Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew shares his faith in God in new memoir

For 19 years, from 1967-1985, Rod Carew terrorized opposing pitchers as one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball. Now 74, the first-ballot Hall of Famer has published a memoir titled “One Tough Out: Fighting Off Life’s Curveballs.”

Co-written with Jaime Aron, a senior writer for the American Heart Association and a former Texas sports editor for The Associated Press, the extensive memoir unpacks more than just stories from Carew’s legendary baseball career.

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Carew’s memoir details much of the pain of his life, from growing up in Panama with an abusive father, to losing a daughter to leukemia at the age of 18, to undergoing his own heart and kidney transplants. Yet it was Carew’s faith that sustained him through it all.

Carew credits his mother, Olga, for instilling faith in him when he was little. She would take Carew to church every Sunday and remind him often how loved he was. She would even sing praise songs in the midst of her husband’s beatings.

“She believed so much that God was going to take care of me always,” Carew told Religion Unplugged, “that He’s always there for me if I ever need Him.”

His mother’s faith set Carew at ease when he approached God.

“I knew that when He created me that He already had my life planned out,” Carew said. “And so, when I had doubts about anything, I always would say, ‘Father, please just be there for me.’ And it seems like He answered all my prayers.”

Carew said he had a keen interest in baseball his whole life, and at age 14, when he and his siblings immigrated to New York City, he joined a semi-pro baseball team called the Bronx Cavaliers. It was there that a scout for the Minnesota Twins discovered Carew and eventually offered him a contract.

He climbed the minor-league ladder and made his MLB debut with the Twins in April 1967. Carew never looked back. He accumulated 3,053 hits in his storied career, won seven American League batting titles, made 18 consecutive All-Star appearances and was the 1977 AL MVP.

He was with the Twins until 1978 before playing the last seven years of his career with the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels).

“I knew that [God] gave me an ability to do something that a lot of people couldn’t do or can’t do. And with that ability, He wanted me to work at it,” Carew said. “Just don’t take it and do nothing with it … If my Father gives me good health, I’m going to play and play hard for Him. I never set goals during my career, but it was all up to Him and Him giving me great health.”

Carew’s career had taken off, but he said the trauma of abuse early in life lingered. He had difficulty controlling his temper, often getting into fights, until one day in June 1977.

“(Twins manager) Billy Martin took me aside one day, and he said to me, ‘You’ve got a great talent, and you’re going to go a lot of places, but you have to control this temper.’ And then I really started understanding what the Lord had given me. He had given me something great. I could go out there and make people happy and put a smile on their faces. And so I started to grow as a person … I would sit and talk to the Lord about it and ask Him to forgive me for all the sins that I’d committed. I was going to try and follow Him in my best way.”

Carew’s difficulties would not end after his playing days, however. Carew used chewing tobacco throughout his career, developing a cancerous growth in his mouth in 1992 and having it removed. Then in 1996, his youngest daughter, Michelle, passed away from leukemia. Carew suffered a massive heart attack in 2015 and by 2016, he underwent a heart and kidney transplant.

Still, he said, he never blamed God.

“Like, a lot of people say, ‘Well, where’s God? Why is He doing this?’ I never even tried to answer that question because I had faith in Him. I knew that He was going to take care of [my daughter]. Just like He was taking care of me when I went through my problems with my heart transplant and my kidney transplant.

“I used to scream in the mornings or before I went to bed at night. And the nurses thought I was going crazy because I would always yell out, ‘Father, I’m OK! I’m not afraid to die! You are with me right here!'”

Now in “One Tough Out,” baseball fans have the opportunity to read 324 pages of Carew’s life in his own words. Woven throughout every story is God’s redemptive plan and steadfast love.

As co-writer Jaime Aron told Religion Unplugged, “[Carew’s] faith is one of the threads that binds his whole, amazing life story.”

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