A new autobiography featuring Rod Carew will be released in May. It carries the title of “Rod Carew: One Tough Out,’’ and was written with Jaime Aron, a longtime sportswriter in Texas and now a senior writer for the American Heart Association.
Carew was a seven-time American League batting champion, all in his 12 seasons in Minnesota, yet the title refers more to Sir Rodney’s long road back from a massive heart attack suffered on Sept. 20, 2015.
He was on a golf course and managed to crawl to the pro shop for help. He was gone a couple of times in the next few hours, but was brought back.
Carew carried a battery pack to operate a left ventricular assist device for over a year. The LAVD performed the function of a beating heart.
He received a new heart, as well as a kidney, in transplant surgery on Dec. 16, 2016. Those organs came from Konrad Reuland, 29, a former NFL tight end. He died four days earlier after suffering an aneurysm.
Carew and his wife Rhonda have developed a close relationship with Mary and Ralf Reuland, Konrad’s parents.
For 30 years after the end of his career, Carew appeared to be fewer than 10 pounds above his playing weight. The grand announcer, Harry Caray, once bellowed, “With a name like Rod Carew, you have to be able to hit,’’ and Rodney still looked like a guy who could do that until the heart attack.
The litheness of his movements and the magic bat are left to our memories now, but Rodney is again in spring training with the Twins, offering hitting tips and teaching bunting to anyone sent to him by the big-league staff.
“Who is there to work with, Rodney?’’ I asked. “Nobody bunts in this Bomba Era.’’
He smiled and said: “There are a few. Luis Arraez can pick up some hits bunting. And Buck [Byron Buxton] … he just has to get it on the ground. All the guys that can run, they like free hits.’’
There was a recent piece by Joe Posnanski where he had Carew rated at No. 57 on his list of the100 greatest baseball players. In that essay, Posnanski went back to 1979, when Ira Berkow’s autobiography, “Carew,’’ first revealed the frequent physical abuse Rodney had received from his father as he was growing up in Gatun, in the Panama Canal Zone.
Carew, now 74, has said: “There wasn’t a time in my life I wasn’t licked or punched or whipped, often for no reason whatsoever.… I think it’s one reason I was so reticent with the press, so cautious about opening up to others. When you’re young and under attack, you withdraw from family and friends. Shyness stays with you.”
I covered the Twins as a beat writer through Carew's last five seasons [1974-78] in Minnesota. For a time, his home in Golden Valley had the greatest entryway anywhere: a collection of silver bats on the wall. I also bought him an offseason breakfast at the Lincoln Del one winter and he sent back the omelette three times, to get the fluff just right.
Fussiest person ever ... in clothes, for neatness around him. I was pals with his first wife Marilynn and she once told me: "Neat freak? He's beyond that.''
Last week in the Twins' clubhouse, I said to Rodney: “I just saw an old quote on the abuse from your father. I almost had forgotten that part of your life.’’
He winced slightly and said: “The press in Minnesota couldn’t figure out why I seemed so moody … I think my father had a lot to do it. As I’ve said, ‘He was always my father, but never someone to call ‘Dad.’
“I carried a suspicion of people outside my circle with me for a long time.’’
The mysteries and challenges and triumphs of Rod Carew – on the field but more so away from it – are soon to be relived in a second autobiography four decades after the first from the great Ira Berkow. More story to be told, but big writing chops to equal for Jaime Aron.