The Twins had been talking about the possibility of moving Rod Carew from second to first base for a couple of seasons. They finally decided to take a look at Sir Rodney at first base in September 1975.
These were desperate times at the gate for the Twins — so much so that a twinight doubleheader vs. Oakland on Friday, Sept. 12, was advertised as “Rod Carew Moves to First Base Night.’’
This did not cause a frenzy of ticket buying. The official attendance was 6,837.
Carew played first base in the opener and went 0-for-5 for the third time all season. Owner Calvin Griffith was not deterred, saying: “Carew is like a ballet dancer out there. He has wonderful foot motion.’’
Back in 1967, Griffith had insisted that manager Sam Mele open the season with a Carew, a 21-year-old out of the Class A Carolina League, as his second baseman. Playing there, he was Rookie of the Year, was chosen for nine All-Star teams and was on his way to the fifth of seven batting titles in 1975.
The Twins had grumbled, mostly in private, about Carew’s ability to turn the double play after a knee injury incurred on a pivot cost him much of the 1970 season. This was a quarter-century before the “analytics’’ craze, when baseball men could convince themselves turning a double play was more important than having a hitting machine at second base.
The Twins had fantastic pivot man in Bobby Randall as Carew’s first replacement at second, but that .257 career average wasn’t quite Carew’s .334 in 12 years in Minnesota, now was it?
Carew played 14 games at first base in September 1975, then spent the final 10 seasons (three here, seven in California) of his Hall of Fame career there. Early on, he was asked about the difference, talked of the baseball aspects and added:
“You hear the wolves in the stands, too. They yell at everyone and about everything. As a second baseman, I wasn’t aware of that.’’
Get ready for the two-legged summer wolves, Joe Mauer. There will be no catcher’s mask to muffle the howling.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
• Expose Matt Cassel to the full 16-game schedule as the Vikings starting quarterback and he might be worth one more victory than Christian Ponder in same role. One.
• Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said “a lot of good teams’’ rather than dominant teams make college basketball better than ever. Yeah, if only 75 percent of the games weren’t harder to look at than Medusa’s head.
• Ask Tom Kelly about anticipated improvement with Twins starters in 2014 and the first guy he mentions is Mike Pelfrey, then Phil Hughes and Sam Deduno.