06 June 2013

rodney cline carew and the final tributes that came too soon

even though i was a dodger fan growing up, i still enjoyed watching the angels when the opportunity arose.  i went to the big a a few times, and the halos would be broadcast on ktla (the dodgers were on kttv) fairly often.  i was pulled in by don baylor's 1979 season, but i stayed because of rod carew.  i enjoyed watching him hit, and his was always one of the stances that i emulated during wiffle ball games in the neighborhood.  

i recall watching carew get his 3000th career hit in 1985, with his helmet coming loose as he placed the ball safely into left field.  his feat was commemorated on a 1986 fleer superstar special card
the last bit of text on the back echoes how i felt about carew.
'...no telling just how long he will continue'.  the guy could still hit, although his average had fallen over the last couple of years.  it turned out that he would not play after the 1985 season.  the angels did not re-sign him, opting to go with youngster wally joyner at first base instead, and they still had reggie jackson on the roster to serve as the dh.  carew was bitter about the way things ended, as i recall, but did eventually return to the team as a coach in the early 1990's.

carew was offered a contract by the giants at some point during the 1986 season, but he opted to retire.  so, his 1986 cards became final tributes.

here's his topps card
 with the complete stats on the back
his .328 average was good for 32nd all-time when he retired, and was the highest career average for a player since stan musial retired in 1963.  since 1986, only tony gwynn and wade boggs have retired with a higher average than carew, and boggs bested him by only 0.0001.

here's his regular fleer card
 and the back has his complete professional stats
carew led the league in batting 6 of the 7 seasons from 1972 through 1979.

here's his 1986 donruss card, which features the stance i would mimic
 i like donruss backs because they give us the full name.
rodney cline carew is what angels' broadcaster don drysdale would call him.  or was it dick enberg?  i don't recall.  anyway, that's what we kids in the neighborhood called him, too.

with wally world and the angels' success in 1986, it was hard to argue with gene autry's decision to not bring carew back, but i know i was disappointed that he wouldn't get a shot to move further up the career hits leaderboard.  while he was the 16th player to reach the milestone, he finished the season 13th on the list, as donruss notes.  he was about 230 hits behind willie mays, who was in 10th place at the time, but only 100 or so out of 12th place.  as it stands now, carew is 23rd with alex rodriguez 152 hits behind him.

here's to you rodney cline carew - that was a heck of a career that you had!


Anonymous said...


Jeff said...

The interesting thing about his 3000th hit was that it came off of Frank Viola, who was signed for the Twins by the same scout who signed Carew for the Twins - Herb Stein.