Officially ending his Hall of Fame career about six months after MLB owners did it for him, Rod Carew announced his retirement. A victim of collusion after the 1985 season, Carew failed to get any suitable offers for what would have been his age-40 campaign. Nine years later, he’d be awarded $782,000 in damages for his lost wages. Carew finished his career with the Angels in 1985 hitting .280 in 127 games. It was the only one of his 19 seasons in which he wasn’t named to the AL All-Star team.
Carew who signed with Minnesota on June 24, 1964 as an amateur free agent ended his career with 3,053 hits. Carew hit .328 with 92 homers and 1,015 RBI in 12 seasons with the Twins and seven with the Angels. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1967 and its MVP in 1977, when he hit .388 and drove in 100 runs for the only time in his career. He ended up winning seven batting titles and finishing first in the AL in the OBP four times. Both the Twins and the Angels retired his number 29.
Carew was born to a Panamanian mother on a train in the town of Gatún, which, at that time, was in the Panama Canal Zone. The train was racially segregated; white passengers were given the better forward cars, while non-whites, like Carew’s mother, were forced to ride in the rearward cars. When she went into labor, a physician traveling on the train, Dr. Rodney Cline, delivered the baby. In appreciation for this, Mrs. Carew named the boy Rodney Cline Carew.
During the 1960s, Carew served a six-year commitment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve as a combat engineer. Carew later said that his military experience helped him in his baseball career, explaining that “When I joined the Marine Corps, it was a life-changing event for me because I learned about discipline. When I first came up to the big leagues in 1967, I was a little bit of a hot-head. But after two weeks of war games every summer, I realized that baseball was not do-or-die. That kind of discipline made me the player I became.”
Frustrated by the Twins’ inability to keep young talent, some racist comments by owner Calvin Griffith, and the Twins’ overall penny-pinching negotiating style, Carew announced his intention to leave the Twins. On February 3, 1979 the Twins traded Carew to the California Angels for outfielder Ken Landreaux, catcher/1B Dave Engle, RHP Paul Hartzell, and LHP Brad Havens. Rumors circulated that the Twins completed this trade with the Angels only after a potentially better deal with the New York Yankees in January in which Carew would have moved to the Yankees in exchange for Chris Chambliss, Juan Beniquez, Damaso Garcia, and Dave Righetti fell through at the last-minute. I wonder how baseball history in Minnesota and New York might have changed had that deal gone down?