August 4, 1985: Milestones for Tom Seaver and Rod Carew

It was a day that saw Tom Seaver win his 300th game, for the White Sox, and Rod Carew register his 3,000th hit, for the Angels. Here are some excerpts from newspaper coverage of both events:

At the age of 40, Seaver felt something in this game he last experienced in 1969 with the New York Mets. He had a hard time keeping his feet on the ground.

“It was like I was levitating on the mound,” he said. “It was a constant emotional drain. The last time I’d felt like that was when I had a perfect game going against the Cubs in 1969. I never got it, but I won 4-0. Struck out 10, walked no one.”

Defense helped Seaver throughout the afternoon. Greg Walker, the first baseman, made a diving stop of a sharp grounder by Ron Hassey in the third to prevent one run from scoring. In the ninth, Harold Baines crashed into the fence in right to snare a line drive by Randolph that might have scored Dan Pasqua from first. Pasqua had reached base on a drive off the wall that missed a home run by no more than four feet.

Conversely, the Yankees were unable to make the critical plays that might have kept them in the game. Cowley’s problems began after he failed to get a favorable call on an apparent double play ball hit by Carlton Fisk. He was finally pulled after giving up a single to Oscar Gamble in the sixth that put runners at first and third. Brian Fisher, his replacement, served up a double to Tim Hulett to score one run before Ozzie Guillen hit a sinking liner to right. Dave Winfield dove for the ball, but it squirted free, allowing Gamble to come home for a 2-1 edge.

”I caught the ball,” said Winfield, ”but you have to get up and throw it, and while trying to do that, I guess it popped out.”

Fisher’s problems weren’t over. He walked Law to load the bases, then gave up a single to Bryan Little that drove in two more. It was all Seaver needed.

“Ozzie told me before the game he was going to get the winning run for me,” Seaver said. “Did you see him at the end of the game, jumping up and down like a little kid? Beautiful, just beautiful.”

When Baines followed Little with another single, it appeared Seaver would have a 5-1 bulge, but Cousins ruled that left-fielder Dan Pasqua’s throw to home arrived in time to nail Law.

Amazed, LaRussa charged from the dugout to Cousins and soon they were pushing each other with their stomachs. Umpire Joe Brinkman, the crew chief, put his arms around LaRussa and pulled him aside after Cousins ejected him.

“Joe told me ‘I know there’s a lot of emotion here today, but that’s out of line,’ ” LaRussa said. “And I agreed with him.”

The rules say an ejected manager must go to the clubhouse, although most hide in the tunnel to the dressing room. LaRussa admitted he stayed in the tunnel on such a special day.

“It’s worth getting suspended if that’s what it costs,” he said. “I wasn’t going to miss this game.

“I had the worst seat in the house. The only time I could see Tom was when (pitching coach) Dave Duncan moved to the side. I finally figured out he only moved when he threw a bad pitch. I kept trying to move Dunc so I could see Seaver better.”

[To end the game] Baylor lofted the ball to Reid Nichols in left. The Sox reacted as if they had won the World Series. There were hugs–and a few tears–from Nancy Seaver. “If you can’t get one last out when you need it to win your 300th game, then when can you ever get an out?” Seaver said.

“When I saw the tears in my wife’s eyes I knew it was a great moment,” Seaver said. “This is as emotional and as happy as I’ve been in a long time.

“It means a lot more to me than I have been willing to admit. But that was all done on purpose, to play down the importance to me.

“My teammates were terrific. I have some beautiful memories of New York and it was nice to get it here, in front of some fairly sophisticated fans.”

In a city passionately divided by loyalties there were chants of “Let’s Go Mets”–a curse in Yankee Stadium–when a Sox runner reached base. The fans booed Duncan when he walked to the mound and cheered when he didn’t remove Seaver.

Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner was one of the few who went away angry.

“I didn’t like being part of that kind of baseball history. I’m happy for Tom and proud of him, but I wanted to beat him so bad today. I don’t know if it bothered our players to lose – I think it bothered some of them – but it sure bothered the hell out of Billy and me.

”You’ve got to want to be the right part of history, and we weren’t.”

Asked about Seaver, Martin said, ”You can’t take nothing away from Tom. He pitched his heart out, but we lost to these people the other night when we should’ve won, and we lost today when we had chances to win. I’m looking to win the pennant; I’m not concerned about Seaver.”

In August 1989, the Fresno Bee added a few more notes on the hometown hero’s feat:

The crowd: A sellout 54,032, almost equally divided between Yankees and Mets fans. The timing: Two days before major-league ballplayers decided to strike out. As always, George Thomas Seaver seemed to transcend everything pedestrian in baseball and seize total command of the moment. Which happened that day in The Babe’s house, a stylish 4-1 win-for-the-ages against the Yankees.

It almost seemed trivial, by comparison, the word from the West Coast later that day that Rod Carew had collected his 3,000th career hit. In New York, the play in the papers the next day was all “Tom Terrific.”

Seaver’s 300th win wasn’t all that different from his 299th or his 29th. Attired in that atrocious Chicago White Sox uniform with “SOX” in six- inch lettering across the chest, Seaver still managed elegance. He was cheered from the moment he first popped his head out of the dugout, when he jogged out to the bullpen for pregame warmups, when he closed out the Yanks at the bottom of every inning that afternoon.

Perhaps the biggest roar came in the eighth inning, Tom getting Dave Winfield to bite — swing and miss — on a 3-2 changeup with two on and two out. White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk nearly had to dig it out of the dirt.

“It was borderline,” said Fisk of the ball that dipped below the strike zone. “But that’s why good pitchers make good money. They get batters to swing at their pitch.” Seaver managed to make hundreds of them look like Winfield during his storied 20-year career.

Big Dave’s was only one of 3,640 K’s on the Seaver career strikeout blotter. Let’s put it another way. Only Nolan Ryan (10) has had as many 200-strikeout seasons in big league history as Tom Seaver . No one was more consistent during his heyday, an era abounding in outstanding pitchers — Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Catfish Hunter. The latter already is in the Hall of Fame. The others will be along shortly. Seaver’s 311 career victories, his three Cy Young Awards and his truckload of records certainly have qualified him for his day in the Cooperstown sun.

But that August day in 1985 in Yankee Stadium will rank right up there, too. His superb performance against a powerhouse Yankee lineup featuring Rickey Henderson, Winfield and Don Mattingly was a microcosm of his extraordinary career — pitching elevated to near art form. Seaver allowed just six hits, walked only one and struck out seven. He was in total command. In the upper-upper deck, one banner proclaimed, “Tom is God.”

In a front-row box seat, Tom’s youngest daughter Anne, then just 9 years old, was singularly unimpressed. When dad informed her after the eighth inning that he needed only three more outs, Anne’s eyes brightened. “Good,” she told him. “Then we can go home and go swimming.”

What Tom saw in wife Nancy’s eyes minutes later, after Don Baylor had flied out to end the game, was something else again. “The tears coming out of my wife’s eyes . . . will be a moment to remember for me,” he said. Nervous as a cat, he was, Tom admitted later. He said he was almost levitating on the mound, that he couldn’t feel the ball coming off his fingers as he usually did.

“My emotions,” he confessed, “were like the first game I pitched in the big leagues.” Dave Duncan, the White Sox pitching coach who was handling the team after Tony La Russa’s earlier ejection, made a couple of late-inning trips to the mound to confer with Seaver. He didn’t go out with the idea of retrieving him. “We have respect for Seaver’s evaluation of himself,” Duncan explained later.

“He has good instincts, knows when he needs to come out. Tom wanted to stay out there.”

It really was in the numbers that day. Seaver wore uniform No. 41, his Yankee mound opposite, Joe Cowley, also wore No. 41 and the final score (4-1) made it a perfect trifecta. “It was classic Tom Seaver,” proclaimed ageless Phil Niekro, who went on to post his 300th career win later that season. “He was in control all the way . . . He can still kick butts the way he did 15 years ago. He’s the best damn competitor I’ve seen.” And Phil, who was 46 at the time, had seen a few.

As for Rod Carew, he:

became the 16th player in history to collect 3,000 career hits by singling in the third inning of the Angels’ 6-5 triumph over the Minnesota Twins.

At Anaheim, Calif., Carew blooped a single to left off Frank Viola in the third inning to join the 3,000-hit club. Carew, who was 1 for 5 in the game, was presented with first base by Angels’ Manager Gene Mauch after his historic hit.

Between innings, a microphone was brought on the field and Angels owner Gene Autry came out to congratulate Carew, who said, “I’m glad it’s over. It’s been a lot of sleepless nights. After so many years, it’s a very emotional thing for me. I’m happy I could do it here so you fans could enjoy it.”

The first of 3,000 came more than 18 years ago, on April 11, 1967, against “one of the toughest left-handers ever,” in Carew’s opinion, Baltimore’s Dave McNally. The batter for Minnesota was a spindly, 21-year-old second baseman who had broken into pro baseball two years before with the Melbourne Twins of the Cocoa (Fla.) Rookie League. It was a single, which should come as no surprise. Rod Carew has had 2,360 singles since.

The years prior to that, quickly, just for recorded history’s sake, were spent mostly in Panama, where he remains a national hero and citizen. Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train that was taking his mother to a clinic; the baby was delivered by Dr. Rodney Cline. This child grew up so impoverished that occasionally, out of sheer hunger, he would walk into a corner market with a can opener, open some juice, sit in the aisle and drink it. Or he would screw off the lids of peanut-butter jars, finger some into his mouth and return the jar to the shelf.

The child was abused by his father, who eventually became so estranged from his son that he did not show up at Rod and Marilynn Carew’s wedding and did not meet his daughter-in-law or grandchildren until 1982. A sign painter, Carew’s father often came home from work, found a reason, real or imaginary, to lose his temper, then punished his son by whipping him with an iron cord that he had first soaked in water, or with a leather belt four inches wide. He also punched and kicked his son. That is why, as a grownup, Rod Carew sometimes gives talks at schools in Orange County, not on baseball, but on child abuse.

Rodney Carew could always hit a baseball. He could do it at 10, when he played with much older boys, and he could do it at 15, when his family moved to New York.

Carew’s greatest hits, mostly singles, piled up. There was No. 500, off Tommy John; No. 1,000, off Ed Farmer; No. 2,000, off Bill Lee; No. 2,500, off fellow Panamanian Juan Berenguer. Singles all. The sight of Rod Carew cranking a grounder between first and second or slicing one between second and third became as commonplace as seeing Reggie Jackson swinging for the next ZIP code, or Willie Stargell pulling everything to the right side. Carew’s bat control was amazing; he was like a kid with a video-game joystick. He even resembled a softball hitter, as if he had three seconds per pitch to decide where to stroke it.

Having kept mum on the matter of 3,000 hits for some time, Carew finally spoke up after a three-hit game brought him to 2,990 last week in Milwaukee. “For the last 18 1/2, 19 years, I’ve supposedly been a horsebleep ballplayer,” he said. “But 3,000 hits is something they can’t take away from me.”

“Three thousand hits is something that should stand for itself,” Carew said in Milwaukee. “For the last 18 1/2 years, I’ve been doing it. I feel I don’t have to explain it again.”

“It’s something I thought I’d never accomplish,” Carew said at a press conference after the game, “but I’ve been around for 19 years, and if you stay around long enough, good things happen to you.”

About the hit: “Reggie wanted me to hit a line drive, and some of the guys wanted me to bunt, but Bob Boone said it would be a typical Rod Carew hit, probably something by the third-base line. I thought about Boonie when I got to first base.”

About getting it against the Twins: “(Tom) Brunansky told me before the game he was going to charge me $5,000 for the ball, and (Roy) Smalley said if he got the ball he was going to sell it to pay the mortgage on his home if there was a strike. I told him I’d have the Jewish Mafia out here waiting for him if he did.”

About the significance of the hit: “When you get in the class with Ty Cobb, with Hornsby, with Pete Rose, it means a lot. I was blessed with the ability to hit-with good eyesight, good hand-and-eye coordination. When I first came up, the Twins expected me to hit .240 and play second base, but I knew I could do more than that.”

And, naturally, about the respect he has or hasn’t gotten: “I have never had a good relationship with the press. I can’t do anything without being described as aloof or sensitive. Well, I am a sensitive person. I don’t believe they have given me the respect I deserved. I go out and have a good day and it’s negative. I go out and have a bad day and it’s negative. I’m aloof and hard to get along with, but I’ll tell you something: As long as my teammates and my family know what kind of person I am, that’s all I care about.”

The Houston Chronicle went to the trouble of tabulating Carew’s performances against the varied teams of the American League, through hit 3,0002, and here is the table they provided. He was especially good against the Royals, Mariners, and Indians:

vs. West AB H HR RBI Avg
California 639 194 8 79 .304
Chicago 862 278 5 97 .323
Kansas City 741 258 10 88 .348
Minnesota 260 86 2 30 .331
Oakland 967 298 9 111 .308
Seattle 385 137 3 50 .356
Texas 741 230 10 95 .310
Totals 4595 1479 47 551 .322


Vs. East AB H HR RBI Avg.
Baltimore 684 214 4 70 .313
Boston 748 255 7 82 .341
Cleveland 736 268 6 66 .364
Detroit 706 242 10 73 .343
Milwaukee 698 225 4 70 .322
New York 646 213 11 70 .329
Toronto 328 106 2 21 .323
Totals 4546 1523 44 452 .335
Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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