Pudge Rodriguez elected to the Rangers Hall of Fame, but Juan Gonzalez declines

Posted Friday, Jun. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Ivan Rodriguez is headed to the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

The iconic catcher and cornerstone player for the Rangers throughout their glory years in the late 1990s was elected as the 16th member.

Another cornerstone player during those years, Juan Gonzalez, who won two American League MVP awards with the Rangers, was recommended by the selecting committee but “graciously declined” the honor.

So Rodriguez, affectionately known as “Pudge,” will be the headliner and have his career celebrated on July 20 before the Rangers-Orioles game.

“It means a lot to me,” Rodriguez said. “It is a great honor for me. I feel that a big part of my career and my success was here. The Rangers gave me the opportunity to become a professional baseball player.”

The Rangers signed a 16-year-old Rodriguez as an amateur free agent in 1988, and he made his major-league debut three years later at 19. He went on to have a stellar career with the Rangers, winning the 1999 AL MVP.

He played at Texas from 1991-2002, and again in 2009. He batted .304 with 217 home runs and 842 RBIs in 1,507 career games with the Rangers.

“My best memory in all the years I played here was playing with great players,” Rodriguez said. “I played with Nolan Ryan and Julio Franco … every year I played at the major-league level, we put a better team on the field. Good moments, good players, great teams.”

Rodriguez also played with the Marlins (2003), Tigers (2004-08), Yankees (2008), Astros (2009) and Nationals (2010-11) in his 21-year career.

For his career, Rodriguez batted .296 with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs. He won an all-time record 13 Gold Gloves at catcher, and is the major-league leader with 2,427 games caught.

“Obviously, when I was growing up, he was the man, and his durability was unbelievable,” Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “To me, it was a no-brainer for him to be in the Rangers Hall of Fame, and I think eventually it’ll be another no-brainer for him to be in the baseball Hall of Fame.”

Rodriguez retired in April 2012 at Rangers Ballpark, and then joined the organization in February as a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels along with being an “instructor” and “ambassador.”

There had been a two-year waiting period after retirement for players to become eligible for election, but that has been dropped, clearing the way for Rodriguez.

As far as having Gonzalez, a fellow Puerto Rican, decline the honor, Rodriguez said: “Juan is a great person, a great human being. Sometimes we have to respect people’s decision. That was his decision. What he did for the organization and what he did for the Rangers are something we’re not going to forget.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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