Three months after being drafted out of college in 1993, California Angel pitcher Brian Anderson walked up the dugout steps of Tiger Stadium in Detroit and felt the thrill of a once-in-a-lifetime moment: stepping onto the field as a major leaguer for the first time. He fairly floated toward the old ballpark's vast outfield, where he turned his Angel cap backward to join his fellow pitchers in running drills.
"All of a sudden," he says, "I see someone running in a dead sprint from the batting cage out to centerfield, and he's coming right at me." It was Rod Carew, the California hitting instructor and enforcer of the unwritten rules of major league conduct—the Judge Dredd of coaches.
Carew drew within inches of Anderson's face and barked, "Rookie, you ain't been a big leaguer more than 20 minutes, and you're acting like you don't belong here. I don't ever want to see you wear your cap like that again."
Carew imposed his standard fine: a dozen golf balls, payable within 24 hours. The same punishment applies to rookies who dare to sit in the privileged rear section of the team plane, as well as to any player guilty of such other grievous crimes as wearing a T-shirt on the road, showing too much chin stubble and carrying a suitcase from a hotel room to the lobby (in the Carew view, major leaguers don't carry luggage; that's a valet's job).
So relentlessly vigilant is Carew that by the end of Anderson's first day in the majors he already was in the hole for seven dozen golf balls. "He shows no mercy, no mercy at all," says Anderson, who is now California's No. 5 starter.
Welcome to the Angels, kid, where just about nothing escapes the ever watchful eyes of Carew, a Hall of Famer who won seven American League batting championships. Whether patrolling hotel lobbies, breaking down game tapes at four in the morning or sending instructions from the dugout to one of his hitters via a shrill whistle and sign language, Carew has California looking good.
The Angels reached the All-Star break in first place (tied with the Texas Rangers at 39-30 atop the American League West) for the first time since 1989. They did so largely on the strength of the Carew Crew, an offense that has scored more runs than any other team in baseball—yes, even more than the muscular Cleveland Indians—to the surprise of even the California front office, which began the season scouring other clubs for a hitter to plug into the middle of its lineup. That search has been called off because Carew helped raise the batting average of centerfielder Jim Edmonds, a career .269 hitter, 22 points to .291 at week's end; catcher Greg Myers to .254 (up 22 points); first baseman J.T. Snow to .305 (up 73 points); shortstop Gary DiSarcina to .324 (up 82 points); and designated hitter Chili Davis to .359 (up 89 points).
How important is Carew to the Angels? "Got all night?" DiSarcina says in reply to that inquiry. Under Carew's guidance, both DiSarcina, 27, a career number 9 hitter, and Edmonds, 25, who's holding down a regular job for the first time in the majors, made it to the All-Star Game. "I wish I could take him with me," DiSarcina says.
Davis would be an All-Star, too, but for a balky hamstring that landed him on the disabled list on June 20. He credits Carew with "raising my game to another level." Over the last two years, Davis, who turned 35 in January, has hit .326 with 35 home runs and 122 RBIs in 158 games.
"How good is he?" utility infielder Spike Owen, a .243 hitter before joining California last season, asks about Carew. "Last year I hit .310."