A magician with a baseball bat, Rodney Cline Carew was the fifth player in history to hit over .300 for 15 straight years. Carew punched hits all over the baseball diamond as he amassed 3,053 career hits with a .328 lifetime batting average. He also stole 353 bases, including 17 steals of home. The only Panamanian-born Hall of Famer, Carew was Rookie of the Year in 1967, won 7 batting titles, and played in 18 straight All-Star games; every year except his last.
When a scout for the Minnesota Twins first saw him, Rod Carew was playing baseball at a New York City park across the street from Yankee Stadium. He was ushered across the street for a tryout,. After only five minutes, Minnesota manager Sam Mele said, "Get him out of here and sign him before the Yankees see him." It was a good move for Minnesota. Carew spent the first ten years of his major league career making heads turn as he batted over .300 eight straight times. Then in 1977 he made heads shake with amazement. On July 1, he was batting .411, and it looked as if he might become the first .400 hitter in the major leagues since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941. Carew finished the season with "only" a .388 average, baseball's best since Williams's .388 in 1957. Carew's season total of 239 hits was the highest since 1930. He also set or equaled career highs in every other important offensive statistic, scoring 128 runs, driving in 100, and hitting 38 doubles, 16 triples, and 14 home runs. He led the American League in runs scored, batting average, hits, and triples and tied for third in doubles. He was voted the league's Most Valuable Player.
Unlike the patient Williams, Carew said, "I like to swing the bat, and if a pitch is close enough to handle, I'll go for it. The most important thing is making contact." Nor did he hit with power like Williams. Instead, he sprayed the ball to whichever part of the field was not covered, achieving his batting success more on science and speed. But his batting style cost him money after the 1974 season, when he had hit .364. An arbitrator denied his salary request because he had averaged only three home runs in the previous five years. Carew responded by giving them what they wanted, hitting 14 homers in 1975 and still batting .359. "If he'd been in the National League, with all their artificial surfaces, he'd already have hit .400," said his manager Gene Mauch. Carew was born Oct. 1, 1945, on a train in Panama and grew up using sticks for bats and balls of foam rubber covered by tape. His family moved to New York City when he was 16, but he could not play high school baseball because he had to work two jobs.