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Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in Gatun in the Panama Canal Zone on October 1, 1945. At first, when Mrs. Carew went into labor, a black nurse named Margaret Allen helped her, but later she asked the conductor to bring Dr. Rodney Cline, an American physician, from the white section of the train. Rod's middle name was given to him in appreciation of the doctor who delivered him. Rod, his older brother and three sisters all slept in the same room in their small house. Rod was weak as a child and had rheumatic fever. He recalls seeing his father beat his mother, and using a cord, a belt or a strap to beat him. "He would choose one and beat me with it. I ran away from home a lot, but I always had to come back because there was no place to go." His uncle taught him to play baseball. He practiced hitting with a broomstick and a tennis ball. Playing baseball well on the sandlots of Panama helped restore Rod's self-esteem. He was soon skilled enough to play on a men's team, and he would sometimes play against his father even though he knew he would get a beating later. When he was older, he went for counseling and wrote about the abuse in his autobiography "Carew."
Rod and his family moved to New York City when he was fourteen. He did not play baseball on his high school team because he an an after-school job in a grocery store. He played on semi-pro teams. Right after high school, he was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He played on their minor league teams for several years and was first called up to the major leagues in 1967. He played with the Minnesota Twins until 1979 when he was traded to the California Angels. He played first base and second base.
Rod enjoyed an incredible baseball career. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1967and hit .300 or better in 15 consecutive seasons, with a career batting average of .328. He hit .350 or higher in five seasons. and won seven American League batting titles. Only Ty Cobb (12) Honus Wagner (8) and Tony Gwynn (8) had more. He is one of only 23 players to have 3,000-or-more career hits (3,053). Rod was the American League MVP (most valuable player) in 1977, and made 18 All-Star teams. He was also a great base runner. The Twins manager said, "There's nobody alive, nobody, who could turn a single into a double, a double into a triple the way Rod could."
Here are Rod Carew's major league totals:
He set an All-Star record when he hit two triples in the 1978 game.
Rod tied a MLB record when he stole home 7 times in 1969. The record for a season is held by Ty Cobb with 8. During his career, Rod stole home seventeen times.
Between 1973 and 1976, Rod averaged more than 40 steals a season. He had 353 stolen bases in his career.
He won the Roberto Clemente award in 1977 for his sportsmanship and community involvement.
Rod was only the 3rd player to have his number retired by more than 1 team. Hank Aaron's #44 was retired by the Brewers (1976) and the Braves (1977) and Frank Robinson's # 20 was retired by the Orioles (1972) and the Cincinnati Reds (1998). Since then Rollie Fingers #34 was retired by the Brewers (1992) and Athletics (1993); Nolan Ryan's #34 by the Rangers (1996) and the Astros (1996); Greg Maddux. #31 by the Cubs and the Braves in 2009; Carlton Fisk's #27 by the Red Sox (2000) and #72 by the White Sox (1997); and Reggie Jackson's #9 by the Athletics (2004) and #44 by the Yankees (1993).
He was especially good at bunting. He had career 190 bunts and made 151 hits. He would amaze his teammates by putting a handkerchief at different spots up and down the foul lines and hitting a bunt onto it.
He could also spray his hits to all fields. This is called using "the whole ball park."
Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) measures how many of a batter's balls in play go for hits. Rod Carew at .359 is 4th in this MLB record behind Ty Cobb .378, Rogers Hornsby .365, and Derek Jeter .361.
Rod Carew had five base hits in a single game five different times.
In a game against the Royals in 1970, Rod became the first Twin to hit for the cycle.
Rod served in the Marine Reserves for 6 years while he was playing baseball.
Rod chewed tobacco and developed a cancerous growth in his mouth that required extensive treatment.
Rod is a skilled photographer and has his own darkroom at his home in Anaheim.
Rod kept his Panamanian citizenship and became a national hero in Panama.
Rod's number 29 was retired by the Angels in 1986 and the Minnesota Twins in 1987. When he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, Rod was the first Panamanian to be inducted. After retiring as a player, he was a batting coach for the California Angels and Milwaukee Brewers. Rod now travels nationally and internationally to train and develop young hitters. He opened the Rod Carew Baseball School in Placentia, California in 1987. He helps raise funds to fight against pediatric cancer and muscular dystrophy. His daughter Michelle died from leukemia when she was 18. He has also supported a shelter for abused women and children.