Johnny Bench, from my home state of Oklahoma, was and still is, the greatest catcher to play the game of baseball. He was the best hitting catcher, and to me, as good as the other great fundamental man behind the plate, Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame today, a first ballot selection. And he is so deserving of this honor.
I was blessed to see the great Texas Ranger catcher play many games live, in person, first in the old Arlington Stadium, then the newer Ballpark in Arlington. Pudge was a terror in cutting down base runners, a hell of a bat in the Ranger lineup, and the best all-around catcher during his glory years in the major leagues.
My most vivid moment in my baseball viewing was on July 28, 1994, a game in the Ballpark in Arlington between the Rangers and the California Angels. On that day, Ivan Rodriguez caught Kenny “the Gambler” Rogers who on that day pitched the first perfect game by a left hander in American League history. Yes, Rogers pitched the game, but Pudge called the game, and it was perfect. Rusty Greer make the great catch in the 7th frame to preserve the perfection.
I am so happy to see “my” favorite catcher (with respect to Bench) make the greatest Hall-of-Fame there is. Cooperstown, you are getting not just on hell of a catcher, but quite possibility, the best defensive catcher of all-time.
(Congratulations also to Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell in making the hall today with Pudge. Raines is special as it was his last year on the regular ballot)
Feature Photo: Robert Carr-Getty Images