Rod Carew was one of my favorite players when I was growing up. I had three big posters of baseball players in my room: Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, and Rod Carew. Rod was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone. When his mother went in to labor a doctor who was on board delievered the baby. The doctor's name was Rodney Cline, so Rod was named after the doctor in appreciation. Rod's family emigrated to New York City when Rod was 14, but he never played high school baseball. Rod was discovered by a Minnesota Twins scout while playing semi-pro baseball. Carew was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1964. He spent three seasons in the minors and then was brought up to the Twins in 1967.
Rod was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1967. He batted .292 in 137 games, which was his lowest average except for the pitching-dominated 1968 season and his final season in 1985. Rod was the starting second baseman for the American League in the All Star Game. He went 0 for 3 in the game. This was the first of 18 straight seasons in which he would make the AL All Star team, which was every season except for 1985.
Carew batted .273 in 1968, which was his version of a sophomore jinx. From 1969-1983 Rod batted over .300 every year. In 1969 Carew batted .332 and won his first AL batting title. He batted .071 (1 for 14) in the 1969 ALCS. Rod missed three months of the 1970 season with a knee injury. He played in 51 games and batted .366. Carew was limited to two pinch hitting appearances in the 1970 ALCS and was 0 for 2.
Rod wasn't quite 100% in 1971 and batted "only" .307. He batted .318 in 1972, .350 in 1973, .364 in 1974, and .359 in 1975. Rod won the AL batting title all four of those seasons. The 1972 season was the only one in which a player would win a batting title without hitting a home run. Carew batted .331 in 1976 and barely missed winning the batting title. He was in a four-player battle with teammate Lyman Bostock and Kansas City Royals George Brett and Hal McRae. Brett won the title with a .333 average. During the 1976 season Rod moved from second base to first base.
Rod had his best season in 1977 and won the AL MVP award. He batted .388 and also led the AL in runs (128), hits (239), triples (16), on base percentage (.449), and intentional walks (15). Carew won the AL batting title in 1978 with a .333 average. It was his seventh (and last) batting title. After the 1978 season Rod announced his intention to leave the Twins because of frustration with the Twins being unable to keep young talent and because of conficts with Twins owner Calvin Griffith. Rather than lose Rod to free agency the Twins traded him to the California Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, and Brad Havens.
Carew missed about seven weeks (early June-late July) of the 1979 season with an injury. He batted .318 in 110 games and batted .412 in the 1979 ALCS. Rod played in 144 games in 1980 and batted .331. He batted .305 in 1981 and .319 in 1982. He batted .176 in the 1982 ALCS.
Rod's last big season was 1983. He batted .339 and was spending more time at DH. Carew missed three weeks of the 1984 season and batted .295. It was the first time he failed to hit .300 or better since 1968. Rod was batting .300 in the last week of the season but went hitless in his last two games that season to drop below .300.
Carew batted .280 in 1985. Rod got his 3000th hit off of Frank Viola on August 4, 1985. It was the same day that Tom Seaver got his 300th win. He became a free agent after the 1985 season but didn't receive any offers. He felt that he was one of the players frozen out by owners during the collusion era. Rod later was awarded damages equal to what he probably would have made ($782,036). Carew was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Baseball Digest articles about Rod Carew:
How Martin Helped Reform Rod Carew - June 1969
Rod Carew: 'Homers Don't Interest Me' - August 1973
Rod Carew: The Majors' Complete Ballplayer - December 1973
A Fourth Batting Title for Rod Carew? - August 1974
Rod Carew: He's in a Class by Himself - December 1975
Rod Carew: The Best Hitter in the Majors - July 1977
How the Twins First Signed Rod Carew - December 1977
When Billy Martin 'Went to Bat' for Rod Carew - March 1978
Rod Carew-The Game I'll Never Forget - October 1986
Rod Carew Fell Short of .400 But Not the Hall of Fame - November 1991
Young Angel Hitters Thrive Under Rod Carew's Guidance- November 1995
After his playing career Rod opened up the Rod Carew Baseball School in Placentia, California. He later became a hitting coach and coached for the Angels (1992-1999) and the Milwaukee Brewers (2000-2001). Carew is now on the executive staff of the Minnesota Twins and is a Special Advisor for International Player Development for major league baseball. He does a lot of charitable work.
Here is an article about Rod Carew from about a month ago (2/23/2010) when he was raising money for pediatric cancer research.
A 1977 profile of Rod Carew