Rodríguez ends career with a record 2,427 games caught

Written by: Craig Muder

Playing baseball’s most physically demanding position, Iván Rodríguez set a standard that may never be topped.

But on April 23, 2012, the most durable catcher in baseball history decided that his playing days were finally done.

Rodríguez officially announced his retirement that day at Rangers Ballpark, ending a 21-season odyssey that began in Texas in 1991 when he was just 19 years old. When he retired at age 40, Rodríguez had amassed 14 All-Star Game selections, 13 Gold Glove Awards, the 1999 American League MVP trophy and the 2003 NLCS MVP.

“It’s a very hard day for me,” Rodríguez told the Associated Press when he announced his retirement. “It’s been a great, great run. It’s been beautiful.”

Rodríguez was surrounded by his family, including his then-19-year-old son Dereck, who was drafted by the Twins in 2011 and would make his big league debut for the Giants in 2018.

“I’m always going to be in baseball the rest of my life,” Rodríguez said. “You’ll definitely see me around.”

Rodríguez, nicknamed “Pudge”, made it to the big leagues on the strength of his defense and powerful arm – which eventually produced nine seasons where he lead his league in caught stealing percentage.

He won his first Gold Glove Award in 1992, and by the mid-1990s added a potent bat to his resume.

He hit .303 in 1995, the first of eight straight seasons where he reached the .300 batting average mark, and put everything together in 1999 when he hit .332 with 35 home runs, drove in 113 runs and stole 25 bases – all while appearing as a catcher in 141 of his 144 games.

The next season, Rodríguez appeared to be on track for even better numbers, hitting .347 with 27 home runs and 83 RBI in 91 games before a broken thumb sidelined him for the rest of the year. He was on pace for 45 home runs and 139 RBI at the time of the injury.

Rodríguez would leave the Rangers as a free agent following the 2002 season, signing a one-year deal with the Florida Marlins. In his first year in the National League at the age of 31, Rodríguez hit .297 with 16 homers and 85 RBI, leading Florida to a World Series title.

He returned to the AL in 2004 after signing with the Tigers, helping jumpstart a turnaround that resulted in Detroit’s 2006 American League pennant. He finished his career with stints with the Astros, Yankees, Nationals and another season with the Rangers before his retirement.

Rodríguez totaled 2,844 hits, 572 doubles, 331 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He set a new all-time games caught mark in 2009 and finished his career with 2,427 games behind the plate.

Rodríguez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017.

“The first time I threw to Pudge and saw him, I really thought he was going to be a good receiver, and he had a great arm, we all knew that,” said Nolan Ryan, whose final three big league seasons overlapped with Rodríguez’s first three. “I never anticipated, I don’t think, for him to have the career that he had and have the impact on the organization that he had. It was really exciting and fun to watch.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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