There is a Twins legend from four decades past that was so wonderful that it’s never been fully checked out, in fear it might be more apocryphal than 100% accurate.
This one goes back to 1976, when Tony Oliva became a full-time coach for the Twins and chose to take advantage of the single hotel room on the road that went with the job.
That left Rod Carew without his longtime roomie. Rodney needed one of those, not because of the extra bucks it would cost for a single, but, well …
Carew was not the most trusting person when it came to hotel security. My theory was Rodney’s need for a roomie was based on giving an intruder another option should he enter the hotel room at night.
This paranoia also served Carew well with punctuality. Back then, 75% of a team’s flights were commercial. Example: If the Twins were playing a series-ending night game in Kansas City, there would be a 7 a.m. bus in front of the hotel to catch a flight to Chicago.
Carew hadn’t been late for a bus in a decade. Meantime, Dan Ford had broken into the Twins’ outfield in 1975 and caused Howard Fox, the influential traveling secretary, anxiety over late-bus departures.
Fox convinced Carew to take on Ford as a roommate, in the belief that a multi-time AL batting champion would be a positive influence on the young man called Disco Dan.
The next airport bus, Carew was late for the first time in his career, arriving simultaneously with his new roommate.
And why is this brought up, beyond for a cheap smile? In order to explain a premise:
Eddie Rosario, the Twins’ gifted, streaky, unpredictable, risk-taking left fielder, is a new-millennium combination of Sir Rodney and Disco Dan.
The Carew comparison comes from the forceful wrists and lightning hands that have made Rosario the Twins’ best hitter for his three full seasons. We’re not talking straight average, or raw power, or certainly not walks. We’re talking about the best striker of a pitch … any pitch.
Roy Smalley, first a Twins player in 1976, now an excellent TV analyst, was asked to name the last Twins hitter with hitter’s hands to equal Rosario. “Carew,’’ he responded.
“The thing about Rosario is the ability to actually swing the big end of the bat at the ball no matter where it is — high or low,” Smalley stated. “He might get to the high fastball even better than Rodney.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, asked who has comparable hands to Rosario, said: “If you’re breaking down a guy’s swing, there are not very many. He gets the barrel to so many spots. To hit major league pitching all over the zone is unique.
“Eddie causes pitchers a lot of problems because he can handle so many pitches.”
There’s the Sir Rodney in Rosario. And then there’s the Disco Dan.
First comes a reminder that Ford was a productive righthanded hitter for the Twins for four seasons (1975-78). He was traded to the Angels in December 1978, two months before Carew also was traded to the Angels.
There were those Disco moments, though. Baserunning: He was often out at third when trying to advance from second on balls hit to the opposing shortstop. And, there was that time he failed to score from third before the slow-footed Jose Morales slid home from second.
Manager Gene Mauch also was apoplectic one July afternoon in 1977 at Comiskey Park, when Disco didn’t bring sunglasses, couldn’t find a routine fly ball in the sun and started a White Sox rally in a key series.
Rosario’s aggressive baserunning often pays off, and also has failed sensationally. And on Wednesday, he had an awful moment in left, appearing to nonchalant a fly ball, dropping it, and six unearned runs followed against the Mets.
He didn’t start Thursday. Baldelli’s story was that it was a planned day off — until the seventh inning, when Rosario was available to pinch-hit with the Twins trailing 3-1.
Oakland reliever Yusmeiro Petit went with a low fastball to get ahead in the count. Rosario’s home run hit the facade of the upper deck in right-center field.
“You have to be careful with Eddie,” hitting coach James Rowson said. “For sure.’’
Fortunately for the Twins that wasn’t the case on Thursday, since the A’s came back Friday night, held Rosario to a single, got a five-out save from Liam Hendriks and beat the Twins 5-3.
Cleveland wins again. The division lead is down to three games. Going to need those Eddie hands in the clutch, for sure.