Today arguably the greatest Texas Rangers player will officially retire as a Ranger. With the exception of Nolan Ryan, there may never have been a more complete baseball player in Rangers' history than Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.
Pudge is scheduled to meet with the media today at the Ballpark before the Rangers' series against the New York Yankees to talk about his retirement with the original team he came up with, and never wanted to leave.
Former Texas Rangers TV play by play man Josh Lewin was with the club at the time, and he recently wrote a new book that chronicled his tenure covering the team; click here for a link to the book titled, "Ballgame! A decade covering the Texas Rangers from the best seat in the house."
In the first 100 pages of the book Lewin covers the slow devolvement of the team in 2000, including Pudge's latter years with the club in 2001 and 2002.
"Rodriguez told general manager Doug Melvin in a private meeting, 'Please don't trade me. Please don't let me go as a free agent. I'll sign for less money than I could get on the open market. Forget my agent, forget everything. I just want to stay where I am.'
"... As 2002 wound down, things were different. (New GM John) Hart and the Rangers' hiearchy didn't trust another long-term contract would be a sound investment for a man who had caught 145 games a year, every year, for 11 seasons in the baking Texas heat."
Lewin recounts Pudge's final home game with the team in 2002:
"Leading off the bottom of the seventh, just after the last playing of Cotton-Eyed Joe for the season, there was Pudge with that big-but-effortless swing, launching his 19th home run of a lost season. The fans went berserk, and had even more to cheer about an inning later.
"Manager Jerry Narron wanted to give Pudge a chance to tip his hat to the crowd before being pulled from the game. He slyly encouraged Pudge in the dugout to 'go get on base so I can take you out and the crowd can roar.' Rodriguez told Narron, in not so many words, that he would deliver.
"On the first pitch from Micah Bowie, he blasted one of those patented right-center-field laser beams, and initially it appeared destined for home run number 20. But, no, instead the ball thumped against the top of the UPS sign and stayed in play, thus allowing a laughing Narron to pinch-run Todd Greene and get Pudge's his hero's sendoff from the adoring crowd. Narron noted the advertising slogan painted on the UPS sign: 'We deliver'. That, in a nutshell, was Pudge."
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