The Gambler

Kenny Rogers debuts on the 2014 BBWAA Ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Kenny Rogers. (Bryan Yablonsky/NBHOF Library)

Growing up outside of Tampa, Fla., lanky and youthful right fielder Kenny Rogers looked to have a promising career ahead of him. 

He hit .375 his senior season and was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1982. However, the Rangers had other plans for Rogers. 

Thirty-one years after being drafted, Rogers can look back on his successful 20-year career as a starting pitcher in the major leagues and thank the Rangers for a brilliant decision to change positions. 

Rogers, one of 23 big-league hurlers to ever throw a perfect game, is one of 36 former major leaguers on the 2014 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2014 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born Nov. 10, 1964, in Savannah, Ga., Rogers was drafted by the Rangers in the 39th round of the 1982 MLB Draft. 

[Scouting reports on Kenny Rogers]

He was an undersized left-handed kid out of high school, but Rangers’ scouts saw potential. The strong arm was there from the onset, but Rogers needed time to develop as a pitcher. 

According to a 1985 scouting report filed by Larry Monroe, Rogers “must learn how and develop [a] curveball.” 

Making his major league debut in 1989 for the Texas Rangers, “The Gambler” – as he became known – spent his first four seasons in the bullpen before earning a rotation spot in 1993, starting 33 games. 

After being named a starter, Rogers wasted no time becoming a household name with Texas. On July 28, 1994, Rogers became only the 14th pitcher – at that time – in MLB history to throw a perfect game when he blanked the Angels 4-0. In a feat that only took 98 pitches, Rogers was quick to share the success and credit with catcher Ivan Rodriguez. “We got a lot of guys on fastballs and then started throwing curve balls and change ups,” said Rodriguez. “But Kenny was unhittable all night.” 

After signing with the Yankees in Dec. of 1995, Rogers was an integral part in leading the Bronx Bombers to a world championship in the 1996 season. He won 12 games in the 1996 campaign, and added bullpen support when he was needed in the Divisional Round. 

The Yankees traded Rogers to Oakland after the 1997 season, but he would return to the Big Apple. 

The 1999 Mets desperately needed starting pitching to make a postseason run, so they reached out and traded for Oakland’s Rogers in late July, nearing the trade deadline. 

Rogers won five games for New York’s NL team, as the Mets rode him all the way to the NL Championship Series. 

As Rogers continued to pitch through the years, he realized that throwing off-speed pitches would be imperative to succeed. “He developed that sixth sense of knowing when to throw for strikes and when to throw [the curveball] off the plate. That’s how he made it to 40 [years old still pitching],” said former Houston manager Phil Garner. 

With the Tigers in 2006 at age 41, Rogers was selected to start the All-Star Game for the American League. He did not factor in the decision, but finished the year with a 17-8 record – the highest win total of his career. 

Rogers parlayed the regular season success into one of the most astonishing postseason performances by a starter. In helping lead Detroit to the American League pennant and a World Series berth, Rogers went 3-0 in the postseason, not giving up a single run in three starts. He pitched 23 scoreless innings, allowing an opponents batting average of .120 along the way. Rogers surrendered just nine hits during the entire postseason. 

He led the Tigers to a victory in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Yankees, going 7.2 innings, surrendering only five hits to the Bronx Bombers. “He was definitely the difference maker in our series,” Gary Sheffield of the Yankees said. “He challenged us. And we didn’t respond back.” 

Tigers outfielder (2002-07) Craig Monroe said of Rogers’s postseason performance: “He shut up all the naysayers. They didn’t think he could do this. Well, they don’t know him like we do.” 

After his postseason heroics in 2006, Rogers would go on to play two additional seasons in Detroit, before retiring after the 2008 campaign. 

In his 20-year run in the majors, Rogers won 219 games, combined with a 4.27 ERA. “I’ve never been afraid to fail. I think I’ve proven that by going out there and failing enough,” said Rogers, a four-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner. “But I believe in myself when I get out on the mound. And I love the challenge.” 

The man who scouted initially Kenny Rogers, former Rangers director of player personnel, Joe Klein, said of Kenny: “Nobody – and I mean nobody in baseball history – has ever gone further in his particular craft than Kenny Rogers.” 

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
1989 24 TEX 3 4 .429 2.93 73 0 24 0 0 2 73.2 60 28 24 2 42 63
1990 25 TEX 10 6 .625 3.13 69 3 46 0 0 15 97.2 93 40 34 6 42 74
1991 26 TEX 10 10 .500 5.42 63 9 20 0 0 5 109.2 121 80 66 14 61 73
1992 27 TEX 3 6 .333 3.09 81 0 38 0 0 6 78.2 80 32 27 7 26 70
1993 28 TEX 16 10 .615 4.10 35 33 0 5 0 0 208.1 210 108 95 18 71 140
1994 29 TEX 11 8 .579 4.46 24 24 0 6 2 0 167.1 169 93 83 24 52 120
1995 30 TEX 17 7 .708 3.38 31 31 0 3 1 0 208.0 192 87 78 26 76 140
1996 31 NYY 12 8 .600 4.68 30 30 0 2 1 0 179.0 179 97 93 16 83 92
1997 32 NYY 6 7 .462 5.65 31 22 4 1 0 0 145.0 161 100 91 18 62 78
1998 33 OAK 16 8 .667 3.17 34 34 0 7 1 0 238.2 215 96 84 19 67 138
1999 34 TOT 10 4 .714 4.19 31 31 0 5 1 0 195.1 206 101 91 16 69 126
1999 34 OAK 5 3 .625 4.30 19 19 0 3 0 0 119.1 135 66 57 8 41 68
1999 34 NYM 5 1 .833 4.03 12 12 0 2 1 0 76.0 71 35 34 8 28 58
2000 35 TEX 13 13 .500 4.55 34 34 0 2 0 0 227.1 257 126 115 20 78 127
2001 36 TEX 5 7 .417 6.19 20 20 0 0 0 0 120.2 150 88 83 18 49 74
2002 37 TEX 13 8 .619 3.84 33 33 0 2 1 0 210.2 212 101 90 21 70 107
2003 38 MIN 13 8 .619 4.57 33 31 0 0 0 0 195.0 227 108 99 22 50 116
2004 39 TEX 18 9 .667 4.76 35 35 0 2 1 0 211.2 248 117 112 24 66 126
2005 40 TEX 14 8 .636 3.46 30 30 0 1 1 0 195.1 205 86 75 15 53 87
2006 41 DET 17 8 .680 3.84 34 33 1 0 0 0 204.0 195 97 87 23 62 99
2007 42 DET 3 4 .429 4.43 11 11 0 0 0 0 63.0 65 36 31 8 25 36
2008 43 DET 9 13 .409 5.70 30 30 0 0 0 0 173.2 212 118 110 22 71 82
20 Yrs 219 156 .584 4.27 762 474 133 36 9 28 3302.2 3457 1739 1568 339 1175 1968

 

Andrew Kivette was the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development