January 8, 1991: Carew Elected to Hall of Fame

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Seven-time American League batting champion Rod Carew becomes the 22nd first-ballot Hall of Famer. He appeared on 90.5% of ballots, meaning a staggering 42 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America deemed him unworthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown. The writers also elected Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins, both on their third ballots. The Veterans Committee elected former second baseman Tony Lazzeri and owner/promoter Bill Veeck, father of Mike Veeck, who in 1993 founded the current incarnation of the St. Paul Saints with Bill Murray and lawyer Marv Goldklang.  

Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone on October 1, 1945. When he was 14 his family immigrated to New York, where he would be discovered by a Twins scout playing semi-pro ball in the Bronx rather than high school ball. The Twins signed Carew in 1964 at age 18, and he made the major league club in 1967 at age 21.

Carew had the first five-hit game in Twins history on May 8, 1967, going 5-for-5 with a double.

He made the AL All-Star team his rookie season, beginning a string of 18-consecutive All-Star selections. He was an All-Star every year of his career but the last, 1985.

He was named the American League Rookie of the Year, receiving 19 of 20 first-place votes. There have been five AL Rookies of the Year in Twins History: Tony Oliva in 1964, Carew in ‘67, John Castino (co-winner) in 1979, Chuck Knoblauch in 1991, and Marty Cordova in 1995. Bob Allison won the award as a member of the 1959 Washington Senators.

Carew was a terror on the  basepaths. On May 18, 1969 he stole second, third, and home consecutively off the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich. César Tovar led off the bottom of third with a single. Then, with Carew at the plate, Tovar was balked to second and stole third. Perhaps distracted by Tovar, Lolich walked Carew. Then, with Harmon Killebrew at the plate, the Twins executed a double steal, with Carew swiping second as Tovar stole home. With Killebrew still at bat, Carew stole third and home to tie the game. Killebrew ultimately struck out, and the Twins went on to lose the game 8-2.

Carew is one of just 12 players since 1940 to achieve this feat. Paul Molitor pulled it off on July 26, 1987.

Carew stole home 17 times in his career. The single-season record is eight, set by Ty Cobb in 1912. Carew stole home for the seventh time of the season on July 16, 1969. American League pitchers finally got wise to his game, however, and he did not pull it off again the rest of the season. He did, however, add a tenth-inning walk-off steal of home on September 1, 1970. Current Twins manager Paul Molitor, incidentally, stole home 10 times in his career. Dan Gladden did it three times.

Carew hit for the first of 10 cycles in Twins history on May 20, 1970. The others are César Tovar (1972), Larry Hisle (‘76), Lyman Bostock (‘76), Mike Cubbage (‘78), Gary Ward (‘80), Kirby Puckett (‘86), Carlos Gómez (‘08), Jason Kubel (‘09) and Michael Cuddyer (‘09).

On September 9, 1976 Carew hit a pinch-hit grand slam. It was just his seventh home run of the season, but his third grand slam, tying Bob Allison’s single-season team record, set in 1961. Kent Hrbek later hit three grand slams in 1985, Puckett in ‘92, and Torii Hunter in 2007.

1977 was a magical season for Carew. On June 26 (Rod Carew Jersey Day, incidentally), he went 4-for-5 to raise his average to .403. He scored a team record five runs in the game, while Glenn Adams collected a team record eight RBI. Carew’s record of five runs would be matched by Tim Teufel in 1983, Molitor in ‘96, and Luis Rivas in 2002. Adams’ record eight RBI were matched by Randy Bush in 1989.

Carew led the majors with 239 hits and a .388 AVG in 1977, and was named American League MVP. He was the third of five Twins to receive the award (Versalles ‘65, Killebrew ‘69, Morneau ‘06, Mauer ‘09).

On February 3, 1979 the Twins traded Rod Carew to the Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens and Paul Hartzell. It had become increasingly clear that team owner Calvin Griffith had no intention of ponying up for the future Hall of Famer. And even if Griffith could have afforded him, it was unlikely that Carew would have played for Griffith again after the owner’s Lion’s Club dinner remarks in Waseca on September 28.

On August 4, 1989, Carew connected for his 3,000th hit off Twins lefty Frank Viola. He was the 16th member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and the first born outside of the United States (Roberto Clemente was born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico).  

1985 was Carew’s final season. After failing to receive a suitable contract offer for the ‘86 season, he officially announced his retirement on June 2 with a career AVG of .328. Owners had colluded against him and other free agents, essentially agreeing not to offer other teams’ free agents contracts, thereby helping each other retain their own talent while keeping salaries low. In 1995 Carew was awarded $782,035.71 in damages for his lost wages.

The Twins retired Rod Carew’s number 29 on July 19, 1987. The Angels had retired his number in ‘86.

He was inducted as a charter member of the Twins Hall of Fame along with Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Calvin Griffith on August 12, 2000.

Read the complete Twins Almanac for January 7–13 on Twins Daily.
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