Rodríguez becomes first catcher to reach 20 home run/20 steal mark
When he stole second base on Aug. 14, 1999, Iván Rodríguez entered uncharted territory for a catcher.
Before then, no major league backstop had ever collected at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in one season. But in a game against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park, Rodríguez, then a member of the Texas Rangers, reached those marks with a month-and-a-half of the season still remaining.
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Rodríguez led off the top of the third inning with a single off Jim Parque. Then, with Rusty Greer batting, he swiped second base, reaching the 20-steal mark for the first time in his career. He went on to score from second later in the inning, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead. The Rangers went on to lose the game 8-7, and as a result, Rodríguez wasn’t quite ready to celebrate his accomplishment yet. “Talk to me tomorrow about it,” Rodríguez told the Associated Press after the game. “It’ll feel better when we win.” Before Rodríguez reached the 20-20 mark, the closest a catcher had come to the milestone was in 1987, when Benito Santiago hit 18 home runs and stole 21 bases for the San Diego Padres.
The 1999 season was a career year for Rodríguez in many respects. At the time he stole his 20th base, he had already hit 24 home runs, and he went on to set a career record with 35 home runs for the season.
The 25 bases he stole that season far surpassed his former record of nine in 1998. He also became just the eighth catcher in history to collect at least 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in a season.
The following November, Rodríguez was named the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award, edging out Red Sox pitcher and 1999 Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, who received more first-place votes but fewer overall points.
“I prepared myself in the offseason with weights and running to make myself stronger physically and mentally,” Rodríguez said after he was named the MVP. “I told my trainer I was going to hit 30 home runs this year and I hit five more.”
At the time of his retirement in 2011, Rodríguez held numerous all-time records among catchers, including his 2,427 games caught, 2,844 hits, 13 Gold Glove Awards, 12 All-Star Game starts and 14 All-Star Game appearances.
He finished his career with a .296 batting average, 311 home runs, 572 doubles and 1,332 RBI.
“Talking about all phases of the game, along with being durable, what he’s done at his age, I would argue, that he’s the best,” Rangers manager Johnny Oates said after Rodríguez was named the 1999 AL MVP.
“Since I was old enough to know Major League Baseball, there’s never been any catcher who can do more as well as he does.”
Rodríguez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2017.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum