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July 15, 2015

“Sir Rodney”

Filed under: What's New — Lori Williamson @ 12:15 pm

“Hitting .300 is almost like a cause, a campaign.”
–Rod Carew’s Art and Science of Hitting, 1986

“Keep your eye on the ball and hit’em where they ain’t.”  So went the mantra of 1890s right fielder William “Wee Willie” Keeler, perhaps baseball’s greatest place hitter.  In 1964, more than half a century after Keeler retired, the Minnesota Twins signed a 19-year-old Panamanian who would rival Wee Willie’s wizardry with the bat. Rod Carew made his big league debut as a second baseman with the Twins in 1967, hitting .292 and winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.  Carew had 12 stellar seasons with Minnesota, culminating with a career-high .388 batting average in 1977.  In 1979 he was traded to the California Angels and led the team to two division titles before retiring in 1985.  With a lifetime .328 average and 3,053 hits, Carew was a sure bet for baseball’s Hall of Fame, which enshrined the slugger in 1991.  But what made Sir Rodney a truly exceptional player was more than his seven batting titles (a feat surpassed only by Ty Cobb) and 18 consecutive All-Star Game selections.

He approached hitting as a vocation, studying pitchers and adjusting his stance to spray balls to all parts of the field.  “He has an uncanny ability to move the ball around as if the bat were some kind of magic wand,” recalled Oakland A’s hurler Ken Holtzman.

A member of the Twins’ vaunted “Lumber Company” offense, Carew used this 32-ounce Hillerich & Bradsby bat to secure batting crowns in 1973, 1974 and 1975.  Bearing pine tar residue on the handle and ball marks on the barrel, the bat also features Carew’s autograph and “HOF 7/21/91,” the date of his Hall of Fame induction.

Adam Scher, Senior Object Curator

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