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They Have Carew’s Number

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Times Staff Writer

The Rod Carew Tribute that Rod Carew once said he didn’t want was held Tuesday night at Anaheim Stadium.

The Angels, the same team that rather unceremoniously informed Carew that his services were no longer required in the fall of 1985, brought him back to the scene of his 3,000th career hit to honor him and, presumably, to make amends.

The pregame ceremony included the retiring of Carew’s uniform, No. 29, making him the first player in Angel history to be so honored.

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A replay of Carew’s milestone hit was shown on the scoreboard screen. Carew and his family were presented with a shiny, new van, a Ram jersey bearing the name “Dickerson” and the same number (29) that Carew wore for seven seasons as an Angel.

Angel owner Gene Autry and Manager Gene Mauch made the presentation of Carew’s jersey, encased in a frame, as 29,094 spectators stood and applauded.

It was a tribute to a man who will no doubt find his place in Cooperstown one day; a man who won seven American League batting championships, appeared in 15 All-Star Games, and left the game with a career batting average of .328.

But, under the circumstances, it couldn’t help but raise a few questions. For starters, didn’t Carew say he didn’t want a Rod Carew Day when he officially announced his retirement at a press conference at his Anaheim Hills home on June 2? Well, yes, but Tom Seeberg, Angel vice president in charge of public relations, apparently convinced him to reconsider.

“Tom and I talked about it,” Carew said. “He explained to me that they wanted to have a night for me. . . . that they had gotten a lot of calls from fans and they wanted to show their appreciation. So I said, ‘Go ahead and do it.’

“What it came down to is I told them they could do whatever they want to do, and I’ll be there.”

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That explained, there’s still the matter of whether Carew will be best remembered for his twilight years with the Angels, or for the 12 mostly bright seasons he had as a Minnesota Twin. Seeberg said Carew provided plenty of memorable moments in an Angel uniform.

“While he spent a great many years with another club, he also spent seven years with this ballclub,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize he was here that long. He’s also the only player in the history of the ballclub to maintain a .300 lifetime average. You know and I know he’s a future hall of Famer.”

Still, some suggest that there are other players whose contributions to the Angel franchise are greater than Carew’s; players who are also deserving of having their Angel numbers retired.

What of Nolan Ryan, who pitched four of his five career no-hitters in an Angel uniform and was perhaps the club’s premier attraction of the ‘70s?

What of Jim Fregosi, who established many of the club’s early offensive records before managing the Angels to their first divisional championship in 1979?

And what of Bobby Knoop, now the club’s first base coach but also the only four-time winner of the Owner’s Trophy, presented each year to the team’s most valuable player? As a player, Knoop wore the same No. 29 that was retired Tuesday night.

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“There are others who, of course, merit consideration,” Seeberg said, “but until they retire, it places you in a somewhat awkward situation.”

The questions persisted. Surrounded by members of the media before the pregame ceremonies, Carew was asked if he felt he was still capable of hitting .300.

“The only .300 I’m going to hit is in slo-pitch softball,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be on the baseball field. I’m sure I can still hit, but as far as I’m concerned, baseball to me is all over and done with.”

Perhaps sooner than he might have hoped.

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