Rod Carew was a master of place-hitting, slapping balls to the opposite field, pulling when the opportunity arose. He led the American League in hits three times and had 200 or more hits in a season four times. He won seven American League batting titles, including four in a row from 1972 to 1975. In 1972, he won the batting title without hitting a home run.
Only Ty Cobb, with 12, has won more AL batting championships.
From his first appearance in the 1967 Topps set to his final issues in the 1980s, Rod Carew baseball cards were something you could count on seeing inside packs–and he was almost always on the “Batting Leaders” card.
In 1977 Carew flirted with hitting .400. He was at .401 on July 10 before “slumping” to 388. He was a master at attacking whatever defense a team put up against him.
“I get a kick out of watching a team defense me,” Carew once said. “A player moves two steps in one direction and I hit it two steps the other way. It goes right by his glove and I laugh.”
Carew had 3,053 career hits, batted .300 or more in 15 of his 19 seasons en route to a .328 lifetime average, and was named to the A.L. All-Star team 18 times. He stole 353 bases, including 17 thefts of home, and was the A.L.’s MVP in 1977. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
To honor those seven batting titles, here are seven Rod Carew cards considered among his best.
Card No. 569 was a double print in Topps’ hard to complete seventh series. The biggest issue with the card is its centering. It’s difficult to find this card perfectly centered in the front, and the card back is susceptible to chipping. Among the 390 cards recorded in the SGC registry, three are graded at 96, with five more at 92. It’s harder to find in high grade than the Tom Seaver rookie, which is also a high number.
While high grade examples are pricey, you can land a 6 or 6.5 Carew rookie for under $300 on eBay.
1972 Topps #695
Part of Topps’ high number set, this Carew card (No. 695) is part of the sixth series. It is part of Topps’s largest card series to date, as the set contained 787 cards. The psychedelic design is one of the more popular layouts of the 1970s, and Carew is shown swinging a bat during spring training. Highly desirable during Carew’s heyday in the 70s, it’s more easily attainable today with nicer examples starting at around $40.
The grading of this card will depend on how steady one’s hand was while cutting the box it was part of. Player cards were located on the sides of Bazooka bubble gum boxes, and the back of the box featured “Tipps From The Topps.” Carew was positioned on a box with Willie McCovey, Ron Swoboda and Earl Wilson. The tip on the box back was devoted to coaching and featured Yankees third base coach Frank Crosetti.
There are 12 cut Carew cards that have been sent to PSA for grading, and five have been graded mint (PSA-9).
1968 Topps Venezuelan
This is a tough card to find in high grade, simply because they were crudely made. There is no gloss on the card front. Carew was card No. 80 in this set, just like in the American version of Topps. Carew’s card is one of the keys to the set.
Six cards are listed in the PSA registry, with the highest grade a PSA-2 (good condition). That one is currently on eBay priced at $500. At SGC, only three cards have been graded; the top grade is a 50.
Like all cards from this set, finding a card in high condition is tough because of the card’s black borders. Chipping and dinged corners were commonplace in the 1971 set, and the Carew card (No. 210) is no exception.
SGC has graded 133 of these cards, and only one has come back as high as 96. There are six that attained a grade of 92. Of the 1,196 evaluated by PSA, there has yet to be a gem mint and there are only 14 PSA 9s.
Another high number card (696) from the sixth series, this card is typical of the Topps “In Action” cards that are sprinkled throughout the set. Carew is shown bent forward at his second base position, anticipating the next pitch. Not a great action shot, but his intensity does shine through in the photograph.
1974 Topps Deckle Edge
Topps’ Deckle edge cards are interesting because of their scalloped borders. Carew appeared in the much easier to find 1969 set, then returned as card No. 32 in the rarer ’74 issue. This is a tough card to find in a high grade because it was prone to creases and tears.
These are borderless cards with a blue facsimile autograph. Card backs come in gray and a slightly scarcer white version.
A mere six cards have been sent to SGC for grading, but one of them tops out at 98. Two are at 92; the lowest graded card comes in at 84. There is one gem mint card among the 40 sent to PSA, with eight graded at PSA-9. Click here to see if any are currently being offered.
Honorable mention — Later in his career, Carew appeared on the 1981 Fleer set. His photo was taken at the Angels’ spring training camp with a mountain backdrop. It’s one of the few redeeming features of that inaugural effort and caused a little buzz upon release.
There is nothing overly valuable about Carew’s cards in 1982, but what is interesting is that the same action shot is used by two different card companies. Card No. 501 in the Topps set is a an “In Action” card of Carew, and the same image is used by Fleer on card No. 455.
Carew once noted that “hitting is an art, but not an exact science.”
I guess the same holds true for card companies.