Wednesday night, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is going to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, following a single year on the ballot. Rodriguez, a catcher, spent most of his career with the Texas Rangers. He'll be the second player ever to go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Rangers cap.
Rodriguez will be remembered as one of the greatest Rangers, and likely one of the five best catchers of all time. While his stats — 311 home runs and a career slash-line of .296/.334/.464 in addition to a tremendous throwing arm — are what earned Rodriguez his place in the hall, that's not his only legacy. Here are seven of our favorite Pudge memories:
1. Pudge starts in style. — Rodriguez got the call to the big leagues on June 20, 1991, his wedding day. Forced to forego getting married at home plate on the field of his Double A team, the Tulsa Drillers, for a morning courthouse wedding, Rodriguez went 1-4, knocked in two runs and threw out two would-be base stealers, showing off the prodigious right arm that would become his calling card.
2. Pudge catches Kenny Rogers' perfect game. — In 1994, the Rangers opened their new stadium, then known as the Ballpark in Arlington, and were cheered by huge crowds until a player's strike shut down the season for good in August. The biggest of those crowds saw Kenny Rogers toss the franchise's only perfect game on July 28. Rodriguez caught each of Rogers 98 pitches, and hit a home run in the third inning. His hug of Rogers at the end of the game was priceless, too.
3. Pudge represents at the 1995 All-Star Game. — Following the 1994 player's strike, baseball's first premier event was the 1995 All-Star Game. It was played in Arlington. Rodriguez, who by then was the American League's perennial starter at catcher, represented the Rangers with aplomb, throwing out the Phillies Lenny Dykstra on a steal attempt to end the first inning.
4. Pudge carries the Rangers in 1999. — After signing a new contract with the Rangers during the summer of 1997, Rodriguez and right fielder Juan Gonzalez led the team to back-to-back division titles in 1998 and 1999. Redriguez won the MVP during the latter season hitting a career-high 35 home runs. In addition to continued defensive excellence, Rodriguez also stole 25 bases, showing a combination of power and speed previously unseen behind the plate. Despite Rodriguez' best efforts, the Rangers still found postseason success elusive, getting swept by the Yankees in the American League Division Series.
5. Pudge enjoys a 2003 postseason. — Rodriguez finally found postseason success the year after he left the Rangers in 2002. Playing for the Florida Marlins, Rodriguez ended the division series by blocking the plate and tagging out the Giants' J.T. Snow, before winning the National League Championship Series MVP thanks to knocking in 10 runs in seven games against the Cubs. When the Marlins beat the Yankees in the World Series, Rodriguez earned his first and only championship ring, giving Rangers fans the closest thing they've ever had to a championship of their own.
6. Pudge is back, back again. — In the midst of an unsuccessful run to the playoffs in 2009, the Rangers brought Rodriguez in for one last rodeo. While he didn't do anything special on the field (it was, after all, his 18th season), Rodriguez gave younger Rangers fan a chance to see the best Ranger of them all in uniform.
7. Pudge catches the first pitch of the 2010 World Series. — When the Rangers finally earned a World Series trip of their own in 2010, Rodriguez took the field to catch the ceremonial first pitch from his fellow Rangers legend, Nolan Ryan. It was one of the Rangers' best moments in what ended up being a five-game loss to the Giants.
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