Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez retired as a Texas Ranger right before his old club took on, well, another old club (the Yankees had him for a season in 2008). The 21-year veteran with a flamethrower for an arm threw out the first pitch tonight as well — but did it in typical Pudge fashion.
Considering Rodriguez caught 2,427 games (the most all-time), it’s fitting that his “first pitch” would take place where so much of his career did: behind the plate.
Rodriguez played 12 seasons for the Rangers, the team that first signed him in 1988 and for whom he won 10 straight Gold Gloves, attend 10 straight All-Star Games, and win the 1999 American League MVP. Even though he went on to play for a handful of other teams — including a World Series-winning stint with the Marlins and four more All-Star appearances with the Tigers — Pudge always seemed like a Ranger moonlighting as a member of another team.
Pudge retiring truly feels like the end of an era. As much as the retirement of players like Jorge Posada and
Andy Pettite meant to me personally, Pudge was a guy that you always looked out for when his team came to town. You didn’t want your players running on him, or taking too big a lead, or leaving one out over the middle of the plate.
Putting aside the idea that Pudge may have been a part of the all-consuming steroid culture of the last few decades (in which “Only God knows” is not the best answer to “Have you taken steroids?”), it’s a sad day for baseball to see a player of his stature go. At least he got to throw it down one more time in front of the Rangers fans who love him. Can you imagine him doing this for the Nationals? Yuck.