The eternity of it all seemed to hit Pudge Rodriguez on Saturday night.
The Texas Rangers’ legend, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame less than two weeks ago, watched as his jersey No. 7 was retired by the organization he helped legitimize in the 1990s.
It’s the fourth jersey to be retired by the Rangers and only the third by a former player for the club. His No. 7 joins Nolan Ryan’s No. 34 and Johnny Oates’ No. 26, along with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, which is retired by ever major league team.
Rodriguez entered the field from the Rangers’ bullpen in right field to a rousing standing ovation from a sold-out crowd at Globe Life Park before the game against the Houston Astros. He waved and smiled as he made his way to the ceremony in front of home plate.
“To see that number retired for the rest of my life is a great moment for me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s amazing. I think this is a dream come true for me, like the dream come true a couple of weeks ago.”
Many VIPs attended the ceremony, and the entire current Astros and Rangers clubs watched from their dugouts.
Texas Rangers organizational Hall of Famers including Jeff Russell, Toby Harrah and John Wetteland joined Rodriguez’s wife, children, parents and brothers on the field. Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Fergie Jenkins also helped celebrate the moment.
Jeff Idelson, the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, helped introduce the official Hall of Fame plaque, which Alomar and Jenkins unveiled. It will be the plaque on display in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams proclaimed Aug. 12 as Pudge Rodriguez Day. A special video tribute included salutes from George W. Bush, Nolan Ryan and Will Clark.
“I just want to say thank you to my family. They are the behind-the-scenes people that you don’t see, especially my wife. Look how beautiful she looks. I’m a lucky man,” Rodriguez said.
Former Rangers players who wore No. 7 were introduced, including Billy Sample, David Murphy and current outfielder Delino DeShields. The Rangers and Astros wore throwback uniforms from 1999, the season Rodriguez was named the American League MVP.
Heavy rains hit before and after the ceremony. A brief rain storm caused a 21-minute delay in the bottom of the first inning. But Rodriguez’s ceremony was blessed with near-perfect weather for Texas in August. Sort of like Rodriguez’s career.
The brief weather respite didn’t escape Rodriguez, either.
“Lastly, thank you, Lord,” he said. “Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for keeping the rain away and let us do this beautiful event. Thank you, Lord, for everything you did for me.”
Rangers vs. Astros
2:05 p.m. Sunday, FSSW