his way to 3,053 career hits. His seven batting titles are surpassed only by Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner. He used a variety of relaxed, crouched batting stances to hit over .300 in 15 consecutive seasons with the Twins and Angels, achieving a .328 lifetime average. He was honored as American League Rookie of the Year in 1967, won the league MVP 10 years later and was named to 18 straight All-Star teams.

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Rod Carew was born in Gatun, Panama. He was named after Dr. Rodney Cline, who delivered baby Rod while on a train in the Panama Canal Zone, on October 1, 1945. At an early age, Rod learned to hit tennis balls and wads of paper taped into a ball. When he was 16 years old, his mother took the family to New York City to live with Rod’s godmother. Rod grew up not far from the old Polo Grounds, and near Yankee Stadium. He was signed in 1964 by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent.

He began his career as a second baseman, but he was never much of a fielder. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1967 and was an All-Star for the first of 18 consecutive seasons. He garnered his first batting title in 1969, despite missing two-weeks and several weekends for military commitments. He made a record of seven steals of home, a single-season record surpassed only by Ty Cobb. In 1970 he missed three months with torn cartilage after a runner collided with him at the keystone on June 22nd.

Rod Carew was a left-hander with the picture-perfect stroke. In 1972 he won the first of four straight batting titles, joining Ty Cobb as the only players to do so in the American League. By that time he was also an accomplished bunter – beating out 27 of 35 bunt attempts for hits in 1972. In both 1973 and 1974 he topped the loop in hits. He batted .400 as late as June in 1974, but ultimately finishing the season at .364 with 218 hits.

In 1976 his string of four straight batting titles was halted when he lost the crown on the final day of the season to George Brett. It was one of the most controversial batting races in history. Rod was never considered a great defensive second baseman, so that season he was moved from second to play first base, a position he held the rest of his career.

Rod Carew had his best year in 1977 with the Twins. Despite falling eight hits shy of .400, he had a phenomenal season. He won the AL batting title by a whopping 52 points over teammate Lyman Bostock. He reached the century mark in RBI’s for the first time, quite a feat for a singles hitter on a mediocre Twins team. He scored 128 runs, leading the league. He also paced the AL in triples, with 16. Rod’s 239 hits were the most by an AL hitter since Heinie Manush. In addition, Rod set the Minnesota single-season records for runs, hits, batting average, and triples.

For his stellar 1977 season, Rod Carew was named AL MVP. The Sporting News named him Player of the Year, an honor voted by his peers. Perhaps the most amazing fact about the 1977 season came after the playing was over. Faced with the overwhelming evidence that his six-time batting champ was the best hitter in baseball, notorious cheapskate Twins' owner Calvin Griffith voluntarily gave Rod a $100,000 bonus!

Rod followed his 1977 masterpiece with his final batting title in 1978, hitting .333. But during the season he entered a war of words with Twins owner Calvin Griffith. The two debated his salary for 1979, and Rod hinted he would like to be traded to a contending team, and soon the Yankees, Giants, and Angels were making offers.

Rod was eventually dealt to the California Angels in spring training of 1979. That season he helped the team to the playoffs, his first taste of post-season since 1970.
In the following seasons he continued to top the .300 mark and fit nicely in the middle of the Angels star-studded lineup. In 1982 the Halos returned to the ALCS, losing in heartbreaking fashion. Carew managed just a .176 batting average. For his career, Carew batted .220 (11-for-50) with one RBI in 14 playoff games.

In 1982, Rod Carew suffered three hairline fractures in his right hand after punching Twins pitcher Darrell Jackson. Jackson had triggered a brawl when he knocked down several Angel batters, including the normally mild-mannered Rod. Despite the injury, Rod put together his longest hitting streak – 25 games.

The 1983 season held great promise for the California Angels – winners of the AL West the previous year. They had blown a 2-0 lead in the playoffs, but their team seemed loaded for another post-season run. Rod Carew, Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Doug DeCinces, Bob Boone, and Tommy John formed an All-Star cast, albeit a veteran one.

As the 1983 season began Rod was facing his doubters. Some experts predicted that his magical bat would age, pointing to his decreasing extra-base numbers in recent years. But the ageless batting champ had some tricks up his sleeve. The man who Alan Bannister called "the only player who can go 4-for-3," started the season as hot as any batter in baseball history. Over his first 23 games, he had 48 hits in 96 at-bats for a blistering .500 average. Unfortunately for the Angels and Rod Carew, the rest of the season was not as kind. The Angels finished 29 games behind the White Sox and Rod batted .306 the rest of the season after his amazing getaway.

Two seasons later, in 1985, he collected his 3,000th hit off Twins left-hander Frank Viola on August 4th. That season, after batting a respectable.280, he retired with 3,053 base hits after no team showed interest in his free agency.

Both the Twins and the Angels retired his uniform #29. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1991.

Appearing to almost catch the ball with his bat, Panamanian-born Rod Carew carefully placed base hits all over the diamond, winning seven batting titles. He was the best bunter of his generation, and he stole home 17 times. Toiling for poor Twins teams and the hard-luck Angels, Rod Carew collected more hits than any player who never played in a World Series.

He was known for his soft, sweet stroke and used as many as twelve different batting stances throughout his career. He was rare in that he used thin handled bats. His 11 years with the Twins were filled with beautiful swings and his Hall of Fame status definitely makes him a Minnesota Twin “great.”

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