Twins have rich history in batting champions with Oliva, Carew, Mauer
JUL 09, 2014 10:07a ET
We go in-depth and in the cage with Twins greats Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Joe Mauer. These three have combined for 32 All-Star Game Appearances and 13 Batting Titles. They discuss the differences and similarities to their games and we go inside the cage for a lesson in the Art of Hitting. The special debuts Wednesday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North
Since the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961, the franchise has had 14 batting champions.
Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Joe Mauer have won all but one of them.
Oliva won the Twins' first batting title in 1964 when he batted .323. He led the American League in hitting the next year, too, with a .321 average. Oliva would go on to win one more title in 1971 when he hit a career-high .337.
Carew became Oliva's teammate -- and roommate -- in Minnesota in 1967 and would eventually add seven batting titles to his resume. He flirted with hitting .400 a few times, falling short in 1977 when he hit .388 en route to winning the AL MVP.
"It wasn't something I set out to do," Carew said of batting .400. "When I walked up to home plate all I thought about was getting base hits."
Oliva watched Carew chase .400, although the two were no longer teammates, as Oliva had joined the Twins' coaching staff.
"I was pulling very hard for that. I was coach and we were still roommates," Oliva recalled. "I was thinking he was going to hit .400, that was a beautiful year for him, every day was two or three hits."
Several decades later, Mauer followed in Carew's footsteps by not only winning a batting title but also winning a Most Valuable Player award. He did so in 2009 when hit a career-high .365 to take home his third batting title (he also did so in 2006 and 2008) and his first MVP.
These three batting champions all came from very different backgrounds. Oliva grew up in Cuba as one of 10 children. Carew was born in Panama and moved to the United States as a teenager. Despite not playing high school baseball, he was discovered in New York by the Twins. And Mauer excelled at three sports in high school, ultimately choosing baseball over football and basketball. The late Kirby Puckett was the only other Twin to win a batting title. He did so in 1989 when he led the AL with a .339 average.
Despite the different paths, all three wound up sharing the same distinction: a batting champion as a Minnesota Twin. And while Oliva and Carew learned about hitting from each other and drove each other to be better hitters, Mauer has had the benefit of being around both of them over the years.
"They both have had huge impacts. They might not think it, but when I did come in as an 18-year-old, I remember Tony behind the cage," Mauer said of Oliva and Carew. "The Twins have been great about bringing guys back and when you get the opportunity to be around Tony Oliva and Rod Carew, you better take it."
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