Friday, December 28, 2012

By Rob Goldman - Historical Writer

“He won’t dare come in on me." Carew thought to himself as he got down in his stance to face Frank Viola.” If it’s a Breaking balls outside- I’ll take it the other way, aim for the gap.”

Viola ran the count 1-2 and Carew knew he’d be seeing more breaking balls. Viola didn’t have his best stuff this inning. He had already surrendered a home run to shortstop Dick Schofield, walked Brian Downing and thrown a wild pitch. He was going to come right after Carew . Sure enough the next pitch was an outside curve and tracking it well, Carew got just enough wood on the ball to punch it over shortstop. It wasn’t a pretty stroke, and the awkward momentum motion of his swing almost knocked the helmet off his head, but his 3,000 hit was in the books. On August 4, 1985, Rod Carew had joined one of baseball’s elite clubs.

As the crowd stood and cheered Carew doffed his helmet. One by one, his teammates joined him at first base. Manager Gene Mauch, who had given Carew the nickname “Pro” in Minnesota on account for his strictly professional attitude, gave the 39 year old first baseman a warm embrace.

You don’t start the game thinking your going to get 3,000 hits, but when your around the game long enough and you get close you can’t help but get excited,” Carew says. “I was joining a select group of players. You can imagine all the thousands of players that have played this game that didn’t come close.” 

A sore wrist hampered him through most of the 1985 season, and his final average of .280 marked the second time in two years in which he failed to hit .300. To new GM Mike Port that wasn’t good enough and he notified Carew his services were no longer needed. He had an offer from the San Francisco Giants to spell first baseman Will Clark, but Rod had had enough. The aches and pains of going through another season weren’t worth it. With a lifetime, 329-career average, 3,053 hits 18 consecutive all-star games, 7 batting titles, Carew quietly bowed out.

In hindsight it would have been to the Angels advantage to have Carew stick it out another season. He was certainly open to being platooned with Wally Joyner and would have even taken pay cut to do so. . As it turned out Joyner pulled up lame in the 1986 ALCS and refused to play leaving the Angels without a first baseman. Meanwhile Carew was at home in Villa Park, coaching his girls’ softball teams and running a batting school. He had always enjoyed teaching the art of hitting, and his years operating the school were enjoyable. 

When Bob Rodgers was hired as Angel’s manager in 1992, he offered his old friend a job as batting coach. Carew coached for eight seasons. He is credited with helping develop young hitters like Garret Anderson, Jin Edmonds and Tim Salmon. He departed following the 1999 season when Mike Scoscia replaced Terry Collins as Angels manager.

© Once They Were Angels, 2006 Rob Goldman

Purchase a copy of Rob Goldman's book "Once They Were Angels" at his website today! An amazing historical piece on the Angels over the years for just $19.95.
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