As I guess I’ve mentioned before, I somehow never got Rod Carew’s baseball card growing up. A couple months ago a reader of this blog, Brent Topping, read that this was so and kindly decided to rectify the situation. Since then I’ve tried and failed to shape my reverence for the inimitable style and astounding results of the man pictured here. Thinking about Rod Carew, trying to come up with something to say, I find I’m overpowered by the pitch.
Rod Carew was never overpowered by a pitch. Whatever it was, wherever it was aimed, whatever its nasty spin or ungodly hop, he adjusted, flipping the power of the pitch on its ass with the brevity and grace of a martial arts master. Is there any doubt that the plan the catcher pictured here and his unseen battery mate have concocted to foil Carew will fail? Carew will wait in his coiled yet serene praying mantis stance until the very last moment, then use his lightning-quick wrists to strike, lacing the pitch into some unguarded patch of the grass.
Who was a more constant part of my internal life when I was a child than Rod Carew? He was always there, at the top of the Sunday averages, the list that meant more to me than any religion. The greatest day of every summer was when my brother and I got to stay up past our bedtime to watch the entire all-star game, and Rod Carew was always among the sparkling selections. Since he had been an all-star before I was born, it seemed to me that he had always been an all-star.
It seemed as the years continued to roll by that he somehow would always be an all-star. But in 1985 an all-star game was finally played without him. I was seventeen that summer. I had a freshly earned GED, a job pumping gas, and no plans for the future. What was I supposed to do? Leaving childhood is like having a hole in your swing that continues to get bigger and bigger. The alarming absence in the midsummer classic of Rodney Cline Carew, the owner of a swing with no holes, was the last stage of erosion. How am I supposed to hit when I’m more hole than swing?