"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rod Carew: a baseball career fit for a song

Rod Carew, superstar
Rod Carew was an amazing player for the Minnesota Twins. He had this innate skill to make solid contact. He'd hit "frozen ropes" all over the place. In this sense he was much like Tony Oliva. He didn't have Oliva's power.
I always thought Carew could have hit more home runs if he wanted to. Perhaps he saw "batting average" as his meal ticket. Bill James was not yet in ascendancy. James of course changed baseball thinking so that batting average wasn't some sort of be-all and end-all.
When it came to batting average, Carew was king. He did not have an endearing personality. He seemed aloof. I cannot readily find any evidence of any tribute song being written about this amazing baseball player. That's one reason I wrote one. I recently had the pleasure of getting my song put on the Internet, on YouTube. The song is called "Number 29 That Rod Carew." I had it recorded in Nashville TN. My favorite music people ply their talent there.
I invite you to give a listen by clicking on the link below. Thanks for checking in. - B.W.
Rod Carew may have been misunderstood. Yes, he did seem rather cold and aloof. It's not easy existing in the fishbowl of being a professional sports star. Perhaps we need to empathize a little. Perhaps we need a little more background. A friend emailed me the following background showing Rod's extra little dimension in terms of personality:
Did you ever hear the story about Herb Carneal being invited over to Rod's house one day? As he entered the Carew home, Rod said he wanted to show Herb "some slides," and asked to be excused. Mr. Carew returned to the living room dressed in full baseball uni, pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand. He dumped the sand right there on the carpet, backed up, and did a slide into a pile. A sense of humor the public never saw. . .
My song has an AABA structure. So, there's an 'A' section and a bridge. My bridge lyrics get repeated. Here I'm delighted to invoke the names of both Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall. "Herb and Halsey joined that reverie." I invoke Calvin's name: Calvin Griffith, the original owner of the Twins. I talk about Calvin smiling when watching the Panamanian star, Rod Carew. Calvin of course had a curmudgeonly image. He lived up to that image but he was still most capable of smiling.
I cite "all those steals of home." Indeed, Carew stole home seven times in the 1969 season. He just missed Ty Cobb's major league record of eight.
We might forget that Carew frustrated us fans when he had to leave periodically to fulfill a military commitment. He served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He was a combat engineer. This was in the 1960s. Remember, a commitment of this type could spare one from being sent to Viet Nam.
Those were the days of military conscription: the draft. The youth of today have no idea what it's like growing up under the cloud of the draft. War may have been necessary in the 1940s. In the 1960s, it was a whole different matter. Carew would later say that his military experience helped him in his baseball career. He said:
When I joined the Marine Corps, it was a life-changing event for me because I learned about discipline. When I first came up to the big leagues in 1967, I was a little bit of a hot-head. But after two weeks of war games every summer, I realized that baseball was not do-or-die. That kind of discipline made me the player I became.
OK, it's nice he benefited from it. Carew was American League Rookie of the Year in 1967. It was fun seeing him emerge as a star. But the '67 season may have been the most heartbreaking ever for the Twins. We got edged out for the pennant at the very end. Boston beat us. Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva were in their prime.
Great as Carew was, his Twins tenure fell in between the 1965 and 1987 pennants. He was on the Twins team that won the division in 1969 and 1970. Those were bittersweet years for our team. We could be dominant so much of the time. But we got clobbered by the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs both years. The '69 season was the first for the divisional format.
Carew won his fourth straight A.L. batting title in 1975. It was in September of that year that he moved to first base, where he'd stay for the rest of his career. He previously played second base.
He was spectacular in the 1977 season. His batting average was .388, the best in the A.L. since Ted Williams' .406 in 1941. Carew was the A.L. Most Valuable Player in '77. That summer saw him appear on the cover of Time Magazine. He left our team in 1979. He was off to California to become an Angel. His prowess continued as he hit between .305 and .339 from 1979 to 1983. He had 17 total steals of home in his career.
His first and middle names of "Rodney Cline" are from the doctor who delivered him. He was born to a Panamanian mother on a train in the town of Gatun, which at that time was in the Panama Canal Zone. Rod is thus a "Zonian." The conductor stopped the train when Rod's mother went into labor. Dr. Rodney Cline was on board the train. He did the job.
Rod was age 14 when his family came to the U.S. He was discovered by the Twins when he was playing for the semi-pro Bronx Cavaliers. He played Single-A ball in the 1966 season. From there he vaulted to the bigs in '67. The rest is history.
We cherish the memory of "Number 29 That Rod Carew." A song about Rod Carew is most apt, helping us revive the memories of those "disco '70s" in Minnesota. I remember dancing disco at the Persian Club in St. Cloud, complete with that spinning ball.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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