Starting Nine: Most Valuable Bat

Written by: Craig Muder

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine includes must-see artifacts from every big league team. Check out the Rangers Starting Nine online.

Iván Rodríguez reached the 30-homer mark only once in his 21-year big league career. But when he did, he made history.

Rodríguez hit his 35th home run of the season on Oct. 1, 1999, setting a new American League standard for catchers. Terry Steinbach had held the record previously with 34 homers while appearing as a catcher in 1996 for Oakland.

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“In all phases of the game, along with being durable…I would argue with anyone that he’s the best,” Rangers manager Johnny Oates told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anyone better.”

At 27 years old, Rodríguez powered the Rangers to the American League West title. Following the season, he became the ninth catcher to win the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s MVP Award. He finished the season with a .332 batting average, 35 home runs, 113 RBI, 116 runs scored and 25 stolen bases – making him the first catcher to post a 20-homer/20 stolen base season.

Of his 199 hits, 198 came while he was catching – the most ever by a catcher in one season.

Defensively, Rodríguez had long been considered one of the best in the game. He maintained his excellence behind the plate in 1999, leading the AL by erasing 54.7 percent of runners who tried to steal en route to his eighth Gold Glove Award.

“This puts him further on the path to the Hall of Fame,” said Rangers general manager Doug Melvin.

Melvin proved correct in 2017 when Rodríguez was elected to the Hall of Fame. Rodríguez finished his career with 14 All-Star Game selections, 13 Gold Glove Awards, seven Silver Slugger Awards and 311 home runs.

The bat Rodríguez used to hit his record 35th home run is on display in the Museum’s ¡Viva Baseball! exhibit.

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

Starting Nine

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine is a lineup of must-see artifacts from our vast collection containing tens of thousands of pieces that preserve the magical moments and memorable stories of our National Pastime. Our curators have spent countless hours hand-picking special objects from every major league team to create a lineup of pieces you simply won’t believe we have!