Character and Courage in Cooperstown

Hall of Famer Rod Carew helps honor exemplary youth during Museum’s tribute to timeless values

October 08, 2011
1977 Roberto Clemente Award winner Rod Carew at Voices of the Game during Character and Courage Weekend. (Trevor Hayes/NBHOF Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – A Hall of Fame baseball career produces its share of awards, as Rod Carew can attest.

But at the end of the day, the seven American League batting titles, the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year Award and the 1977 AL MVP Award remain window dressing for Carew.

“The 1977 Roberto Clemente Award means the most of any award I have,” said Carew, referring to the Major League Baseball Award that recognizes excellence on the field and in the community. “Roberto, along with Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, define character and courage. And those three individuals are people that anyone would want to look up to.”

Carew was in Cooperstown on Saturday to help celebrate the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s annual Character and Courage Weekend. The 1991 Hall of Fame electee drew a near-capacity crowd to the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater – sharing stories from his career in the one-hour Voices of the Game program. As part of the event, the Hall of Fame honored three Central New York youngsters for Character and Courage in Action – celebrating their contributions to community causes. Katelyn Evans of Onondaga County, Alicia Sebeck of Otsego County and Megan Vann of Otsego County were recognized during the Voices of the Game program and at a reception afterwards.

“Thank you for all that you have done for your community,” Carew told Evans, Sebeck and Vann. “Your actions are what help this country continue to grow.”

In 2008, the Hall of Fame dedicated the Character and Courage statues in the Museum's foyer. The statues, which depict Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, celebrate character and courage in baseball and in life, reflecting the achievements of Clemente, Gehrig and Robinson as beacons of these characteristics. Made possible through a gift of Hall of Fame supporter Bob Crotty, the statues are a permanent Museum exhibit.

Carew spent the entire weekend in Central New York, visiting the Syracuse VA Medical Center and Syracuse’s Henninger High School on Friday to share his inspirational story. The 2011 Character and Courage Weekend is dedicated to baseball and its contributions to the military, and Carew credits his military service – as a Marine Corps Reservist in the 1960s – with shaping his career.

“When I joined the Marine Corps, it was a life-changing event for me because I learned about discipline,” Carew said. “When I first came up to the big leagues in 1967, I was a little bit of a hot-head. 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 finished his 19-year big league career with 3,053 hits and a .328 career batting average. He was named to 18-straight AL All-Star teams.

But it was his relationship with his teammates that helped turn a good hitter into a Hall of Famer.

“Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles, Bob Allison all showed me what it took to stay in the big leagues,” Carew said. “And then there was Harmon Killebrew. His demeanor was unbelievable, he was always a gentleman.

“Those are the lessons you can’t learn unless you have the right people around you. That’s what character means.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum