BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez formally announced his retirement from baseball Monday night. He appeared at a 2:00 PM (Central) press conference and took part in pre-game ceremonies prior to Monday’s game against the Yankees. Rodriguez arrived in the major leagues in 1991 and played through last season, a total of 21 seasons.
On tonight’s pregame radio show, Eric Nadel was asked about his recollection of Rodriguez’s major league debut June 20, 1991. Nadel said he interviewed Rodriguez for that day’s pre-game show. Rodriguez had been called up because of an injury to Geno Petralli and was expected to stay in the majors for two weeks until Petralli could be re-activated from the disabled list. Rodriguez told Nadel in that interview that he was never going back to the minors, and he didn’t.
Rodriguez finished his career with more games caught than any player in major league history. His career batting average was .296, and he has 2,844 hits to place 44th on the all time list. He won 13 Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence, made the All-Star team 14 times, and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1999. He and Johnny Bench are generally considered as the two best throwing catchers in the history of baseball. Take your pick as to which one is first.
Rodriguez was all but traded to the Yankees in 1997. He was eligible for free agency after the season, and negotiations to sign a contract extension had not been fruitful. The reported deal would have sent Rodriguez to the Yanks for prospects including Jorge Posada. On the morning of July 31, the trade deadline date, Rodriguez arrived around 9:00 AM at the Rangers’ center field offices requesting an audience with owner and managing partner Tom Schieffer. He arrived without his agent and indeed without his agent’s knowledge. Schieffer recounted later his surprise at being interupted in a meeting to be told that Rodriguez was in the lobby wanting to see him. Schieffer abruptly adjourned the meeting to see Rodriguez, who told Schieffer that he wanted to be a Texas Ranger. At the end of the day, they had worked out a contract, and the trade to the Yankees was nixed.
Rodriguez eventually did leave in free agency after the 2002 season. He played for a year with the Marlins, and they won the World Series. Rodriguez was named MVP of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs. He moved from Florida to Detroit for five years, where he again was part of a World Series team in 2006, when the Tigers lost to St. Louis. He has played for the Yankees, Astros, briefly again for the Rangers and the Nationals after leaving the Tigers.
It was announced Monday that Rodriguez would soon sign a contract to be part of the Rangers’ organization in some undetermined capacity.
T. R. Sullivan at TexasRangers.com reported that Rodriguez said about Monday, “It’s a very hard day for me. It’s the day that Ivan Rodriguez retires as a baseball player. It’s been a great, great run…for 21 years. It has been beautiful.”