What the Scouts Said About… Rod Carew

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Fri, Oct 27 - 9:00 am EDT | 7 years ago by
Comments: 7
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While I’m off escaping to the central California coast for a few days, I thought I’d leave you with a few bits from Stan Hart’s Scouting Reports, which provides actual photocopied reports and commentary on 40+ players from back before they signed professional contracts. We’ll feature a different player each day this week. Enjoy!

We’re going a little old school to finish the week. Not only is Rod Carew a Hall of Famer, he’s also one of the few players I’ve had the opportunity to meet. I should qualify this by noting that I was 10 years old at the time. My only lasting memories of the moment are that he signed my scorebook and that his cologne seemed very strong. I don’t know whether it really was — when you’re 10, I suppose all cologne seems strong — but memory is a funny thing.

At any rate, Carew was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, following a career that spanned 19 seasons and saw him collect 3053 hits. Carew made the American League All-Star team in all but his final season. He was league MVP in 1977, when he hit a surreal .388/.449/.570. Carew won seven batting titles and led the AL in on base percentage four times. He also led the league in intentional walks on three separate occasions, which is amazing for a guy who reached double digits in homers twice in his career and finished with just 92 big-league home runs.

Most of Carew’s great years came while he played for the Minnesota Twins, first as a second baseman and then moving over to first base. By the time I got to see him play, when he came to the California Angels, Carew’s game had dropped from dominant to merely very good.

The story of how Carew came to sign with the Twins is fascinating — this was before there was a draft, so the gamesmanship behind discovering and signing amateur talent could be much more pronounced than anything you’re likely to see today. In the case of Carew, due to some unusual circumstances, he didn’t play baseball in high school but instead played sandlot ball in the Bronx for a team called the Bronx Cavaliers. Scout Herb Stein found Carew and successfully, um, kept others from finding him. Stein developed a relationship with Carew, who at age 18 negotiated his own deal to play professionally for the Twins. Needless to say, the way business is conducted has changed a bit in the intervening years.

What made Carew such a special player, even as an amateur? Here’s a little of what Stein’s report from 1964 has to say:

He is a good hitter. Can hit the ball to all fields. He has strong arms and great wrist action. He has a quick bat. On contact the ball jumps off his bat. He can hit an inside pitch to left field and make good contact. He has also shown good power. I have seen him hit balls 400 feet. He also has a good idea of the strike zone.

This last sentence really jumps out at me for two reasons:

  1. It proved to be a tremendous understatement. Noting that Carew has a good grasp of the strike zone is like noting that Mozart had a good grasp of melody.
  2. It demonstrates that at least some professional scouts recognized the importance of strike-zone judgment well before Moneyball made it fashionable to speak of such things.

Stein also praised Carew’s range at second base, noting that his footwork could be better on double plays, and observed that he lacked the arm strength to play shortstop. And although Stein’s report is written on official team letterhead, it concludes with this refreshingly candid statement:

Once in pro ball if he can get use to being away from home, accepting the good and bad, and the many adversities in this game, he will become one hell of a player.

One presumes that Carew got used to being away from home, because by anyone’s standards, he became one hell of a player.

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  • http://KnuckleCurve Steve Katz

    Dear Mr. Hart, I don’t where you got your information from? The scout that discovered Rod Carew was my late father Monroe Katz, not Herb Stein. I should know because I was friends with Rod at George Washington High School and we played ball together. My father discovered Rod at Allerton Park in the Bronx during a tryout for the Cavaliers, on a cold March day. Watching him take infield my father became impressed by his actions and told me to call Rod over. Carew couldn’t believe he was being called over to speak to a scout for the first time, especially since he was just having a mediocre day. My father told him he liked his actions and he’d be following him from that day on. This is before he even saw him hit! That night he called the Cavaliers GM, Sid Pack who’d been a bird-dog of my father’s and told him of this kid on his team who’s going to be special. My father, who was a well respected baseball man in the New York metropolitan area for over 30 years as a scout and semi-pro manager, signed on to scout for the Twins in 1964. He took over for Stein who was on the shelf after being hospitalized with neck problems. Mr. Katz persued Carew all that spring of ’64. They had a special relationship as Rod respected my father and welcomed his advice. Hiding him was impossible especially after a doubleheader at Crotona Park, in the Bronx, where he went 7 for 8. Stein only came around later and believe it or not, wasn’t impressed with Carew! The night of the signing at the Stella D’oro Restaurant in the Bronx, as it was getting late and Carew was taking calls from other clubs, Stein said to my father, after all you’ve done for him if he doesn’t want to sign with us, let’s get out of here. My father wouldn’t leave without a signature on that contract! With Carew not able to make up his mind, his mother finally said to him, Mr. Katz has followed you from the beginning and stuck with you the whole time, I think we owe it to him to sign with the Twins. Rod said okay and the rest is history. Bottom line, all Herb Stein did was carry the pen. My father, Monroe Katz received the Scout of the Month Award for signing Rod Carew, after he won Player of the Month in the Florida State League for May 1965. Stein only started trying to take credit for discovering Carew after his major league career took off. Baseball people who were in the New York area at the time and especailly, Hal Keller, who was the director of scouting for the Twins in 1964, know the truth about who discovered Rod Carew. Thanks for your time. Sincerely, Steve Katz

  • http://KnuckleCurve Steve Katz

    Sorry, I just realized I should have addressed my reply to Geoff Young not Mr. Hart. Thanks. Steve Katz

  • http://baseball91.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/pick-off-moves/ Mattie

    Hal Keller in 1964 was the farm director for the Washington Senators. I believed he had worked as the assistant farm directors for the Griffith organization before the team moved to Minnesota in 1961. There are a lot of people making comments here who do nothave their facts right. Those Washington Senators are now in Texas. In 1964, the Minneota Twins did not have a “director of scouting.”

  • http://krakit.livejournal.com/ DausiaDup

    emm… amazing..

  • Michael Giannone

    Dear Mr. Katz -

    Your story is 100% correct. I played ball in the Bronx for Sid Pack, back in the early 70s, and I remember him telling the Carew story….same as your story. He mentioned your Dad often, always saying that it was him (Monroe Katz) who discovered Carew. I played for Mr. Pack on those very same ballfields – the Allerton Avenue fields near Mosholu parkway, and Crotona Park. He was a great man, I miss those times. Anyway, thanks to YOUR DAD, Carew was discovered and became a great ballplayer.

    You may know about this….there’s a little confusion over whether Rod converted to Judiasm or not. Sid always said that Carew did, and I was always under the impression that he (Sid Pack) had something to do with it. I know Carew was from Panama, and was born/delivered on a train by a Jewish doctor, I think. Anyway, if you ever get a chance, maybe you know more about it all, maybe you can clarify.

    THANKS ! ! !

  • Steve Katz

    Dear Michael, Sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond, as I just noticed your piece today. Thanks for your kind remarks. It’s so refreshing to hear someone respond positively to the truth. My father, Monroe Katz and Sid Pack had a great relationship. Two exceptional baseball minds. They developed a great trust and respect for one another. My family and I genuinely liked Sid. He was a good man who always looked out for us. As for Rod Carew and his conversion to Judiasm. When he married his first wife, Marilyn Levy who is Jewish, is when he began considering a conversion. And when Adam Sandler included Rod in his Chanukah song, saying he converted, it sure sounded like he did. I believe the fact of the matter is: he never officially converted to Judiasm. Once again, I really appreciate you passing along your information and insights with reference to my late father Thanks so much. Sincerely, Steve Katz P.S. I too played on the fields you mentioned. As well as Harris Field, Frankie Frisch Field, Babe Ruth Field, and McCombs Dam Park.

  • Michael Giannone

    Steve -

    Thanks so much for responding. I only knew (played for) Mr. Pack for a few years, but I think he was a great man, and as I mentioned he spoke of your Dad often. It’s so nice to find someone who knew Sid…..I’ve searched all over the net and yours is the only thing I’ve ever found about him.

    Thanks for clarifying about Rod’s rumoured conversion to Judiasm. And, thanks for mentioning all those fields….Harris, Frisch……I have great memories of playing there. I miss the Bronx, and the “good old days”.

    I can guess that you miss your Dad, as I do mine. If you ever do anything with regard to stickball, my Dad was one of the greats, he’s in the Stickball Hall Of Fame. Here’s a link with some info about him –

    http://www.streetplay.com/stickball/halloffame/mintons.shtml

    Please feel free to keep in touch. And, again……thanks very very much for responding.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Giannone