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Full recovery for Carew at top of wish list

Hall of Famer undergoes heart and kidney transplant
MLB.com @philgrogers

Few times of the year are as busy as this one. We're all in a hurry, it seems, and too often we turn minor tasks into what we perceive as Herculean feats, while no annoyance feels trivial.

Every red light, every long line at a checkout counter can seem like the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Few times of the year are as busy as this one. We're all in a hurry, it seems, and too often we turn minor tasks into what we perceive as Herculean feats, while no annoyance feels trivial.

Every red light, every long line at a checkout counter can seem like the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Yeah, right.

Carew's transplant surgery successful

Let's all buy a clue and be thankful for what we have, especially when that list includes our health. Let's also be thankful for the advances in science we've seen in our lifetime, and the dedicated surgeons and nurses who are there when we need them.

Rod Carew, an international treasure who ranks as one of the greatest living hitters, underwent 13 hours of surgery Friday. Doctors gave the 71-year-old Hall of Famer a heart and kidney transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and there's hope he will make a full recovery.

That would be just about the best holiday gift the baseball world could get.

Carew's courageous wife, Rhonda, and the rest of his family have stood behind him since he suffered a disabling heart attack in September 2015, eventually pinning his survival on a heart transplant. He wasn't around ballparks as much as usual last season, and it would be so great to see him at Target Field next April, throwing out a pitch on Opening Day for his beloved Twins.

Tweet from @baseballhall: Rod Carew underwent successful heart/kidney transplants Friday. Best wishes from your Hall of Fame family, Rod! #heartof29 pic.twitter.com/UYG7Rqp7fW

In 19 seasons with Minnesota and the Angels, Carew played with an artistry that's rarely been seen. He was like a baseball version of Arthur Ashe or Gary Player, a slightly built wizard who seemed to be able to hit a pitch wherever he wanted it to go -- down the line, up the middle, to the opposite field, wherever it best served him and his team.

He's been a terrific ambassador since he retired, lighting up every dugout, batting cage or room he graced with his presence. It was so fitting when Commissioner Rob Manfred used the All-Star Game to announce that he was naming the American League batting title in Carew's honor and the National League batting title for the late Tony Gwynn.

Perhaps because he didn't have a Reggie Jackson-like swagger or a need for attention like some players, Carew has somewhat slipped into the background of the game since 1991. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer that year, receiving 91 percent of the vote.

Video: Hot Stove on Carew undergoing heart transplant

Born in the Canal Zone of Panama in 1945, Carew was 14 when his family moved to New York. He was playing semi-pro baseball when Twins scout Monroe Katz discovered him.

Carew was only 21 when he made his debut for Calvin Griffith's Twins in 1967, but he didn't require training wheels. He hit .292 against a cast of American League pitchers that included Mickey Lolich, Catfish Hunter and Luis Tiant, winning Rookie of the Year over Reggie Smith, and he was just getting started.

Between 1969 and '78, Carew won the AL batting title seven times. He was beaten by Alex Johnson in 1970, Tony Oliva in '71 and George Brett in '76.

In '77, at age 31, he turned in his finest season, leading the Majors with a .388 average, .449 on-base percentage and 1.019 OPS. He was the AL Most Valuable Player and missed hitting .400 by only eight hits.

Few players have ever been as consistent as Rod Carew. He was an All-Star in each of the first 18 years of his career. He was not only one of the greatest contact hitters ever, but he could run, stealing 353 bases (including 30-plus in four seasons) to go with his 3,053 hits.

Lefty Ken Holtzman said Carew swung the bat like it was a magic wand. Fellow Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry said he was such a good hitter that he couldn't even get him out when he cheated.

"Greaseball, greaseball, greaseball, that's all I throw him, and he still hits them,'' Perry said. "He's the only player in baseball who consistently hits my grease. He sees the ball so well, I guess he can pick out the dry side."

Carew was a soldier too. He served a six-year commitment in the Marine Corps Reserve as a combat engineer, and has said the military taught him discipline, not to mention perspective.

"When I first came up to the big leagues in 1967, I was a little bit of a hothead,'' Carew said once. "But after two weeks of war games every summer, I realized that baseball was not do-or-die. That kind of discipline made me the player I became."

Carew's elegance helped make baseball the game it is.

He joked to Bob Costas last summer that he might still have some more hits in him if he somehow wound up with a 21-year-old's heart. That's OK, Rod. We've got the memories and the film clips.

You don't have to do it again. Just get well. Everyone who loves baseball is rooting for you.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins