Reusse: Mauer, Carew and Oliva welcome Arraez to their champions club

Star Tribune and wire service/Star Tribune/TNS

There were high standards for occupancy in the hotel room shared for several years by Rod Carew and Tony Oliva on Twins road trips. The requirement was to be able to discuss from personal experience what it was like to win an American League batting title.

Tony won his first as a rookie in 1964, followed up with another in 1965, and then won a third in 1971, while limping on a right knee that was ruined in midseason while diving to make a catch in Oakland Coliseum's right field.

Sir Rodney, as he came to be known (at least in the St. Paul Pioneer Press), won his first in his third season of 1969, gave others a chance for a couple of seasons, then won six of seven batting titles from 1972 through 1978.

There was not much drama for most of those, as Carew claimed the middle four of those silver bats by 44, 48, 28 and 52 percentage points.

Oliva and Carew add up to 10 batting titles in the 15 seasons from 1964 to 1978 for the Twins. Almost as amazing as this in Minnesota's big-league history is that there have been three batting titles won by a catcher in American League history, and Joe Mauer has all of them.

Kirby Puckett won a close one for the Twins, .339 to Carney Lansford's .336, in 1989. That's 14 batting titles, and Luis Arraez added another on Wednesday, DH-ing as Aaron Judge sat for the Yankees, and finished at .316 to Judge's .311. Two walks and a double in Wednesday's finale for Arraez before earning an early exit in the third.

Fifteen batting titles in 62 seasons of existence in Minnesota. That's 24.2% of the silver bats for the Twins.

Since 2006, the batting titles have been named in honor of Carew in the American League and Tony Gwynn (eight titles) in the National.

Final MLB batting leaders

Carew has taken enough interest in Arraez as a hitter that he put in a call to TV announcer Dick Bremer during a game in late May and told him to deliver this message to Arraez:

"Stop standing so tall. That's why you're popping up. Get back in your little crouch and flatten your bat.''

On Wednesday, Carew was getting to ready to watch the Twins from his home in Southern California.

"I'm excited for Luis, but he's also made me very nervous in recent weeks,'' Carew said. "He was up there at .350, and then he started dropping fast. He was swinging up, like he was trying to hit home runs.

"I was in town [Minneapolis] last month and told him, 'You did so much great work to get where you were in the first half. Why do you want to change?'

"He fought through that, though. I'm excited for him. He's such a good guy. He works at it. He's going to be in the middle of more batting races.''

Tony Oliva was doing some duties for the Twins on Wednesday, while not feeling that chipper after injuries suffered when he was rear-ended on 35W by a fast-moving vehicle last month.

"Any time a Twins player does something special, I'm excited,'' Oliva said. "Ánd, Luis deserves this, because he hasn't been real healthy lately, and he was still out there, still hustling, still getting hits.

"He reminds me of my roomie, of Carew … not as fast, but using the whole field.''

Asked about that hotel room with 10 batting titles, Oliva managed a laugh and said: "We were very smart. We both knew from the beginning you could find hits everywhere on the field.''

Arraez's average is low for a batting champion, but in this era of short starts and fireballing bullpens, pitching owns baseball — to the point new rules will be arriving in 2023.

That also happened in 1968, when Carl Yastrzemski won the AL batting title at .301. The mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches — followed in 1973 by the designated hitter in the AL.

"Morney [Justin Morneau] and I were talking about Luis leading with .315, and we agreed: whether it's .380 or .315, you were the best hitters for average in your league,'' Mauer said Wednesday.

"Mine were all close, like this one for Luis, but the first one in '06, it came down to the last day with me, [Derek] Jeter and [Robinson] Cano. Our coach, Joe Vavra, was in the back with two computers, figuring out what I had to do. I went 2-for-4 and that was good enough.''

First-ever for a catcher in the AL?

"The batting title kind of got lost that day, for good reason,'' Mauer said. "We were trying to win the ballgame and finish ahead of Detroit in the division, and that's what happened.''

So there it is, Luis. Three pretty good hitters welcome you to the club.