Rushin: Rod Carew opens up about his near-death experience

From Steve Rushin at Sports Illustrated on November 23, 2015:

Playing alone at Cresta Verde Golf Course in Corona, Calif. on the sunny Sunday of Sept. 20, Rod Carew hit his drive off the first tee precisely where he drove so many of his 3,053 hits with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels: “Right down the middle,” he says.

It was 11 days before his 70th birthday. Stepping off that tee box, Carew suddenly felt his chest burn and his hands go clammy. Retreating to the clubhouse, he lay on the floor and asked a woman there to call a paramedic. “The next thing I saw was a man with paddles in his hands,” Carew says. “He was yelling, ‘We’re losing him! We can’t lose him!’ Then I blacked out.”

When he woke in the emergency room at Riverside Community Hospital—to more paddles and more shouts of “Don’t lose him!”—Carew closed his eyes again. “I decided to go to sleep,” he says softly. “And I didn’t know if I’d wake up.”

He had suffered a massive heart attack—“the kind they call the widow-maker,” says his wife, Rhonda. And though doctors told Carew he was extraordinarily lucky to be alive—his heart had stopped beating on two separate occasions—he doesn’t always feel fortune-kissed. “My wife will tell you I get up in the morning and cry and wonder, Why me?” Carew says, convalescing in a friend’s house in the suburbs of San Diego after seven weeks in five hospitals. “But you can’t say that. I go back to when my youngest daughter was dying. I never asked my friend upstairs, Why me? And He’s the only one who has the answers.”

Carew is sitting in an easy chair. Minx, a black Bombay cat, is perched above his right shoulder. Both exude a quiet grace—they look equally feline in repose—and there’s a brief silence in the house as Carew considers that a kind of mechanical heart has been implanted in his chest, alongside his damaged one. After a moment, the most elegant hitter of his generation puts his face in his hands and sobs.

“I was dead,” he says, “and they brought me back to life.”

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Originally published: November 23, 2015. Last Updated: November 23, 2015.