Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #53 Joe Rudi

As a kid, growing up and learning baseball during the '70s -- there was no bigger star than Joe Rudi.

He played sixteen years in the major leagues and was a key part of the Oakland A's dynasty of the early 1970's. In addition to his three World Series rings (1972-73-74), Joe was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. Overshadowed by larger-than-life characters like Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, his best season was probably 1972 when he hit .305 with 19 home runs (in a year when the American League as a whole hit only .239). He also led the league in hits and triples. In 1974, another good year for Rudi, he led the league in doubles, total bases, and extra base hits. He finished second in the AL MVP voting in 1972 and '74.

Almost everyone remembers him for his heroics in the 1972 World Series. In Game Two at Riverfront Stadium, his third-inning solo homer stood up as the margin of victory as Oakland won 2-1. He preserved that lead with one of the best catches in Series history. It was this leaping, ninth-inning catch of a Denis Menke drive against the wall that saved the game. The A's would win the series in seven games.

On June 15, 1975 Oakland, owner Charlie Finley decided to sell Rudi and Rollie Fingers for $1 million apiece to the Boston Red Sox, while peddling Vida Blue to the Yankees for a reported $1.5 million. He went to Boston and was issued a uniform, but never was permitted to play, as Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the transaction as not being in the best interests of baseball. (Rudi later played for Boston, in 1981.)

He became a free agent after the 1976 season and signed with the California Angels. He helped the Angels win the division in 1979, although his batting average went down each year from 1974 to 1981. He finished out his career playing for the 1981 Red Sox and returned to Oakland in 1982 for one last season.


Reivax said...

Joe Rudi was one of my favorite players as a kid. In my eyes at that time, the Angels signing him almost made up for trading Mickey Rivers away!

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