Pudge sets record for games caught
Astros catcher passes Fisk in Arlington with game No. 2,227
ARLINGTON -- The tribute video playing on the scoreboard at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was still a few seconds from completion in the third inning when Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez waved to the crowd, pulled his catcher's mask over his face and got back in his familiar crouch.
Even in his record 2,227th game behind the plate, Rodriguez wasn't about to allow himself to get distracted from the task at hand.
Rodriguez, who broke into the Majors as a 19-year-old rookie with the Rangers on June 20, 1991, surpassed Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and moved into first place all-time for the most games caught in the Astros' 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
"It was awesome," Rodriguez said. "What happened today out there was unbelievable. A standing ovation my first time up, it was awesome. I got some goose bumps when that happened. The video that they did in the third inning was unbelievable. I want to say thanks to the Rangers organization for what they did here for me and the Houston Astros also about these days. It was nice. It was an unbelievable moment."
Rodriguez, 37, spoke fondly about being able to set the record in Arlington, where he played 12 seasons and rose to stardom with the Rangers. The crowd of 34,425 made their appreciation of Pudge known.
"That's why it's so special for me," he said. "I did it in the place I started in 1991, where Bobby Valentine gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues and be able to play this many years. Eighteen years later, look where I am, still playing ball and breaking Carlton Fisk's record [of] games caught in Arlington in front of the fans in Arlington.
"I always said these fans are the best. They always support the Rangers every single day, even if they are doing good or not doing good. They come to the park and cheer for the team. It was very special for me to break the record here."
Tools of endurance
|Below is a list of the players who have caught the most games in Major League history.|
|Credit: Elias Sports Bureau|
Rodriguez's Astros teammates bought him a bottle of Cristal champagne, and each player had a bottle of less-pricey bubbly they took turns getting Pudge to autograph as a keepsake from an historic night.
"The team wants to congratulate Pudge," Houston center fielder Michael Bourn said. "That's a great accomplishment. Carlton Fisk is one of the greatest catchers to play, and to chalk that up is a big accomplishment."
On the field, Rodriguez's performance was less memorable. He went 1-for-5, made two throwing errors and saw the Rangers steal three bases.
"That happens," he said. "We tried to go there and do our best. I got a base hit. I didn't go 0-for, so it wasn't as bad a game as what you're saying. I'm a player [and] I try to do my job. They got three stolen bases, but one was a stolen base that could [have been an] out. Everybody's human in the field. But, so far, the game overall was great. It went extra innings, and the best team won. The Rangers won the game."
Earlier in the day, Rodriguez received phone calls from dozens of friends and former teammates congratulating him for tying Fisk by catching his 2,226th career game Tuesday. His wife, children and parents were among those in the crowd Wednesday night to witness history.
"A lot of players that played with me called me, and I appreciate that from them," he said. "Friends from Puerto Rico have called. It's nice when you wake up in the morning and have 20-30 messages from friends wishing you the best and congratulating me from [Tuesday] night and for today."
And congratulations came from around the Majors, including Rodriguez's former manager in Detroit, Jim Leyland.
"I think the obvious is how well he has taken care of himself," he said. "You're unable to do those things unless you take good care of yourself, and he's been in great physical shape ever since I've known him. I was amazed when I came to Detroit, to see the program and how hard he works.
"He would go to the gym every morning and then catch almost every day for us. It was amazing. He is a very proud guy, and this is well deserved. Obviously, he's going into the Hall of Fame where he belongs. Certainly all of the Tigers congratulate him."
While he spent 4 1/2 seasons with the Tigers, Rodriguez established himself in Arlington, where he made the All-Star Game 10 times and won 10 Gold Gloves. He appeared in 1,426 games at catcher in Texas.
"It's pretty amazing that much time has passed and that he's accomplished what he has with the amount of games he's caught," said Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who pitched to Rodriguez in Pudge's second career game in 1991. "If you'd ask me when he came up as a 19-year-old was he going to be in this position, I would probably have said, 'No, the chances are pretty slim.'
"It's not that I was prejudging him, but to accomplish that is pretty amazing. He's been very healthy in his career and he's been very durable. He has a passion for the game, and I think that's why he's accomplished what he has."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.