Over the winter, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez became just the second catcher ever to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. (Johnny Bench was the other.) It was well deserved: Over 21 seasons in the big leagues, Pudge was, amont other things, a 14-time All Star, a 13-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger, and an MVP. As a young prodigy he could do things like just bend his elbow at a 90-degree angle or stay on his knees after catching a pitch and rifle the ball off fast enough to pick a runner off; at his peak he was about as likely to steal a base as to allow someone else to do so; in his post-prime he was the anchor of a Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the World Series and a foundation of the Tigers’ renaissance; and then he just kept going, retiring having caught more games than anyone else in major-league history. When Pudge officially got the news that he had just cleared the 75-percent threshold for election to the Hall—along with Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell—he was overwhelmed with emotion.
Since then, he’s had some time for all to sink in through the process of writing a book about his life in baseball. They Call Me Pudge: My Life Playing the Game I Love, co-written with Jeff Sullivan and out August 1, is an exhaustive account of his long career from growing up in Puerto Rico to debuting with the Rangers at 19 years old and through all 21 seasons he spent in the majors with six teams. (By the end of the first chapter, incidentally, he vehemently denies having ever taken steroids, saying, “Just because Jose Canseco writes something in a book, that doesn’t make it fact.)
This weekend, Pudge will officially be inducted into the Hall as a Ranger, where he spent 13 seasons over two stints (plus a one-day signing to retire in Arlington). But before making the trip up to Cooperstown, he stopped by the Deadspin studio to play Connect Four and share his opinions on Jeffrey Loria.