Here's Rod Carew at bat: Left-handed hitter: takes a wide stance: leans heavily on the rear foot; only the toe of the front foot touches the ground.
All this conspires to give baseball's best hitter the appearance of a bather testing the water from afar.
Baseball purists love to see a hitter with the bat held shoulder high, cocked next to his ear. None of Carew's five American league batting champion ships has been won with the bat in the classic position. Awaiting a pitch. Carew lays the bat back almost horizontally.
Then it gets worse. Everyone knows hitters do not go to heaven if they wiggle-waggle the bat as the cursed baseball whistles 90 miles per hour toward the plate. No time to swing. Carew is hitting 411 this season, .333 for his life, and no mortal sinner ever wiggle-waggled the bat more. From the horizontal. Carew snaps the bat upright against his ear, then lashes it against the ball.
"Rodney is not mechanically perfect," said Gene Mauch, manager of the Minnesota Twins. "But he doesn't have to be. He has his own way. I played with Ted Williams the year he hit .388. I never thought I'd see anybody who could operated day after day so efficiently. I was wrong. I've sat on that bench the last month and seen Rodney go to bat 100 times and get 50 hits.
"Four hundred? He might hit .450."
"I've always hit that way," Carew said.
"you have to get the bat started moving some way," the Twins' first baseman said. "Because I'm a wrist hitter, I can do a lot of things with the bat other guys can't."
To do Carewian tricks with a 34-inch, 32 ounce bat, it helps if your wrists are bionic.
"I have dumbbells at home that I work with, lowering and raising them, to strengthen my wrists."
Five pound dumbbells would give a guy a good workout.
"Twenty pounds." Carew said.
It is natural to counect the mames Carew and Williams, as Mauch did, for Williams hit 406 in 1941 and Carew seems capable of becoming major league baseball's first 400 hitter since. But numbers may be their only link.
Where Williams was often aloof. Carew is a diplomat, finding time and the right words for everyone. Williams was often aloof, Carew is a diplomat, finding time and the right words for everyone. Williams made hitting a science, if not an art - "He'd know about young pitchers coming up from the minors, how much their fast ball moved, how far the curve broke." Mauch said. Carew seems content to simply take his swipes - "To Rodney it's not who's got the ball in his hand, but only how soon it's going to get there."
Williams also was stubborn. When the opposition stacked its defense to the right side of second base, daring Williams to find a hole there, he chose not to change. "If they gave Carew half the park like that, he wouldn't hit .400 - he'd hit .500." Mauch said.
Williams'signature at bat was the powerfully struck line drive to right At 6 feet., 150 pounds, Carew is three inches and 20 pounds smaller than Williams and he's happy to be a singles hitter. Williams had 521 home runs. Carew has 61. "If Rod wanted to he'd hit 30 homers a year," said Twin pitcher Ron Schueler, "but he'd also hit 270."
Instead, Carew sends line drives everywhere. Now 32 and stronger than ever. Carew has 14 triples already this season, an indication he's hitting line drives between the outfielders. His career best had been 12 a year ago.
Carew was 3 years old in 1943, living in Panama City where his father worked at the cannal-and his mother was a maid, when Stan Musial of the Cardinals took a .400 average into mid-July, falling below the big number on July 17. Carew said. "But I'm enjoying it right now."
"He can handle everything that goes with it," said Mauch, a reference to the inevitable crush of news media. "I mean, he doesn't have to hit .400. He doesn't need it to get in the Hall of Fame . He's already there."
Whatever happens. Carew says, it won't change him. Mauch on Carew: "I've never met a finer man in my life." Carew on Carew. "As an individual. I have a private life that is important to me. My wife and children. I go fishing. I take the kids out and play on the swing get ice cream cones. We all go down to the lake. If I hit .400, my lifestyle won't change."
Does that mean Rod Carew, unlike Reggle Jackson doesn't want a candy bar named after him? "I've never been that way," Carew said softly.
"Every man should know himself, and I know myself."
Who, then, is Rod Carew?
"Rod Carew is a passive person. I don't lose my composure. I control myself on and off the field."
Born on a train en route from Panama City to Gatun, delivered by a midwife named margaret Allen. Carew grew up hoping to leave Panama, for the United States. Always a ballplayer, his heroes had been Willie Mays and Jackle Robinson. At 15 he moved to New York City to live with Margaret Allen.
Three years later, he signed with the Twins and spent three seasons in the minor leagues. After 292 and 273 years with the Twins, he hit 332 in 1959 and hasn't been under 307 since. Only five men ever have won as many as Carew's five batting Championships - Hall of Famers named Ty Cobo (12), Honus Wagner (8), Rogers Hornsby (7), Musial (7) and Williams (6).
"I always wanted to be a professional." Carew said, "but I never really thought I'd be doing the things I am."
After all, his swing is all wrong.