Rod Carew sat in the Memorial Stadium dugout, looking at the drizzle at dusk, watching the steady mist spatter the puddles on the cinder track before him.
Other Angels chattered, gossiped, fidgeted. Carew Meditated.
The man of seven batting titles-the california Wrecking Carew-sat motionless as an Aztec icon, the long delicate fingers of his startlingly veined and tendoned hands barely touching at the tips.
"I can pick out an object-that rock, for instance-and concentrate on it until I feell totally at peace, totally relaxed as though my body were weightless. Hypnosis has helped teach me that," Carew said.
"On a bus or an airplane-or right here this minute-I can tilt my head to one side and in a few seconds, I will be asleep.
"My teammates kid me that I fall asleep everywhere except at bat. . . but it is not a trick.
"It is a direct reflection of your peace of mind. . . a sort of demonstration to yourself that you have no worries. . . that nothing's troubling you upstairs.
"Discipline. . . order," says the meticulous, immaculate Angel slowly, as though the words were gold and silver held one in each sculpted hand. "These things help you feel good about yourself.
"No one can give you that feeling. It took me a long time. . . I battled to become myself," says Carew, born in Panama, raised in Harlem, resident of Golden Valley in the Minnesota lake country, convert to Judaism.
"Learning to relax. . . to accept things to forgive yourself. . . not to expect to be perfect in baseball or in the rest of your life-I've come a long way," he says. "When I first came to the majors, at least I knew how much of an immature kid I was, how I put myself in moods and then into slumps.
"Now," he says, holding a hand in front of him waisthigh, just where he would like every pitch, "I keep myself right here."
His hand is without a tremble. It is metaphorically, the hand of moderation-the rock-steady middle road.
Only the rarest baseball players are watched, studied, openly discussed and gawked at by their peers. Even within that charismatic elite there is a fundamental division into higher and lower forms of respect.
A few, like Jim Rice, Dave Parker or Nolan Ryan, are observed for the pure awestruck pleasure of seeing their natural gifts, their animal brilliance. These specimens are surrounded by the same nervous laughter heard near tiger cages.
A still smaller number of stars is watched for what might be called their philosophical disposition toward the game, their mental and emotional plan of attack.
In this category baseball has perhaps only two everyday philosophers-personalities whose every athletic gesture is an eloquently wrought embodiment of a deliberate idea.
That pair would be Pete Rose, hustling hedonist, and Carew, the stoic star. They are baseball's classic Greek types-the Dionysian and Apollonian performers; the game's pure distillations of fire and ice.
The stocky, swarthy Rose drives a silver Rolls Royce to the park. The lithe Carew, with his radiant face, arrives on a bicycle.
Other great players are observed minutely only while performing. Rose and Carew are analyzed constantly by their fellow major leaguers even if they are only blending a pregame wad of chewing gum and tobacco. Character outshines talent.
It is no happenstance that both Rose and Carew are being asked to bring their personalities to bear on their new teams.
The oh-well-we-lost-again Phils need Rose's gumption. The wilt-in-the-clutch Angels need Carew's grace under pressure.
Like teams that are off to see the Wizard, Philadelphia needs a heart, while California wants some courage. Perhaps only in Oz could the passion of Charley Hustle's head-first slides and the precision of Sir Rodney's bunts meet in October.
Anaheim may not quite be the Emerald City, but two Angels, who lead the team in every major offensive category, already think that Carew is granting their requests.
Boos leave their brand, repeated failures their mark. Don Baylor and Bobby Grich, millionaire free agents, both have felt crushing pressure in their two years as Angels-and both feel it lifting now, courtesy of Carew.
Baylor, who has borne the weight of gread expectations since he was minor-league player of the year 10 seasons ago, felt so depressed by Big A last June. "It was sad," says Baylor. "I was the team scapegoat, no question."
Grich, crippled by back surgery in '77 for a herniated disk, sank far lower. By last August "other players actually pitied him," says Angel reliever Dyar Miller. "He couldn't even make the routine plays. Guys would say, 'Poor Grich is washed up and he isn't even 30. He used to be able to do it all.'"
This season, Grich, with a new Carew batting stance and philosophy, is hitting .356 with six homers and 18 RBI. "Another season like '78, and it would have been my last. I'd have quit the game, I think," says Grich. "Now I know I can still play."
Baylor, who gratefully sees Carew all around him-both on base ahead of him and in the clubhouse taking over the pressurized team-leader role-tied a major-league record with 28 RBI in April.
"Rod has taken a world of pressure off us all," says Grich. "He's assumed the burden of the publicity and the pressure of being the top hitter. He accepts it without a complaint. I'm sure it's helped Groove (Baylor) relax."
Groove and Grich, old buddies from Baltimore, fellow Angel sufferers, are in heaven at last, at least in part due to Carew.
"I think we talked about somethings in spring training," says Carew evasively. "They had to do too much. They had the big contracts and were forcing themselves. Well, maybe I have the money, too, but it's different."
Different because he is Carew.
"You can't play to suit the public," says Carew. "I watched Harmon Killebrew for years. . . the abuse he took from fans despite hitting over 500 home runs. It rolled off him. He never showed his defiance.
"Maybe the best players develop an immunity to outside judgment. . . they judge themselves. Above all, you must know yourself, know your limits. I absolutely do. If you try to go beyond that, you always hurt yourself. I used to but no more.
"So I said to some of the guys, 'Put all that so-called pressure and big-money talk on me, because I don't respond to any of it."
Grich and Baylor, like the rest of humanity, never have felt that immunity. They marvel at it in their new teammate.
"Carew is so totally relaxed, so orderly, that I just find myself watching everything he does," says Grich. "I started holding the bat relaxed and high like he does, rolling the handle loosely in the fingers, and that relaxation just flowed through my upper body. I've never popped the ball so well."
Just a year ago, baseball was torment for Grich, even after his slow-healing back recovered. "The season I sat out ('77) wore on my mind. . . life was so easy. The (multi-year contract) money was there and I didn't have to work for it. It erodes your killer instinct. You get soft. The same thing happened to (Joe) Rudi when he had (hand) surgery."
Grich returned to the game tense, defensive and self-defeating. This spring he has abandoned 10 years of complex up-tight hitting theory. "Now, I just see it and swing at it," says Grich, "like Rod does."
Carew also has subtly eased Baylor's burden. The streaky Goove-either in one or totally out of it-had 34 homers last year (second in the league), but once again missed the national recognition he craves because his career-high 99 RBI missed the symbolic 100 threshold.
In essence, No. 3-hitter Carew told cleanup man Baylor he was going to make him a household name whether he wanted to be one or not. "Rod said he was going to be on base so musch that I'd drive in 110 runs even if I had a bad year," Baylor says with a laugh.
Carew has been true to his word, walking far more than ever before (19 times in 25 games) and reaching base 50 times already. "It's unreal," says Baylor. "Rod's been in a semislump all spring, not really hitting well at all, but he's batting .344 and every time I look up, he's grinning at me from some base.
"If I was really in one of my 20-for-19 grooves," said Goove, who is hitting 302, but with a less-than-expected four homers, "it's scary how many RBI I could have. I tied the all-time record for April, and I wasn't particularly hot."
Of course, even Carew needs assists in his miracle work. Baylor's hitting has been a dramatic up-graph ever since saturation batting lessons from Frank Robinson in mid-1977. And time has soothed the miseries of Grich's sciatic nerve.
Nonetheless, the California team batting average is a celestial .295. The club has little doubt who to thank: It is the modest Socrates of swing in the corner the artist with the angelic face, the quiet man who, it seems, just tilted his head a moment ago and has peacefully fallen asleep. CAPTION: Picture, Rod Carew