Pudge Takes His Place Among Texas Ranger Greats

This past Saturday in Arlington, Texas, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez became the 16th person to be inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony occurred prior to the Rangers and the Orioles taking the field. And while the game itself clearly belonged to the Orioles, the pregame ceremony was about honoring Pudge for his time as a Ranger.

During a 21-year career that started in 1991 when he was only 19-years-old, Pudge was voted to the All-Star game 14 times. He was named the 1999 American League MVP and earned seven Silver Slugger Awards with six of those coming during his 13-year tenure with the Rangers.

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the 16th person inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame Saturday before the Rangers versus Orioles game. Photo R. Anderson

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez became the 16th person inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame Saturday before the Rangers versus Orioles game.
Photo R. Anderson

While the bulk of Pudge’s career was spent in a Rangers’ uniform he played for the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals before retiring at the start of the 2012 season.

While Saturday night was all about honoring his years with the Rangers, I tend to remember Pudge more as a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins squad as well as a member of the Astros in 2009.

It was during his brief time with the Astros that Pudge broke the record for most games caught. Fittingly enough Rodriguez surpassed Carlton Fisk’s record of 2,226 games caught during a game against the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington allowing the Rangers’ fans to take part in Pudge’s record setting evening.

Shortly after breaking the record the Astros traded  Pudge to the Rangers for the remainder of the 2009 season. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were spent with the Washington Nationals and Pudge ended his career with a major league record of 2,427 games behind the plate. It is doubtful that his record will ever be broken.

I have little doubt that Pudge could have kept playing. The fact that a team did not add him to their roster in 2012 is definitely a travesty in my mind. But baseball is a business and even the best players do not get a farewell tour. Of course the season long tributes that Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera received are certainly the exception more than the rule.

While Pudge was known for having a rocket launcher of an arm and an ability to pick runners off at ease, he was also no slouch at the plate as a hitter.

Pudge was known as much for his play at the plate as behind it and leads the Rangers in many offensive and defensive categories. Photo R. Anderson

Pudge was known as much for his play at the plate as behind it and leads the Rangers in many offensive and defensive categories.
Photo R. Anderson

In 1,507 career games with the Rangers, Rodriguez hit .304 with 217 home runs with 842 RBIs.

He is second in club history in hits (1,747), doubles (352) and multi-hit games (490).  Rodriquez also leads several categories across all of baseball for a catcher.

I was fortunate enough to see Pudge play on several occasions late in his career. I was definitely one of the people who thought that the Astros should have kept him around a little longer to help mold their pitching staff.

When none other than Hall of Famer, and Texas legend, Nolan Ryan calls Pudge the best catcher ever, one would think that people would listen. And Nolan would know a little bit about catchers and Pudge in particular.

During Pudge’s second game as a Major League ballplayer in 1991 he caught Nolan Ryan. Now 22 years later, Pudge works as a special assistant to Ryan to assist the Rangers in several areas, including international scouting, player instruction on the major and minor league levels and talent evaluation. He also represents the team in community and marketing endeavors.

Pudge spent part of the 2009 season with the Houston Astros but was traded back to the Rangers prior to his Bobblehead giveaway game. Photo R. Anderson

Pudge spent part of the 2009 season with the Houston Astros but was traded back to the Rangers prior to his Bobblehead giveaway game.
Photo R. Anderson

I last saw Pudge play in 2009 after he was traded back to the Rangers.

Ironically enough while Pudge was suiting up for the Rangers in a game against Tampa Bay, about four hours to the south the Astros were celebrating Pudge bobblehead day. I guess once you order the bobbleheads you still need to hand them out even if the player has moved on.

I went to some Spring Training games for the Washington Nationals in 2010 and 2011 but sadly Pudge did not play in any of those games.

Three years from now Pudge will become eligible for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and his career numbers should make him a shoo-in for induction on his first year of eligibility.

From everything I can tell Pudge played the game the way it should be played. Hopefully that will earn him a trip to Cooperstown to take his rightful place among the other Hall of Famers.

There is little doubt that when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame he will go in as a Ranger and that should certainly make his former battery mate and current boss, Nolan Ryan, very happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some baseball games to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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