#6 - Carew's Big Game
Without question, Rod Carew is one of the best players who ever donned the Minnesota Twins uniform. He was a unique and talented player. The man debuted with the Twins in 1967 as a 21-year old, too late for the great '65 team but joining already great players like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Dean Chance and Jim Grant. And Earl Battey. And Zoilo Versalles and Cesar Tovar. But let's get back to Rod.
Carew played Major League Baseball for 19 seasons. He made the All-Star team for the first 18. While the final six were as an Angel, the first 12 were as a Twin. Yes, for those of you who don't know: Carew was an All-Star every single year he was in Minnesota, from his rookie season through his twelfth season at age 32. He started in 11 of them.
Oddly enough, Carew didn't have too many solid All-Star performances as a Twin. As a matter of fact, in his first 11 All-Star games he was 3-for-27 (.111) with five walks, two strikeouts, three runs scored, three runs batted in, two stolen bases and a double play. He didn't collect his first All-Star game hit until his sixth game.
But in 1978, in his last All-Star game as a Twin, Carew was an ignitor.
Carew had transitioned to first base full time in 1976, and as a result this was his third All-Star game start at the position. He was also a first baseman whose on-base skills meant he was a great choice to set near the top of the order, and that's exactly where American League coach Billy Martin put him.
Announcing his presence with authority on the very first at-bat of the game, Carew tripled off the great Vida Blue. Blue was in his first season with the Giants following his nine seasons with the A's, and he was in the process of having another good year. But Carew made his start hell.
Carew's leadoff triple immediately raised the American League's chances of winning the game from 50% to 60%, and when the very next batter (George Brett, who nobody has heard of outside of Kansas City I'm sure) doubled Carew home the AL already had a 67% chance of coming away with the win.
The AL would score again in the first, and they'd take that lead into the next two innings. And so, leading 2-0 in the top of the third, Carew was once again leading off the inning and he was once again facing Vida Blue.
Carew tripled. Again. Brett didn't double this time, but his fly ball was deep enough that National League center fielder George Foster wasn't in a position to gun Carew down. He scored easily and put the AL up 3-0. At this point the AL had an 82% chance of winning.
Not to ruin the ending for everyone, but the AL still didn't win the game. The National League would tie the game at three in the bottom half of the third. Carew would later be caught stealing to end the seventh with the game still tied, and he wouldn't get the opportunity to bat again. The NL would plate four in the bottom of the eighth to seal the game's fate.
While the American League didn't come away with the win, Carew couldn't have been asked to humanly do anything more than he did. He helped his team off to a quick start and helped them add to that shortly thereafter, and that's exactly what you want your leadoff batter to do.
Here's to one of the greatest players to ever don the Twins uniform.